Volunteer abroad with IVHQ

International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

About

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) brings people together from all walks of life to make a difference on the adventure of a lifetime. We offer the world’s largest range of volunteer programs with 300+ projects across 50+ destinations - from teaching and working with children to medical missions, conservation and wildlife volunteering.

With over 13 years of experience, IVHQ provides safe, impactful and affordable fully-hosted volunteer experiences. Our multi-layered support network and flexible booking policy means you can volunteer abroad with confidence.

Our programs range from 1 to 24 weeks across premier destinations in Africa, Asia, South America, Central America, North America, Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East and the Pacific.

Are you ready to immerse yourself in a new culture while making a difference? Join our 113,000+ community of IVHQ travellers who have spent over 7 million hours supporting local communities.

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
Alejandra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I can’t even explain to begin my experience! The best trip of my life! Had the greatest experience ever with IVHQ in Tanzania ! Gor to know the country, the staff was great, the people from Tanzania were lovely, the friends that I met during the volunteering were even more amazing that ended up traveling with them! Tanzania is my home thanks to IVHQ! Didn’t want to go back to my “home country”, would definitely be back! The people are so friendly and nice to you everywhere you go! If you haven’t decided, choose IVHQ

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Do it ! Don’t thing about it ! This trip will change your life
Default avatar
Karina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I volunteered with IVHQ Tanzania in the medical project. It was such an amazing and unforgettable experience! I learned a lot not only in the medical field but also as a person. I returned home with so many beautiful memories and the people I met will always have a place in my heart.
I would recommend this program with IVHQ to everyone who is longing for adventure and new cultures. You definitely won’t regret it.
The volunteer organization (IVHQ) made sure to make you feel safe all the time, and also to integrate you right in the culture.

What was your funniest moment?
I was doing a safari in the Serengueti Park with my friends, and in the night some hienas stole the chocolate and beers we left outside the tent. It was so funny! And kind of scary at the same time.
Default avatar
Paulina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I really loved everything about this experience in Costa Rica. I stayed in San Jose with Doña Flora and I had a really great time during my stay. Even though it was during Covid times, I met new people and had lots of fun with all of the sanitary measurements. I went to Manuel Antonio and it was soooo fun. The national park was amazing and also the boat tour named Ocean King. I definitely recommend those two. I also visited the Irazu volcano and the hotsprings. I went to see the waterfalls La Paz that were really pretty as well. I recommend to ask Maximo Nivel for their tours, since they helped me a lot and had lots of things to do.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Manuel Antonio's National Park was the best thing I saw!
Default avatar
Marc
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Romania came as a surprise to me. As a European myself, I never was very interested in going to East Europe, so I didn't have very high expectations. I mainly decided to go because it was one of the safest places to go with the pandemic going on. But, once I was there, all my presumptions were shattered. I got to meet very nice and open Romanian and Hungarian people, learn about its rich history, visit its beautiful castles and cities, and hike through mesmerizing mountains.

Moreover, the volunteering experience was very rewarding. I did everything I could to make myself useful to a local NGO as a NGO Support Volunteer with IVHQ. My aim was to start my journey to understand how NGOs work, while helping out one with a memorable cause: to provide educational and fun summer camps to disadvantaged children. Among other things, I got to help them out with the online marketing for a crowdfunding campaign, write a blog post about one of my adventures in Romania, conduct interviews, snap pictures of the summer camps and help build a space to hold these camps for children on rainy days.

Altogether, it was a great experience that I wouldn't change for anything and one which made me see a part of the world with new eyes.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Obviously I couldn't choose one thing as the most surprising, but I can tell you a fun story that I would never have imagined happening when I signed up for the trip.

From the get-go, I met a lot of incredible local people and connected with the other volunteers of the accommodation (people from Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Italy...). We never stopped hanging out, normally at a bar close to the accommodation. One day, a local girl was having a party in a town an hour from the city we were in, in a rented house in the middle of nowhere. We decided to go, and, casually, we found ourselves driving one night through the mountains, in a convertible car with the roof down and blasting music to get us warmed up for the party. Once we got there, there were a lot of other local people that I hadn't met yet and we just got down to business: dancing all night as if we knew each other since we were little kids, not caring about the culture or language barriers. Everybody ended up sleeping in that house. When I woke up, at around 7 AM with the beautiful colors of the rising sun, I took a walk around the house while everyone was sleeping and it hit me: "how surreal is this moment?".
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!

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 74

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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