Making the Match

Your volunteering placement will be an important personal experience for you, and its success will be based on how well you fit the project you choose. That is why we put project selection at the heart of our service to volunteers.

Volunteer abroad making friends at school

Making the perfect match

We talk extensively to volunteers before you book or pay a deposit. We match our knowledge of projects to your experience, preferences and volunteering goals, to ensure the very best fit.

Each volunteer is different and we design volunteer placements to suit you; taking projects we know well and recommending projects depending on whether you are a gap year student, a part or newly qualified professional, or someone taking a career break to use their experience (or do something completely different!).

Whatever your motivation and skill sets, we work with each volunteer to give advice on the most appropriate placement; one that will engage you and provide a positive outcome for the project you serve when volunteering abroad. One that challenges you but does not overwhelm you.


How does it work?

volunteer abroad conservation volunteer

Unique experiences

It starts with understanding your experience, preferences, skills and passions. Fill out an Application form, (it takes just a few minutes), and we will arrange a call or Skype to get to know you, and discuss the options that fit you best.

After meeting online we will summarise our discussion in an email to you. This might include a clear recommendation if we have agreed on a project with you, or it may be a review of the options we have discussed and their contrasting features.

This then gives you time to reflect on your choices and we can then arrange another meeting to narrow down your options.


Need advice?

volunteer abroad teaching in Nepal

Teaching in rural Nepal

It helps if you think about what you want first. Read our Guide to Choosing the Right Project, to understand how to make sense of the wonderful choices you face. Then take a look at our projects to get a feel for what inspires you.

If you are volunteering as part of a gap year, then take a look at our Gap Year FAQs to get the answers to all your gap year questions.

Read our Guide to Making a Difference, to understand how your work can positively affect the project you serve and see some of the comments our volunteers have made about their experience with Outreach International over recent years. Volunteer reviews.


Blue Tiger Features

Part of making the right match is highlighting those prominent features of a project that our experience says will be important to an overseas volunteer. We call these the Blue Tiger Features and you will see a short commentary of these on each individual Project page, where they are significant.

If a project is particularly remote, a role is highly unstructured, or the level of physical discomfort particularly challenging, then we highlight these to make you aware at the earliest opportunity. Obviously some of these features will actually be an attraction to some volunteers, while being less attractive to others.

Supporting You

Volunteering abroad for the first time can be a daunting experience. Imagine starting a new job, moving house, taking on a new culture, language and climate, and leaving friends & family behind – all at once. Exciting ….but ‘Wow’.

volunteer abroad working with children in Nepal 15

Understanding the challenges

That’s why it’s great to have a friend to lean on, a counsel, a coach and a mentor when you need it. This is the role we play in preparing you for your trip and supporting you in-country, most notably from our dedicated and long-term in-country coordinators.

We offer volunteers years of valuable experience on the ground, when you need it most. Our coordinators are locals with knowledge of the projects, culture and local services.

We have also partnered with LRTT to provide specialist training to our volunteer teachers, giving you an online training course to help you prepare for the experience of teaching in a low resource environment.


Take a look at all the ways we help support you in your experience volunteering abroad:

Before you go

  • Access to assessed projects that Outreach International staff have visited for you, providing reassurance that they are both ethical and safe
  • Knowledge and advice on the projects, how they operate and the role a volunteer can play
  • A personal service available face to face, over the phone or skype, to ensure you get the volunteering placement best suited to you – one that will offer the maximum benefit to both the project and the volunteer
  • Tailored volunteer placements: when your skills, qualifications or personal goals require it, working with our in-country coordinators to locate overseas volunteering projects that will offer everyone the maximum difference
  • Pre-trip planning assistance on flights, visas and vaccinations
  • Online teacher training
  • Support on fundraising ideas
  • Pre-departure briefing – a comprehensive briefing on all aspects of your placement, including:
    • Country background information
    • Cultural awareness
    • Travel logistics such as currency, mobile phones
    • What to take
    • What to see
    • Health and Safety issues
    • Access to emergency services
    • Responsible volunteering code of conduct
  • Specialist insurance: unlike other placement organisations this specialist insurance, designed for those who volunteer and work on their travels, is included in your fee, provided by Mind The Gap Year

