Your volunteering placement will be an important personal experience for you, and its success will be based on how well you fit the project you choose. That is why we put project selection at the heart of our service to volunteers.
We talk extensively to volunteers before you book or pay a deposit. We match our knowledge of projects to your experience, preferences and volunteering goals, to ensure the very best fit.
Each volunteer is different and we design volunteer placements to suit you; taking projects we know well and recommending projects depending on whether you are a gap year student, a part or newly qualified professional, or someone taking a career break to use their experience (or do something completely different!).
Whatever your motivation and skill sets, we work with each volunteer to give advice on the most appropriate placement; one that will engage you and provide a positive outcome for the project you serve when volunteering abroad. One that challenges you but does not overwhelm you.
Chase, Ecuador 2017:- “The interview process was brilliant because I was able to explain exactly what I was looking for and was placed in the perfect project – one that I hadn’t considered but was very grateful to have been recommended”.
It starts with understanding your experience, preferences, skills and passions. Fill out an Application form, (it takes just a few minutes), and we will arrange a call or Skype to get to know you, and discuss the options that fit you best.
After meeting online we will summarise our discussion in an email to you. This might include a clear recommendation if we have agreed on a project with you, or it may be a review of the options we have discussed and their contrasting features.
This then gives you time to reflect on your choices and we can then arrange another meeting to narrow down your options.
Emily, Nepal 2017:- “I thought the application and interview process were very easy to undertake, fuss-free and informal which was encouraging. I felt able to ask any questions I needed to, and being able to contact Outreach at any time was great. I didn’t feel rushed through the process and appreciated being given the time I needed to fully decide whether or not to commit to the project.”
It helps if you think about what you want first. Read our Guide to Choosing the Right Project, to understand how to make sense of the wonderful choices you face. Then take a look at our projects to get a feel for what inspires you.
If you are volunteering as part of a gap year, then take a look at our Gap Year FAQs to get the answers to all your gap year questions.
Read our Guide to Making a Difference, to understand how your work can positively affect the project you serve and see some of the comments our volunteers have made about their experience with Outreach International over recent years. Volunteer reviews.
Part of making the right match is highlighting those prominent features of a project that our experience says will be important to an overseas volunteer. We call these the Blue Tiger Features and you will see a short commentary of these on each individual Project page, where they are significant.
If a project is particularly remote, a role is highly unstructured, or the level of physical discomfort particularly challenging, then we highlight these to make you aware at the earliest opportunity. Obviously some of these features will actually be an attraction to some volunteers, while being less attractive to others.
Volunteering abroad for the first time can be a daunting experience. Imagine starting a new job, moving house, taking on a new culture, language and climate, and leaving friends & family behind – all at once. Exciting ….but ‘Wow’.
That’s why we spend the time giving you extra support before you even leave, so you feel as prepared as possible.
Emily, Nepal 2017:- “The pre trip briefing was really good, and I appreciated having someone to really take the time to go through the layout of the city with me. The use of google maps was a great idea, I loved being able to visualise the city before I arrived”.
It’s great to have a friend to lean on, a counsel, a coach and a mentor when you need it. Once you are in-country, this is role Outreach play in preparing you for your trip and supporting you in-country, most notably from our dedicated and long-term in-country coordinators.
We offer volunteers years of valuable experience on the ground, when you need it most. Our coordinators are locals with knowledge of the projects, culture and local services.
Amy, Ecuador 2016:- “Our country co-ordinator Monika was amazing. Monika accepts all the volunteers she hosts into her family, genuinely cares about the people she hosts and tries to learn something from everyone. She was always wiling to help, and made an effort to ensure all her guests have to opportunity to experience Ecuadorian culture, normally via cooking or celebrations”.
We have also partnered with LRTT to provide specialist training to our volunteer teachers, giving you an online training course to help you prepare for the experience of teaching in a low resource environment.
Take a look at all the ways we help support you in your experience volunteering abroad:
All our overseas volunteer projects are regularly visited and assessed by our UK and/or regional staff. Each country has at least one in-country coordinator to manage our relationship with the projects between visits. This allows us to use up to date information on health, safety, political instability, cultural issues and individual project risk assessments.
Safety is of paramount importance. All volunteers will be asked to attend a comprehensive briefing before departure, when we go over any risks associated with your project. Parents are also encouraged to attend this.
