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 100,000 travelers have volunteered abroad with IVHQ over the past 12 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.

Founded
2007
Headquarters

99 Devon Street
West New Plymouth 4310
New Zealand

Reviews

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

I had a wonderful time
Volunteering with IVHQ in Peru! Everything was well organized and smooth, I did the community support program and got to enjoy working in several different projects during my time. I will be volunteering with this
Company again and again! Everyone was so helpful and I left with such a humbling and eye opening view point. The work IVHQ is doing in Lima is making such and impact. Meals were good, the volunteer home was clean and organized. Travel was easy, I don’t speak Spanish and had no problems, just use a translator app! Most places have someone who can speak a little
English. I do suggest building in extra time to travel. There’s a ton to see and do in Lima and the surrounding areas! Thank you so much IVHQ for this amazing opportunity!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Go with an open mind, absorb the experience and learn. Also pack sweaters. Lima is colder then you think!
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Carlee, thanks for your review of the Peru - Lima program. The effort you put into your project is greatly appreciated. We look forward to having you volunteer with IVHQ again soon. ^Grace - IVHQ Peru-Lima Program Manager

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

It was the best experience ever. I learned a lot of about culture, met amazing people. I felt like I could help and felt appreciated. The program was amazing, everything planned well, I always felt safe and surrounded by other volunteers. Looking forward to come back! If you have any doubts - just don’t. I promise, it’s gonna be the time of your life! Everything was better then I expected: responsable people took us form the airport, since then we never been left alone, food was just AMAZING, I could even say that was the most delicious meals I’ve ever had. We helped a lot for local people and it inspired me so much. We spent a lot of time talking about local culture, learning how to cook, sing, dance, make clothes. I’ve got really used to the atmosphere and it became my home. I highly recommend to go volunteering abroad, because it thought me how to live to the fullest every single day.

What would you improve about this program?
I would try to improve medical program with free transportation and bigger amount of medication, so it would be possible to visit more communities
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Rugile, Thanks so much for your review of the Ghana program. The contribution that you made on the Medical project is greatly appreciated. We look forward to having you volunteer with us at IVHQ again soon. ^ Kaila - IVHQ Ghana Program Manager

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

Ever since I was really little, it has always been my dream to travel, and with IVHQ I was given the perfect opportunity. My parents got married in Jamaica, which is one of the main reasons why I chose to serve in this location, and I am so glad that I did. The volunteer placement is located in a beautiful, very safe area of the island and was walking distance from James Bond Beach which all us volunteers loved. I volunteered in the local kindergarten, and honestly, working with the kids there truly changed my life. Both them, and the head teacher were so welcoming to me and the other volunteers, and I genuinely looked forward to going to work each day. Overall, IVHQ is an incredible and affordable option for people like me who love adventure and have a calling to travel. Can't wait to go on more IVHQ trips!

What was your funniest moment?
One of the volunteers brought a tub of bubbles to take to the school, and it was so funny seeing the kids' reactions when they saw them. They were chasing them, trying to pop each one. They couldn't get enough of it! :)
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Sydney, Thanks for your review of the Jamaica program. The contribution you made to the Kindergarten program is greatly appreciated. We look forward to having you volunteer with us at IVHQ again soon. ^ Grace - IVHQ Jamaica Program Manager

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

What can I say about my volunteering? One of the best experiences I have ever lived, and I have to say that my experience did not begin the day I arrived to Tanzania, but much earlier when I created my IVHQ account and began to investigate what I could do and where. From that day on, the desire to give myself to other began to grow, and with them, the thrill of going to the continent I had always dreamed of: Africa. I have to say that this dream probably wouldn't have been fulfilled if it hadn't been for the excellent service and help of IVHQ, how complete its website is, the reasonable prices, the help of the staff, it all added to make it easy and exciting to prepare this trip, instead of encountering obstacles at every step that would have resulted in the decrease of my motivation that would have ended up in leaving this crazy idea aside. Once in Arusha everything was amazing, the support of the coordinators for every new thing you faced, the placements´ organization, the school I was helping at, everything was taken care of to make it the best of the best. The house where you live is super well placed, the “mamas” cook delicious and varied, everything is clean and the environment of volunteers…wow! Now I have friends all over the world: Greece, Scotland, England, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Peru, Colombia...I can say that I built a family, my “Simba Family”, that I will never forget for the fun, the support and lessons they gave me. My students, so much to learn from them: the simplicity to play with anything, the joy to laugh at anything, the commitment to learn; It was a challenge to teach English to children who barely know their language because of their age, but I am sure the little help I could give will make a big change in their lives. Thank you IVHQ, thank you TVE.