During your placement

  • Welcome by the Outreach International in-country coordinator
  • Transfers to/from the airport
  • Typically all your food and accommodation, in shared volunteer houses or with trusted host families, offering an authentic and safe experience
  • Orientation meeting, with health and safety briefing from your in-country coordinator
  • Language classes where appropriate
  • Project related travel expenses
  • Introduction to the project by your in-country coordinator
  • Oversight by UK staff, to manage your questions or concerns throughout
  • Social evenings and trips organised by your coordinator
  • Support of the in-country Outreach International coordinator for all health & safety concerns
  • Support of your in-country coordinator in arranging your personal leisure trips
  • The assurance of the Outreach International risk management framework, with established procedures for dealing with major incidents and emergencies
  • 24 hour emergency support from the UK
  • Public liability insurance – insuring you for the volunteer work you perform

When you return

  • An evaluation and debrief, to provide the feedback for continuous improvement
  • Join the Blue Tiger Club, our volunteering interest group where you can share your experience and develop your ambitions in volunteering and charity work further, supported by Outreach International
  • Discounts on future placements and referrals

Safety & security

All our overseas volunteer projects are regularly visited and assessed by our UK and regional staff. Each country has at least one in-country coordinator to manage our relationship with the projects between visits. This allows us to use up to date information on health, safety, political instability, cultural issues and individual project risk assessments.

volunteer abroad in the cloud forest conservation 6

All travel includes risk

Safety is of paramount importance. All volunteers will be asked to attend a comprehensive briefing before departure, when we go over any risks associated with your project. Parents are also encouraged to attend this.

There are dangers in all countries but being aware of them reduces risks. We have sent over 2,000 volunteers overseas since 1998 and we are proud of our safety record. We do not operate in areas which are perceived to be dangerous.

All volunteers are provided with medical insurance which includes full repatriation and a 24 hour emergency hotline.

We operate a risk management and emergency incident plan that is informed by the Foreign Commonwealth office, in-country news from our own staff and the use of third party risk management providers.

Read more about our approach to risk management in volunteering

Your fee

When you volunteer abroad you are offering a charitable project your time, experience and energy without remuneration. You are not paying to work.


What’s included?

Volunteer abroad and a homestay family mexico

Homestay, rural Mexico

We try to include as much as is practical for each destination, so you are able to budget knowing most of your standard costs are included. Please do ensure you read what is included when making comparisons with other overseas volunteering organisations.

The volunteer placement fee you pay Outreach International goes a long way. Primarily it is to support your stay. With Outreach this includes good travel insurance, online teacher training courses (for those doing teaching), and language lessons in a number of locations – up to 2 weeks in a Spanish language school in Ecuador.

Your fee covers your living costs. We pay our local hosts and partners a fair wage for providing your food and accommodation throughout. We include transfers to and from the airport, your daily travel to the projects and for Galapagos it even includes the internal flight from Quito to the Galapagos islands.

Your fee also pays for the support we offer each volunteer before you even travel; from unlimited meetings to help you decide on the perfect placement, through to helping you prepare for travel, including a full 90 minute pre-trip briefing before departure. We believe this consultative approach is the most responsible way to ensure volunteers get the experience they planned.

Your fee does not include: International flights, visas and vaccinations. The cost of volunteering varies based on your chosen country, project and duration. The fees and conditions of each placement are described on each project page.


Professional country coordinators

volunteer abroad coordinator

Javier, Costa Rica coordinator

Central to your support while you are away is the role of our professional country coordinators. They not only help orientate and brief you locally, but they provide ongoing support should you need it, and excellent local knowledge to deal with any emergencies that might arise.

Your fee also contributes to the cost of us finding, assessing and marketing these opportunities, otherwise how would you know about them? Without us taking the time to visit projects we would not be able to brief volunteers responsibly, and without promoting them the projects themselves would not benefit from volunteers.

Our projects value the extra capacity and skills that good volunteers offer and they value the role Outreach International plays in finding and supporting them, which they could just not do themselves.


A social enterprise

New radios at Turtle camp

We act as a non-profit, pricing to cover our costs and redistributing any surplus funds back to the projects we work with. This is an important part of the charter we have signed up to as a certified member of Social Enterprise UK.

