After some searching, he settled on a volunteer program in Kenya which, while the lowest cost option at the time, still was quite expensive. Believing there had to be a more affordable option, Daniel began contacting local individuals interested in starting new programs throughout Asia and Africa—within two months, he’d performed site visits, had a website built, and IVHQ was on its way to becoming a successful volunteer travel company.
IVHQ Placement Basics:
- How long? One week to six months—volunteers generally average three to four weeks’ travel.
- Where? 18 countries throughout North and South America, Africa, and Asia.
- What do volunteers do? The main programs focus on education, childcare, and medical work, though other options are available in surf outreach, turtle conservation, construction, NGO work, and panda conservation.
- How much does it cost? Fees vary depending on the location, but at the lower end, volunteers can expect to pay $180 for one week, to $7,200 for six months at the higher end. Most programs range from about $250 for one week to about $2,220 for six months, though.
- What do fees cover? According to Daniel, "This varies from country to country but for the most part they cover accommodation, meals, airport pick-ups, staff support, orientation and project placement."
About Volunteering with IVHQ:
To prepare volunteers for their trips, IVHQ provides an information packet (averaging about 60 pages per stint) and assigns a program coordinator to address any questions or concerns the volunteer might have before arrival.
Local staff get in touch with future volunteers, and pick them up and provide a one-day orientation session once they arrive in-country. Four days into the trip, IVHQ emails its volunteers to ensure they’re happy, that the project is running smoothly, and to respond to any concerns the participants might have, whether they relate to accommodation, projects, or otherwise. "We encourage open communication from our volunteers and try to fix all problems immediately before they become a big issue and to ensure the volunteer does not waste any of their time in country. We have feedback forms for volunteers to complete when they finish which we also use to ensure we are improving our services," Daniel says.
After volunteers return home from their projects, IVHQ makes sure to keep its 15,000 alumni base connected and up-to-date about new developments and other news through its newsletter (with more than 30,000 subscribers), as well as its YouTube channel, Facebook group (at more than 15,000 members) and page (at more than 3,500 fans), and Twitter account. A breaking news page also is available on IVHQ’s website for any visitor interested in learning more about current and ongoing projects.
How do you ensure your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?
Daniel: We work with local teams. All of our staff are locals. They are a part of the community and know the host families, and projects. They work with the local projects and families to ensure everybody is happy and projects and programs can benefit all parties. Hosting international volunteers is a difficult job. There are a lot of stakeholders to keep happy, but by having local staff on the ground who are experienced and that have good communication with the local communities and volunteers, they make the job look very easy.
How do your volunteers adapt to being immersed in a new culture?
Daniel: Very differently. For the most part they love it, but we do have cases where volunteers can find it very tough. We tell all our volunteers, to try and immerse yourself in the local culture. Learn about it and become part of it. Do not try to force your local culture on the community you are now living in.
What's your favorite part of working with IVHQ?
Daniel: Returning to a country I haven't been to for 12 months and seeing the difference our volunteers are making. Seeing the impact it is having on a community and seeing the satisfaction it brings to our volunteers and local teams when they make a difference.
- Mexico: Volunteers can apply for teaching, childcare, environmental, and computer tutoring programs in Cuernavaca and its surrounding suburbs. Costs range from $270 for one week to $2,700 for six months; volunteers must be 18 or older and speak English. Learn more about volunteering in Mexico.
- Peru: IVHQ’s Peru placement lets volunteers teach English, help with childcare, medicine, construction and renovation, and jungle conservation. Projects take place in Cusco and surrounding areas, and volunteers must be 18 or older—some programs require Spanish language ability. Fees range from $250 for one week to $2,725 for six months. Learn more about volunteering in Peru.
- Kenya: With placements all over the country, IVHQ’s Kenya projects offer teaching, orphanage, sports education, HIV/AIDS work, medical assistance, music programs, and women’s education programs. Volunteers must be 18 or older and speak English, and program fees range from $250 for one week to $2,220 for six months. Learn more about volunteering in Kenya.
- China: Volunteers in China can teach English, work in orphanages, assist with panda conservation, and help with special needs projects. Programs take place in Xi’an and surrounding areas, and volunteers must be 18 years or older. Fees range from $240 for one week to $3,365 for six months. Learn more about volunteering in China.
- Thailand: IVHQ’s Thailand volunteers teach English, help with outdoor work, and engage in community development activities throughout Chiang Rai and surrounding areas. Participants must speak English and be 18 or older; programs range from $320 for one week to $1,275 for three months. Learn more about volunteering in Thailand.