Trained South African staff employed by Projects Abroad check on a safe volunteer abroad placement.

11 ways we keep you safe when volunteering overseas

A LIST OF WAYS PROJECTS ABROAD ENSURES YOUR SAFETY AS A VOLUNTEER OVERSEAS

By Jen Southern | 23rd January, 2019

Are you travelling alone to a new country for the first time? Wondering if volunteering abroad is safe? We’ve been there. And it can be daunting. But one of the things you can be 100% sure about is that you’re in good hands with us. We take care of every aspect of your safety while you’re volunteering abroad with us.

Keeping you safe while you’re volunteering overseas is our top priority. We keep in touch with you every step of the way to keep you safe and informed, from the moment you sign up until you fly back home. We want your focus to be on volunteering and exploring. You can leave the rest up to us.

Here are 11 things we provide that you can tick off your volunteer safety checklist:

Conservation volunteers in Thailand listen to their project supervisor about staying safe while volunteering abroad.

Before you leave, we ensure:

1. Safe and secure volunteer abroad countries

Before we set up an office and projects in a country, we’ve ensured it’s safe and politically stable. We are constantly in contact with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (as well as officials in other countries), regarding safety and stability. The only struggle you’ll encounter is which of our countries and projects to choose from.

2. We say NO to contractors and YES to our own trained staff

What our volunteers love most about us is our dedicated, friendly staff. We never use third parties or contractors for our support staff. We employ and train our own local team in every country we work in. We train our staff to high standards and we trust that they’ll keep you safe.

“Our volunteers and their families have expressed their gratitude for ensuring their safety above all else when tropical storms and hurricanes have threatened Belize. We act immediately, ensuring safe accommodation, food and water are available for the duration of the event or organise travels out of Belize in the event of a stronger hurricane. The team also keeps volunteers and families updated on the progress of the storm in real time to avoid worry or stress during that time.” - Kristin Marin, Belize Country Director.

Many of our staff have safely volunteered as well, and have a personal connection to Projects Abroad. They’ve been where you are and understand what it’s like to take part in an experience like yours, and how important it is to have a great support team.

3. Volunteer health and safety when abroad: advice from our in-house medical practitioner

Your physical and mental health is a top priority during your time with us. We have employed a doctor, experienced in volunteering travel and expeditions. Our doctor is available to consult with you and your GP before you leave. This way you and your GP can discuss any health concerns and our in-house doctor will advise you accordingly so that you feel confident about your upcoming trip. They’ll also liaise with our staff on the next best steps if there is an emergency or you’d like to see a doctor while abroad.

4. Health and travel insurance

Although we do everything in our power to keep you safe, sometimes life just happens. Whether you catch a sniffle or your luggage gets lost, we’ve got you covered. We provide travel and medical insurance so you can safely volunteer overseas with us. Just one less thing for you to worry about.

5. Pre-departure advice

You didn’t think we’d just send you without a little guidance, did you? You’ll have access to a personal webpage detailing all the information about your project and your Project Expert will talk you through it. They’ll manage your expectations, share safety tips and more. Think of them as the Wikipedia of your project and destination.

“Expectations vary between volunteers with regards to safety. However, petty crime is usually no more different than what you’d expect back home. Incidents are rare but as part of our volunteer safety tips, I always advise them to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.” - Clem van der Merwe, Volunteer Advisor for Cambodia, Ghana and Samoa.
A taxi takes students from their host family to their placement in Tanzania as a way to ensure safe volunteering abroad.

During your trip, we can ensure:

6. No hassle, airport transfers

We don’t want you to struggle to find your way around a new city when you first arrive. Come rain or shine, day or night, our staff will be at the airport to collect you. You can’t miss them in their green staff shirts, complete with a sign saying “Projects Abroad”. They’ll be waiting for you at the entrance of arrivals, and may even be mistaken as your overexcited extended family.

“We’ll keep track of your flight and ensure we are there when your flight lands. You’ll even receive a picture of our driver ahead of arrival so you know who to look for.” – Kay Hendricks, Jamaica Country Director.

7. Safe and comfortable accommodations

We want your accommodation to feel like a home away from home; safe, secure, comfortable and relaxed. So our host families and accommodations are chosen by us according to neighbourhood ratings, comfort and friendliness. Although there won’t necessarily be king-sized beds and gourmet meals, you can expect a safe and homely place to sleep in, a full belly every day, and a host family or accommodation staff that really care about your well-being.

8. Full country and project inductions

You don’t need to scour the internet for days on end in order to feel safe during your trip. We’ll provide you with everything you need to know. Our staff will share cultural tips, how to travel around the country safely, what to be aware of when alone, who you can contact in emergencies and more! If there’s anything else you need, they are only a phone call away.

“During induction, coordinators will go through all safety information and procedures, and volunteers will have the opportunity to ask questions. This helps them adjust more quickly to life in South Africa.” – Justine McCarthy, South Africa Country Director

9. Organised transport to and from your placement

For your daily work commute, we have arranged the safest form of transport. In some countries, you’ll use efficient public transport and in others, we will have arranged private vans or tuk-tuks to take you where you need to be. You may even walk or cycle every day if you live close enough. We’ll always go with you on your first day to show you how it works. And, if you still aren’t comfortable commuting alone, we’ll accompany you until you are.

10. 24-hour back-up and support from our staff

Do you think millennials are the only ones attached to their phones? Well, our staff would beat them! No matter what time of the day or week, our staff will be contactable. Whether it’s an emergency, an issue at your placement or you just needing someone to lend an understanding ear, our staff will be there. They really do go above and beyond the call of duty.

“Volunteers are given an emergency contact card during induction that has the contact details of all staff members and local emergency services. Every Friday, all staff, volunteers and host families are informed about which two staff members will be available over the weekend. They’ll always have their phones with them in case of an emergency.” – Justine McCarthy, South Africa Country Director

Your project supervisor will also be your support system during your stay. If you need help with anything, they’ll be there. They know your project, the local area and community well. So while you’re finding your feet, they can organise things quickly and easily and are always happy to do so.

“Our project supervisors always check in on our volunteers, be it a social call or visit or just checking how their work is going. They are always appreciative about the effort we make to ensure their safety. We help manage their expectations, deal with any problems they have and celebrate the positive results they accomplish at their placements.” - Riyaad Herman, Vietnam Project Manager
Madagascar staff collect volunteers as they arrive at the airport to ensure that they stay safe while volunteering abroad.

After you get home, we ensure:

11. Post-project follow-ups

We want to know if you got home safe and we want to hear about your trip. Did it meet your expectations? Did you feel safe? Were our staff available when you needed them? There’s always room for improvement and with your feedback, future volunteers will benefit from your volunteer safety tips.

These are just a few of the procedures and systems we have in place to ensure you feel safe and supported when volunteering abroad so you can focus on making the biggest impact possible.

“Essentially, we are committed and prepared to go above and beyond to ensure our volunteers are safe, and ensure parents or partners at home are confident that we’ll come up with a suitable solution to any safety issues that may arise." – Kristin Marin, Belize Country Director.

Still asking yourself how to stay safe when volunteering overseas? Contact us for more information and our Project Experts will be happy to chat!

With all this in mind, what’s holding you back? Join a volunteer project, internship or cultural exchange abroad with us, knowing that you’ll be safe and well cared for.

On a safe volunteer project overseas, teenagers spend time with the children in Sri Lanka during their placement with Projects Abroad.

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Get in touch with our Projects Experts. They'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

+353 (0)1 571 5080