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Family of 4 (2 children) here. We want to volunteer. With early research, we are overwhelmed by the opportunities. Is there someone who can help us “filter” what places & jobs are best for a family and our skillsets?
Mom & dad are a senior environmental remediation consultant and an IT consultant. Kids are 9 & 11 years old (boy & girl). We’ve had this desire to give a few weeks to a month “somewhere” for many, probably typical, reasons. We want to give time and talent to make a difference. We want our kids to see how different lifestyles can be. We are seasoned travelers, but always to western, developed countries. We want different.
- How to properly research if a program is good, reputable, effective?
- How to know if a program is for university-aged adults, or families?
- How to know if money is going to the right pockets?
Thank you for asking this question! I think it is a great idea to consider volunteering as a family experience and I am sure that there can be a huge impact on your kid’s lives. So here some of my thoughts:
If you have never traveled with your kids to non-western countries, be careful in your choice. Some countries are not at all easy to travel, especially with kids. If you don’t have some experience of your own regarding this countries you might consider to limit your search to emerging countries with a certain degree of travel infrastructure such as Brazil, Thailand or South Africa maybe.
Traveling and volunteering as a family is – up to my knowledge – very uncommon and I can image it will be hard to find suitable offers designed for families. Taking underage children to volunteer work can even lead to some difficulties as in most countries “child work” is illegal. Sounds funny, but depending on the country and the legal system it can get you in some trouble or at least cost you a significant fee. So probably it would be best to look for an offer for yourselves and see if you can bring your kids along. There are also offers designed especially for kids and young adults such as workcamps, but I have got the impression this is not what you are looking for.
To find effective and reputable programs, we would suggest you to get in contact with the agencies or the local NGOs and ask them a bunch of questions related to our quality standards. This will result in a lot of work for you as well as for the program, but if the NGO is willing to make such a effort before contracting, yo have some indications that they care about you. Up to now, there is no worldwide certification or seal that can help you making your choice, unfortunately. If you are thinking to go to latin america, maybe you can contact our friends from vofair They are much more to the ground than we are because they are trying to establish a certification process and therefore have visited quite a number of volunteer opportunities.
Most volunteer placements do not require any special skills because agencies want to be flexible and assure a high quota of volunteer presence. If you are wanting to stay for a few weeks only, you cannot expect to make an impact. Maybe it will be enough time to set up (lets say) an IT system, but you wont have the time to transfer the necessary knowledge for maintaining it. That’s why I’d suggest to look for some work unrelated to your professional experience.
Good programs will be willing to explain their fee systems and their costs. But as a customer, you probably won’t have a chance to make sure to know where you money goes to. Maybe you will have an idea after arriving, but I doubt it. You will need a significant amount of trust. One little help will be to look for programs that request you to pay locally (money transfers are still costly and smart programs will try to forward the exchange rate risk to the volunteers) and not in advance.
It is also a good idea to research the local NGO and see if they receive funds from any international donor. If so, they will have to have a good reporting system and e.g. anti corruption policies.
I hope we could be of some help!