There are dangers in all countries but being aware of them reduces risks. We have sent over 2,000 volunteers overseas since 1998 and we are proud of our safety record. We do not operate in areas which are perceived to be dangerous.
All volunteers are provided with medical insurance which includes full repatriation and a 24 hour emergency hotline.
We operate a risk management and emergency incident plan that is informed by the Foreign Commonwealth office, in-country news from our own staff and the use of third party risk management providers.
Laura, Cambodia 2017:- “I felt safe throughout. Nimol was fantastic, she does much more than I think her coordinator role requires her to do and very quickly she felt like a friend. She was amazing helping me to settle into Phnom Penh initially, giving me a tour of the city and taking me to the rehab centre on my first day. She also travelled with me to Prey Veng when I first moved there. I was always able to contact her when I needed to and she did her best to help when it with anything I needed.”
When you volunteer abroad you are offering a charitable project your time, experience and energy without remuneration. Your fee covers your cost of living and the support we give you. You are not paying to work.
We try to include as much as is practical for each destination, so you are able to budget knowing the majority of your costs are included. Please do ensure you read what is included when making comparisons with other overseas volunteering organisations.
However you choose to volunteer you will need to pay for your food & accommodation, or you will risk being a burden to the local project/community. We pay our local hosts and partners a fair wage for providing your food and accommodation throughout. We include transfers to and from the airport, your daily travel to the projects and for Galapagos it even includes the internal flight from Quito to the Galapagos islands.
You will have the benefit of local country coordinators to welcome you, brief you and give you invaluable advice and support throughout your trip (see Supporting You).
Our fee also includes good travel insurance for UK volunteers, online teacher training courses (for those doing teaching), and language lessons in a number of locations – up to 2 weeks in a Spanish language school in Ecuador.
Your fee also covers the cost of the support we offer each volunteer before you even travel; from unlimited meetings to help you decide on the perfect placement, through to helping you prepare for travel, including a full 90 minute pre-trip briefing before departure. We believe this consultative approach is the most responsible way to ensure volunteers get the experience they planned.
Your fee does not include: International flights, visas and vaccinations. The cost of volunteering varies based on your chosen country, project and duration. The fees and conditions of each placement are described on each project page.
Zac, Ecuador & Mexico 2016/17:- “I would recommend volunteering through Outreach to friends and family because it is a highly structured way to visit another country, learn a second language, and give back to a community all in on visit, with the programs tailored and executed to suit the needs of each individual volunteer.”
Your fee also contributes to the cost of us finding, assessing and marketing these opportunities, otherwise how would you know about them? Without us taking the time to visit projects we would not be able to brief volunteers responsibly, and without promoting them the projects themselves would not benefit from volunteers.
Our projects value the extra capacity and skills that good volunteers offer and they value the role Outreach International plays in finding and supporting them, which they could just not do themselves.
We act as a non-profit, pricing to cover our costs and redistributing any surplus funds back to the projects we work with. Read Josh’s story about our contribution to the school market-garden project. This is an important part of the charter we have signed up to as a certified member of Social Enterprise UK.
We make targeted donations to projects, usually in the form of resources they need, not cash (which can prove problematic locally). This might take the form of providing computer equipment and solar panelling for the school in Nepal, motorbike helmets for the children of the school in Cambodia, sports equipment, or radio equipment for the turtle conservation project.
We also like to partner volunteers who want to contribute. In early 2017 we shared 50% of the costs of an electronic keyboard with Bethany, a volunteer who wanted to donate to the rural school in Nepal that she had previously volunteered at. We arranged for Emily (left), a subsequent Outreach volunteer, to purchase the keyboard in Kathmandu and deliver it to the school on our behalf, while also giving music lessons as part of her own placement.
Those community projects we support do not accept volunteers who just turn up. Why would they? They want to know that volunteers have been assessed, and are managed and supported by an organisation such as Outreach International, so as to not become a liability or a burden on the Project itself.
Creating genuinely good opportunities for volunteering abroad is a responsibility we take seriously if we are to meet our social goals. How we select our projects is critical and how we collectively act and behave determines the impact we have on small overseas communities.
Outreach International has developed respect and trust from projects over the last 18 years, meaning we are often given sole access to projects that other volunteer organisations are excluded from.
