Volunteer travel is a unique way to travel which allows people to make a difference to the planet in a safe, responsible and supported way. Volunteers can enjoy an exciting adventure abroad whilst assisting vitally important environmental and community projects. You can lend a hand all over the world from as little as one week to three months, and during your time away you'll engage with a local community and see how your work is helping them with day to day life.
By volunteering abroad, you’ll be contributing towards the development of a community in need- and when you volunteer with i-to-i you can guarantee that the projects you'll be contributing towards will be sustainably run and worthwhile.
All of the projects we work with existed prior to their partnership with us, but by offering them support and sending out a steady flow of volunteers, they're able to achieve their goals a little faster and therefore, create a greater change within their local community.
It’s important to us that the projects we work with grow in a sustainable manner, essentially minimalising the project's themselves from having a destabilising effect on their own development and the wider community. Our main focus is to send well supported, enthusiastic volunteers to help at our projects, and by volunteering through i-to-i you become a part of a wider movement which focuses on sustainable development whilst ensuring that projects can continue their worthwhile work in the long term.
One of the greatest things about our volunteer projects is that most don't require a set of specific skills- all you need is passion, commitment and to not be afraid of hard work!
Volunteer travel is for anybody who wants to:
- Do something positive with their travel experience
- Meet people from all over the world
- Experience a new culture
- Give something back
- Learn another language
- Gain work experience
- Challenge themselves
We understand that some of our travellers may want to bring family members or younger travellers along when they're participating on one of our projects, which is why we offer a selection of family friendly projects and travel options which cater specifically for the younger traveller aged between 16 to 18 years of age.
We don't have an upper age limit either- our oldest volunteer was 86yrs old, proof that there really is no limit to what you can achieve when you're passionate about making a difference abroad!
We also offer special group itineraries for those who want to make a difference with friends, colleagues, class mates or anyone else keen to get involved... if you're interested in a group trip give our expert team a ring for more.
The reason there are so many volunteer providers is not only because volunteering abroad is growing so popular, but because there is a genuine need for companies who can organise your trip for you. Travelling independently can be challenging and finding your feet the first few days in a new country can be a daunting experience for even the most seasoned of travellers. Volunteering on your own can be equally challenging especially if you haven’t travelled very much, don’t speak the local language and are arriving in a foreign country without a plan.. Supported volunteering with i-to-i offers many benefits including the confidence that you are securing a safe and supported travel experience.
Searching for an independent volunteer project can be a challenging experience. You are often entering an area of unknown and if you choose to travel this way then we advise you to proceed with caution. Many people are successful in making contact direct with a local project, but at the same time we hear many stories of people who have travelled to a far corner of the earth only to find out that the project either doesn’t exist or that the work is not worthwhile or responsible. Whether you travel with us or not not we recommend you do your research so that you’re assured a positive experience. Volunteering with i-to-i you are guaranteeing your travel experience. We can’t guarantee that you will have a trouble free experience, as by the nature of travelling in the developing world things work differently and can change without notice (see Support). What we can guarantee is that your chosen project is worthwhile, sustainable and responsible. As with all our projects we have vetted them in detail through our local teams and in person by our development team when time allows, ensuring they are safe and that the infrastructure is in place to support your needs as a committed traveller. In addition to this guarantee you have a wide selection of projects to search and research and can speak with our expert travel advisors about the intricacies of travelling and volunteering on the projects we support. Our travel advisors have all travelled and have all volunteered so are passionate about what we do.
At i-to-i we offer you support both before and during your trip. Pre-departure support is provided to ensure you are fully prepared for your travels ensuring you can make the most of your experience and be in a position to give your time, energy and enthusiasm in the most productive way for your project. The age old adage of ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ could not be further from the truth, especially when travelling to developing countries. In-country support is provided in two ways; on the ground support and via our global support team. Our in-country team; who are always locals are truly the experts on your destination - they are on hand to support you on your trip and available 24/7 if you really need them! They are not there to provide a hand-holding experience, and certainly won't see them every day, as they give you the freedom to have your own independent experience working directly with the project. However, should there be a problem then they are only a phone call away and available to assist you until the issue is resolved. Something as little as being met at the airport can really mean a lot. Those first few hours in a foreign country can be really disorientating, and having someone there that can speak the language, knows where they’re going and can help you with your bags will take a huge weight off your mind. Our global support network is manned through our UK and Australian offices which means we’re available at most times. We also have a duty office team in the UK who are trained in emergency response on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is hoped that you never have to use this team but from time to time things happen and they are required to respond to the needs of a crisis or situation in country. Even though you probably won’t have any problems on your trip, it’s reassuring to know that there is a team of people on hand to assist you, should you need them.