What would you improve about this program?
Giving more information about the touristic part so you can organize your visit and expenses better
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Montserrat, Thanks for your review of the Tanzania program. Your contribution to the Childcare project is greatly appreciated. We look forward to having you volunteer with IVHQ again soon. ^ Kaila - IVHQ Tanzania Program Manager

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

I had an awesome time volunteering in Lima, Peru. I worked with the dogs in the shelter and I fell in love with so many of them. My one regret was that I didn’t stay long enough. I was only there for one week which was really only four half days of volunteering. I would have liked to have been with the dogs so much longer so that I could feel like I was making more of an impact. I really enjoyed working with my coordinator. Her and I were one on one the entire time which made me feel like I had special attention. Spending that selective time with her helped me to really practice my Spanish which was an added bonus. This program is great for anyone looking to give back and explore other cultures while doing so. Finally, the shared house that I stayed
in was perfect. The people were great and the food was delicious. They were more than accommodating to my vegan diet.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I could do this all over again, I would have made my trip longer. I also would have arrived an extra day earlier.
Response from International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

Hi Alison, I'm glad to hear you had an awesome time on the Peru - Lima program. Thank you for the effort you put into the Animal Care project. It is greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your review and I hope we will see you volunteering with IVHQ again soon - for longer next time :) ^ Grace - IVHQ Peru-Lima Program Manager

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

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

Samantha Schofield

Samantha is an Australian living and working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

After studying international relations and working in tertiary education management for many years, Samantha decided to travel and renew her passion for international relations by volunteering overseas. This eventuated in being offered paid work working for a development NGO in Cambodia!

Samantha Schofield

Why did you choose this program?

The volunteer market can be overwhelming! I tried to find a placement that balanced cost with experience and ended up with IVHQ. I also received quality and quick responses to my inquiries from the IVHQ New Zealand based head office team prior to booking which was encouraging. I didn't know anyone who had volunteered with IVHQ, I just went with my gut!

NGO programs are not as widely available as childcare/teaching/animal care, so the choice of provider and destination was more limited. In addition to this, Cambodia appeared, and is, a little more off the beaten track than more popular programs of Thailand and Indonesia (for example). I also wanted to travel somewhere I had never been to.

I also considered program and personal impact. In comparison to other countries/programs offering NGO work, Cambodia's development needs are deep-rooted and extensive. I knew by choosing Cambodia I would be contributing to a country that truly needs volunteer support.

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

IVHQ offers flexibility in experience - you can be as independent as you wish or have your hand held through the entire process. It's up to you.

Prior to departure - I accepted assistance booking flights and went with the endorsed travel insurance. Lists for suggested packing needs, prior reading material, etc., were also provided. I particularly liked the online training offering. You organize all medical requirements on your own.

Once the program commenced - Airport pick up, orientation, accommodation, and meals are all provided. A staff member will even take you to work on your first day! Local staff is available for support as needed to assist with placement concerns or queries. Weekend and/or experiences outside of your program need to be organized independently, but you are welcome to ask the local team for help!

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

Do your homework on the NGO and socio-political landscape prior to arrival. Have an idea of the main issues/challenges, local and international players, and development strategies. You want to be able to offer your help from day 1 but getting your head around the context and situation takes time. The more you can prepare in advance the better, so you can make more of an impact. This is also applicable to other programs, i.e. the needs of children and/or child care centers in your placement country. Placement staff will appreciate you taking the time to learn and are more likely to offer you increased responsibilities, more quickly.