We make targeted donations to projects, usually in the form of resources they need, not cash (which can prove problematic locally). This might take the form of providing food-stuffs to a care home, sports equipment, learning materials or occasionally a larger lump sum to purchase a piece of equipment (such as buying the radio equipment for use at the turtle conservation project.


Responsible volunteering

volunteer abroad project assessments

Assessing volunteer projects

Those community projects we support do not accept volunteers who just turn up. Why would they? They want to know that volunteers have been assessed, and are managed and supported by an organisation such as Outreach International, so as to not become a liability or a burden on the Project itself.

Creating genuinely good opportunities for volunteering abroad is a responsibility we take seriously if we are to meet our social goals. How we select our projects is critical and how we collectively act and behave determines the impact we have on small overseas communities.

Outreach International has developed respect and trust from projects over the last 18 years, meaning we are often given sole access to projects that other volunteer organisations are excluded from.

The following policies help inform you and our stakeholders of the steps we all take to ensure we volunteer responsibly.

Blue Tiger Project Features

Responsible Volunteering & Risk Management

Responsible Volunteering Code of Conduct

Safeguarding Code of Conduct

Blue Tiger Club

All of our volunteers are invited to join the Blue Tiger Club, an interest group that exists to promote the benefits of volunteering to all ages and professions, at home and abroad.

It is a partnership between Outreach International and volunteers; pooling our resources to promote responsible volunteering as a means of contributing to the community.

All our past Blue Tiger volunteers are invited to join, but when and how you participate is up to you. The following are just some of the ways we can help each other:

volunteers abroad in mexico

Promote your ongoing volunteering/charitable cause

Use the Blue Tiger alumni to promote any personal cause you support and tap into the resources of Outreach to make a bigger difference

talk on volunteering abroad

Talks at schools

Schools and colleges love to have talks on adventurous and meaningful activities that stimulate the thinking of their aspiring students. You may want to deliver a talk to a local school you have a relationship with and we can help provide you with presentation materials and support.

volunteer abroad in costa rica

Celebration of volunteering

2016 will see our inaugural meeting of past volunteers; an opportunity to relive old memories, review ongoing developments in volunteering and of course to celebrate your volunteering achievements.

volunteer abroad on the streets of mexico

Social media

Volunteers engage with us on our social media channels, to help share and promote the volunteering, social welfare and conservation themes we promote, plus of course your own photos and thoughts

volunteer abroad in cambodian ngo

Volunteering sector – insight and development

Volunteering at home and abroad remains a popular activity, but with this popularity comes new challenges and opportunities. We like to engage past volunteers on developing insight on contemporary issues or discussions, (on ‘voluntourism’ for example), or in respect to developing new services for future volunteers.

Or use your own valuable experience to write blogs and papers that we can promote on your behalf.

volunteer abroad in cotopaxi ecuador

Mentor new volunteers

Our past volunteers understand the nervous excitement of being a new volunteer and how speaking to a past volunteer can help. Making yourself available on phone/skype, to share your experience with new volunteers can help build their confidence and effectiveness.

Information for parents


As a parent of three teenage children I am only too aware of the many organisations offering gap year and volunteering experiences for young adults.

You will be concerned to make the right choice; one that is suited to your own son or daughter and one that will develop their studies, career interests or life skills.

We therefore aim to be transparent about the ‘way we do it here’, to help you make the right match, (see also Making the Match for how we help in this process).


What is different about Outreach?

In ‘non-sales’ parental terms, there are some key differentiating factors.

