One of the most common questions from would-be volunteer travelers is how to select a good volunteer travel company.
Selecting the company or program is really a mix of lots of good information gathering and a degree of gut instincts.
Asking good questions is one of the best ways to assess the credibility of an organization. You will want to start with general questions about the organization and then focus on the specific programs you are considering. These 15 questions would give you a good understanding of the organization and its operating principles.
How long has your organization been operating?
How many people do you send each year?
Does the organization have a policy on responsible tourism? Can you give some examples?
Does the organization work with a host country partner? Is the project one which the host country wants or needs?
How long has the project been running for? Is the organization in it for the long haul?
Who is the staff in country?
Are the full-time employees part of your organization or do they work for another organization?
During a typical day, how often will I be with a staff member of your organization?
Where exactly am I going and who will I be working for?
How do you make sure that the program is appropriate for me?
What kind of training is provided to help me prepare for my program?
Does the organization encourage volunteers to stay together or to mingle with locals?
How will my friends and family contact me if there is an emergency at home?
How will I contact my friends and family if I have an emergency during my program?
Will you provided me with email contacts of past participants?
Most reputable companies will be as transparent as possible and do their best to answer your questions. If a company is evasive with questions, then this is a warning sign that they are either hiding something or just plain disorganized — not a good organization to go with!
For more tips on planning a trip, check out Essentials, our guide to volunteer travel.
photo credit: myki roventine