All posts by Executive Director

The Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering for an NGO

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Have you ever considered volunteering? Whether it’s for a church, school, or another place, many organizations benefit from (and in some cases, completely depend on) volunteers to help. Volunteers also benefit from donating their time and effort to a cause they support: they gain a better understanding of the situation and culture surrounding the cause –– especially if it’s a volunteer program abroad. If you volunteer in a country where another language is spoken, you’ll also probably start to pick it up and actually learn it!

Read More

How to Volunteer While Traveling With Your Kids

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

For a deeper experience, consider a volunteer vacation, also known as voluntourism. Organizations such as Global Volunteers, Globe Aware, and Projects Abroad run one-week-or-longer family programs in the United States and abroad. Some allow children as young as six; others, like Earthwatch, have a minimum age of 15. Most organizations also provide cultural activities (such as language lessons) and tourism opportunities (the Lipsons visited Machu Picchu while volunteering in Peru).

Read the article here!

Volunteering Internationally…in the US?

By | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Leonore Kriegel of Magdeburg, Germany, works in the Eden Gardens Block Club community garden. (photo courtesy of The Philadelphia Tribune)

By now, you may know that IVPA is a legitimizing body for international volunteer organizations to send volunteers outside of the United States on projects to improve the communities they temporarily inhabit. Our member organizations do fantastic work outside of this country, and we commend their efforts constantly.

Interestingly, though, no one ever seems to talk about the volunteer work that people outside of the United States do in this country. An article published in The Philadelphia Tribune titled “Overseas volunteer help tend Detroit community garden” details the international volunteer adventures of a few people from Germany flying over to help improve Detroit’s rapidly decreasing infrastructure, by helping out in the community garden, as well as partaking in other projects.

Their volunteer experience is very comparable to ours – starting with anxiety, driven by passion, and ultimately becoming an unforgettable and rewarding experience. These international volunteers, with nothing more than the intention to do good, help connect us to people from across the seas; and together, we can make a better world.

I definitely recommend giving the full article a read – we appreciate the international efforts to make the US a better place!

IVPA Updates for the Field 8.4.15 – Upcoming Events!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

There are LOTS of events coming up in the name of international volunteering. From webinars to conferences, we highly recommend becoming a part of the international volunteering community and giving these events a little love with your presence there! Our Executive Director, Ms. Genevieve Brown, personally handpicked these events to be aware of – here are all the events happening in the near future:

Building Bridges Coalition Webinars
1. September 9, 9:00AM PST –
“Pre-Departure for Your Fall Program Staff: When 80% of your field staff-time is going to a few students: maximizing the group dynamics in support of sustainability”
>>Presented by Sarah Persha, Director of Education for American Gap Association.
2. September 10, 9:00AM PST –
“Pre-Departure for your Fall Program Staff: Executive Function and Dysfunction in the Developing Young Adult Brain and Why it Matters to You as a Gap Program”
>>Presented by Sarah Persha, Director of Education for American Gap Association.
3. September 10, 11:00AM PST to 12:30pm PST –
“Fair Trade Learning: an ethical framework for global service, volunteering, and learning partnerships”
>>Presented by Eric Hartman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University.  Co-organized by the Building Bridges Coalition.
4. October 26, 10:30AM PST –
“Learning Service – a framework for cross-cultural exchange”
>>Presented by Daniela Papi, Deputy Director, Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.  Co-organized by the Building Bridges Coalition.

Leading Change Summit – Nonprofit Technology Network

September 13-16, 2015

Washington DC

The summit is a collaborative approach to finding solutions to challenges. “Hubs” include program design and effectiveness, developing technical solutions, new models of funding, and activating constituents for impact.

Conference on Volunteering and Service – Points of Light

October 19-21, 2015

Houston, TX

This conference tends to focus on domestic volunteering but does have global and volunteer engagement tracks.

Global Engagement Forum – PYXERA Global

November 10-12, 2015

Washington DC (assumed)

The focus of this forum is around the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and bringing together social, private and public sectors to reach those goals.

