Volunteering isn’t for everyone, especially international volunteer work. Giving up a steady income, working in an unknown place with language, cultural and health barriers is challenging and confronting. You don’t get paid, you have a huge workload and you have to try to smile and enjoy yourself along the way. But, the rewards can be immense and the changes to your life will be lasting.
Because I have been fortunate enough to get a place in the International Volunteer Program for the Red Cross, I have been get a lot of questions about volunteering – Where? How? How much? How long? Why? What? Etc. Some people I meet or who ask are genuinely interested in how to get involved in this kind of work and others are simply curious as to why I would give up living in absolute comfort with lots of money in Sydney to go live on little money in a developing country.
Here’s some of the answers to those questions:
WHERE: Cambodia! Mick and I will be based in the Capital city, Phnom Penh. Accommodation is to be arranged once we get there, but we expect to be able to find a nice 2 bedroom place for us and Mick’s office.
HOW: Apply, seek out, find out! I knew about international volunteer programs that were run by the Australian Government for ages and I wanted to be a part of it. I never actually thought that my background in transport policy would ever amount to an international volunteer opportunity, but here we are.
HOW MUCH: I don’t have to pay to volunteer (and I have serious issues with programs that make you pay) but I am paid an allowance that will be enough to cover food, rent and transport while I am part of the program.
HOW LONG: My contract is for 12 months with the possibility of extension. Depending on the project I will be working on, it could be extended and I would be happy to stay on or look for paid work in the organisation or field in Asia. I would also keep an eye out for other program opportunities.
WHY: Why not? I’m healthy, young, interested and willing to go and do something for the greater good. I want to be part of a world that helps those in need and I am very fortunate to be in a position to do it. It has also been a dream of mine since I can remember to go do international aid work and now I have the change and its very exciting. I’m also very lucky to have someone like Mick who is more than happy to come along and do his bit too.
WHAT: My official job is “Advocacy and Strategic Planning Officer” which means writing, researching, lobbying and coordinating work to do with road safety stuff.
If you are interested in opportunities or just curious, I have listed a few links that may be of help.
Australian Council for International Development (international & national jobs in development)
Australian Business Volunteers (short term placements in developing countries)
Go Volunteer (Australia based volunteer opportunities)
Ethical Jobs (not-for-profit job opportunities)
Idealist (international volunteer opportunities -many are user-pays though)