Posted: June 9, 2017
Maybe your child just told you that he or she wanted to travel abroad to volunteer with GVI, or maybe your child is just about to leave and all the sudden your brain is flooded with questions. It can be a nerve-wracking experience to send your child abroad to somewhere new, in the hands of people you’ve never met before.
The most important thing you can do is be prepared. Do your research on volunteering abroad in general, and on the specifics of the country your child is interested in (politics, culture, religion etc.). Speak with others who have volunteered abroad before, and if you don’t know of anyone who has, ask GVI staff to put you in touch with alumni. You can also read third-party reviews!
Before you do that, here are some of the most commonly asked questions by parents just like yourself!
Global Vision International (GVI) is multi-award winning social enterprise that has been running high impact volunteer and international education programs since 1998, and it is frequently featured in the world’s media as an authority on international volunteering and global education. Some of our internationally renowned partners include Save the Children, South African National Parks Board, WWF, PADI, Project AWARE, The Fiji Red Cross and Panthera, to name a few.
We would not continue with a program in a location it felt was unsafe for its volunteers. GVI staff regularly monitor government travel advisories and stay up-to-date on the news and political situations in-country. It is still beneficial to do your own research, however, especially if you can speak with a former volunteer who served in your child’s country of interest.
Most often volunteers will be staying in a house or an apartment all together. Some sites allow volunteers to have their own rooms, but most require that volunteers share rooms with one another. Some of the more unique accommodations include living with a host family, like in Chiang Mai, Thailand!
Each accommodation is carefully selected, and host families vetted to ensure the health and safety of each volunteer. Despite the differences in type of accommodation, there will always be a staff member staying with them, and a staff member on call, even on the weekends.
Further reading: 6 Reasons to Volunteer in Chiang Mai
The health and safety of all volunteers is paramount. There are of course risks that come with traveling anywhere new, especially countries so different from our own. With different food, potentially unsafe tap water, exposure to different elements, and encounters with mosquitos, it is likely your child’s body will have to go through an adjustment period.
That said, staff on site will always discuss health and safety with volunteers once they arrive on site, and GVI will always make sure your child has safe food and water to eat and drink, and a mosquito net to use where relevant. Staff members will also give them their contact information should they need it in an emergency. Your child will receive a packet prior to departure that contains all relevant contact information as well, so be sure to get that from them!
If any volunteer gets sick, a staff member will always be around to assist them, whether it’s checking in on them in their rooms, or taking them to a doctor to seek medical advice if necessary.
The amount of contact and communication you have with your child while he or she is volunteer abroad will vary depending on things like the project location, project schedule, your schedule, the time differences, and access to the internet.
Rest assured that GVI staff will send out an email to any next-of-kin listed once all volunteers arrive and that if, in an unlikely situation, there is an emergency, all emergency contacts will be notified. It can be really difficult to go without regular communication, but no news is good news! If you need to get in touch with your child urgently, you can contact GVI office staff and they will get in touch with the field staff ASAP.
Depending on the project, your child might be teaching all day, with evenings free, or they might have a more varied schedule that includes diving in the morning, rest at midday, and community outreach in the afternoon. Interns will generally have more work to do than regular volunteers, as they’ll have additional responsibilities that require they put in extra hours. Over all, it really depends on the specific project and the type of work. Be sure to ask GVI staff about specifics for your child’s project!
Further reading: The Value of International Work Experience
After working hard on the project all day (or sometimes at night, turtle walks anybody?), your child will relish in their free time, whether it’s reading in a hammock by the ocean, exploring a new restaurant in the city, or getting to know their host family. There is usually no shortage of ways to spend down time, either on site, in the community, or throughout the surrounding area. Of course, the amount of activities to do depend on the project location, with more rural areas having more limited access to restaurants and shops, but regardless of location, each site provides a unique experience for your child to explore life beyond their volunteer work.
GVI sends thousands of volunteers abroad each year, to projects on nearly every continent and sites that vary from rural to urban. Your child will feel right at home as soon as he or she starts, and will surely have memories that last a lifetime.
Feel ready to start making a difference? Find out more about GVI’s international, award-winning volunteering programs and internships, and choose from community development, animal care, teaching, women’s empowerment, and conservation projects worldwide.