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Behind the Book: The Underground Guide to International Volunteering

June 6, 2014 | By | Reply More
In this post Kirsty Henderson, a veteran of volunteering on five continents, talks about her book The Underground Guide to International Volunteering.

Volunteering for Philippines Flooding

I had travelled independently for several years without too many plans. Just sort of wandering around, visiting the sights, meeting other travellers, and enjoying the freedom that comes with solo travel. Over the years I had experienced a lot of wonderful things and met some great people but, as the months wore on, I started to feel a little tired of moving on all of the time, feeling like I was barely scratching the surface of each place I passed through.

Having worked abroad in London, Australia, and New Zealand, I knew that settling down for awhile and working in another country really afforded me an interesting glimpse into life there. I experienced things that I never did as a backpacker and it changed my priorities and my style of travel.

I no longer wanted to blaze through an entire continent, seeing as much as I possibly could. I wanted to slow things down, make connections, and focus more on having experiences than on ticking off a checklist of ‘must sees’. I wanted to focus less on seeing and more on doing.

I decided that introducing some volunteering into my travels would be a great way to get involved in the communities I was traveling through.

Deciding to volunteer abroad is one thing, actually figuring out how to do it is a whole other monster and this became very apparent to me about five minutes of searching online. International volunteering has grown into a huge industry. Countless middleman-style placement companies have sprung up promising to match volunteers with the experience of a lifetime – for a very hefty price. Many of these companies charge well over $1,000 for a week or two of volunteering, not including any flights or insurance.

The more and more I searched, the more these types of companies surfaced. Because it’s grown into such a lucrative industry, they have budgets to throw at online marketing which means that their websites will outrank any of the small free and cheap organisations worldwide that also need help. Search for a few hours and it wouldn’t be surprising to think that paid volunteering is the only volunteering.

This isn’t the case and I wrote this book to share everything I’ve learned about volunteering, including how to sift through the mountain of paid opportunities to find free and cheap placements at organisations who need your help, not your money.

The Underground Guide to International Volunteering will:

  • Help you in deciding whether international volunteering is a good fit for you and advice on choosing a suitable volunteering experience.
  • Give information on different types of volunteering from conservation to development to disaster relief.
  • Present 12interviews with experienced international volunteers sharing their experiences, giving advice and offering inspiration.
  • Give you the tools to find your own free and cheap independent volunteering opportunities, including a list of 12 online databases to start your search, each packed with hundreds of opportunities.
  • Provide a list of 80 trustworthy organizations offering free or low-cost volunteering opportunities worldwide.
  • Take a deep look into the paid volunteering industry, explaining the costs and comparing them with free and cheap options.
  • Provide insight and first-hand stories and advice from an experienced international volunteer.
  • Save you loads of time by consolidating online resources, practical advice, personal tips, and stories all in one place.
  • Examine the ethics of volunteering and ponder whether accepting volunteers can actually be harmful.
  • Explain the practicalities of volunteering overseas to help you prepare yourself for your placement.
  • Equip you with the confidence to pack your bag and go!

Based on years of research, this guide takes a lot of confusing information on volunteering and spits it out in a thorough, well-organised, and fun format packed with personal experience, photos, interviews, and dozens of resources. Volunteering overseas doesn’t have to be about paying big bucks and spending hours sifting through shady operations. There are countless wonderful organisations in need of an extra set of hands and it’s this book’s job to connect you with them.

I’m confident that, after reading The Underground Guide to International Volunteering, you’ll be armed with the information and confidence you need to turn a typical trip abroad into the experience of a lifetime through volunteering.

 

Book Chapters

  1. Introduction to International Volunteering – Why volunteer and what sort of contributions can you expect to make?
  2. Is Volunteering Right for You? – Figure out whether volunteering is a good choice by examining motivations and desired traits.
  3. Types of Volunteering – A breakdown of different types of volunteering: development, conservation and wildlife, and disaster relief.
  4. Choosing a Volunteering Experience – How to find a volunteering placement and organization that are good fits for you.
  5. Paying to Volunteer – An in-depth look at the paid volunteering industry. Should you pay? Where does your fee go? Are there alternatives?
  6. Finding Volunteering Opportunities – Tips on finding volunteering placements including extensive information on finding free and cheap opportunities.
  7. Practical Stuff – All of the practicalities of preparing to do volunteer work. Everything from dealing with visas to managing expectations to looking after your health.
  8. Free and Cheap Volunteering Opportunities – A list of 80 trusted organisations worldwide who accept volunteers without the huge costs.

For more information on The Underground Guide to International Volunteering, please head to the website International Volunteering Guide.

International Volunteering

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Category: Blog, Volunteering