Sunita, Project Leader in Nepal, 2017:- “Dear Steve and Organization, Namaste from Nepal
Dear Steve thank you so much for sending us wonderful volunteers Jessie and Emily. Both are excellent and did great job here. Children and staffs are missing tham. They are professional and maintain their professionalism very well. Once again thnak you so much for your contribution. Please see the face book page of OGN where you will see some posts of tham. Thank you and keep in touch.
The following policies help inform you and our stakeholders of the steps we all take to ensure we volunteer responsibly.
All of our volunteers are invited to join the Blue Tiger Club, an interest group that exists to promote the benefits of volunteering to all ages and professions, at home and abroad.
It is a partnership between Outreach International and volunteers; pooling our resources to promote responsible volunteering as a means of contributing to the community.
All our past Blue Tiger volunteers are invited to join, but when and how you participate is up to you. The following are just some of the ways we can help each other:
Use the Blue Tiger alumni to promote any personal cause you support and tap into the resources of Outreach to make a bigger difference
Schools and colleges love to have talks on adventurous and meaningful activities that stimulate the thinking of their aspiring students. You may want to deliver a talk to a local school you have a relationship with and we can help provide you with presentation materials and support.
2016 will see our inaugural meeting of past volunteers; an opportunity to relive old memories, review ongoing developments in volunteering and of course to celebrate your volunteering achievements.
Volunteers engage with us on our social media channels, to help share and promote the volunteering, social welfare and conservation themes we promote, plus of course your own photos and thoughts
Volunteering at home and abroad remains a popular activity, but with this popularity comes new challenges and opportunities. We like to engage past volunteers on developing insight on contemporary issues or discussions, (on ‘voluntourism’ for example), or in respect to developing new services for future volunteers.
Or use your own valuable experience to write blogs and papers that we can promote on your behalf.
Our past volunteers understand the nervous excitement of being a new volunteer and how speaking to a past volunteer can help. Making yourself available on phone/skype, to share your experience with new volunteers can help build their confidence and effectiveness.
As a parent of three teenage children I am only too aware of the many organisations offering gap year and volunteering experiences for young adults.
You will be concerned to make the right choice; one that is suited to your own son or daughter and one that will develop their studies, career interests or life skills.
We therefore aim to be transparent and direct about the ‘way we do it here’, to help you make the right match, (see Making the Match for how we help in this process).
In ‘non-sales’ parental terms, there are some key differentiating factors.
We believe this approach to volunteering offers the maximum personal development opportunity to a young volunteer. Your son or daughter will develop a new sense of independence and a cultural awareness.
They will develop new capabilities, added maturity, risk awareness, resilience and have an improved appreciation of how privileged they are in comparison to their host communities.
They will also pick up new skills, possibly developing a new language, while improving their communication, teamwork and leadership skills, and of course the confidence to go on a bold adventure.
Conversely, volunteering overseas should never be seen as a way of ‘sorting out’ a young person, or ‘making them grow up’. All volunteers need to have a base level of confidence and life skills so as to be able to function normally in what can, initially at least, be stressful conditions.
Any known issues at home are likely to be amplified once overseas in a strange country, detached from friendship groups and family.
Volunteers represent not only themselves when working overseas but also Outreach who have been a long term partner to the projects, and volunteers in general. It is important that volunteers recognise the footprint they leave behind.
There may be other volunteers living there with them, working on the same project or in other projects in the local area. Most of our volunteers will make international friends, including other volunteers who they travel and have fun with at weekends, as well as local members of the community. We even had one volunteer get married into a rural Mexican community.
A successful, honest relationship between parents, volunteers and Outreach International is important. It allows us to work together to achieve a productive and valuable experience for you and your children. To this end, parents are invited to attend their son or daughter’s initial interview and pre-departure briefing.
The UK office maintains regular contact with our overseas coordinators to keep in touch with volunteer activities and project developments. In nearly all cases you can be in direct contact with your son or daughter while they are abroad. Some volunteers take mobile phones and use a local sim. In many cases internet access is available.
We believe that it is important not to over-monitor volunteers. This is their time to grow and mature. We take safety and support seriously while giving volunteers a degree of independence, with the freedom to mature and develop their role in their own way. Parents should feel comfortable supporting this philosophy.
A minimum of 6 weeks is required between booking and travel. However, most volunteers sign up between 3 and 12 months in advance in order to prepare for the project, save the required funds and benefit from reduced flight costs. Popular projects become fully booked so do not leave it to the last minute.
The costs vary by country, project and duration of your stay. Please see each project for details on the fees and what is included. Typically it will include all your food and accommodation and support throughout. It will not include international flights, visas and vaccinations.
