U.S. Volunteers Abroad

Are you thinking about volunteering abroad? Here are some things to consider before you go. They may help you have a safe and successful volunteer experience!

Before You Go

  • Check out the organization’s history and experience in leading groups to volunteer abroad. Look beyond the brochures and marketing materials offered by the organization. Make sure they have a record of successful and safe trips.
  • Research how previous volunteers rated their experience. Has the organization had issues in the past? Do past volunteers have valid complaints?
  • Check if there is a partner organization in the country you are traveling to. Has your organization checked it out? Have they inspected the project site and documented that it is safe?
  • Read up on your intended destination
  • Make sure your travel documents are up to date. This includes your U.S. passport and visa, if necessary.
  • Check out health and disease conditions at your destination. Do you have travel insurance that will cover medical evacuation?
  • Are you volunteering with an orphanage or working with children? Make sure you check out the following information page. on child institutionalization and human trafficking.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.  
  • Identify a contact in the United States and make sure they know how to contact you and your volunteer organization in case of an emergency.

Does the international volunteer organization have:

Safety Plans

  • Risk assessment procedure, global risk management plan, and country-specific emergency response plans
  • Pre-departure security briefings
  • 24/7 office support in case of an emergency
  • First-aid-qualified project staff
  • Emergency evacuation plan

Volunteer Preparation

  • Orientation to educate volunteers on the country and any safety concerns 
  • In-country medical insurance, medical evacuation insurance, pre-trip physicals, and vaccinations
  • Handbooks that include helpful information on history, culture, and language Enrollment of all volunteers in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This will help ensure the U.S. embassy in your destination country can reach you in case of an emergency.

In-country Volunteer Support

  • Works with host nation project leaders and has staff who speak local languages and know locations of nearby police stations and hospitals.
  • Has 24-hour local office support

Last Updated: February 8, 2024