Volunteer OverseasVolunteer Overseas

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most frequently asked questions about Projects Abroad , along with our answers. However, always feel free to email or phone us if you need to know anything more; we will email back very quickly - or we would be very pleased to speak to you.

FAQs - Before you go

These questions relate to the time before you go overseas as a volunteer. For questions relating to the time you are overseas, please see FAQ's - While you're away.

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What is Projects Abroad?
We offer Volunteer Abroad and Intern Abroad placements in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe or Latin America with Projects Abroad.  We offer overseas voluntary work placements including teaching, care, conservation & environment, medicine & healthcare, journalism, law & human rights and business projects.  In Canada and Europe, Volunteer Abroad is more commonly referred to as Volunteering Overseas or International Voluntary Opportunities.  In some parts of the US, we've noticed that some people refer to this type of experience as a volunteer mission, although Projects Abroad itself is a strictly secular organization.
Who volunteers with Projects Abroad?
Volunteers are welcome on most of our standard projects from the age of 16 upwards and there is no maximum age limit. These projects run all year round and most are available for 2 weeks or longer. Many of our volunteers are between 18 and 25 years old, but a rapidly increasing number of career breakers and retired people are now taking part too. This has led to a stimulating mix of people in all our destinations.

Many younger people take part in Gap Year projects with Projects Abroad before starting university or even after graduation. All our volunteer projects run from four weeks upwards, so you can choose whether to spend all or just part of your gap year volunteering abroad.

Voluntourism - also known as Volunteer Vacations - are a growing trend among working adults and retirees. As part of your next vacation or career break, travel alone or with a partner to volunteer with us. We work in Latin America, Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific. View a full list of volunteer projects.

Group Volunteer Service Trips are available for teens and college students over the fall, summer, spring break, or winter break. Go by yourself and join a group, or go with your friends.  For more information on teen and high school trips, please see our High School Specials.
What is the difference between Projects Abroad vs. the Peace Corps?  vs. Doctors without Borders?
The Peace Corps and Projects Abroad have important similarities and differences. Each program offers volunteer opportunities, but you may find that some projects are more appropriate for you. For more information on what we offer, please visit our page comparing Projects Abroad with the Peace Corps, and page comparing Projects Abroad with Doctors Without Borders.  We have a similar page comparing Projects Abroad with Medecins San Frontieres, which is the name used by this organization in Canada and Europe.
Is Projects Abroad a scam?
Projects Abroad is not a scam or a hoax. When it comes to our own legitimacy, we know that you can’t just take our word for it. Any fraud would not work if it admitted to being one! We know that trust is important when traveling far from home, and that your trust must be earned. Here's how you can check to see if Projects Abroad is real.
Where can I go?
Programs are available in Argentina, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, Samoa, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, and Vietnam.  View a full list of volunteer destinations.
What types of programs are available?
You can get involved in Agriculture & Farming, Teaching, Care, Conservation & Environment, Culture & Community, Sports, Creative & Performing Arts, Medicine & Healthcare, Journalism, Business, Microfinance, International Development, Law & Human Rights, Archaeology, Veterinary Medicine & Animal Care, and Language Courses. You could also do your Dissertation research with us.

In addition to these standard projects we run an initiative called Projects for Professionals, where we organize placements specifically designed for graduates, professionals, retirees, and those on a career break looking to volunteer abroad.

Projects Abroad also organizes High School Specials, which are safe and structured trips for teenagers and first-time travelers between the ages of 16 and 19.

Students looking to do something different over their college spring break can volunteer abroad on our one-week Alternative Spring Break trips.

If you are part of a group of college students on a summer break, students from a class or university department, a sports team, a group of work colleagues, or even a group of friends looking to volunteer abroad, you might also want to read about our tailor-made Group Trips.
How long do placements last?
You choose how long your placement lasts. Apart from our High School Specials, placements are flexible and most last from four weeks upwards (certain short term volunteer options allow you to go for just one or two weeks, please check our prices page to see if that's an available object for the project you're interested in). Most volunteers go for between four and twelve weeks, but short term volunteer options are quickly becoming a significant source of volunteer man-hours around the world.  Even if you are currently employed, a high school or university student, or a recent graduate, you can probably still do one of our projects.