Remember when comparing costs that we take a lot of care to include more than most other volunteering organisations, including insurance, teacher training and language courses in many cases.
We require a £400 deposit to secure your place and the balance of any money is due 6 weeks before departure. Remember you will also need to budget for your flight at a fairly early stage.
Most of our projects are long-established with Outreach. Each project is assessed by the UK staff and the local in-country coordinator before being accepted as a Blue Tiger project. Our in-country coordinator maintains local connections with the project and host families to ensure we remain up to date, and the UK staff revisit each project every 12-18 months for reassessment. Feedback from volunteers, however, remains an important part of our ongoing appraisal.
Yes, unlike most placement organisations comprehensive insurance is included in your fee.
A few projects require you to know the local language, but most do not. We will always advise you of the level required. If you choose to go to one of our Spanish speaking countries you will usually receive a Spanish course once you arrive. In Africa and Asia, English is generally spoken, however, a few phrases of the local language are much appreciated and go a long way.
Some projects are more likely to have other volunteers working alongside you than others. Most accommodation will have a number of volunteers present for you to socialise with. This is one of the key preferences we will discuss with you – do you want to get away from it all, or be close to other volunteers?
No. Your fee is for the support service we offer volunteers, the largest part of which goes into the local economy through paying for your food, accommodation and in-country support.
See the section 'Your Fee' for more information
Outreach International is a social enterprise, acting as a non-profit. We work hard in pursuit of our social goals, and redistribute surplus funds to the projects. See the section 'Our Social Enterprise' for more information
Like any activity, travel is not without risk. Each time we visit a project we reassess the risks associated with it and our in-country coordinator and external sources provide us with information on the region. We support the FCO’s ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign and will provide you with a comprehensive pre-departure briefing so that you can prepare for risks that you are likely to encounter.
Your biggest dangers are always likely to be from traffic, stomach bugs and mishaps during social adventures outside the project. It is reassuring to know you have the support of a local coordinator throughout your stay with us if anything does go wrong.
We like to get to know you and that starts from your first introduction. Where possible we’ll prioritise skype calls over phone calls so that we get to see each other face to face.
We will interview you before you join, support you as you plan your trip, brief you before you travel, welcome you when you arrive and be there for you with any problems you may have during your stay.
Because we want to design a placement around you, departure dates are flexible. We prefer you to arrive on a weekend and a few projects have specific closure periods which we’ll advise you of. Where appropriate we will coordinate arrivals so that you arrive with other volunteers.
Your volunteering may well contribute to your DoE and we are happy to contribute to the relevant part of your DOE application.
Yes, on all projects you are welcome to apply with a friend. On some projects we welcome larger groups. You may also be eligible for a group discount which is usually 3% discount for 2, 4% for 3 or 5% for 4 or more friends or family volunteering together.
The nature and style of accommodation will depend upon your project, but this is something we will discuss with you. You will either be living in a welcoming host family or a volunteer house. It will most likely be basic but comfortable and will give you a feel for the culture that you are living in. You should normally expect to share a room with another volunteer. If you would like your own room you may need to pay an additional single person supplement.
Our volunteers cover the whole range of ages, from 16 to 70+. We have also supported families with younger children. Some volunteering projects are more appropriate for skilled professionals or retired people with a lot of experience, others for university graduates or people taking a career break. We also have a specific programme suitable for sixth formers.
Yes we have a special programme for volunteers under 18 where the project work is appropriate for your experience and you will receive a little more support from our local coordinator.
Yes, we can almost certainly put you in touch with a returned volunteer who has spent some time on your selected project. Just let us know.
Complete an application form and we will contact you to discuss the project(s) you have stated as a preference and agree the volunteer project that would be right for you. Then we’ll send you a joining pack and you join us by returning your completed confirmation form and deposit.
Evenings and weekends are usually free for you to relax or explore the local area. There are also likely to be local public holidays and festivals.
Weekends are usually free for you to explore. Our coordinators can help you with ideas and booking advice to help you experience the most from your stay. Many volunteers travel further afield after their volunteer placement. Outreach International cannot accept responsibility for volunteers travelling independently but you will be able to extend your insurance to cover your extra stay. You might consider booking a flight home that is date changeable to give yourself the flexibility to travel.
Yes you can. We are based in the UK and support volunteers from all over the world.