Another tip is trying to stay up to date with local affairs - taking 10 minutes each morning to read the paper goes a long way! You're likely to do this at your workplace at home, so why not here?!? Ask questions, show initiative and actively engage in your surroundings. It'll pay off!

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

Ultimately you get out what you put in! I typically worked Mon-Fri 9-5pm - adding up to an hour on each end for travel. However, it depends on the needs of the placement, at a certain time, and your individual capabilities. I worked on tasks including but not limited to; strategic development, funding proposals, internal policies, program development, and staff capacity training. My roommate also worked with an NGO but focused on media and online engagement tasks, matching her individual skill set and educational background.

When we had big projects due, the staff were in early and home late! This was not an expectation for me as a volunteer, but I appreciated the opportunity to learn and be involved in more meaningful experiences - and if they were offering, why not! On quieter days, if I wanted to leave early on a Friday afternoon to get a bus to the province this was not a problem.

I was predominantly in the office each day. However, I was also provided opportunities to visit the province/s to engage in program implementation, participate in staff events/meetings/training, and attend varied local NGO events/activities. One afternoon, my boss had double booked himself so he sent me to represent at an event at the US Ambassadors House!

Having said all this, there is no average day. It's incredibly difficult to compare one's experience to another volunteer's. How one engages with their environment, tasks, people etc. varies. But I'll say it again, you get out what you put in!

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

Traveling solo as a young woman has its challenges. More so, in countries with profound gender inequality and concerns for personal safety like Cambodia. I don’t say this to scare you… I live here now so it can’t be that bad! But it’s important to keep in mind that precautions one might take a travelling solo as a woman in Thailand or Vietnam, need heightening here. Local knowledge of English and the availability of wifi is also lower.

From my experience, there are no particularly dangerous spots or areas to avoid in Cambodia, and for the most part, locals are respectful. But it pays to be careful and you must always keep your wits about you. Getting to travel on weekends with other volunteers, if you choose, is one of the perks of going with a program. Having said this travelling independently is empowering and I never had any trouble. But Cambodia is not as ‘touristy’ as some of its more popular neighbors, so it’s best not to wander too far off the beaten track. Plan and be practical – if your bus arrives at 1am you should have transport to your guesthouse or equivalent sorted in advance. No loitering. User-friendly transport apps like GRAB and PassApp are only available in Phnom Penh.

Dressing modestly and acting more conservatively are easy adjustments. As is being mindful of gender dynamics/roles. You’ll catch on quick to how men and women behave and interact with each other – or more so, don’t interact with each other. As travelers/volunteers, we have an obligation to do our research before we arrive, to be respectful to the culture, and adjust behavior accordingly. But I know who I am and what I stand for, and there are things I won’t adjust to or accommodate for – like being hassled, harassed or treated poorly. The female voice isn’t very loud here in Cambodia, but that doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t use yours when needed.

Being a smart, capable, and young western woman working in a conservative country has daily challenges. It’s obviously also hard for local women, hence the gender inequality! But navigating these socio-cultural barriers in Australia is no walk in the park either! The challenges are real but are not a deterrent to me volunteering and now living here. If anything, they spur my determination to stay here and keep contributing. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!

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Staff Interviews

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

Ben Brown

Job Title
Head of Sustainability and Risk
Ben Brown is Head of Sustainability and Risk at International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ). He oversees IVHQ’s approach to risk management across all programs globally and ensures the right steps are in place to keep volunteers safe. Ben also has responsibility for making sure all IVHQ programs are responsibly run and make a lasting positive impact in communities.
man in cambodia

What position do you hold at IVHQ? What has been your career path so far?

I oversee risk and sustainability at IVHQ. We know that two of the most important things to our volunteers are feeling confident that they’ll be supported to stay safe, and being sure that they’ll be able to make a worthwhile contribution while abroad. We also know that having a focus on social and environmental sustainability is not only good for communities and the planet, but is also good for IVHQ long-term.

