- Study Abroad
- Volunteer Abroad
- Teach Abroad
- Intern Abroad
- High School
- Gap Year
Programs and Reviews
UBELONG is the most affordable, professional and supportive international volunteering organization in the world.
Volunteer abroad in Africa, Asia and Latin America from 1 week to 6 months.
We are based in Washington, DC and led by volunteers and leading university professors.
WHAT can you do?
Through our Volunteer Abroad program, for periods of one week to six months live in a community and volunteer on a community or environmental project.
WHERE can you go?
Asia: Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos
Latin America: Ecuador and Peru
Africa: Ghana, Morocco and South Africa
WHEN can you go?
Projects run year-round and you can join from one week to six months.
HOW much do you pay?
Costs start as low as US$350 for a 1 week placement.
Among other world-class services, you work 1 on 1 with a UBELONG Mentor and receive a Preparation Briefing, in-country orientation, housing, meals, project supervision and 24/7 support.
Can you give us some background about when UBELONG was founded, and why?
Cedric: Raul and I have been involved in international volunteering and development for over 25 years. We've volunteered, worked and lived in over 40 countries throughout the world. We've never lost touch with the field and it is our belief that people are at the center of change.
UBELONG was founded in 2009 in Washington, DC to raise the bar in international volunteering. Prior to UBELONG, finding an opportunity to volunteer abroad was hard. There was limited flexibility, for example the Peace Corps that requires a multiple year commitment.
Moreover, tourism companies charging extremely high prices and having little capacity to support volunteers and make a genuine impact on communities were suffocating short-term international volunteering. Their driver was profit, not impact.
UBELONG stepped in to offer affordable and flexible short-term volunteering opportunities. We are a social venture. Our model is the first of its kind and has completely changed how people volunteer abroad. We're not a tourism company. We don't offer volunteering opportunities next to surf getaways.
And we are uncomfortable with the "voluntourism" fad-- we believe the motivations of volunteers and tourists are very different. We're mission driven. We make international volunteering more accessible because we believe everybody has something to learn and share.
If done right, international volunteering can change the world for the better. Human exchange is powerful. Learning, sharing and traveling can break down barriers and bring people together to solve problems in incredibly powerful ways. And that's UBELONG-- changing lives, inspiring people and building communities.
What kinds of placements do you have? How long do these placements usually last, and what types of work do volunteers do?
Cedric: Our Volunteer Abroad program is currently across Africa, South America and Asia. We have over 120 projects in everything from education to business to health to the environment to more. Projects run one week to six months.
We offer international volunteering opportunities for all, from college students to professionals to retirees. Additionally, we've had volunteers from over 30 different countries around the world. UBELONGers are everywhere.
How do you choose your volunteers?
Cedric: The selection process is simple, in line with our mission to break down barriers and make international volunteering easy.
Any person 18 and older can apply on our site. We will then review your application and first look that you have the skills to join the project you are looking to be a part of and second the right attitude, or what we call the "UBELONG spirit".
The first criterion is obvious--for example, if you're looking to join a health project you need a medical background. The second is more intangible, but gets to the heart of why UBELONG volunteers have the well-deserved reputation of being the finest international volunteers in the world.
We're not looking for tourists or people with a "me, me, me" attitude. We're looking for people who are humble, open and proactive. You don't need years of experience or an incredibly deep CV; many UBELONG volunteers are fresh out of high school. But you need the right spirit and we look for that right from the moment you apply.
What do volunteers' fees cover?
Cedric: I've been a volunteer for years of my life and, prior to co-founding UBELONG, went through almost every imaginable volunteer program. I know this for a fact: without compromising safety, flexibility and support, UBELONG offers the most affordable international volunteer programs in the world.
In addition to housing, meals and logistical support like airport pickup, UBELONGers work one on one with a UBELONG Mentor who supports them throughout their UBELONG experience. They also receive the 24/7 support of our local team, the opportunity to make an impact on real development projects and the peace of mind that comes from being part of the powerful UBELONG network, which is based in Washington, DC and stretches throughout the world.
How do you prepare your volunteers for their projects, either before they leave or as they arrive in-country?