Simply choosing to travel to a country to see what comes up can be great fun, but you could - and probably will - spend a considerable amount of time wandering around looking for a suitable volunteer position when your time could be better spent working on a project that you have researched and are prepared for. This can also prove to be a significant waste of money, especially if you are unsuccessful in finding a suitable project or the project you do find does not suitably match your needs, making the experience unproductive for both you and the project. By travelling with a volunteer organisation you guarantee the project, location, accommodation, meals and support ensuring you can get under the skin of the community and start making a difference with your new friends (both fellow volunteers and the local project team).
When you volunteer with i-to-i we provide you with detailed information about the country you’ll visit as well as details of the project you’ll be working on. You can speak with our expert travel advisors at any point throughout your experience to answer any questions or concerns you may have. As well as general pre-departure information your i-to-i in-country team, provide a local orientation, giving you the opportunity to learn about the local area, its community and get answers to any questions you might have about getting the most out of your experience.
Travelling safe in the knowledge that you will be met at the airport and transferred to your accommodation before joining a project that is eagerly anticipating your arrival is reassuring a nice place to be. Having spent the last few months preparing for exactly what you can bring to your project and liaising with both the in-country team and fellow volunteers you can further enhance your experience. Simply jumping on a plane in the hope that you will be able to sort something out when you arrive can often be fraught with complications. It can be done, and it would be wrong of us to convince you otherwise but it isn’t for everyone. Please consider the true worth of your travel experience and the value of both your time in-country and your participation on your project.
One of the most common questions we get asked is whether volunteering is a worthwhile practise. We say 'yes' everytime!
Whether you volunteer for one week or three months, when you book on to one of our projects you'll become a part of i-to-i's global network of support. By working together, contributing a little piece at a time, we can really make a difference.
Experts in providing overseas volunteering projects
As a leading international volunteer organisation with over 15 years experience in sending volunteers abroad to work on vital overseas community, teaching and environmental development projects, we are experienced volunteer travel project providers and have grown by forging strong partnerships overseas and learning from our mistakes.
The key reason these projects have asked us for volunteers is because they want the physical help you can provide. As long as you go with an open mind and willingness to get-stuck-in, your efforts will be greatly appreciated. Without the assistance from our volunteers many of these projects would not have the manpower to make some of their aims happen and it would certainly take them a lot longer!
Your help is appreciated and really does help!
Because we do not provide a financial contribution to the project you are working with the only reason they want you is for the help you can provide. As long as you go with an open mind and willingness to get-stuck-in, your efforts will be greatly appreciated. Why else would the project partner with us if not to receive committed volunteers willing to lend a helping hand and make a difference … however small!
When you volunteer through i-to-i, you can be reassured that you'll be making a difference in a safe, sustainable project. By volunteering solo, you're always at the risk of helping out on projects which are detrimental to the development of the community, or are managed in an unsustainable manner. We invest our time and money to ensure that the projects are running as they should be, and the rest of your placement fee goes towards the below factors.
New Equipment, product and building work for our projects
To ensure that our projects remain sustainable, we have to make sure that our programs are reliant solely on their own income and therefore we do not provide them with any financial aid.
Your fee goes a long way in helping us provide a sustainable future for our projects. We donate new equipment to all of our Big Giving projects- in particular books, chairs, and tables for schools for example, more space in the form of extensions for childcare and orphanages, and new homes for underprivileged communities.