  1. We believe volunteering should have a reasonable degree of ‘challenge’ associated to it. We expect our volunteers to move out of their comfort zone in terms of the levels of independence they need to show, the environment they work in and the pro-activity required of them in a volunteer role.
  2. We focus primarily on volunteer placements in community-led projects. Volunteers are therefore led by local leaders, not by a western leader on location for their benefit. This has the benefit of making it a real working experience, which involves both pros and cons at different times.volunteer abroad teaching in Mexico 3
  3. Volunteers typically live with host families in ‘local conditions’. The accommodation will be safe and relatively comfortable, if basic at times. We talk volunteers through the accommodation pre-booking.
  4. We focus on personal volunteering experiences. We can arrange departure dates and a mix of projects that specifically suit the volunteer. We do not do group volunteering. Too often this is about a cross-cultural experience which may be enlightening, but should not be confused as volunteering. Friends can volunteer together, but the placement should be equally relevant to all the volunteers.
  5. We only place volunteers in projects we know. You will most likely be interviewed by someone who has visited the project you have put down as your preference, and your pre-trip briefing will be led by an experienced traveller. Parents are welcome to attend at all stages.
  6. We use mature professional country coordinators in all destinations. Locals who know their country and have some standing in their local community. They have the local knowledge and maturity to know how to manage difficult situations



The benefits

volunteer abroad under 18s cam vol face

Developing skills & confidence

We believe this approach to volunteering offers the maximum personal development opportunity to a young volunteer. Your son or daughter will develop a new sense of independence and a cultural awareness.

They will develop new capabilities, added maturity, risk awareness, resilience and have an improved appreciation of how privileged they are in comparison to their host communities.

They will also pick up new skills, possibly developing a new language, while improving their communication, teamwork and leadership skills, and of course the confidence to go on a bold adventure.


A good foundation

volunteer abroad and go teaching in nepal

Building on a good foundation

Conversely, volunteering overseas should never be seen as a way of ‘sorting out’ a young person, or ‘making them grow up’. All volunteers need to have a base level of confidence and life skills so as to be able to function normally in what can, initially at least, be stressful conditions.

Any known issues at home are likely to be amplified once overseas in a strange country, detached from friendship groups and family.

Volunteers represent not only themselves when working overseas but also Outreach who have been a long term partner to the projects, and volunteers in general. It is important that volunteers recognise the footprint they leave behind.


It is not all hard work

There may be other volunteers living there with them, working on the same project or in other projects in the local area. Most of our volunteers will make international friends, including other volunteers who they travel and have fun with at weekends, as well as local members of the community. We even had one volunteer get married into a rural Mexican community.



Preparing and Staying in touch

Galapagos conservation volunteer abroad 21

Out of touch in Galapagos

A successful, honest relationship between parents, volunteers and Outreach International is important. It allows us to work together to achieve a productive and valuable experience for you and your children. To this end, parents are invited to attend their son or daughter’s initial interview and pre-departure briefing.

The UK office maintains regular contact with our overseas coordinators to keep in touch with volunteer activities and project developments. In nearly all cases you can be in direct contact with your son or daughter while they are abroad. Some volunteers take mobile phones and use a local sim. In many cases internet access is available.

We believe that it is important not to over-monitor volunteers. This is their time to grow and mature. We take safety and support seriously while giving volunteers a degree of independence, with the freedom to mature and develop their role in their own way. Parents should feel comfortable supporting this philosophy.

When do I need to book?

A minimum of 6 weeks is required between booking and travel. However, most volunteers sign up between 3 and 12 months in advance in order to prepare for the project, save the required funds and benefit from reduced flight costs. Popular projects become fully booked so do not leave it to the last minute.

How much does it cost and what is included?

The costs vary by country, project and duration of your stay. Please see each project for details on the fees and what is included. Typically it will include all your food and accommodation and support throughout. It will not include international flights, visas and vaccinations.
Remember when comparing costs that we take a lot of care to include more than most other volunteering organisations, including insurance, teacher training and language courses in many cases.

When will I be expected to pay?

We require a £400 deposit to secure your place and the balance of any money is due 6 weeks before departure. Remember you will also need to budget for your flight at a fairly early stage.

How well do you know the projects?

Most of our projects are long-established with Outreach. Each project is assessed by the UK staff and the local in-country coordinator before being accepted as a Blue Tiger project. Our in-country coordinator maintains local connections with the project and host families to ensure we remain up to date, and the UK staff revisit each project every 12-18 months for reassessment. Feedback from volunteers, however, remains an important part of our ongoing appraisal.

Do you include insurance?

Yes, unlike most placement organisations comprehensive insurance is included in your fee.

Do I need to speak a foreign language?

