Frequently Asked Questions for Volunteering Abroad

Frequently Asked Questions for Volunteering Abroad

Got questions about volunteering abroad? How do I apply? It is for me? Is it even possible with COVID-19 becoming a part of our daily lives? We have got the answers to your most frequently asked questions. 

General Questions: Tell me about volunteering 

Why are volunteers needed more than ever? 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, many volunteers have been unable to reach charities abroad to lend a hand. As a result, veterinary clinics, shelters, and outreach programmes have had to carry on with minimal staff and an increasing number of animals in need. As restrictions permit, we’re excited to welcome international volunteers safely back to our veterinary centres and outreach projects with COVID-19 safety measures in place, to return to full power and continue our life-saving work.

Is volunteering even possible right now?

As the world is beginning to open to travel, it’s becoming possible for international volunteers to start to join us again with COVID-safety measures in place. Depending on your origin and destination, it may still be a challenging time to travel. That’s why we’re liaising with our local teams and partners constantly to help get volunteers to where they are needed most, in the safest way possible. To read our FAQs related to COVID-19, click here. 

Is volunteering abroad for me? 

Are you looking for more than an overseas vacation? Are looking for a meaningful experience that will challenge you? Volunteering may be for you.  

Volunteering can be hard work, and often in conditions you may not be used to. You may have to work with basic resources, brave the wet season, or sleep under a mosquito net. Nonetheless, those who take these challenges in their stride, return home after nothing short of a life-changing experience. 

With plenty of projects around the world taking on volunteers, it’s only a matter of time before you find the right one for you. So, what are you waiting for? Start your journey today by browsing our volunteer trips. Where can you see yourself spending your time and energy to help animals in need? 

Why volunteer with Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS)? 

Founded in 2003 by veterinarian Luke Gamble, WVS was set up to help animals in places lacking veterinary resources, and where animal suffering was at its worst. Today, we help a variety of species and aim to improve not only animal welfare, but also help the local communities in which we work and provide training to the local veterinary workforce. We do this by sending vets, nurses/technicians, and other support staff to where they are needed most, to increase the standard of care across the globe, as well as shipping urgent aid supplies to frontline teams, every week of the year. 

The veterinary profession has played a vital role in responding to the impact of the pandemic. With more animals being abandoned and struggling to find a home, and a heightened risk of an outbreak of diseases like rabies, we stepped up to provide emergency support. In 2020, our teams almost doubled the number of animals they treated in 2019, set up feeding programmes to support starving animals on the empty streets, and so much more. Click here to read about our work throughout the pandemic. 

Volunteers have always played a critical role in this life-saving work. Hundreds of volunteers – veterinary surgeons, nurses, and those with a love of animals – have supported our animal welfare projects around the world. We ensure these devoted volunteers (people just like you!) can go where the need is greatest and where their impact will be felt by the animals and local communities, for years to come. 

You can join our team of international volunteers. Apply today, and become an official part of the WVS family.  

I’m not a veterinarian or a veterinary nurse. Can I still volunteer?  

Yes! Whilst some of our volunteer programmes are based in veterinary clinics or outreach centres and require a certain level of experience either as a student, graduate, or professional, we also have some programmes perfect for people without a veterinary background. Animal lovers just like you who are passionate about animal welfare, could help track animals in South Africaassist wildlife rangers in Malawi, or conduct surveys on stranded sea turtles in Uruguay, just to name a few. To view all our volunteering programmes currently open for applications, click here.  

Volunteering with WVS: How do I do it?  

How do I apply to volunteer?  

It’s simple and easy with our Volunteer Portal! The portal serves as a ‘one-stop shop’ to connect you with the volunteering experience of your dreams. It’s a hassle-free way to submit your applications and track their progress. In the portal, we’ll guide you through what documentation needs to be uploaded, when payment is due, and anything else you may need to do before take-off. You can sign up to the portal by simply clicking ‘Apply Now’ on the programme you wish to apply for, and entering your details. If you have any questions or comments about the Volunteer Portal, please don’t hesitate to email us at volunteers@mail.volunteer.wvs.org.uk.

