Volunteer abroad with IVHQ

International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

About

IVHQ is the world’s most trusted and affordable volunteer abroad organization, offering the largest range of safe and impactful volunteer programs in 50+ destinations.

Over 113,000 travelers have volunteered abroad with IVHQ over the past 13 years, making IVHQ the world’s most experienced volunteer travel organization with the best safety record.

With programs ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks, it's easy to customize a program to fit your schedule and volunteering goals.

Programs are available in these destinations: Bali, Costa Rica, South Africa, Greece, India, Portugal, Peru, Fiji, Nepal, Peru, Jamaica, Madagascar, Spain, Australia, Croatia, Jordan, Belize, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Italy, Tanzania, Cambodia, Victoria Falls, Laos, New Zealand, Belgium, Morocco, Brazil, China, Ghana, Zambia, Ecuador, Uganda, Indonesia, Colombia, Argentina, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Thailand.

Explore the programs below and visit the IVHQ website for more information.

COVID-19 Update: IVHQ Programs In 30+ Countries Now Open!

IVHQ's world-leading volunteer programs have reopened in more than 30+ countries with additional health and safety measures in place. Thanks to IVHQ's flexible booking policy, it's free to change your dates, volunteer program or destination if your plans change.
Founded
2007

Reviews

Default avatar
Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It's so rare that you spontaneously decide to do a trip like volunteering abroad with IVHQ, and all of your expectations are not only met, but wildly exceeded. From the moment I signed up for my trip to Costa Rica, I experienced timely communication from my Program Manager, who often responded to all of my emails with questions and concerns within 24 hours. Upon arrival in Costa Rica, I was met by a representative of the local team who drove me from the airport to my homestay (also, my host family was incredible, friendly, helpful, and served incredible food). During orientation, I learned everything I needed to know, including safety and culture. On the first day of my project, a local team member rode the bus with me to my project to make sure I knew the way and introduce me to the project staff, whom were very friendly and appreciative of the support. I am so impressed by my whole experience. My only regret is I wish that I had volunteered longer! My trip went by way too quickly, and I can't express how grateful I am for this experience and the people I met. Doing a trip with IVHQ is something you won't regret!

Default avatar
Emma
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered in Arusha, Tanzania for 6 weeks, in the Childcare program. I felt so welcomed, and the staff immediately felt like family. The cooks were so lovely, and always cared for my dietary restrictions (I have celiac disease). I slept in a room with a bunch of bunk beds, but we were all girls and we quickly became friends and super comfortable with one another; it feels like a sleepover every night. I fell in love with the kids at my placement, and helped support the best way I could. Tanzania is also so beautiful, and there are tons of fun weekend trips to take, a bit overpriced in my opinion, but regardless amazing. Definitely recommend xx

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Keep an open mind, always. It’s not like home, like the lifestyle that we are used to, but they work so hard to always make sure it is close to it. Try all the foods and have fun!
Default avatar
Mallory
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Absolutely life changing. The people, the culture the environment are incredible, Antigua was very safe when I was there, The children instantly love you as soon as you walk into the school and you’ll never want to leave! As a 16 year old, i wad horrified on exploring Guatemala by myself, but within the first day i met two of my best friends there and we did everything together. With IVHQ, it was super easy to make friends, which for me was the thing i worried about most. If you’re looking for a budget friendly or childcare program, I recommend Guatemala🇬🇹

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
be open to each and every opportunity thats thrown at you. When you’re open to new things, the more memories you create.
Default avatar
Tia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I recently completed a trip to Costa Rica and it was such a special way to spend the holidays! Costa Rica is an amazing country, with amazing people. As the holiday program covers multiple projects, we got to meet many amazing people and help with such different things. We got to paint a mural and playground at two schools and hand out christmas gifts to many children. We got to work on the construction program on such a meaningful project, apartments for single mothers, which was completely funded through donations! I look forward to returning and getting to take part on more projects

