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 40+ destinations around the world.

Over 80,000 travelers have volunteered abroad with IVHQ over the past 10 years, making IVHQ the world’s most experienced volunteer organization with the best safety record.

Whether you're taking a volunteer vacation, gap year, or on a career break, IVHQ has a wide variety of programs ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks to fit anyone's schedule.

Programs are available in these destinations: Bali, Costa Rica, South Africa, Greece, Fiji, Nepal, Peru, Jamaica, Madagascar, Spain, Belize, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Italy, Tanzania, Cambodia, Victoria Falls, India, Vietnam, Portugal, Laos, New Zealand, Belgium, Morocco, Brazil, China, Ghana, Zambia, Uganda, Indonesia, Cambodia, Argentina, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines and Thailand.

Explore the programs below and visit the IVHQ website for more information.

Website
Founded
2007
Headquarters

99 Devon Street
West New Plymouth 4310
New Zealand

Reviews

Default avatar
Maggie
7/10

Villagers and locals were friendly and welcoming. All the staff at the house were really nice. Credit to Benedict, Joe, Michael ( security guard) Millie & Rita ( cooks) & Evans who all tried their best to make sure everyone was comfortable as possible. Lovely people.

On arrival it would be nice to have a quick run down/ tour of the volunteer house by either Joe/ Evans to make sure new volunteers are settled/ aware of what is expected during the program and of the rules/ running of the house.

Future new volunteers please bring as much medical supplies such as gloves bandages, antiseptic cream, gauze etc because it runs out quickly. Lots of Hand gel and even hand soap for washing of your hands is useful to bring as well. Extra money is needed because day trips are not included in the program fees paid. In regards to donations, bring as much as you can because sending things to Ghana if you live very far away is a bit tricky and gets expensive so try to bring as much as you can. You may feel a bit nervous going to the program alone for the first ever time but honestly you will be well taken care of and looked after by all the people involved in the program. Stay safe and have a lovely time!

Overall, it was an invaluable experience and I am looking forward to coming back to Frankadua in a few years time.

What would you improve about this program?
A bit more organisation is needed I think. If meetings are scheduled on a certain day/ time it would be nice for them to happen on that day/ time. It would be nice to have the preparation for the malaria outreaches to be done the nice before to ensure everything is ready for the next day - i.e filling of the forms, making sure enough malaria kits are packed, gloves etc.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Jared
9/10

This was my first time traveling and IVHQ made it very easy.
My 4 week experience in Ghana was amazing! I was placed in the purple program in Frankadua, everyone there were super welcoming and friendly. There was never a moment in Ghana were I felt unsafe. The accommodations provided were simple but luxurious compared to most locals. I volunteered to help teach, but was also able to participate in the agriculture program as well as the malaria and wound outreaches. The IVHQ staff in Ghana were all very supportive, especially Evans as he will tell you "your wish is my command."
The Cape Coast weekend trip is very well planned out, and a must do while in Ghana.
All in all, this program is a great experience I would recommend it to anyone with an open mind as the culture is very different then what we you be use to.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would have tried more of the local cuisine, as most of our meals were very americanized.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Sibilina
9/10

Hi to all family members! Uganda is a magical place that I will definitively visit again. Safari with people arould the world is a wonderful experience! I liked this program because I'm doing a research on cheap or recycled materials for eco housing. IVHQ is a great place to work as a volunteer sharing experiences with other people and children. My heart fill never feel the same again until I return. The program organization was superb! All people is incredible there and volunteer job didn't felt like that. Instead it felt like doing what you've always wanted to do. Great job, thank you and see you soon again.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Bring more memory cards for your cam, that's all I have to say!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Joy
9/10

Overall, it was a pleasant experience. The local staff and my IVHQ support was great. The program itself Food Outreach did not met my expectations. The local team doesn't have its own budget for this project so they have partnered with another local organisation that is running a soup kitchen. We were there just to give them a hand on whatever it is, that was needed and mostly spent our time cleaning and scrubbing walls. All other programs I heard was good. The local team was very supportive though with everything. Food and accommodation was good. The coordinator and their manager was excellent and will do everything for you to help in whatever issues you might have. I shall surely do it again with them but maybe on a different program. Overall... good.

No, I don't recommend this program
Default avatar
pally
8/10

The beginning of the trip was very rocky because I didn’t know what to expect since the information of the trip wasn’t descriptive. However, the trip changed for the better. Teaching the children and adults was not only eye-opening but such a great feeling to teach. The food though was not as good as I thought it would be. Breakfast was okay but for lunch it’s mostly just sandwiches. Dinner is usually pretty good though! the excursions were really fun - We went to a national rainforest, 2 beaches & a waterfall. The girls on the trip though made my experience really fun just because everyone was so positive. I wish we were able to do more though when we had breaks. I would definitely do this again though !! The children are absolutely adorable & the adults are very eager to learn which makes it so exciting

Yes, I recommend this program

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

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

Teresa Tianyi You

An undergraduate student studying Surveying and Geomatics Engineering. Loves to experience new things & immerse herself in different cultures. Spare-time traveller, having been to 11 countries across 5 continents and wanting to do more.

