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Volunteer OverseasVolunteer Overseas

Questions to Ask Before You Decide

Projects Abroad is a member of the International Volunteer Program Association. The IVPA has created a list of questions to ask when choosing a volunteer program. To help you with this we have provided answers about Projects Abroad for you to their questions. To avoid being too general we have chosen to answer the questions based on one of our more popular programs, Care in Peru:

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How many full-time staff members do you employ? With how many of these people will I come into contact during my program?
We have fourteen full-time staff in Peru overseeing our projects in The Sacred Valley of the Incas, plus eleven more facilitating our Conservation Project at Taricaya Nature Reserve in the Amazon Rainforest. If you are volunteering in the Sacred Valley, you will meet all of the staff there. Likewise you will meet all the Conservation staff if you work at the Amazon Rainforest Conservation Project in the Taricaya Ecological Reserve. If you volunteer in the Sacred Valley and do our Amazon Rainforest Conservation Project for an extra week, you will meet over twenty of them! Projects Abroad has nearly 700 staff worldwide.
What are the roles of the full-time staff positions at the program where I will be volunteering?
The first staff member that will interact with is our Volunteer Advisor, a position dedicated solely to working with upcoming volunteers to help them prepare.  The Volunteer Advisor will make sure you know what to do and will go over all of your questions.  Upon arrival, you will meet our numerous Project Coordinators, staff who make and maintain connections with our local partners and our volunteers on how to best serve each placement. Our Social Manager coordinates cultural events and volunteer get-togethers, making sure you meet the other volunteers.  Many destination offices also have Assistant Country Managers, who are usually former volunteers themselves.  Assistant Country Managers help you transition to life abroad in such a different environment, especially during the first few weeks. All of our staff are also there to listen to you if you are having any trouble with culture shock as well as with your host family, roommate, or another volunteer.
Are the full-time employees part of your organization or do they work for another organization?
All individuals responsible for arranging your project, assuring your well-being, and improving your effectiveness as a volunteer, are directly employed by Projects Abroad.  Projects Abroad does not outsource any aspect of its operations to third-party organizations. Period.
During a typical day, how often will I be with a staff member of your organization?
Staff check-in with volunteers regularly during the first week in-country: there are formal check-in sessions for each volunteer after the first day, the first week, and first month.  Beyond this, staff are available at social events, at our office during office hours, and there is a local 24/7 emergency number for every destination.  However, on a typical day several weeks into a placement, you may not see a staff member unless you need them.  If everything is going as planned, after you've adjusted to the local setting, many days will be spent with one or two other volunteers at your placement.  This immersion is a key aspect of Projects Abroad's program.

Exceptions to this description include: Conservation placements and our High School Specials, where our staff members generally work with volunteers side-by-side every day.
Will I have a bilingual staff member on-site and available to me in person at all times?
Most Projects Abroad staff are recruited locally in each destination.  Not only does this support the local economy, it also benefits Projects Abroad because the people who live in (and grew up in) a society know it best.  All of our key staff members in every destination speak English (as well as the local language) fluently.  This is how we are able to offer projects in places like Mongolia, where very few volunteers actually speak Mongolian.
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How and how often is the accommodation selected and monitored?
Wherever possible Projects Abroad volunteers live with local host families. The families are selected from the local community. We ensure they can provide appropriate accommodation, food, and security and they are also interviewed to make sure they are friendly and taking in volunteers for the right reasons. Many are associated with our projects, such as teachers or doctors that work with our volunteers on various projects.

Host families are checked before every new arrival to make sure that they fit our standards for cleanliness and security.  They must have a room available in their home that is dedicated solely to the volunteers.  The house must have solid construction and use secure locks.  They must keep a clean home, especially kitchens and bathrooms.  They must provide potable drinking water and they must be able to provide three nutritious meals of local cuisine each day.

Where host families are not available, volunteers live in group accommodation or at their placement, similarly evaluated for safety and comfort.
What type of security is in place overnight?
Host families are in safe communities and the screening process includes evaluating the home for security. Moreover, your room will be secure and can be locked when you are not there. Follow the safety advice of our staff and use common sense and you should have little to worry about.
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How will my friends and family contact me if there is an emergency at home?
There are a number of ways to keep in touch with home and Projects Abroad staff while you are abroad. Most volunteers choose to buy a local cell phone for use while abroad. We will take you to do this as part of your first-day induction. Most phones are pre-paid and affordable. With a prepaid phone you can also receive incoming calls for free, even from your friends and families abroad. There will be internet cafes in close proximity to you placement and/or accommodation as well where you can affordably use a computer and call home via Skype or using an international calling card at a pay phone. Friends and family can also contact our office to get in touch with you through our staff.
How will I contact my friends and family if I have an emergency during my program?
First of all, what to do in an emergency will be covered in the induction you will receive when you first arrive. In case of an emergency you will call our emergency number. Not only will we arrange proper care for you, but we can also facilitate your contacting home. Likewise, if your friends and family are concerned about your safety they can contact our North American offices for information or our staff abroad directly at the contact information provided in every volunteer’s MyProjectsAbroad page.
Is a 24 hour emergency number provided? To whom does this number connect?
Absolutely. Each destination has a 24-hour, 365 days per year emergency cell phone number.   This connects to a local staff member who is at our office, or close by.  This person speaks English and is trained in our emergency protocol.
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How long has the organization been conducting programs?
Projects Abroad has been providing volunteer opportunities abroad since 1992. We have been in Peru since 2002.
How many people do you send each year? How often will I see those people?
About 10,000 volunteers signed up to join Projects Abroad in 2014. We had 486 volunteers in Peru in 2014, who are spread out over the Sacred Valley of the Incas, or at the Taricaya Rainforest Reserve. A volunteer on our Peru Care Project will see around five volunteers each day, including roommates and other volunteers working at the same project. On the weekend, you would see anywhere from ten to fifty volunteers at social events and training seminars, depending on the week.
All of the organizations listed on this website are approved by the IVPA as upholding the IVPA's stringent Principles and Practices, which includes making publicly available detailed information about how program fees are used. You might want to study this information to decide whether or not you approve of how funds are spent.
Projects Abroad is committed to keeping our prices as low as possible while still offering quality programs with unparalleled flexibility and support and without passing off our volunteers to external organizations. Please see our Why pay to volunteer section for information about where your program fees go.
Does the organization hold current and adequate domestic and foreign liability insurance?
Yes, Projects Abroad carries a worldwide public liability insurance policy.  In addition, each volunteer is provided with travel medical and travel insurance included as part of the Projects Abroad program fee.
Does the organization have an operating manual and universal crisis management plan that is available to all staff?
Projects Abroad has an organization-wide crisis management system in place and all staff are prepared in case of an emergency. All Country Directors receive personal training by our experienced Operations staff in our UK head office.

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