What support will I receive? 

Planning your next volunteer adventure can be overwhelming. Travelling abroad, navigating through the jungle of restrictions and requirements, and being away from home have their challenges. We know that all too well, and that’s why we’re always here to help. In the lead-up to your trip and whilst you’re aboard, we’re only a phone call or an email away. You’ll be given contact details for our Head Office in the UK as well as in-country personnel to reach out at any point should you need.  

Why should I pay to volunteer? 

We couldn’t continue our life-saving work without the support of volunteers. Here’s why.  

Volunteering abroad costs money because when people come to help, expenses are incurred. In many places, the host organisation will organise the accommodation, food, and related in-country travel to ensure volunteers have the best possible experience and can easily adapt to the general operation of the project.  

By contributing to a project as a paying volunteer, you are not only covering your living expenses, but also supporting the programme itself, and ensuring it is beneficial to the community it serves long term. The money you pay and the skills you share mean that even after you leave, you are still helping the animals and people that need it most. 

What’s included in the cost?  

The inclusions vary for each programme, so please browse our website for details. Additional costs to volunteers may include flights, transfer, vaccinations, and other health-related expenses, COVID-tests (where needed), visas, insurance, spending money, and additional food and drinks. 

How much time do I need to commit?  

The actual time commitment will vary from project to project. However, most of our programmes require a minimum of 1-2 weeks' stay, with longer stays also possible in most cases. Please browse our volunteer trips to find the one best suited to you. 

How can I make even more of a difference?  

Fundraise or donate! Before you depart, consider raising funds to support the project as best as you can. Fundraising can be as easy as telling your friends and family about your life-saving mission and asking them to donate. Click here to request our fundraising guide or speak with our team today.  

You can also bring supplies with you! The project may be extremely short on certain supplies and would be very grateful for donations. However, please get in touch first to find out if there is anything that would be helpful to bring with you. This is at your discretion and entirely optional. 

What can I expect in a day of volunteering? 

There might be early mornings and late nights and no two days will be the same, so volunteers need to be ready for lots of hard work with a flexible attitude! Expected working hours vary from project to project, with time to relax in the evenings. Exact timings will depend on workload and will be advised locally. There will be opportunities to explore the local area and arrange excursions (at your own cost) for your rest days. 

What are the requirements to join a volunteer project? 

Our volunteer programmes require a minimum age of 18 years, as well as other formal requirements, including, depending on the destination country, a valid passport, a visa, insurance, and immunisations. Some volunteer programmes also require a certain level of experience in the veterinary profession. Whilst some can accept veterinary students, others require post-graduate experience or prefer that you’ve participated in a similar placement before. The requirements for each project are listed on our website.  

What are the visa and passport requirements?  

All volunteers are required to travel with a valid passport, which must be valid for six months from the date of entry to the country. Visa requirements for different countries vary, therefore, we recommend that you check with the relevant government websites for up-to-date advice and guidance.  

What will I need to bring with me?  

We will provide you with a ‘what to bring’ list, which covers everything from general items to suggested first aid items, critical documentation, and paperwork. Whilst preparing for your trip, please remember to respect the culture of your destination country and dress modestly where necessary.  

Volunteering During Covid: What you need to know

Do I need travel insurance?  

Insurance is essential for volunteering abroad and you will need a policy that covers you for veterinary work. Any insurance policy taken must also cover emergency evacuation and any COVID-related treatments. For any policy that you are looking at, please ensure that you check the details closely, especially concerning COVID-19. 

Don’t worry, we can help with this! Become a Member of WVS and you’ll get bespoke insurance to cover all your WVS and Mission Rabies trips whilst you are a member. The annual membership costs £40, includes other great benefits, and can easily be set up online. For more information about this, please email us at volunteers@mail.volunteer.wvs.org.uk.

Do I need immunisations? 

