It is no small decision to travel hundreds of thousands of miles across the globe for an adventure. If you are considering a volunteer experience, we understand you have tons of questions before you make the leap, that’s why our team is standing by to answer them!
To get you started, here are our top 5 most asked questions!
Q 1: How old are the other volunteers?
A: Month to month, we have a wide variety of volunteers. The average age of our volunteer is 23; typically taking a college break to explore. However, depending on the month, we do see the average age teeter up or down.
AOA is one of the few volunteer programs that accept 16-year old volunteers, who are traveling on their first international trip. We love having young volunteers who choose us to have their first international experience.
We also have more experienced travelers quite frequently. These volunteers are always valuable to have in the mix. Their expertise, and experience makes them a tremendous asset to their chosen project, and to the other volunteers. In every location, there are plenty of extra activities to keep you busy, if you choose to break away from the group and adventure solo. We also offer private accommodation in every location, if you don’t fancy sleeping in a dorm.
If you have some experience you would like to bring to the table, we love accepting older volunteers to share their knowledge with us in an internship role. Internships are no longer just for college, we have a whole communities that would love to benefit from your years of experience! If you have an expertise, let us know and we can customize an adventure so you can share it!
Q 2: Will it be ok if I travel alone?
A: 99.9% of our volunteers travel to their project alone. By the end of your first night, you will meet countless other volunteers who are traveling alone too, and you are sure to become fast friends. The one thing most people don’t expect when they sign up for a volunteer adventure is the friends they will make during their trip- sometimes thiseven becomes one of the most treasured parts of your trip.
Q 3: Is my destination safe?
A: Safety is our top priority. We have chosen locations where our volunteers can explore, work and play with piece of mind (and your parents too!). The areas where we work are also very tight knit, small communities, that we have spent years forming relationships with the local people. Our volunteers and company are well known and respected locally. This means when you arrive and put on your “volunteer” t-shirt, you are accepted into this vast family, who will always have your back.
We ask, with this in mind, that our volunteers adhere to general travel safety when exploring on your own. Our rule, is if you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it here. For example, keep your personal belongings on you, don’t flash expensive gadgets or cash, don’t go meandering around by yourself at night. If you follow this rule, we can expect you to have a problem-free adventure. If for any reason an emergency arises, our team is on call 24/7 to assist you.
Q 4: I want to bring donations with me, what should I request?
A: We think its great that many volunteers want to bring donations before they come on their trip. In most of our programs we work with preschool aged children to promote early childhood education. We try and refrain from donations that go directly to each child, especially in the form of toys or clothing as this often leaves someone left out. We instead suggest that your donations be learning materials that we can donate to the Neighborhood Care Points, or schools directly. This would allow hundreds of children to benefit from your generosity each year! Some ideas would be: Pencils, flash cards, educational posters, puzzles (or other learning games) etc. If you would like to bring something with a more personal touch, bubbles, jump ropes, books and stickers are always easy and fun activities to do with the kids.
I also suggest that you wait until after your trip to fundraise. A lot can happen in 2-4 weeks as a volunteer. You may find a special project or a meet an extraordinaryperson you want to fundraise specifically for while you’re with us. Save some room to be inspired!
Q 5: What should I pack?
A: When you sign up for a project with AOA, we will send you a pre-flight guide full of helpful information specific to your destination. However, here is a bit of extras just in case:
Clothing: Pack lightweight items that can be layered. Depending on the season, you may have chilly mornings/evenings, but warm days. Most of our projects are in rural areas, where it is important to dress appropriately to avoid insulting the locals. This means, ladies leave your short shorts at home. In southern Africa, it is a social norm for women to cover their knees (or at least come close) when possible. Otherwise, depending on your project, it will be important to be comfortable for movement and activity! There will also be weekends when you choose to go out to a local pub, or go hiking, or lay by the pool- be prepared for what you enjoy doing!
Items volunteers have found helpful are, hoodie, gym shoes (you don’t mind getting dirty), baseball hat/large brim hat, sunglasses, swimsuit, summer dresses, light rain jacket.
Toiletries: Most volunteers bring enough travel soap and shampoo for a few days, however in each of our locations there will be options for additional toiletries (such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste, sunscreen, and bug repellent), upon arrival. Other things volunteers have found helpful to bring with are earplugs (for dorms), small first aid kit (Band-Aids, aspirin, stomach tablets), and baby wipes.
Hardware & other equipment: We have volunteers who bring enough hardware with them for a 100-person safari. This is not necessary. All linens, pillows, and bedding will be provided for you in your main accommodation (unless otherwise noted in your pre-flight guide, based on any excursions you may add on). The Mozambique destination is the only a malaria zone, and mosquito nets will be provided for you at your accommodation. There is also no need for a laundry line, or rope; an option for laundry service is available in each destination. Adapters for electronics are also helpful, but can be purchased easily in most countries.
Items some volunteers have found handy are headlamps/small flashlight, camera/Go-pro, headphones, cell phone (if you “unlock” your cellphone before arrival you will be able to get a local SIM card for phoning and data use)
As you consider your travel plans, we hope this helps! If you still have questions, you can always ask by commenting on this blog (below) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org