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Pod Volunteer

About

Pod Volunteer is an award winning non-profit organisation arranging ethical, inspiring and supported volunteering opportunities around the world since 2001.

Pod Volunteer offers great value 1 - 12 week placements at volunteer projects in Africa, Asia, South and Central America.

You can join a volunteer project as a holiday, part of your college or university placement, internship, gap year or career break.

Volunteers can join a range placements available including:
• Animal Care
• Building
• Children’s Day Care
• Conservation
• Teaching
• Community Development

Our friendly team has a wealth of overseas volunteering and travel experience and we have all volunteered overseas and pride ourselves on our project and location knowledge. From helping you to prepare for volunteering overseas, to providing 24/7 back up while you are away, we are here to support you throughout your volunteer journey.

Founded
2001
Headquarters

3 Crescent Terrace
Cheltenham
GL50 3PE
United Kingdom

Spaces to join in 2019, 2020 and 2021!

The lovely Pod Volunteer team will support you from helping you to prepare for volunteering and travelling overseas, to providing 24/7 back up while you are away, we are here to support you every step of the way.

Visit our website today and we can help you start your own volunteering journey!

Reviews

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Martha
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering in India was by far one of the best things I did whilst travelling. The programme was well thought out and although I was only there for 3 weeks I felt as though even in my short time I made a bit of an impact on the children I was helping. The programme is well split between the school, the boys home and the rag pickers community too. Ravi and Gurav were excellent in supporting us the whole time and I never felt out of my depth with them around. They were very good at explaining the wider social issues which have led to the wide scale problems India is facing. Since my time there all I have wanted is to go back and visit, but this time for much longer. The volunteer house was also such a lovely environment to live in and was a lot of fun too! Ravi’s Wife Neha cooked the most incredible food and it really felt as though we were having a traditional Indian experience whilst living with them. She also gave us cooking classes which was so sweet, and has meant we have brought a little bit of India home with us! This programme is most definitely for you if you want a like no other experience, as well as the chance to help a community which is advancing and make life long friends.

What would you improve about this program?
I would really struggle to think of a way this programme could be improved! It is so carefully thought out and Ravi and Gurav were just incredible!
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Jen
1/10
No, I don't recommend this program

This was a large and expensive learning experience. My advice is to never go through an agency like Pod Volunteer. I wasted so much of my hard earned money when I could have volunteered and given my money to a legitimate organization. Pod assured me my vegan diet would be accommodated and it was not. The center was extremely disorganized and offered more opportunities to those they would benefit more from. The conditions weren’t really safe as far as having amateurs go into cages, while being barked at by the kitchen manager. When I brought these issues up to Pod, they only covered for the center and brushed my (valid) concerns off. This is a money making scheme on all ends. I love to volunteer my time, which is actually more valuable to me than money, but I could have used my resources and went somewhere that appreciated my help. I wasn’t given the name of the actual center until right before I left, and conveniently after I paid. Next time I will go to the organization directly to make arrangements and i will never trust an organization like Pod in the future.

Response from Pod Volunteer

Hi Jennifer,
We are very disappointed you still feel this way given the review we undertook with yourself and the local team at the beginning of 2019, which included giving you money back towards the fees you had paid.

The feedback we receive is incredibly valuable to us and it’s hard for us to see how you feel we can have ‘brushed off’ your concerns given that it was escalated to a Director of Pod Volunteer who led a 2 week in-depth review into the situation with both our UK staff and the team in Costa Rica.

As a non-profit and registered UK charity we are in no way in this to make money, we are passionate about helping to match volunteers to projects in need of assistance around the world, and supporting our volunteers throughout the process. We are very proud of the high levels of feedback we receive from volunteers and, in the unlikely event there are issues, we try to address these as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

The placement fee that we charge has to cover our own costs as well as the local placement costs incurred. We keep our costs to a minimum, but do need to ensure we are able to operate as a highly professional organisation and meet or exceed the standards that are expected of us as a leading UK based volunteering organisation.