Our basic placement prices cover you on a weekly basis for up to twelve weeks. Then you can add on extra weeks on top of these as you wish. You can stay (including placement and travel) in most countries for up to 6 months. These limitations are due to visa and work-permit restrictions; please contact us with any questions you may have about visas or how long you can stay in one of our destination countries.

In some cases, we can arrange last minute volunteer projects abroad, so please call us even if you think it might be too late!  We can sometimes work miracles.
Can I combine placements?
Yes you can combine placements, both within a country and across countries. See Combinations for more details and combination ideas.
When can I start? When should I apply?
You choose when your placement starts and finishes -- they run year round and it's completely up to you when you'll go.  Having said that, many find that Summer Placements are most convenient for High School and College Students.

There are no definitive deadlines for application. We do generally need at least three months to comfortably process an application, but we like to receive your application form as far in advance as possible - so please apply as soon as you've decided what you want to do. The longer the notice, the more we can tailor a program for your needs and preferences. If you decide last minute, give us a call to see how quickly we can arrange it for you - we sometimes only need a few weeks notice depending on the project.
What are the costs involved? Is the work paid?
Please see the prices page for details about the cost of the program you're interested in. You will not be paid for your work, but you will gain extraordinary work experience and discover skills you never knew you had - oh, and you'll have a great time! Our partner schools and other partner organizations can often barely afford to pay their own staff, so these positions have to be voluntary and self-funded. Similarly, we get great work experience placements for volunteers because we don't ask our partner-organizations to pay you. Indeed, we always make sure that organizations or individuals in the developing world don't have to pay anything as a matter of principle. We do not receive any government funding or other outside funding.
What do our charges include?
Our costs include all your food, accommodation, comprehensive travel, and medical insurance, and support from our expert staff at home and abroad. Our charges are important because they enable us to provide you with a good service and full support. They do not include your international airfare or any extra spending money for traveling when you're abroad.

See Questions about Money for more information about how your money is spent.
Are meals included in the cost?
With the exception of when you are traveling or socializing, all meals are provided.
Can I go with my friend/boyfriend/girlfriend?
Friends, significant others, and husbands/wives are certainly welcome and, if you like, we can arrange placements where you can live and work together (with a few exceptions where cultural considerations might make this too awkward.)
Will I need injections?
This really depends on where you choose to go and what, if any, vaccinations you have had in the past. As we are not medical experts we cannot give out official advice - so talk to your doctor, who will be happy to advise on what you may need. Don't let injections put you off - you'll be glad you had them once you are enjoying yourself abroad! Please check out the Center for Disease Control's website for basic information about shots/medicine/etc.
What qualifications do I need?
No qualifications are necessary - just reasonable spoken English. No TEFL or teaching qualifications are needed for our teaching programs (although you are very welcome if you do happen to have them). Some projects need language skills and the specific project page will tell you if this is the case. If you're unsure of your language capabilities, please contact us and we'll let you know if you'll be able to participate.
Do I need to speak the local language?
The vast majority of our projects do not require specific language skills and few volunteers speak the local language before they go. It is an advantage to learn a few basic phrases but it is certainly not necessary to be fluent. Teaching volunteers teach English in English -- this is what schools want. There are some exceptions where a basic or good knowledge of the local language is needed. This is often for professional projects like Journalism, Law, and Medicine, or for French and Spanish speaking countries. The specific project pages will specify if any language skills are required. In many countries it is possible to take language lessons if you want to improve your language skills, see the Language Courses section for more details.
Do I need to be a American or Canadian citizen?
No. We accept volunteers from all over the world - in fact we actively recruit in much of Europe and parts of Asia . We like to have a multinational mix of volunteers - that's what cultural exchange is all about.
How are volunteers selected and accepted?
When you apply we ask you for the name and address of a reference. This will be someone who knows you well - such as a teacher or an employer. We then get in touch with them and ask for a reference. This is usually enough to assure us that you are suitable for a placement. We occasionally invite prospective volunteers for an informal interview to iron out any concerns.
What do I gain from this program?
The program is an excellent opportunity to combine adventurous foreign travel with a worthwhile job. As well as gaining experience that looks vivacious on your resume, you will improve your transferable skills such as team-working, presentation and communication. Above all, this is an unrivalled opportunity to gain an insight into a completely different culture and way of life, which is becoming necessary in our rapidly globalized world.
Can I fundraise for this project?
Of course you can, although we certainly don't say that you have to. Request a Fundraising Guide once you've applied to get some ideas or visit our Fundraising page for instant advice.
Can I talk to people who have done it?
Please see our Volunteer stories page, or contact us and tell us where you would probably like to go and what project you would probably like to join. We will then put you in touch with Projects Abroad alumni who have done the kind of program you're interested in.
What if I have more questions?
If you have any questions or would like to discuss our programs in more detail, please don't hesitate to contact us by emailing info@projects-abroad.org or calling toll free, 1.888.839.3535 (US number), 1.877.921.9666 (Canadian number). You could also attend one of our Information Evenings.
What is the next step?
The next step is either to contact us for more information or, if you've decided definitely what you want to do, apply now.
FAQs - While you're away

