5 Common Problems & How To Avoid While Volunteering Abroad

Volunteer abroad placements require a lot of organization and preparation, from both yourself and the Organization you’ve chosen to travel with...Us!

You should arrive at your destination confident, excited and fully prepped – a feeling that should prevail throughout your experience overseas. Check reviews of our volunteers

However, unfortunately this doesn’t ring true 100% of the time. Some people find that volunteering abroad isn’t all smooth sailing. With A Broader View team you get 24/7 support prior, during and after traveling.

From lack of communication to problems with host families and placements, problems can crop up even right from the beginning of your volunteer opportunity.

That’s why selecting the best volunteer abroad organization is absolutely crucial – they play a huge role in your health, safety and satisfaction over the course of your volunteering experience, and thats our main goal.

A Broader View has been established since 2007, organizing humanitarian programs across the world. We’ve sent thousands of volunteers to over 345 projects sites in 31 different countries, from Nepal to Uganda to Costa Rica! See all of our exciting destinations.

And it’s all done with passion – A Broader View was founded on the belief that one person can make a difference to the lives of others.

Top 5 problems encountered when volunteering abroad

The vast majority of volunteers find their placements to be incredibly rewarding, and a hugely positive life experience.

Unfortunately, due to varying reasons, such as the specific organization they booked with and individual circumstances encountered while overseas, some people unfortunately do not feel this way.

Check out our list of the 5 most common problems in the volunteering abroad industry, and precautions you can take to avoid them.

  1. 1.- Lack of communication

When it comes to volunteering abroad – in an unfamiliar country, with an unfamiliar language and an unfamiliar culture – communication is everything.

A good volunteer organization will offer excellent support services from the moment you express an interest in their programs – and check in with you on your return too.

This support is essential, as you’re likely to have many questions during the booking process, as you prep for your trip and while you’re overseas.

The organization you choose should make themselves available to you via email, phone and chat online, whatsapps, other suitable methods of communication, and should respond to you in a timely fashion (same day). If they’re slow to respond to you at first, be aware that this trend may persist during your time abroad.

The bottom line is, you should feel safe and supported from the moment you pick up the phone to make your initial enquiry. If you don’t, or something doesn’t feel quite right, think twice about going any further. You may thank yourself in the end!

  1. 2.- Problems with host families

Living with a host family when volunteering abroad is a brilliant way to immerse yourself in the culture and language of the country you’re staying in.

While living with a host family is so often a rewarding and educational experience, your safety comes first. Make sure you do some thorough research to find out how families are chosen and vetted, what the living conditions will be like, how far they are from your work placement, whether they speak any English and whether they’ve hosted volunteers before.

Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you like – it’s important to ensure you will feel comfortable, with access to basic necessities. How many people live in the house? Will you have your own room or shared? Mainly bedrooms are shared.

A good volunteer abroad organization should also ask you about your likes and dislikes, whether you have any allergies, and the living conditions you’d expect or be comfortable with, in order to match you with a suitable family.

The bottom line: dig for as much information as possible from your volunteer organization to avoid any problems with host families. You could also contact previous volunteers who did the same program as you, to ask about their experiences. Email your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. we will send the answers of our alumni to you.

At A Broader View, our homestays are hand-picked for security, location, comfort and friendliness. Many host families are partners with our programs, for example, a teacher or principal at one of our partner schools or a nurse/doctor at one of our medical placements or the director of an orphanage. Find out more about our host families. Most of our accommodations have worked with us since 2007.

  1. 3.- Problems with volunteer work placements

Maybe you know exactly which placement you want to do. Or perhaps you spend hours deliberating in a quest to find the perfect one. Either way, if the experience differs from your expectations – perhaps the work isn’t as advertised, or you end up in a private school rather than teaching disadvantaged children – it could end in disappointment, leave your expectations at home and come with an open mind.

The best way to avoid this problem is to acquire as much information as possible before committing to a volunteer project abroad. How are the organizations vetted, what will your responsibilities be, what reputation does the organization have? These are all questions you have every right to ask.

It may also be useful to get in touch with a former volunteer, if possible, or someone who works at the organization to gain a clear overview of your duties and what to expect. Also, remember to ask whether the in-country coordinator does check-ins to see how you’re getting on. All our local coordinators are a call or text away, some live at the coordinators house, and/or do weekly or biweekly checkups.

The most reputable volunteer organizations ensure the information on their website matches the work placements. We post pictures, videos, reviews and testimonials on our website so you know the information you’re getting is accurate. Check out this video of two of our volunteers describing their volunteer experiences in Tanzania.

We also provide a volunteer schedule and an overview of your duties in each placement, but if you ever have any questions, please contact us, as we’re always happy to help.

  1. 4.- Lack of volunteer work

The last thing you want to happen after putting time, energy and money into planning a volunteer vacation is to arrive and find that there are too many volunteers sharing one placement, if so jump out and be proactive find more work to do, ask the local coordinator, chat with the organization to rearrange options, you have to speak up.

Unfortunately, some volunteer programs end up being oversubscribed, and there’s not enough work to go around, we don't overbook, we try that all our volunteers get enough work while abroad.

  1. 5.- Money problems

A common complaint is that volunteers believe they have paid too much. The best way to avoid overpaying for your volunteer experience is, you guessed it, more research!

Most websites should have a clear section detailing program fees (if not, that’s a red flag already). Examine the fees, check where your money is going and determine what you will have to pay.

Bear in mind that costs will vary from program to program, and are of course dependent on the length of your stay. You may have to pay a registration fee and extra fees for certain projects. This is common practice, but it’s still worth comparing prices with other organizations for peace of mind.

Also keep in mind that most organizations won’t pay for your flight, visa costs, travel insurance, medical costs (such as vaccinations) or personal expenses.

The bottom line is that reputable organizations will be transparent with you when it comes to fees. Click here  to  view  the  program  cost  and fees page associated with A Broader View Volunteers.

To summarize...

As you can see, avoiding problems on your volunteer placement comes down to research, in order to find the best volunteer organization for you.

Volunteering abroad is a big life decision, so a little bit of research before committing to an organization goes a long way.

As well as doing your research, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, make a point of investigating. Check if the organization is located in your country, check if they are fro profit or non profit, if they are too cheap or to expensive (AVOID), if they have a chat option online, if they answer emails in 24 business hours, if they have good reviews, updated videos and pictures. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor in the long run.

Reviews and testimonials are a great way to gauge the quality of a volunteer organization and/or program.

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