How the best volunteer travel programs ensure your health and safety

    Article by Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Posted: September 7, 2020

    Before international travel wasn’t possible due to COVID-19, around 1.6 million people volunteered abroad annually, and responsible volunteer organisations were able to make a big impact. And, with top-notch health and safety for volunteers, the best volunteer travel programs have it all figured out. 

    There are many factors to consider when it comes to health and safety for volunteers, and it’s a big job ensuring that every participant on a volunteer-travel program is kept safe while contributing towards a positive global impact. 

    Let’s take a look at how health and safety for volunteers is built into the best volunteer-abroad programs. 

    What to know before you go

    Most aspiring travellers are anticipating the re-opening of international travel. Whether it’s your first trip abroad, or if you’re already a seasoned traveller, figuring out what precautions volunteer organisations take to ensure health and safety for volunteers shouldn’t be a hard task. 

    Reputable volunteer organisations should have a website and support channels available that can assist you in finding out all you need to know regarding health and safety for volunteers. 



    Finding clear information about the health and safety for volunteers on a volunteer organisation’s website is the first green flag when searching for the best volunteer-abroad programs to sign up for.

    And, when you take the next step and speak with a staff member, they should be clued up on health and safety procedures. This means being able to tell you all about how their organisation ensures health and safety for volunteers while you travel, and once you get to your volunteer travel destination.

    Some of the best volunteer-abroad programs even assign you your own personal support coordinator to oversee your pre-departure journey. This ensures that the organisation stays up to date with your information, and that you are supported while planning your volunteer trip.

    One of the first thoughts you may have when preparing for your trip is, “How safe is the volunteer destination any way?” This would be a tricky question to answer without the procedures that GVI has in place to stay on top of it all, like:

    • keeping up to date with international safety standards
    • monitoring and updating our response to COVID-19
    • monitoring local government updates and communicating with our local partners in the countries we operate in 
    • completing risk audits before adding any potential accommodation, tour operator, or in-country local partner to the travel itinerary
    • keeping up-to-date records on all of this information
    • providing GVI-specific international health insurance that also covers medical emergencies and disaster evacuations. 

    These precautions mean that GVI can offer you the most recent and relevant information pertaining to your preferred travel destination, and this can go a long way in taking the edge off of your pre-trip jitters.

    But, before you choose to volunteer in wildlife conservation, women’s empowerment, or marine conservation, there’s still the travelling to consider.


    Why you won’t need to worry when you travel

    Between keeping track of your luggage and making sure you get to the right boarding gate on time, there’s a lot to remember when you travel abroad. But the best volunteer travel programs go to great lengths to make sure that everything runs according to schedule.

    Your personal support coordinator is key here, and they’ll help bridge the gap between prepping for your volunteer-travel program, and settling into your accommodation on base.

    Once you’ve decided on when you’d like to volunteer abroad, your personal support coordinator will assist you in sorting out your travel documents, and advise you on how to choose the right flights and travel insurance.

    They’ll also do their best to respond to any other travel queries you may have, like where to find the GVI staff member that will take you to your accommodation once you’ve landed.

    And, once air-travel is taken care of, it’s time to head to base.

    What precautions are in place on base

    The drive to base is all about meeting the people you’ll be volunteering alongside, and getting a sense of your new environment. It’s exciting, but something in the back of your mind isn’t settled.



    What will living on base be like? What’s it like working at the volunteer sites? What do I do if I get hurt? How would I travel to the next town if I wanted to go sightseeing?

    Of course, your personal support coordinator touched on all of this before, but now that you’re here, you can’t quite remember what they said! And you don’t have to.

    What makes the best volunteer abroad programs stand head and shoulders above the rest is their offer of 360-degree support – support before, during and after your volunteer experience. This means that volunteers never have to guess at what to do to ensure their safety.

    On base, volunteers can count on:

    • ongoing support from staff 
    • receiving comprehensive health and safety training once settled in
    • having access to local medical and counselling services sourced and vetted by the volunteer organisation
    • receiving assistance from staff with the management of dietary and medical requirements
    • the safety of valuables being stored in designated, secure locations. 

    So, health and safety for volunteers is sorted on base at any of our volunteer travel programs abroad. 

    And once you’ve done away with your worries, you can start to focus on making a positive impact and enjoy a meaningful volunteer-travel program.


    Making the best of your travel abroad program

    Sure, travel abroad can be tricky, but volunteer organisations that offer the best volunteer travel programs take all the guesswork out of health and safety for volunteers, and make it clear what they’re doing to ensure a safe trip abroad.

    Take a look at how GVI ups the health and safety of their volunteer travel programs, and ensures health and safety for volunteers under any circumstances.

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a contributor for GVI, and an alum of the GVI Writing Academy. The Writing Academy is a skills-development program that pairs development editors with budding travel writers. Learn more about the program here.

    By Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a travel writer living in South Africa. She has experience in public health nutrition and worked as a dietician before launching her writing career. She loves bringing her passion for public health and sustainable development to every article she writes. Her travels around South Africa as well as to India, Australia, and Saudi Arabia have fueled her passion for exploration.