International Volunteering – An Introduction

Retirement and volunteeringA long-term volunteer has additional considerations. Thought needs to be given to how to arrange your financial and investment obligations at home. Do you lease or rent out your house? If so, who will manage it? What will be the term of the lease or rental agreement? What if you return early? Do you have alternate lodging arrangements in mind? In my case I have had family, a neighbor or a friend take care of mail, residence and cars. Online banking is very handy for taking care of financial obligations. I travel so much I can’t consider having pets but for those of you who do arrangements must be made.

Health Considerations

At any age the volunteer has to pay attention to health needs. Visit your physician. Get a checkup and evaluation. Discuss your volunteer assignment, travel plans and destination. When you choose an organization take into consideration your health needs and the quality of the health care at your program site. Ask the volunteer placement organization about any known health risks at the site and take precautionary measures. If insurance is not provided check your personal insurance company and see if it covers international volunteer assignments. Most don’t. Having insurance is an imperative. I have both purchased private insurance and worked with organizations that have provided it. Some volunteers purchase emergency evacuation insurance that covers initial treatment at the site and air transportation to the volunteer’s home for further medical treatment.

I did this on a recent trip to Central America.

Family and Communication

When I joined the Peace Corps I worried about what my adult children would think about my heading off to another country to volunteer. My worries were for naught. My son and daughter fully supported me and were as excited as I. Now my grandchildren are nearing adulthood and sharing in the excitement. One of my granddaughters just returned from a tour of China with her school choir and is excited about international work.

The internet and SIM cards for mobile phones have made communicating with family and friends much easier. When I travel I buy a SIM card with an in-country provider that allows both local and international calls for a reasonable fee. I have an inexpensive and unlocked phone that I use for my international travels. Others use different methods. You can ask the volunteer organization or former volunteers what has worked best for them.


I consider the friendships I have developed the most important gift that international volunteering has given me. I hear often from global friends I have made on my volunteer trips. They are like family. We have shared our lives and cultures. We continue to do so. I think that the mutual understanding these friendships have developed outlives, and can have a more positive impact, than the work we did while in-country.

Happy International Volunteering!

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  1. Seeking recommendations for reputable volunteer placement organizations or direct connections for short term assignments for those over 50 that don’t cost and arm and a leg? Would like to find an organization that frequently works with those over 50 and offers suitable accomodations/sanitary facilities, etc. that also might have other volunteers or hosts that aren’t all young. Don’t need anything fussy or fancy but probably don’t want to go on assignment and share housing with only much younger folks and just me. Would appreciate any suggestions.

  2. Hi. This post has come to me just in time. I’m just out of the Peace Corps (Dominican Republic) and “settling back in” (something I don’t really intend to do) to life in my home and community. After work on the house is done (3 years of maintenance and improvements set aside) I’ll be looking for “work”. I am in a situation where I can volunteer but must have costs paid.
    I want to keep learning Spanish and have joined conversation groups but this is not really enough so am putting together the habits I need to keep my Spanish improving. My PC experience gave me an adequate start on becoming fluidly and adequately capable with Spanish but I have a long way to go to fluency (whatever that means.) I’m a mechanical engineer and enjoy designing as well as teaching science subjects and math as per my first assignment in the DR.
    My impression is that my needs to have costs covered as with Peace Corps might be hard to find. But I do have an increasingly a valuable professional knowledge base and hands-on (I”m a welder and fine wood worker) experience. I love teaching what I know and do…and I also like doing those things, something I was not able to do in my PC assignment…and I missed working with tools with my own hands terribly.
    I’m looking for a new assignment (either a short or long term opportunity). I’ve a lot to share with those interested to listen regarding what I did in PC and what opportunities actually exist out there for someone like me. Vamos a ver…con ancia. Note: I’m in great health. And I’m 65 if that matters. I went into the Peace Corps at 62 and extended to continue my projects, self growth and language proficiency. I designed my own project in the end and Peace Corps embraced that project.
    I’m beginning to gather a little hope that I might have a future working abroad with my skills and interests. Thanks for the post. Please let me know how I can find new opportunities.

  3. Try the Fr. Ray Foundation (vocational school for people with disabilities). We work a little over 5 months a year in Nong Khai, Thailand, teaching these young adults English–mostly conversation. Room and board are provided. FRF also has a more extensive volunteer program in Pattaya with additional duties. Most volunteers must commit to the end of October through March or the end of April through the end of September.
    See for more information.

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