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When you volunteer to work abroad, it’s important to do research into the organizations you’ll be working with on your trip. In addition to selecting an organization that supports causes important to you, it’s equally important that they share your ethical beliefs. Otherwise, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, or worse, that your efforts haven’t been as effective as you had hoped.

Choose Your Preferred Method of Giving Back

There are a number of different ways you can volunteer while traveling outside of the country. Each method provides a different level of interaction with the communities involved and each also requires you to meet different obligations. Most people consider independent volunteer opportunities, which gives them the highest level of control. If you plan to travel for a considerable amount of time or you’re not sure where you’ll be from week to week, it might be best to volunteer as opportunities arise.

You might also consider working through placement companies. Much like temporary employment services, these companies match volunteers with the organizations needing their help. You should expect to pay a fee to the placement service for facilitating the arrangement.
Another option is to take a volunteer. This allows you to see more communities in a shorter time and lets you get involved in assisting a variety of organizations. On the downside, you should expect to pay a higher fee to the volunteer company, which they will likely retain. This means your money really isn’t helping the causes you’re working to improve.

Research the Organizations That Interest You

When you do find organizations that contribute to the causes you care about, it’s important to do a fair amount of research into their activities. Online searches and browsing their social media pages can provide a great deal of insight. Look to see what achievements and goals they have accomplished to ensure they are actually doing some good. You should also read comments and reviews left by other volunteers who have previously worked with them.

You can supplement this information by contacting the organization directly. Ahead of time, you should write out a series of questions about topics that concern you. This can help you find out how monetary donations are spent, exactly how the organization works with the community, and what would be expected of you as one of their volunteers. All of this information will be helpful in determining if the organization is aligned with your ethics and goals.

When you volunteer to work with international organizations, it’s important to learn as much as you can. Unfortunately, in some cases, the organization may not really do much to help the communities. Alternatively, some communities may not want specific organizations in their areas and, therefore, will be uncooperative or hostile towards volunteers. Doing your research in advance will give you a better grasp of the situation before you make a commitment.