My career path so far has been in sustainability roles for telecommunications and media companies in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. I’ve been lucky to work on some really inspiring projects in my career and these have given me a good background in creating and running initiatives that make a real difference in communities and have a positive impact on the environment. IVHQ is a great place for me to expand this experience.

What about the future of the industry? How do you think volunteer abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?

The concept of volunteering abroad has evolved quickly over the last 10 years and I expect it’ll change even faster over the next 10. Those people wanting to travel abroad and volunteer in a community no longer have to commit to a two year Peace Corps program and I’m proud of role that IVHQ has played in making volunteering much more affordable and accessible to travelers all over the world.

Over the next 10 years I predict we’ll see two big trends:

  • Community expectations will change. I think the communities that host volunteers will expect both more and less from volunteers in the future. Communities and projects that were typically very poorly supported by local states and other social structures historically appreciated whatever additional support volunteers were able to bring, but we’re already seeing this change. Community partners in the future will expect less in terms of the kind of transformative investments and skills exchange that may have been sought previously but they will expect more from volunteers in terms of their cultural awareness, responsible behavior and their ability to inject new ideas that stimulate innovation and enterprise. Communities in the future will see volunteers as sources of creativity, diverse ideas and youthful challenge, rather than as sources of hands-on labor.
  • Volunteer expectations will change. We’re already seeing volunteer expectations changing and they will continue to shift significantly over the next 10 years. We’ve always had a big focus on transparency in relation to our fees and we know that volunteers will continue to expect a greater level of openness about where and how a volunteer travel provider spends any money that they pay for the experience - and rightly so. I also think volunteers will expect more in terms of understanding the long-term impact that they are contributing to and again I think this is a good thing. The generation of travelers that will be most influential over the next 10 years are more socially and environmentally conscious than those before them and they’ll demand greater clarity around how their time abroad genuinely makes a long-term impact. Of course, this goes both ways and volunteer travel providers will have to get smarter about how they manage and shape volunteer expectations before they head abroad. We already actively support people to create expectations that help them to be responsible and valuable volunteers abroad. We do this through our pioneering online training tools.

The volunteer travel organizations who understand how to balance these shifting community and volunteer expectations properly will become the most preferred options for responsible travelers over the next 10 years.

Every member of the IVHQ team plays an important part of our commitment to being a certified B Corp, and I’m proud to be involved.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of the team.

I’ve been a part of the IVHQ team for around two years and I’ve always been proud to be involved. We’re an organization made up of young, ambitious people who are all motivated by enabling travelers to make a contribution to community projects, so it’s pretty easy to feel inspired at work!

But one time recently that I’ve felt especially proud to be a part of IVHQ was when we became a certified B Corporation. We’ve always measured our success differently so earning a B Corp certification in 2015 was recognition that our commitment to communities and environmental sustainability is making an impact. B Corps have to meet to rigorous standards and I was proud to find that many of these standards were already things that were important to IVHQ. For instance, we already measure and manage our environmental footprint, our service actively supports those in need, and we get stuck-in and contribute to the community where the IVHQ head office is based.

What is the best story you've heard from a return volunteer?

To me the best stories are always those that show the impact that a volunteer abroad experience can have on someone’s life direction. We constantly hear tales of former IVHQers who have changed their study or career direction dramatically as a result volunteering with us, and I love that because it means that we having an impact on people and helping them to think differently about what they want to do with their lives.

The best story I’ve heard from a returning volunteer was from a women who volunteered with IVHQ in Nepal back in 2011. Following her IVHQ experience she changed the direction of her life dramatically and founded a not-for-profit organisation which supports local health initiatives in Nepal. To date her organisation has invested more than US$70,000 into upskilling local Nepali people to deliver healthcare training in remote areas of the country, and her work is a good example of responsible community investment.

In my view there is nothing better than volunteering abroad for challenging your mindset and finding inspiration.

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Professional Associations

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