Volunteering Abroad? Consider These Tips

volunteering abroad

Traveling for volunteer work has grown in popularity in the last few years, and many women are getting into the spirit of travel and charity.  We have all heard the adage “safety in numbers”. However, there are many reasons to stay vigilant despite the growing number of women traveling to foreign countries for this purpose.

For one, despite more women fearlessly getting on a flight to exotic locations to extend their help and kindness, it does not change some pre-existing cultural notions that some of these countries have. Women are far more conservative and are treated differently in some countries that are receiving volunteers. It is a matter of safety and respect that visiting women carry themselves with proper demeanor at all times.  Here are eight important things to remember when volunteering abroad as a woman.

 1. Don’t romanticize volunteer work.

Be smart about picking your program.  Not all volunteer organizations are the same. You need to be very practical about which organization to go with. Make sure that you are part of an organization that does a complete background check, not just for your safety but for the integrity of your efforts.

Read up on everything there is to know about the program – from their activities to the experience of people who have previously joined the activities of the organization. You’ll want to know everything about the mission and processes of the organization before volunteering abroad.

volunteering abroad

2. Stay in contact with your volunteer organization

Whether going out for volunteer work or for fun, it is better to let someone from your volunteer organization know where you are headed.  The organizations differ in leniency based on their locations. It is best to heed their advice at all times and let them know what you’re up to.


3. Stay in touch with family and friends.

One tip I always give my friends who are traveling for whatever purpose it is, is to set a schedule to stay in contact with a family member. A text, email, or call at a designated time can help them keep at peace.  It also  can be a good indicator if you are in danger. Always let them know ahead if you are not able to make the schedule so you don’t worry them.

4. Avoid confrontation

In some cases, you may come across disrespectful glares and remarks from people who are averse to you being in their locality. Sometimes it can even happen for no apparent reason. Resist the urge to fight back.  You will need to hold your emotions and think logically.  And remember, because their customs are different than yours, you may offend without knowing it.

5. Always be in familiar company

Whether doing your work or taking a night off with friends, be aware of those around you. Always stick to people you know, and don’t go running off with unfamiliar people no matter how nice they are. While turning strangers into friends is a promising adventure, it can also be a very dangerous one.  Don’t ever simply wander off at night alone.


6. Have travel health insurance

Every traveler knows that getting  travel medical insurance is probably the most important thing in your travel checklist. Ensure that you are covered for any health or accident issues that can arise.  Read and make sure that you understand how it works.


7. Dress appropriately.

Many of these countries that require volunteer work have much warmer climate. This may lead a lot of women to think that it is fine to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. While comfortable tank tops and shorts are easier to move in, it may also raise some eyebrows from the locals and attract unwanted attention. Instead of cutting the coverage, go for light fabric that would still cover you but keep you cool. Do your research on  acceptable clothing before packing.


8. Use caution when carrying money

There isn’t a much more helpless feeling than discovering the money you’ve brought along is gone.  Whether you plan to handle expenses with credit cards, travelers checks, or cash, it will require much more  caution than you’re accustomed to.  Smartertravel.com  has excellent tips to consider before you leave home.

Volunteering abroad : Make it Awesome!

Volunteering abroad is a great opportunity to travel and do good.  It can be the basis for many future opportunities.  But be sure to keep your safety in mind at all times. Checking out  websites that provide people’s experiences and advice is a good investment of your time. Make sure you do everything you can do to be ready and informed.  And come home with only good stories.

National Volunteer Week is April 10-16, 2016

volunteering abroad



Jackie LaMar

Beach lover. SoCal dweller. Life is never over unless you surrender. Keep going, the prize IS out there.