Our projects are run by local people, and our i-to-i in country coordinators support all of our volunteers, whether it be with their volunteer placement, accommodation or advice on the local area. We think sourcing our staff locally is incredibly important; it helps us to keep our projects sustainable and to help keep the financial benefit to the local area. They also have an incredibly good knowledge of the program, its location and how you can make the most of your time there which is pivotal to us.
Whether you’re looking to change your start date, want help applying for a visa or simply want to ask for some advice, our team in the UK and Australia are here to help. We all have a passion for volunteering and have travelled extensively, so we’ll be able to provide you with all of the support you need before, during and after your volunteering journey. This includes our 24/7 emergency helpline too, so rest assured you’re in safe hands.
To ensure our projects are all sustainable and an effective source to the community, all of our projects have been checked to make sure that they’re the sort of volunteering scheme that i-to-i want to support. When you book with a company, you’ll have that added security of knowing where the project is and what you’ll be doing there- whereas if you travel independently you could run the risk of supporting an unsustainable project which is either unsafe, unreliable or unethical.
When you volunteer on one of our projects, you'll either be contributing towards the local community, wildlife conservation, development or the environment, and wherever you choose to invest your time will greatly benefit from your efforts. Not only will the projects appreciate the work you're putting into their programme, but you'll see a real difference in yourself too.
Benefits for the volunteer:
Whether you're looking to build on your educational portfolio through a voluntary project or want to climb the career ladder with voluntary work experience abroad, you'll gain skills for life through a volunteer travel experience. Educational institutions and employers look favorably on individuals who demonstrate the commitment and dedication by volunteering abroad rather than a standard backpacking adventure overseas. It speaks volumes about your character if you are prepared to be selfless and make a difference during your travel venture.
Time off after your studies
Our volunteer trips are a great starting point for taking time out, either before or after University, giving you a taste of independent travel in a safe and organised environment. The skills gained on your travel experience can give you much needed confidence for when you continue onto University or into the world of work.
A quote from Anthony McClaran, Chief Executive, UCAS
"We at UCAS believe that by adding the experience of working and travelling overseas to their qualifications, students actively improve their chances of completing their course. Quite simply, experience compliments education".
Time away from work
With the pressures of modern living taking their toll, your annual holiday is one of the most important things to fit into your busy life-style. If you want to earn while you travel, help out at vital projects in the developing world or you just want to see a little more of the world, then travelling with i-to-i could be the perfect solution. An ever increasing number of people are taking time out of the rat race to travel overseas: some people do it between jobs, others as part of a career plan, while others may take the opportunity to treat themselves after years of hard work!
Gaining vital work experience doesn’t have to mean working for free in the office of some faceless multinational corporation. There is another way… we have a range of excellent work experience opportunities across Africa, Asia and Latin America. From working with a film production company in southern India, helping out at a hospital in Ecuador or coaching football in Kenya, we have a range of trips that allow you to have some fun while you improve your CV. Read more about the possible career benefits from an i-to-i volunteer who was at the heart of a journalism project in Sri Lanka at the time of the after effects of the Tsunami in 2005. Read here
Previous travellers often tell us what an incredible insight they've experienced into another culture and many forge lifelong friendships with fellow volunteers from around the world and the locals they live and work with during their placement. Travelling with i-to-i allows you to really get under the skin of a community and integrate yourself into their culture. You are not passing through as a tourist, you are becoming part of their community, working with them to achieve their goals and improve the overall quality of life.
Benefits for the project:
Volunteer projects clearly benefit from the contribution and enthusiasm of our volunteers. The projects we partner with must be sustainable and as local initiatives, they do not entirely depend on the support of volunteers to continue running so in contrast they do not suffer if they have a decrease in volunteers. As a volunteer you will help greatly in achieving the projects goals and their mission to continue to develop the local community. The long-term impact of our projects ensures that your help will make a lasting difference (no matter how long you stay) and won't just be a drop in the ocean, as the project will continue to run after you have left with the continuous stream of committed volunteers.
Experience of the western culture
Local communities abroad tell us in no uncertain terms that they benefit enormously from the support of our volunteer travellers, as well as the social interaction between the volunteers and local people. This helps to break down preconceived perceptions of western travellers and forms a deep-rooted and meaningful unison between different cultures.