As you will be working with animals, rabies and tetanus vaccines are essential. We will require you to provide a certificate or vaccination record from your doctor/travel clinic confirming you have had a full course of rabies vaccinations (or titre) before departure.  

Many countries also require some other essential vaccinations. The following websites are helpful for advice, however, for up-to-date recommendations on health requirements, ALWAYS consult your doctor or a travel clinic before your travels.  

Please remember, you will need to allow plenty of time before travelling for vaccinations to be effective. Therefore, do not leave this until the last minute.

Some countries may also require you to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, to provide proof of a negative test on arrival, or both. Some may also have a quarantine procedure in place. Please read these requirements carefully from the relevant government to ensure you’re fully compiling and will be permitted entry to the country.  

What will happen if the volunteering programme can’t go ahead due to COVID-19? 

We will aim to keep you informed of any changes as we are made aware of them, but also recommend regular checking of government advice. If the programme can’t go ahead, we will let you know with as much notice as possible. In the scenario where the trip can be postponed, we can hold your spot or if you wish, transfer your application to another programme (depending on availability) or alternative dates (depending on availability), or in some cases, arrange a refund. As all of our programmes vary, please get in touch with us to discuss your options.  

What will happen if I can no longer travel to the destination? 

If you can’t travel due to travel bans or quarantine restrictions, we’re able to transfer your booking to a later date or a different programme. However, in the event of the following, our cancellation policy applies and your travel insurance may cover you.

  • You or your family member gets COVID-19 and you are required to self-isolate or care for them 

  • You’ve been denied boarding to your flight due to failing COVID checks 

  • You’ve been refused entry to a country for not fully complying with entry, testing, or vaccination requirements 

  • You’ve decided you don’t want to travel 

When searching for insurance, please ensure you select a policy that covers you for veterinary work, emergency evacuation, and COVID-related health and travel scenarios. If you sign up as a member for an annual cost of £40, you will receive bespoke insurance to cover all your WVS and Mission Rabies trips whilst a member. For more information about this, please email us at volunteers@mail.volunteer.wvs.org.uk.

What COVID-safety measures and checks are in place? Will I need to wear a mask? 

All our projects aim to provide hand sanitizers in the field but volunteers are advised to carry ample supplies with them. Regular temp checks might be imposed during the stay and any symptoms in line with the World Health Organisation’s list of COVID symptoms must be reported immediately to the project lead or volunteer coordinator who will arrange for a test or visit to the local doctor and may ask the volunteer to quarantine for 10 days or until a negative test result can be produced. We also ask that volunteers wear a face covering in line with host country guidelines and restrictions, which are likely to be needed when travelling too. 

What happens if I or one of the other volunteers show symptoms whilst abroad?  

You will be asked to take a test and if positive, you will need to isolate and be treated by a local medical practitioner, following local restrictions at all times. Once you’re able to produce a negative test, or the doctor advises it would be safe to do so, you can re-join the programme. Failure to comply with any of our COVID-safety measures will result in immediate termination of the volunteer assignment and the volunteer will be asked to leave the project/accommodation at their own expense. 

What happens if travel restrictions are imposed at home whilst I'm abroad? 

We advise that you constantly monitor the situation and consult the project lead in-country as well as our head office in the UK who might be able to assist and advise when becoming aware of changes.  

What happens if there's an imposed lockdown while I’m at the destination? 

It will depend on the type of restriction that is imposed. For instance, curfews may cause an inconvenience but won’t disturb the project and as such, the programme will continue in adherence with the new restrictions. If an extensive lockdown is imposed and volunteer accommodation must close, our head office in the UK will coordinate an evacuation to your home country, which should be covered by your insurance provider. Please ensure that you take up third-party travel insurance, including emergency evacuation, to protect you in this scenario. Otherwise, you may incur the cost. 

Is testing available in all destinations? If I need a test, can I get one?

Across our project sites, we can advise on in-country testing providers. If you’re volunteering with one of our charity partners, please contact the host organisation for more information.

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