The project itself is dedicated to provide the best level of care possible to the animals, supported by volunteers who enable the specialised local team to focus their attention on new rescues and prepare animals for their re-release into the rainforest. Without the efforts of volunteers such as yourself, the centre would not be so successful in re-releasing animals to their natural habitat. This is particularly true in busier periods, when there are a limited number of volunteers and the small team in the sanctuary really benefit from the additional volunteer resource. The safety of volunteers is always carefully managed and we have never had any incidents or issues.

With regard to your vegan diet, we were very sorry about the use of a vegetable oil spread as we know how important it is to respect dietary choices, something we also believe passionately in. The team are very apologetic about the vegetable oil spread which was used to cook a few of the foods – as soon as it was discovered that this contained small amounts of milk solids it was no longer used. We understand that the team checked with you on a daily basis about food and if there was anything they could do or buy and that you said it was fine, so we are surprised to get this feedback. The project receives quite a few vegetarians and vegans, and they feedback that they have a good selection of food available.

In our position as a volunteer agency, we can’t disclose the project name on our website so we provide very detailed information before volunteers book so they can see if it’s the right project for them unlike most other organisations who ask for a deposit before giving all the information. We then give further details including the project name and contact details after a volunteer is confirmed.

We hope that despite the issues you still have some positives from your experience and that over time you may reflect back on our role a little more favourably.

Best wishes, the Pod Volunteer team

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Kate
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I spent months looking for volunteer opportunities overseas and it wasn’t until I came across this one that I knew i’d found the perfect fit. Having the option of working with both children and animals was what made this program stand out above the rest. The brothers who run this program are very passionate about their work in their community in Udaipur and are super supportive to their volunteers. The entire experience was extremely fulfilling and that is in large part to the environment that the brothers have created for both the volunteers and the people they help. I felt so comfortable and safe and truly had the time of my life in the few weeks I spent on this project. Leaving STEP felt hard as in only a few weeks they became family. I highly recommend anyone to take part in their projects in India.

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Thomas
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My family volunteered in Belize and the experience couldn't have been more rewarding. The POD and TIDE organizations were first-rate in every way. We learned about the history and culture of the country and its people, the vital and wonderful work these groups are doing, and the value of hard work. This isn't a cruise ship excursion. You're gonna sweat and get sunburned and get blisters. And at the end of the day you'll sit back, have an authentic local meal, and look at the stars and feel good about yourself and the work you just did. Everyone involved are knowledgeable, supportive, and extremely friendly. You marvel at the beauty of the country and experience the genuine nature of the villages. We are better people in several ways from this experience. I would go back again and recommend anyone else to do so.

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Ellee
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I travelled to India it was my first time alone experiencing a new culture and volunteering abroad. I am so thankful I chose STEP, it was an amazing time of my life that I will forever look back on fondly. Every aspect of my time there, Guarav, Ravi and Neha made sure I was happy and safe. Their knowledge and support throughout was incredible. From when I awoke in the morning I was surrounded by mountains to when I explored the city and was immersed in vibrant colours and kind hearted souls, it was simply beautiful. It is a wonderful chance to explore India as they offer quite a few trips to different cities and experiences. The atmosphere in the house was always friendly and fun, full of laughter and smiles from breakfast to afternoon chai. Volunteering with the children was incredible and I really felt our contributions were creating a positive change. The children at the nursery, orphanage and disabled school were so sweet and eager to learn and I learnt quite a bit about organising lessons and creating fun activities. Watching the work done at Animal Aid was so inspiring and the care and dedication they put into looking after the animals was amazing to watch. You fall in love with the animals and make great connections with the people working there. Volunteering with STEP showed me how passionate everyone I met were about changing peoples lives and animals, and I am so lucky to have experienced it.

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly cannot think of anything, it was simply brilliant.

Programs

Displaying 10 - 11 of 11

Alumni Interviews

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

Alaisha Lucia

Alaisha loves to volunteer and help others in any aspect at all. She has an outgoing and humorous personality, along with a huge heart. She enjoys cooking, spending time with friends and family, kayaking, volunteering, and art. She loves to learn, gain new experiences and meet new people!

Alaisha Lucia

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because, since I was a child, I have always loved to help others and wanted to, especially overseas. A friend recommended it and she loved it, so I decided to take a leap of faith and go! I am so thankful I went and got to experience this beautiful journey. I wish to return someday soon!