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Take full advantage of everyday you spend in Costa Rica! there is so much to see and do. The projects are amazing and you will feel so at home as everyone in Costa Rica is so friendly.
Default avatar
Olivia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered in Bali - Ubud for the health care education program. This was an amazing trip and I LOVED working with all of the kiddos! Bali is absolutely beautiful and I highly recommend this destination. I enjoyed my experience with IVHQ. Where I stayed was fine, it was clean and the staff did everything they could to accommodate us. There were bunk beds and I was paired with 5 other people in the room. Food was awesome as well! All of the staff, volunteer coordinators, cooks, taxi drivers, etc. were absolutely amazing and made the experience organized and enjoyable! For the program itself, it seemed slightly unorganized at first because there weren't enough people for certain programs so they were having some people switch programs, but only if they wanted to. With that being said, my program, health care education was amazing. I did find that I was teaching children English and spending time with the kids rather than teaching them specifically about healthcare but I still really enjoyed it! I was able to teach them about washing their hands and how to live healthy! One more thing that people who are travelling with IVHQ should know is that you are required to have a one week orientation. The orientation is fun, you get to learn a lot about the country and culture that you are travelling in. However, it does take some time away from volunteering so make sure to plan for this while planning how long you will stay in your destination. Overall, I LOVED my experience in Bali and would recommend IVHQ to people who are wanting to volunteer abroad.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Honestly, I would stay longer! I was in Bali for 2 weeks but if I could change it, I would most likely stay for about 4 weeks, that way I could spend more time on the weekends travelling!

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I travel as much as my pay and vacation time will allow me, but I am single and usually travel alone. One day a coworker was asking advice on travel and asked if I ever joined groups (I did) and he asked if I'd ever volunteered while traveling (I hadn't). The question stuck in my mind as did the sudden realization that not only did I sincerely need a break from the drama of work and family, but I needed something in my life to feel I was connecting to something bigger, something important, something I could feel passionate and proud about.

Environmental protection had always inspired me. Was there a program that combined my two interests and the sudden need to express the part of me that longed to save the world? Yes! Of course; I knew I wouldn't save the planet, but everything about this program and company proved I could do something unique, something helpful, and that I could do so without paying a million dollars, having a special skill or going to extremes.

International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) also had so many options that I really just had to toss a coin to figure out where to go. Africa/Nakavango seemed like such a rare opportunity that I couldn't pass up the chance.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

IVHQ provided a list of things to complete before I left & checked them off as I went. They also connected me to travel insurance providers, a community of people who could answer those little questions we have when going somewhere unfamiliar, indicated which vaccinations I might need, and directed me to the host country's visa website.

Most importantly, IVHQ hooked me up with their flight center.

Their very helpful staff ensured booking flights from Vancouver to Zimbabwe went smoothly and was cheaper than I expected. One other volunteer claimed to have found her own flights cheaper, but I was more than happy to leave the stress of finding the cheapest & most convenient flights up to someone else. They also gave a very general packing list, which I followed as best I could.

Doing the actual legwork for most other things was my responsibility. I had to ensure I got vaccinated and obtained malaria pills, got a criminal record check (good indicator this is a reputable program), and obtained travel documents & items for visas for volunteering in Zimbabwe.

The program manager in Zimbabwe helped with almost everything while there, including booking a taxi back to the airport and booking weekend activities. She even gave me cream for fire ant bites. I loved that woman.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I have two pieces of advice, one for travel in general (which I've known for a long time) and one specific to this program.

1: Travel is like many aspects of life: it goes better if you use common sense to stay safe and keep an open mind and easygoing nature to stay happy. Sometimes unexpected things happen. That's life. Use common sense to survive it and be ready to shrug delays or mishaps right off your shoulders. I was bitten by fire ants. It wasn't an experience I'd like to repeat, but I treated the bites with creams, learned to wear long pants, and in no way did I allow it to dampen my spirits or my desire to experience what I could.

2: Don't be afraid. There are people to take care of you, systems to support you, and there's always a solution to a problem. What I learned in this program was that sometimes people surprise you with their kindness. Don't be afraid to believe in people (but always remember common sense!). The volunteers I was with and the program operators astonished me with their good hearts. It made me regret not holding a fundraiser at work for this program, a choice I made because I forgot that sometimes people are good.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I was only in Nakavango, Victoria Falls for two weeks and things will be different depending on how long you're there, time of year, and what is required (e.g. during the rainy season you might have to fix roads or clear debris from bridges).

Shifts for when I was there were about 1.5 hours each. Weekdays start at 6 AM. That means you have had your breakfast and are ready to go at 6 AM.

Monday we did game drives, getting oriented in the park or else doing an animal count. Tuesday we pulled datura in the morning. Datura was ridiculously satisfying to pull out and I could have done that nearly all day. In the afternoon, you might go to Victoria Falls or else do some chore around the compound.

