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10 Questions Before Signing On with a Volunteer Organization


Evelyn Hannon

We are constantly receiving questions about voluntourism from our Journeywoman readers. For that reason we were more than happy when this particular guide landed on our desk. The book is called, 'Volunteer Vacations: short-term adventures that will benefit you and others.' Written by Bill McMillon, Doug Cutchins, Anne Geissinger, and published by Chicago Review Press, this sourcebook profiles 150 charitable organizations that sponsor 1000's of extraordinary volunteer opportunities worldwide -- from the budget-friendly to the absolute lavish. We think this is a great addition for any traveller's library. It's also lovely to offer as a gift.

Journeywoman asked the authors of 'Volunteer Vacations' to give us 10 questions women should ask before signing on with a volunteer organization. Here are their excellent suggestions:

Does the work involved mesh with what I want to do on my vacation? Will it allow me to develop or use skills that are important to me?


Will the project take me to a place that I want to go?


Do I have the same goals and values as those of the organization? (This is especially important for organizations that have overt political or religious goals; you don’t want to end up promoting a cause, directly or indirectly, that you don’t believe in.)


What do past volunteers say about their experiences with this organization?




What are living conditions at the site like?

What will my exact job responsibilities be? How much scut work (cooking, cleaning, filing and so on) will I be expected to do? Keep in mind that someone has to do this work, and it is often divided among all of the employees and volunteers, from top to bottom.


How much does it cost to participate? What exactly is included in a program fee?


When does the project take place, how long does it last and does it fit with my schedule?


Will I be working in a group? What is the profile of the average volunteer? Age range? What are the motivations of the other people in the group?


What kind of training or orientation is offered? (This information is crucial for international organizations, where you might be working in a culture very different from your own.)


Volunteer Vacations...

Here are two companies that are members of our Journeywoman Network of classified advertisers. They offer volunteer opportunities for women travellers so we thought it might be a perfect addition to this page. Check them out!

VOLUNTEER ABROAD -- It's the experience of a lifetime. As a Cross-Cultural Solutions international volunteer, you're making a meaningful contribution, working side-by-side with local people and sharing in the goals of a community that warmly welcomes you. Choose from 10 countries, start dates year-round and programs from 1-12 weeks long. CCS offers programs in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand. Website: Email:

SOUTH AFRICAN ADVENTURES THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE - See how easy it is to help others as you travel. Join us on a cultural or philanthropic journey into South Africa. Visit orphanages and rural schools. Experience the townships. Study apartheid. Meet artists, entrepreneurs, and educators. Enjoy local B&Bs, sensational food and wine, fabulous guides. Website: Email:




For a lovely volunteering story involving babies click here

Back to The Joy of Learning New Travel Stuff



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