Student Volunteer Handbook We recommend that all students read the Student Volunteer Handbook. This gives more information on how volunteering can benefit you, support your career goals, and give back to the community. It includes hints and tips to help you choose the right role for you.
Please note, Careers do not endorse any individual organisations offering international volunteering opportunities, as quality of experience and support can vary. We can however, offer advice and guidance on where to start looking for opportunities.
Volunteering Advisers are here to help you in sourcing and applying for volunteering roles. EHU students can book an appointment with a Volunteering Adviser to discuss what you are looking for, the opportunities available locally, and to research what's available further afield within the UK.
Once you have found an opportunity Advisers can help you in the application process by checking and giving feedback on application forms or CV's. You can contact us using the Ask A Question service.
Volunteering Advisers invite local and national organisations onto campus throughout the academic year to events to promote the opportunities available, and to deliver information sessions to find out more about the work they carry out. Find out more through the Events and Workshops sections of the Careers website
Benefits of Volunteering Overseas
- Get involved in a new community and off the tourist trail!
- Make new friends
- Gain valuable experience and skills
- Use as a base for additional travel
- Give your CV the wow factor
- Learn a new language
- Build global awareness
- Make a difference!
International Office at Edge Hill University
The International Office offers advice on study abroad, Erasmus, and opportunities to engage overseas over the summer. Visit the website to find out about current projects
There is a kitemark which organisations can work towards for the safe management of overseas projects. It is worth asking whether a company has met this standard, known as BS8848 (revised in April 2014, and reviewed without change in 2019) 'Specification for the provision of visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the United Kingdom'. You can read an overview of this standard here
However this focuses on minimising risk, and does not look at particular projects or roles available. You should still research roles and organisations fully
Is volunteering overseas for you?
Questions to ask yourself:
Are you interested in learning about new cultures? Trying new food? Following and accepting different ways of living? Can you cope without luxuries such as electricity and running (hot) water if need be?
Are you reliable and responsible? Volunteers are usually an essential part of any organisation that uses them.
Are you a sociable team worker? You may have to volunteer in roles that are not always interesting and inspiring.
Are you comfortable being flexible and using your own initiative? Situations and provision can differ from expectations.
Do you want to make a difference, or are you more interested in the travel aspect?
Ethical questions to ask:
- Is the volunteer project taking jobs away from local people?
- Does the voluntary work actually have any impact, or has it just been created for the volunteer's benefit?
- What is the length of the role? Can a volunteer make any impact in that time?
- Are volunteers without skills more of a hindrance than a help?
- What is the financial impact on the local community?
These are valid concerns and good questions to ask the organisation/ project you want to volunteer for. In most cases you will be an extra pair of hands doing a job a local person would not have been involved with. However this might not always be the case and your volunteering may mean a local individual will miss out on a job opportunity. It might be that the volunteering role was just created for your benefit and locals will not understand/ appreciate your presence.
What types of roles are available?
Education - The most common volunteering opportunity related to education will be that of an English tutor/ teacher but if you can speak the local language you could engage into all sorts of activities (art, music, sport etc.)
Health and Nutrition - Opportunities linked to health and nutrition, are most suitable for doctors, nurses, nutritionist, physiotherapists etc
Building and Construction - These opportunities are most suitable for people trained in “hands-on” trades like bricklaying, plasterer, joiner etc. and people trained in planning (engineers). There are plenty of opportunities for people who are not trained though in this area
Working with Children - This is a very popular volunteering area and it mostly includes working in schools or orphanages. Be aware that there are ethical issues around these types of volunteering so be sure to do your research.
Environment and Conservation - With this type of volunteering you will help protect the habitats of plants and animals. Activities will involve things like habitat restoration, seed collection, trail construction and maintenance, erosion control, tree planting and environmental monitoring.
Working with Animals - This type of volunteering will appeal to animal lovers and often involve species protection. Opportunities related to animals often involve paying for the privilege
Farming -These types of volunteering opportunities often involve working in exchange for food and accommodation
Emergency and Disaster Relief - This type of volunteering is available as and when disasters occur. It mostly involves clearing up straight after a disaster which is often followed by the construction of new buildings etc. Sometimes it involves initial medical volunteering until nurses and doctors are available to take over the skilled work that needs to be done.