Weds is the primary school where you'll garden or clear the field of rocks and the afternoon is enjoying the sunset with a beer after a drive around the park. Thurs we worked in the garden, digging garden beds and in the afternoon we packed camping gear and went camping. Friday morning half went pack to the compound and unpacked while the other half went tracking on foot. Friday afternoon we dug up lantana, which was the hardest work I had to do since the bush has to be taken out at the roots. All days we had about 5hrs between getting back to the compound for lunch and the 2nd shift of work or whatever afternoon activity was planned.

Weekends were usually spent in town doing tourist things.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear of going to Zimbabwe was simply getting a visa. I was terrified I would forget some little piece of paperwork and would be denied a visa. I got triplicates of every document and passport photos. Didn't get asked for any of it! This, however, doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared. It just means you shouldn't stress about things so long as you are organized.

The second biggest fear I had was that I wouldn't be able to contribute anything useful. I honestly had no idea what I'd be doing on a regular day. Thankfully, this program didn't require particular skills and we had people from 18-65 yrs participating. If you can prune a bush, you can do something in Nakavango. That IVHQ asked questions such as what skills I had encouraged me that I wouldn't be sent off to do something I wasn't qualified for.

What kind of travel style is this?

I compare the accommodations and services to a mix of camping and hotel or camping with a trailer/cabin with surprisingly comfortable beds. We had laundry services every Weds and, even though the washing machine was broken, the laundry was back by Thurs. Just note that apparently the guy who washes things likes to iron EVERYTHING.

While I was prepared for pretty much what we got, one girl was expecting to be out in the bushes without toilet paper. Seriously. She packed 9 packages of baby wipes, which she ended up donating (so, not a bad ending). We did have running water, electricity (carry a flashlight EVERYWHERE as power failures happen randomly), private rooms with a fan, wifi (not always working), a pool, absolutely excellent chefs (lots of pasta, rice, chicken, fresh veggies thanks to the garden, and fresh breads), cleaners, and the ability to choose our level of participation. If you really didn't want to do something, you might get teased or razed, but you weren't punching in a time card for work. One girl chose to do almost no work. As much as we disliked her for this lack of team spirit, it was her choice.

A little bit of advice is to bring more USA cash than you expect to use. There is an art market in town with plenty to offer (be prepared to be attacked on all sides by salesmen) and you will want to leave a bigger tip than you think for the staff at Nakavango. The cleaner not only had a nice little corner set up with trinkets that I wish I'd bought more from but he fixed my hiking boots. What did he do? He sewed through rubber so I could have my boots for another week. Apparently they will last another 20 years. I hate those stupid boots, but I wish I'd brought more cash to tip him, buy more of his artwork, and tip the chefs who were so committed to their job that I couldn't break it to them that I'd eaten in town and didn't need the dinner they'd set aside for me.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Why did you choose this program?

The IVHQ program seemed to offer all that I was looking for: destination, available projects, affordability, plus the fact that it not simply an adventure travel company. Their programs were dedicated to helping communities in need. The schools where we worked had all been built by volunteers, and we provided materials and labor to renovate and build toilet facilities for the children. A few weeks of work by a few people eventually build a school.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

IVHQ assists with everything: flight information, visa and health requirements, airport pick up, travel to placement, orientation, daily visits to the worksites, and regular meetings at our residence to discuss any issue.

The website provides most of this information in advance, but it's reassuring to meet "face to face" with the organizers. On our own, we have to arrange emergency travel health insurance, criminal background report, vaccinations, and visa requirements if required.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

In Africa, bring as few clothes as possible, and nothing with long sleeves and long pants. Clothes can be washed daily if necessary. Insect repellents are only required at night, as they simply wash away in the daytime by the heat. Bring anti-malaria medication and personal toiletries, and a small first aid kit.

My advice: DO NOT WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING! You will be with an outstanding group of people and you will have a fantastic adventure.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Because of the heat in Ghana, all 10 of us only worked in the mornings.

In construction, we left for our 30-minute walk to the site around 6:30 am and it was an enjoyable walk, as everybody waved and greeted us. We returned to our compound around noon on motorbikes.

The childcare group prepared breakfast and lunch for the school children and were finished by 1 pm. Their school was only a 5-minute walk. Afternoons and evenings were spent reading, playing games, interacting with the children.

Weekends were for sightseeing, usually gone for 2 days (at our expense).

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I had no fears, no concerns. The website provides all the information that you need about your program. The country website (tourism) provides the rest.

As for safety, always remember that you are in a group. There are no safety concerns at the placement site, and we traveled on weekends in groups for 8 or more. Local people are very hospitable and helpful. You will soon discover that you have no worries.

Enjoy your stay.

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