These questions relate to the time you are overseas as a volunteer. For questions relating to the time before you go, please see FAQ's - Before you go.

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What is the support like overseas?
We believe our staff support overseas to be unparalleled. We have full-time paid and trained English-speaking staff in each destination. It is their job to set up placements, check out your accommodation, meet you at the airport and provide you with any support you need should any problems occur. They won't try to nanny you - but they will always be there, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more details, see Safety & Back-up.
During your placement you will also have a supervisor at your place of work. If you have difficulty teaching in class, if you really want to gain extra experience in a certain area of medicine - or whatever the problem or request may be - someone will be on hand to give you help and advice.
Are the countries safe?
Before we go, countries must be politically stable and safe. If they are not, we don't go. We are in constant contact with State Department regarding stability and safety and, of course, we have the added security of overseas staff.
Will I be met at the airport?
All volunteers are met at the airport (or local coach station or train station). See Safety & Back-up page. There is no additional charge.
What if I am ill?
If you get sick while overseas, the Projects Abroad office will know where the best medical care can be found. You receive information on this during your induction when you first arrive, and of course you can reach our staff by phone 24 hours a day if you fall ill. In the unlikely event that you are seriously ill, all volunteers are covered by a comprehensive insurance policy, which, if needed, includes flying you home and all your medical costs until you get home. Projects Abroad staff will be on hand to liaise with your family, the insurance company, and the relevant medical people.
Can I extend my stay while overseas?
Yes. Depending on visa requirements and flight restrictions. This gives added flexibility. If you want to extend your placement, just talk to our overseas staff.
Will there be an opportunity to travel when I'm there?
You will have weekends free. Volunteers often take this opportunity to go on trips to local places of interest.
For every twelve weeks worked you are entitled to two weeks off. During this time (and generally during your placement) you are insured to travel independently. Many volunteers travel extensively after the end of their placements, often forming small groups with other volunteers. In Peru, for example, most volunteers want to visit Machu Picchu; other volunteers in other places find mountains, beaches, jungles and great cities to visit.
Will I be on my own or are there going to be other volunteers in the same area as me?
You will be located close to other volunteers so that, if you want to, you can meet, exchange ideas and stories, socialize and go on trips with others. Volunteers usually make good friends with each other and often decide to go traveling together after their placements. You will never be isolated and will always be part of a vibrant Projects Abroad community. You may even be placed in the same accommodation or workplace as one or two other volunteers. Although we cannot guarantee to meet all requests, please let us know if you have a preference regarding this and we'll do our best to accommodate your needs.
Where do I stay? Who do I stay with?
Most volunteers stay with local families. This provides you with an insight into the local culture and helps with learning the local language. It also acts as an additional support network. If required, we can usually also find hostel-type accommodation in most destinations. You must not expect western standards but the accommodation is good by local standards. You will not be in mud huts or shanty-towns (unless you specifically request this kind of experience). You may even be placed in the same accommodation or workplace with one or two other volunteers. Although we cannot guarantee to meet all requests, please let us know if you have a preference regarding this, or the type of area where you would like to stay.
What's the best way to keep in touch with home while I'm away?
All of our placements have access to internet cafes, though if you are placed in a rural area you may have to wait until you go into town to use them. Generally, you should only use your host family's phone in emergencies, except to receive calls, so generally the internet is the best way to contact people at home. There are also public phones or communications centers near almost all our placements - these are perfect for local calls to other volunteers, general questions to our local staff or the occasional more expensive call home.
Do women encounter any special problems while traveling?
Rarely. In South East Asia , volunteers have to be aware of the cultural expectations. In general, you may get additional attention but this is hardly more serious than at home. The guide is to understand that is some countries there are cultural differences between men and women, which need to be adhered to by our volunteers.
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