Can volunteering make a lasting difference? Yes, if it's done sustainably! Get involved with an i-to-i project and you can be assured that your efforts will not be short-lived.
What makes i-to-i different is that we don't run overseas projects. Instead we work in partnership with projects that have already been established in communities and supply them with what they need the most - helping hands.
Rather than setting up our own, we partner worthwhile projects that have been set up in the local communities which work for the good of those communities. This means that when you volunteer through us, your contribution makes a difference to a problem identified by the communities themselves. We also work only with local partners in those countries who know their home inside out, they understand the culture and needs of that destination so we truly benefit the projects in the right way.
You may only be one person but when you volunteer with i-to-i you become part of a larger network of support. Making an isolated contribution to a voluntary project abroad can often leave you unsure as to the difference you’ve made, especially if no-one comes to continue your work once you’ve left. Because i-to-i supplies a steady flow of volunteers to projects you’ll be able to hand the baton over to another willing volunteer. So even if you’re only away for a few weeks you’ll know that your contribution is part of a valuable global effort.
There are a many worthwhile and sustainable volunteer projects around the world that are keen to receive the assistance from committed volunteers. We know this because we have partnered with over them and are continuously contacted by others requesting our assistance in helping them receiving volunteers. However there can be problems with volunteering with an independent project too...
Sourcing a volunteer project direct, although achievable, can be problematic. Unless you know the project first hand or are completely aware of how they work/operate, you may find yourself travelling to a site which either doesn't existed, or isn't safely/sustainably managed. By travelling with a company like i-to-i, you'll be supported by our Customer Operations team at home, aswell as the in-country team when you're away, as well as having access to our 24/7 emergency helpline.
This is something which is often not considered by volunteers arranging their own project. You can arrange to volunteer on a project yourself, but you won't be able to guarantee that it will be sustainable and therefore, worthwhile.
Why volunteer with i-to-i?
We work with long term projects which directly contribute to the development of communities abroad, so you can rest assured that you are really working towards a worthwhile cause. Unlike some other volunteer projects you may stumble across, the projects we work with genuinely in need of our volunteer's support because they have been set up by locals or NGOs, employ local staff, and have approached us for the help of volunteers.
By working with local projects, we've been making a difference around the world for nearly twenty years. Get involved today!
Money is rarely the answer to complicated development issues; if it was, the poverty problems in the world would be getting better! Short-term aid relief can cause aid-reliance and financial instability and the corruption seen in many developing countries means the guarantee of your money going to the heart of the cause is massively reduced. From our experience (and by learning from our mistakes) projects benefit far greater more from a sustainable framework to ensure they develop rather than short-term financial aid relief.
If money is given given directly to projects it’s essential to think about the long term implications of those funds – that’s why we choose to work through our Big Giving programme only. If that country or project becomes unpopular, or through restrictions in the opportunity to travel to that country, the money dries up and they are no longer able to continue with their work. Supplying projects with enthusiastic volunteers creates a constant supply of helpful hands and as they are not reliant on an income can continue without the assistance of the volunteer travellers, although significantly slower in achieving their goals.
We don’t believe in the subordination of the developing world. The answers to questions of development should come from developing countries themselves, rather than from the pockets of the Western world. i-to-i believes it’s vital to send through only tangible items that help the existing work of our projects rather than anything that could cause a project to fail if that funding disappears.
Whatever sort of travel adventure you’re after, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips to help make the decision and hopefully making process stress-free! The most painful part will be choosing which country to travel to from that vast offering of amazing travel destinations! With projects in around 30 countries there’s no excuse for not finding your dream location
Choosing the type of project you work is often a very personal choice. Most i-to-i travellers know if they want to work with children, animals or neither. By understanding what is required within each project type you have a better understanding of how best you can contribute. Align this with your own objectives to ensure you get out of this exactly what you want and you are almost there.
Don’t just take our word for it… sign up to the Campfire (www.i-to-i.com/campfire) and communicate with volunteer travellers who have already confirmed their project and get their advice or speak with other people (just like you) who are considering their first foray into the world of meaningful travel.
If you still have questions give our friendly team a call. We love to talk!