Global Health & Innovation Conference – Unite For Sight
Saturday, April 16 – Sunday, April 17, 2016

Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
13th annual Global Health & Innovation Conference is is the world’s largest and leading global health conference as well as the largest social entrepreneurship conference.

Research, program, and Innovation Prize/impact pitch abstracts are currently being accepted. The first abstract deadline is August 31.The registration rate increases after July 31

We hope that you all will check out and/or attend some of these awesome events coming your way! We encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities – happy volunteering!

IVPA Updates for the Field 8.4.15 – More News!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

I know it hasn’t been too long since the last post on international volunteering making the news, but it seems like it’s a hot topic! Here are some more news finds, courtesy of IVPA’s Executive Director, Genevieve Brown (as always).

What’s Keeping Black Students from Studying Abroad


Only 5% of Americans who study abroad are black. “Losing out on cultural interaction abroad could also mean losing out on job prospects and other benefits. And these missed opportunities don’t just harm individuals—they also rob society of social capital. “

ISA Internships & Service-Learning have come together in a joint website

This website is a comprehensive new resource for all internship and service-learning opportunities available through ISA.

New Online Listing Service

Happy Reading!

Travel Tip #3 – Know the basics!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know there is a recurring segment of travel tips – tips for the volunteering amateur to the expert. For the third installment of this series, it’s a little vague, but VERY important – know the basics of the place you will be volunteering at!

Whether you are volunteering abroad for a long period of time, or  even just at a local establishment in your hometown, knowing the basics will always get you through the day. Two basic things people often forget to think about are:

1) understanding and being comfortable with the volunteer briefing, and

2) knowing where to go for medical emergencies.

(photo courtesy of

If you don’t know if a volunteer program is right for you, then pay close attention to the briefing that programs provide potential volunteers to see if it is suited for you. Make sure to keep in mind make-or-break factors such as technology access, weather, amenities, etc. When it comes to volunteering, it is always recommended to step out of your comfort zone; however, if that compromises your well-being, it may not be worth the risk. Find a program that suits you best!

(photo courtesy of

It is also a good idea to understand where to go if something pops up that requires medical attention. Always have contact information on hand, and also learn how to make appointments, pay doctors, and find/buy medications. Not only will it provide you with a peace of mind, but it may also save a life.

There are plenty more “basics” I could cover in this article, but I wanted to specifically highlight the ones I felt get neglected or forgotten. If you have any other basic tips to keep in mind when volunteering – whether locally or internationally – please comment down below!

And as always, thank you for reading!

IVPA Updates for the Field 7.17.15 – Research!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

If you follow this blog, you’ll know the last blog post had some pretty interesting news articles on international volunteering. If you’re looking to do some more (and just as interesting) reading, I highly recommend reviewing these pieces of research (credit for the find goes to our Executive Director, Ms. Genevieve Brown).

Academic Literature of Volunteer Tourism reviewed a 2014 academic book on volunteer tourism, “Volunteer Tourism – Popular Humanitarianism in Neoliberal Times”. The review gives a thorough summary as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the book.

Stanford’s Principles of Ethical Service

Stanford has a list of principles for ethical service that are not unlike IVPA’s Principles and Practices and are great guide to review.

As always, we hope you enjoy the read!

IVPA Updates for the Field 7.17.15 – News!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Hello all!

If you do not know already, our Executive Director, Ms. Genevieve Brown, periodically updates IVPA members and staff about international volunteering making the news. Here are a few articles to definitely check out!

The first one is by the Huffington Post, who posted a lengthy infographic on how volunteering can get you get your dream job. Check it out here!

The second piece of news comes from Reuters, who recently published an article expressing concern over the international volunteer industry’s expansion. The article also calls for more regulation on international volunteering.

And lastly, US News Travel published the article Voluntourism 101: The Dos and Don’t for Planning a Volunteer Vacation. The article delineates some differences between an international volunteer organization and voluntourism.

All the news stories are hyperlinked to their respective stories. Enjoy reading!

