A 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.
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!