A few projects require you to know the local language, but most do not. We will always advise you of the level required. If you choose to go to one of our Spanish speaking countries you will usually receive a Spanish course once you arrive. In Africa and Asia, English is generally spoken, however, a few phrases of the local language are much appreciated and go a long way.

Will I be with other volunteers?

Some projects are more likely to have other volunteers working alongside you than others. Most accommodation will have a number of volunteers present for you to socialise with. This is one of the key preferences we will discuss with you – do you want to get away from it all, or be close to other volunteers?

Does all my money go to the project?

No. Your fee is for the support service we offer volunteers, the largest part of which goes into the local economy through paying for your food, accommodation and in-country support.
See the section ‘Your Fee’ for more information

Are you a charity or non-profit?

Outreach International is a social enterprise, acting as a non-profit. We work hard in pursuit of our social goals, and redistribute surplus funds to the projects. See the section ‘Our Social Enterprise’ for more information

Is it safe?

Like any activity, travel is not without risk. Each time we visit a project we reassess the risks associated with it and our in-country coordinator and external sources provide us with information on the region. We support the FCO’s ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign and will provide you with a comprehensive pre-departure briefing so that you can prepare for risks that you are likely to encounter.
Your biggest dangers are always likely to be from traffic, stomach bugs and mishaps during social adventures outside the project. It is reassuring to know you have the support of a local coordinator throughout your stay with us if anything does go wrong.

What contact will I have with Outreach International before I leave the UK and during my time abroad?

We like to get to know you and that starts from your first introduction. Where possible we’ll prioritise skype calls over phone calls so that we get to see each other face to face.
We will interview you before you join, support you as you plan your trip, brief you before you travel, welcome you when you arrive and be there for you with any problems you may have during your stay.

What are the departure dates for volunteers?

Because we want to design a placement around you, departure dates are flexible. We prefer you to arrive on a weekend and a few projects have specific closure periods which we’ll advise you of. Where appropriate we will coordinate arrivals so that you arrive with other volunteers.

Will it count towards my Duke of Edinburgh?

Your volunteering may well contribute to your DoE and we are happy to contribute to the relevant part of your DOE application.

Can I volunteer with my friends on the same project?

Yes, on all projects you are welcome to apply with a friend. On some projects we welcome larger groups. You may also be eligible for a group discount which is usually 3% discount for 2, 4% for 3 or 5% for 4 or more friends or family volunteering together.

What will my accommodation be like?

The nature and style of accommodation will depend upon your project, but this is something we will discuss with you. You will either be living in a welcoming host family or a volunteer house. It will most likely be basic but comfortable and will give you a feel for the culture that you are living in. You should normally expect to share a room with another volunteer. If you would like your own room you may need to pay an additional single person supplement.

How old are the volunteers?

Our volunteers cover the whole range of ages, from 16 to 70+. We have also supported families with younger children. Some volunteering projects are more appropriate for skilled professionals or retired people with a lot of experience, others for university graduates or people taking a career break. We also have a specific programme suitable for sixth formers.

I am under 18 can I volunteer?

Yes we have a special programme for volunteers under 18 where the project work is appropriate for your experience and you will receive a little more support from our local coordinator.

Can I speak to a past volunteer?

Yes, we can almost certainly put you in touch with a returned volunteer who has spent some time on your selected project. Just let us know.

How do I apply?

Complete an application form and we will contact you to discuss the project(s) you have stated as a preference and agree the volunteer project that would be right for you. Then we’ll send you a joining pack and you join us by returning your completed confirmation form and deposit.

Will I have free time?

Evenings and weekends are usually free for you to relax or explore the local area. There are also likely to be local public holidays and festivals.

Can I travel during and after my project?

Weekends are usually free for you to explore. Our coordinators can help you with ideas and booking advice to help you experience the most from your stay. Many volunteers travel further afield after their volunteer placement. Outreach International cannot accept responsibility for volunteers travelling independently but you will be able to extend your insurance to cover your extra stay. You might consider booking a flight home that is date changeable to give yourself the flexibility to travel.

I am not from the UK – can I volunteer with Outreach International?

Yes you can. We are based in the UK and support volunteers from all over the world.