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

All of the staff at POD are extremely helpful and provide excellent guidance to get ready for the trip! I had to organize my flights, travel documents and insurance for the trip. A few other minor details we had to plan ourselves, but other than that, all was planned for us! Their directions were easy to understand and they provide numerous great resources!

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

I wish we had known that, for the overnight trips, you have to book them way in advance! We missed out on that, but got to see amazing things locally, so all was still great! I would also suggest that any volunteers go with an open mind and open heart. The experiences are beyond life changing and provide such new experiences and knowledge. I would not trade this experience for anything!

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

An average day during the childcare program in India started with breakfast and then we would visit a local school. For two hours each day, we would teach children and then we would return for lunch, Hindi lessons and lesson planning time.

Lesson planning is where you plan what you will do for activities and teach to the students. After that, we volunteered at an orphanage, had dinner and then was able to hang at the accommodation. Weekends we went to local forts and temples, as well as traveled around the city.

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 was honestly the plane ride. Flying from America to India is a very long flight. It was my first time flying that far, let alone out of the country. I was extremely nervous but the plane ride went fine!

Aside from that, I feared the unknown. You don’t know what to expect, what it’s like, or who you will be living with. My views changed as soon as we got off the plane. Both the local hosts are so kind and welcoming. I never felt out of place or uncomfortable at all during my stay. They truly work with you to make you feel at home and to help you transition into this new environment.

In what ways was this experience life changing or transformational to who you are?

This trip changed my life, undoubtedly. No words can fathom how amazing this experience was. In so many ways, this trip changed who I am as a person, how I see the world, my values and what I wish to peruse in life.

I changed as a person in many ways, but significantly in that I found who I was. I was able to truly let myself divulge into a new culture and get to know the locals. In a short two weeks, I feel in love with the food, children, locals and India. This trip changed how I view myself and the world. Coming from America, a first world country, this experience made me realize how much I take for granted. I know practice conserving my resources since returning home. As for myself, I found a piece of who I am in India. At home I often followed what people expected of me and wanted me to be. In India it was the raw me. The person who I want to be.

Since returning home I have matured and realized who I am in a sense. I also feel my values and views on the world and life have changed. You don’t stay at five star hotels while volunteering, you live like the locals. This cultural immersion allowed me to grow and change my perspectives. The only thing I would ever change about this trip would be that I would go for way longer! I hope to return to India!

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

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

Becky Edwards

Job Title
Placement Manager
A Placement Manager for Pod Volunteer, I look after projects in Cambodia, Peru and Thailand. I have worked at Pod Volunteer for five years and it is amazing to watch my projects grow and develop with the assistance of volunteers.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Becky Edwards

As for under-rated, I think Belize is hugely under appreciated, the combination of Caribbean beaches, tropical rainforest (complete with jaguars) and ancient Mayan ruins makes it an amazing destination and it's size makes it really easy to see it all!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Being true to what you believe in. At Pod Volunteer, we started very small (a family business run from a living-room!) and we had very strong core values, as we have grown we have strived to never compromise on those values and I think it shows. We always question ourselves to make sure we are operating as ethically as possible and our projects are hand-picked and visited personally by our small team. We might not be the biggest, but we can be the best.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

Honesty, a true passion for what we do, expert knowledge in our locations and unwavering support of our volunteers. We are with our volunteers at every step of their journey and we get to know them personally, there is nothing better than seeing a volunteer's travel photos at the end of their trip and knowing what a difference they have made. I think we are also unique in how well we know our projects and the teams on the ground, we speak regularly and visit regularly (doing the role ourselves!) to ensure we know exactly what their needs are and how best we can support them.

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

When we won the British Youth Travel Awards "Best Volunteering Organisation" - a category which focused on on ethical and sustainable best-practice within the volunteering industry, To be part of such a small close knit team makes an award like this all the more special, we have worked incredibly hard to get Pod Volunteer to be the force it is today. It also made me very proud of our projects as each one on the ground is making such an impact on their community and their environment.

More Interviews