Teresa Tianyi You

Why did you choose this program?

I chose IVHQ Romania (local organization - Care2travel) because firstly I haven't been to the East part of Europe before and would really like to go there for its beautiful scenery and rich history. Also, at that time, I was having winter holiday, so it was a great opportunity to do some volunteering instead of staying in the comfort zone back home :)

It's my second time to volunteer with IVHQ, so personally I’ve more or less had an idea of how volunteering can shape or impact both the community and the volunteers themselves with however little effort in a big picture it seems for each individual - previous volunteering makes me think that, throughout the whole process, it's great to feel that the practical tasks that I am doing is actually helping and moving the whole process forward, and it's even better when considered every volunteer is reaching out and together it results in great & amazing changes to the local people and community. I was somehow content and happy with this type of experience from my perspective, so I decided to do it again and will continue to do more in the future.

Furthermore, IVHQ, as the volunteer agency, guarantees safety and sends volunteers to trusted local non-profit organizations. In this case is Care2travel, which aims to place volunteers in the appropriate positions to meet local practical needs. Therefore, safety, trustworthy, non-profit, value, etc., these are all reasons of many when I decide where to volunteer, which is also why I chose this program.

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

IVHQ assisted me with pre-departure material through a list of steps by email, which was very organized and helped me better prepare the trip.

The local organization C2T provided airport pick-up, accommodation, meals, Hungarian lessons, the cultural tour in neighboring areas and many activities & interactions with the local community.

Well, I didn't have much to organize on my own, apart from booking flights and obtaining a background check, so it was quite smooth to get everything ready before leaving.

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

For someone going on this program, I would say to learn the language as much as possible will be super helpful if your program involves interaction & communication with the local (Miercurea Ciuc (HU:Csikszereda) is a Hungarian-majority speaking region).

Hungarian is a little bit like Finnish and it’s unlike the other languages I’ve learnt before; still, it takes time to practice and isn’t an easy language to get hold of in a short period of time. But still, picking up a few words, I find it more convenient and advantageous during my stay in all sorts of ways.

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

I chose to work on Agriculture and the tasks could vary between seasons, including planting, harvesting, cultivating or other garden maintenance work. At the end of January, when I was volunteering, Csikszereda was covered with heavy snow, so we turned to indoor tasks instead.

An average day of volunteering begins at 10.00 am and it lasts approximately 3-4 hrs – we prepared and cut bottles to make small flower pots, filled with soil for the up-coming spring season, went to the local construction market to purchase material, made a little wooden shelf for the tools and much more.

The highlight of which, is a solar panel heating that encourages air-exchange when it dramatically heats up the room with the use of black-painted tin cans. It’s very green and useful on sunny days as the sun being the energy source, while at nights it has a little electrical generator to turn on the fans, thus also starting the process even without sunlight.

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

Well, I am not usually a very chatty and outgoing person and much prefer novels and music to pass time on my own, actually :) Things have turned much better when I started to travel and visit many places, but still I’ve had concerns over what to do or how to say things properly when spending time with people who I don’t know well or meet for the first time in a different culture or new environment.

However, the Care2travel staff are very supportive and helpful whenever I have questions, and the local people are very warm and easy-going to communicate with, so I just easily let go of my worries and get to hang out with the local volunteers for some really amazing activities and so on. It’s great to feel that connections and trust between people can be established very easily, even though you don’t know the person for a long time. This is very different and hard to find in many places that I’ve been to, but still, it’s more pleasant to keep an open mind and learn to enjoy everything with experience-something-new attitude.

Is it necessary to learn a new language or pick up a few words when visiting a new region?

Yes, I think so. Whether you are visiting for a short stay or prepare to work in a new country, learning a new language is always a bonus. Not only will you find it more convenient on a daily conversation basis or appear to be more open and acceptable when meeting new people, it changes the way you think about things or let you better understand the culture as you learn the language deeper. I learnt German as a second language in school and it occurs to me that the use of words, grammar and tenses more or less reflects a general impression of Germans’ personality as well – logical and practical :) (with respect)

Statistics have also proved that a multi-language speaker is more open and creative since they can take in and understand different cultures quickly. Therefore, learning a new language, regardless of how well you speak, is effectively helping to understand the culture and its people better. It’s a new experience and surely very rewarding & fulfilling.

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Staff Interviews

Staff interviews 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.

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

man in cambodia

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.

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.

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.

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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