Until recently volunteering as a family has been difficult to arrange abroad. However, with families eager to explore the world together and do something different, there is now an ever-growing list of organisations offering volunteering abroad for families. They can plan and prepare your family for your volunteering adventure, helping every step of the way, from travel health advice to visa applications.
Volunteer organisations understand that families cannot invest months of their time, unlike solo travellers. For this reason, the numbers of short break volunteer trips available for families have increased and are more flexible than they used to be.
Families dream of travelling the world together and seeing new lands. But how do they make these dreams reality?
Choose Your Destination
With planning any holiday, volunteering or resort, the first thing to do is choose where you want to go. If your children have never flown before you may want to ease them into it, starting closer to home, rather than diving in on a 24-hour flight.
Volunteers are needed worldwide. Even well-developed western countries such as England and America need volunteers to help at charities and organisations, whereas less developed countries may need volunteers to help develop whole communities.
Before settling on a destination, think about what you would like to do whilst volunteering. For animal lovers, Spain isn’t as likely to have monkey sanctuaries, as much as South Africa is. Yet cat and dog sanctuaries can be found all over the world in some of the most surprising locations, due to the number of expats settling abroad.
Teaching is available all over the world. Although you may want to stick to English speaking countries when teaching a subject that needs a detailed explanation. A great option for volunteering in Latin American and Asian classrooms is teaching English as a foreign language. In poorer schools where trained local teachers are lacking, anyone offering to help the children practice the little English they have will be warmly welcomed.
The Costs of Volunteering Abroad
Volunteering abroad can look expensive at first glance. High programme fees are not uncommon, however with a little research and choose your project and destination carefully, it doesn’t need to cost the earth.
Choosing your destination can massively affect the budget you require. Did you know a McDonalds Meal costs roughly £11 in Switzerland but only £2 in the Philippines? Living in the countryside in either country will reduce costs dramatically.
Essential to any volunteering holiday with children, make sure you have accommodation with access to a kitchen. This saves so much money, not having to go to a café every time you want a hot drink, or the children get hungry. This also makes eating easier, cook and
prepare meals which you know your family enjoy. It is easy to feed a family of four for £2 in most developing countries when self-catering.
Although you may be restricted to dates you can travel, you don’t have to fly during the summer holidays when prices are increased twofold. Instead, make plans early to volunteer in the Easter or half-term breaks. Too many travellers book at such short notice finding prices three times what they were six months previously. Projects are likely to be quieter during these times, which means your volunteer hosts can offer more attention.
It is also worth checking with your children’s schools if they will permit a volunteer break during term time. It shouldn’t be assumed that they will automatically refuse, a volunteering break can be educational, not least if your children will be teaching in a school in Thailand!
Assess The Risks
Always check the latest government travel advice on the FCO website before you commit to a destination and buy flights. Destination pages are updated regularly or as soon as updates for travellers are needed.
Make sure you have insurance which covers all of your family, in case something goes wrong. Despite the horror stories in the media, it is more likely to be minor health complaints which affect a trip. Without insurance healthcare abroad is expensive, expect to pay between £100 and £300 a day for the simplest of treatments and bedrest in a private hospital. Travellers from the UK can get quite a shock when faced with hospital invoices, unheard of back home. Fingers crossed you never need to use insurance. Affordable travel insurance online can be found on comparison sites, including family and annual deals.
When out and about, be street smart. Travelling with children often requires more paraphernalia, but don’t panic. Keep all the gadgets on you, ideally worn on a backpack on your front or in a bum bag. Pickpockets and bag-snatchers are not targeting children’s bags, stuffed with colouring books and crayons the kids insist on taking. Remember how cautious you are in London use the same judgment abroad as you would at home.
Make the Kids Part of The Process
Travelling abroad can be scary for little ones, when they are off the plane in a different culture it can feel as if they’ve just beamed into another universe. Warming them to the idea and getting them looking forward to the trip will reduce any anxiety they have.
Get maps out so that they can see where they are going. Larger libraries have shelves of maps and guidebooks available, there is no need to spend a fortune. Watch movies which are set in the country, even better if your children know they will be visiting the actual locations.
Weekends can be spent learning basic language phrases along with activities to boost their stamina, so they don’t get as worn out abroad, volunteering often involves prolonged standing and walking, something less active children may not be used to.
Most importantly, remember why you are volunteering abroad. It is a great way to have fun and feel closer. Kids learn more, they gain cultural understanding and responsibility, all whilst becoming more empathetic. Parentslove that they get to see their children doing good and helping others. Volunteering together opens up new ways to bond and communicate, strengthening relationships.
*This is a collaborative post*