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.

Reviews

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

I spent 6 weeks in South Africa and they were the best weeks of my life. The staff is amazing, since the very first moment you know that you are going to have the time of your life, it is an amazing program, I change my perception of life and grew so much as a person. It was the best experience of my life. You know that wherever you choose to go you will have so much fun, you will be safe and you will grow so much as a person. They have so many programs and all of them are amazing. My experience was amazing and I wouldn’t change anything about it

What was your funniest moment?
The best moment is when the children hug you everyday and they won’t stop smiling
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Ioana
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

If I were to describe this experience in only one word I would say it was mind-opening. It has helped me evolve from so many points of view. Not only did I learn to be more independent and choose for myself, but I also I got to know amazing hard-working people. I managed to do my project and build friendships with the other volunteers. I felt that I truly belonged to that world and I was devastated when I had to leave. The program was simply marvellous. I can say I got to live one of the best moments of my life when I encountered an octopus that gripped my hand. I have never felt something like that ever before. I think that this experience helped me grow a lot and made me understand how beautiful and unique the marine world really is. Furthermore, I managed to learn new things about a foreign culture and I loved exploring different parts of Lisbon on my own and with other volunteers. Even more, the staff was so kind and helpful that I almost felt part of their family. All in all, I find it incredible that even after a month I still think about those moments and me and the other volunteers are still keeping in touch. Now, all I want to do is embark in a similar adventure as soon as possible.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I ate some king of fancy seafood that was alive. You could touch it with a fork and it would move.
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Jovan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

As a current medical student, I always listened to doctors talk about going overseas to volunteer in understaffed clinics. It sounded interesting but I was not sure if it was something I would be into or not. I figured I would volunteer in a clinic in Guatemala for a week and see what it was like. I wished I had booked longer. Much longer. In the beginning, the instructions are few but concise, so make sure to follow them closely. Once you get there, you have more support than you know what to do with. They answer all your questions, make sure you are set up with everything you need, and even offer activities to draw you closer with the culture. My experience in the clinic was amazing. We opened up a clinic that had closed due to covid. Many patients who we saw had chronic conditions that had gone untreated during covid. It was incredible to be able to help them, small or large in scale. None of the patients spoke english, so brush up on that espanol!!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would stay longer. The people on my medical team were there for 2-3 weeks and I wish I had a cleared schedule so I could extend my trip. Some of the patients we asked to come back and follow up and I was just starting to build connections with the locals. One week was much too short.
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Bianca
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Literally the best decision I made this year. I’m Nigerian and going to Ghana to help the people in the village made me feel closer to home and gave me a chance to impact people who don’t have the same healthcare system I grew up with. I was blessed to meet so many people and touch as many lives as I could. Luckily, with my group we were able to buy malaria tests, testing 744 people for malaria and raise over $5000 for school and medical supplies. If I had to choose, I’d do it all over again. ♥️

What was your funniest moment?
Definitely when we sung for karaoke night at a restaurant called Sahara in Cape Coast
Default avatar
MARIA CRISTINA
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

After 4 weeks of volunteering in kindergarten I have nothing to say but a big thank you @ivhq for giving me the opportunity to share a little of my knowledge and my love to a community full of kindness and happiness. I’m very happy and satisfied with the work I’ve done here and I hope I have been able to make a mark on each of my children in Kumara Wiyata School.
I feel blessed to have met extraordinary people who have become in a good friends, and friends that are now like sisters. And without a doubt @greenlionbali has become in my second family in Bali.
Terimakasih all 🙏🏻

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
went to a little village named "banjar anggasarii kaja desa munduktemu pupuan Tabanan", the beautiful home from Agus Kadek and there i have met his wife , his baby daughter and the hole family memers. It was a wonderful experience.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 73

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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