A Response to Criticism | by Genevieve Brown, IVPA Executive Director

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

There has been a lot of criticism lately about the growth of voluntourism and the lack of standards on volunteering bodies. Although some criticism may be valid, it is unfair (and inaccurate) to broadly generalize all volunteering bodies as unregulated. Here is our very own IVPA Executive Director’s response to the criticism – I highly encourage giving it a read. Thank you for your dedication and passion to the world of volunteering abroad, Ms. Genevieve!


What About Regulation?

International volunteerism has come under fire. Articles and blog posts seem to pop up every week criticizing volunteer travelers’ motives and methods. Criticism tends to lump all types of service abroad into one group and cast a whole spectrum of organizations   in a negative light. And yet, not all criticism can be dismissed. The voluntourism industry continues to grow and there are organizations that cut corners.

A recent Reuters article quotes Simon Hare, development director of British charity Globalteer as saying “One of the challenges facing people wishing to volunteer responsibly is that there is no independent quality standard, no recognized regulatory body,”

While there is no international regulatory body there are groups raising the bar of international volunteering. The International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) is a US standards group for international volunteering. Organizations become members of IVPA via a thorough application process and adhering to 35 established Principles and Practices.

The IVPA standards cover the spectrum of volunteer programing including safety, volunteer training, management and community partnership. Some of the standards that set IVPA members apart from other operators include the following:


  1. The organization has at least one in-country staff member per program

Standard 9 helps ensure the organization is in fact running the program and not a third party provider. The staffing requirement is important in communicating with volunteers, headquarters and the community, and ensuring quality of the program.  

Volunteer Reflection

  1. Engages volunteers in written and oral critical reflection on their experiences.  

Standard 14 gives the volunteer the time and tools to process an experience that for many becomes a life-changing experience. When IVPA members’ staff engage volunteers they are able to challenge preconceived ideas, answer questions and enrich the volunteers’ experience.


  1. Collects feedback from global partners and communities at least once annually to assess the impact and quality of the volunteers‘ contributions and level of ‘buy-in’ from community members.

Partnership is a key component to international volunteering. IVPA wants to ensure that member organizations are actively seeking feedback from partners and communities and that volunteer sending organizations are thoughtfully evaluating the impact of volunteer projects.


  1. Holds current and adequate domestic and foreign liability insurance.

Liability insurance is just one standard of many that addresses safety. Safety is a huge factor in evaluating a volunteer sending organization.

While a list of standards can’t completely cover the diversity and complexities of international volunteer programs, IVPA standards are the best way to ensure quality in volunteer abroad organizations.

While reflection and critique is welcome and needed in the field of international volunteering, it is also important to recognize that there are quality volunteer sending organizations who are interested in sustainability, partnership, and meeting actual community needs, as well as providing a meaningful and safe experience to the volunteer. IVPA member organizations are committed to those principles and practices and represent excellence in volunteering.

Travel Tip #2 – Learn the Language!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

(photo taken from Quality Courses blog)

I apologize for the little hiatus on the blog posts – things have gotten busy over here! But I’m back, and with another travel tip!

If you’re traveling abroad to another country, one of the most intimidating aspects is definitely the language barrier. Learning the native language of the area you will be temporarily inhabiting is an extremely helpful (and unoriginal) idea, but much easier said than done.

If only it was that easy (photo taken from

It’s highly unrealistic to become fluent in a new language, especially in a matter of only weeks or months prior to your trip; however, there are a few things you can easily do in the time that you have leading up to your departure that will not only help give you peace of mind about that language, but also show respect to the culture you will be immersing yourself in.

  1. Know basic phrases in the foreign language, such as “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,”etc.
  2. Don’t hesitate to take notes, and don’t be afraid and to reference them while on the trip.
  3. Don’t forget about physical communication – know what it and is not appropriate/offensive, and remember to use gestures to further communicate with native speakers.
  4. Trial by fire may be embarrassing to attempt, but it is the easiest way to learn a language quickly, so just talk!

For a more comprehensive and detailed list of these tips and more, I found this page on Voluntario Global’s website to be a great source. As always, I hope you found this helpful, and happy traveling!