Cedric: Among other world-class services, our volunteers work one on one with a UBELONG Mentor who supports them throughout their UBELONG experience, from the moment their application is submitted to the moment they return home.
Additionally, we have incredible local teams who provide UBELONGers with continual support, from orientations to networking opportunities to genuine friendship. It's an incredible family of great people doing really good work. Being a UBELONG volunteer is a one-way ticket--the experience will change your life.
What's your favorite part of working with UBELONG?
Cedric: Being a UBELONG Mentor. UBELONG volunteers are some of the finest people I've ever come across, and I get to mentor them every day. I get to work with them before, during and after their experience. I get to know them on a professional and personal level, and I get to see the incredible growth they experience from their UBELONG experience. I don't have a job, I have a passion.
What is the idea behind the name UBELONG?
Cedric: The name UBELONG is a call for action, and very much reflects the spirit and values of our organization. UBELONG is the simplification of a very simple but powerful statement: "you belong". When we say "you belong" we are talking to the thousands of people who yearn to serve and get involved in international volunteering but struggle to find the right opportunity. We aim to offer that opportunity to them. There are so many people who want to understand and contribute to solving some of the most pressing issues the world is facing now, particularly in disadvantaged communities of the developing world, but find they do not belong to the world of international development.
What we are doing at UBELONG is trying to make it as easy as possible for common people to serve abroad because we believe that everyone has something valuable to contribute if they are given the chance. In addition, when we say "you belong" we are also talking to the local people who live in the communities across Asia, Africa and Latin America where we work. Through our programs we aspire to strengthen a sense of social inclusion in these communities. UBELONG volunteers fuel a feeling of "belonging" among project beneficiaries. By bringing locals and international volunteers side by side to work together they feel that they matter, that they belong to the same world, and that they have much more in common than they initially thought.
Besides, UBELONG is obviously an invented word. UBELONG sounds like the name of a new territory, a newly discovered land, and that also resonates with our mission. International volunteer service is not a new concept but we are trying to do things differently. UBELONG is new territory, almost like a state of mind that embodies our ideals and our vision of bringing people together, regardless of age, professional background or nationality, to learn from each other and make a difference.
What position do you hold at UBELONG? What has been your career path so far?
Barbara: I am a Program Officer and Mentor at UBELONG. I joined the team in August 2013.
Why were you excited to join the UBELONG team and what do you most enjoy about your role?
Barbara: I was so thrilled to be able to join an organization that empowers people to step out of their comfort zone and make a difference around the world! It's definitely a dream job.
My favorite thing about my role is mentoring the volunteers. Supporting people from all around the world who travel away from their homes and spend one week, one month, even six months, sharing their time and their skills helping people in developing countries. There's no more rewarding feeling than providing volunteers with an opportunity like this.
What is the best story you've heard so far about a UBELONG volunteer's experiences?
Barbara: There's this great volunteer, Lawrence, who is majoring in Labor Relations at Cornell. He is also the President of Cornell Union for Disability Awareness and the Philanthropy & Sustainability Chair of the Psi chapter of Zeta Psi.
He is currently volunteering for eight weeks in Cusco, Peru, at the Caring for Children with Disabilities project. Lawrence's extensive volunteering experience with people with disabilities and his outgoing personality are already making him a favorite among the children in Cusco.
The projects of children with disabilities are close to my heart, and getting to know Lawrence and his compassionate and caring personality have made me feel from the beginning that he would do an amazing job at this project. I'm excited to follow his work and progress in the few weeks he has left volunteering in Peru!
Which UBELONG program is at the top of your must-go list for next year? Why?
Barbara: I would love to do the Teaching English project in Vang Vieng, Laos. I'm absolutely passionate about Southern Asia countries, and I feel like Laos is a little hidden gem that I would love to explore.
What advice do you have for first-time volunteers abroad?
Barbara: Have an open mind and an open heart. Volunteering abroad will change your life, your priorities, and the way you generally go about dealing with day-to-day situations.
Things will never turn out the way you expect them to and that will end up being your biggest challenge and your biggest reward. In the end you will realize you're exactly where you're supposed to be.