It is still important to do extensive research, especially if you want to volunteer long-term. Examine organisation's websites and try and get in touch with people who have volunteered for them. Usually organisations have their former volunteers’ consent to share their contact details so that they can inform potential volunteers. However, you should also look for reviews posted independently of company/organisation webpages to get the unedited viewpoint.
Be aware that volunteering abroad can be expensive, so you may wish to ask for a breakdown of where your money will go, and what's included. Avoid "voluntourism." Consider hidden costs, which might include: medications such as inoculations or malaria tablets, visas, travel insurance, daily allowance to live on, passports, DBS check, registration/programme fees, and flights.
Volunteering abroad can be expensive and there are usually many cheaper opportunities nearer to home, but if you do decided to volunteer abroad, you will gain a lot in terms of experiencing a new culture as well as developing skills.
- Sponsored Events
- Go giftless
- Use social media to promote your fundraising
Contacting organisations for sponsorship
Contacting local organisations and businesses or even the council can be a great way to raise your funds. The more companies and organisations you apply to the better. You can accept donations from multiple organisations.
You can go to your local organisations and request a donation from them directly. However, if you’re also contacting other organisations that you don’t know then go visit, if possible ask to speak to someone about your request for a donation.
Companies are more likely to give donations to people who they know. If you know someone who works in a company then take advantage of this.
It’s very important that you do your research. First of all it is good practice to know a little bit about the organisation that you are contacting.
The most important form of contact is sending a letter to the organisation so that you have your request in writing. If a letter is your only form of contact, then make sure you have a clear heading in your letter briefly stating what your request is, this way it will stand out.
What do you have to offer the organisation? This could be promoting their business. If you are using social media then tag the company in a post and thank them for their contribution. Are you writing a blog about your trip mention how invaluable the company was in making this happen.
It is also important to find who will be dealing with your donation request, you don’t want to end up waiting weeks for your request to get to the right person, so in order to avoid this send it direct to them.
If the company does give you a donation then it is really important that you send a letter thanking them. You can also send them information on how invaluable their contribution was, and what impact you were able to make.
Visas and Work Permits
If you do decide to travel abroad, you may need a visa, and if you are planning to work abroad most countries will require you to have a work permit. You can pick up advice regarding visas and work permits, and similar issues from most travel companies. STA travel www.statravel.co.uk and www.gapyear.com have useful information for students.
Visas can often be applied for online, or through travel agent specialists. If you chose to travel with an organised programme, support and advice will be provided, and often the cost of the visa is often included with the package.
Another way of retrieving a visa is by visiting your embassy which can be time consuming. There are some companies that specialise in organising a visa but they will charge you for it! Sometimes this is the only way to secure a visa however.
Not having a valid visa or work permit is against the law and it could land you in prison.
It is important to find out if the project you are about to choose has a value. You do not want to volunteer for an organisation whose only goal it is to squeeze money out of you!
Issues to consider when selecting a project include:
- Reputation of the company
- Background of the project and ethics
- Who benefits from the project
- The individual role you will be undertaking
- Practical Arrangements (Cost, Support, Training, Accommodation, In Country Support, is the country safe to visit, what happens in a crisis)
- What happens if you are unable to go - will the organisation refund any of your money?
You could also check out online forums like:
It is very important to make sure you are fully insured before leaving the country.
Make sure you are covered for the full time you are abroad, not just whilst volunteering.
Created with images by Christine Roy - "During our road trip on highway 66 we stopped at a local shop and I spotted in a dark corner this old map with pins and currencies left by visitors from all over the planet." • Vladislav Klapin - "memories from world festival of youth and students" • Larm Rmah - "Happiness of the poor children. Taken in Chupah district, Gialai province Vietnam." • Perry Grone - "Instagram - @PerryGrone" • Kyle Glenn - "untitled image" • Jesse Schoff - "untitled image" • Brusk Dede - "Happy children playing basketball, monochrome." • Daniel Chekalov - "untitled image" • Austin Kehmeier - "untitled image" • Jon Tyson - "untitled image" • Aneta Pawlik - "untitled image" • Nils Nedel - "Getting up early isn’t that easy and being on time at airports in the morning isn’t either! But a sunrise like this is very enjoyable, especially having such a great view down at the buildings, the streets and the trees which are getting smaller and smaller. Knowing that the TAP airline machine was going to land in beautiful Lisbon was the cherry on the cake." • Priscilla Du Preez - "Scrabble word spelling" • Chayene Rafaela - "untitled image" • Diego PH - "Hands"