Original Volunteers are the trusted experts in arranging volunteering experiences abroad. More than three thousand volunteers take part in our projects every year, in more than twenty countries across the globe. Arranging great volunteering experience is our speciality. In fact it’s all we do, and that’s why so many volunteers trust us to provide the very best service and care.

With Original Volunteers you know that you have real experts working for you to make volunteering easy, enjoyable and affordable.

1. Why are you so cheap compared to other organisations?

Unlike some providers, we are not part of a great big holiday company so we do not need to charge hundreds of pounds on top of the weekly stay to satisfy the corporate directors. In fact in a few destinations, we send volunteers to exactly the same projects as the other more expensive organisations you may have been looking at. Beware of organisations who may include meals and local transport. In a developing country meals and transport may be as little as £5 a day but you may be paying considerably more than this with another agency which can help justify their higher price tag because they are ‘included’. We know we would rather choose our cafe each day, pick what we like off the menu for less money than be catered for. Not least it makes your experience abroad more interesting! We also encourage all our volunteers to source their own flights through the flight search engine skyscanner.net or similar sites. This isn’t to make life more difficult, but because you will save money if you get it yourself. Many organisations offer to arrange the flight for you, seducing their volunteers with discounts off what was a very expensive flight to start with and which still is expensive after the organisation has taken their commission. If you have never bought a flight before and are not sure what to do, call us and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction and what to look out for when getting flights.

2. I am worried about travelling on my own

You are not alone. 80% of our volunteers travel alone to projects which means almost everyone is in the same position and will be keen to make new friends. Get in touch with us at anytime and we can put you in touch with others travelling to your project around the same time. And if you book early enough you may even be able to arrange the same flight with another volunteer.

3. Will I be on my own?

Because we work with a carefully selected list of projects this ensures most projects are busy with volunteers throughout the year. On most projects the average number of volunteers will be between 5 and 10 although in the holiday periods this can rise
to 30. Ask us for advice at anytime if you are looking for a quieter or busier project.

4. What is the support structure on arrival?

At almost all projects volunteers are met on arrival at the airport and escorted straight to the volunteer accommodation where there is an English speaking volunteer coordinator who is reachable for placement and health advice during your stay. With no set start dates there are always volunteers who have arrived before you who in addition to the local coordinators will provide additional informal support and show you around.

5. Is it safe?

Volunteering based in one location with coordinators, local people and fellow volunteers for company and support means you will always be in a more comfortable position than backpacking in the same area on your own.
Most placements are hassle-free, the most frequently reported incidents to us from the in-country coordinators are the self-inflicted health ones! Sunburn after sunbathing, not drinking enough water, the usual alcohol-related or the unavoidable delhi-belly, sadly there is not a lot we can do about these.

6. Do I have to pay £125 for each project? Do I have to volunteer for 12 months?

Only one registration fee is payable whether you apply for 1 or 3 or more projects. This unique registration fee system covers a 12 month period of volunteering but you do not need to volunteer for 12 months. The average person, if there is one, will usually focus on one single volunteer project for 2 to 4 weeks in the first instance and then a few months later after returning home will contact us again to start arranging a second project. The 12 months start when you arrive at your first project, not the day you register. This means for your first project you don’t lose any of your 12 months if you register early because you need extra time to save and prepare for your trip.

7. What about visas and jabs?

After booking we will advise you on visas and how to apply for them for your destination. British passport holders do not require visas for Latin America or South Africa. Visas for Nepal, Thailand (for short stays) and Uganda can be obtained at the airport on arrival. For Ghana, Kenya and India, visas are required in advance and we will send you details once registered. If you are not a British Passport holder please consult the nearest embassy for your destination for a tourist visa. For jabs please consult your nurse or nearest independent travel clinic and volunteers should usually allow at least 2-4 weeks depending on what is required for your destination.

8. Are there any requirements?

For most projects there are no requirements. Just the willing, energy and for children-based work, some ideas!

9. I am only 17 can I register?

Most projects require their volunteers to be 18 on the day of arrival, not the day you apply. A selected list of projects accept a limited number of under 17 year olds a year. If you will still be 17 on arrival call us now and ask about availability for under 18s on your chosen. If you will be 18 when you arrive at your chosen project, apply in the usual way.

10. I want to volunteer as part of my course

Most projects require their volunteers to be 18 on the day of arrival, not the day you apply. A selected list of projects accept a limited number of under 17 year olds a year. If you will still be 17 on arrival call us now and ask about availability for under 18s on your chosen. If you will be 18 when you arrive at your chosen project, apply in the usual way.
No problem. We will be happy to complete any documentation before or after your trip and advise you on getting the required references from the in-country coordinators. Call us to ask about how to link volunteering to a course of study and how to get your University forms to us.

11. I have a medical background, would I be able to volunteer in a hospital or clinic on my project?

Call us now to find out what options are available on each project. At most projects health related work can be combined with other options whilst based at the same volunteer accommodation.

12. The project says ‘full’ on the website – can I still apply?

Call us now on 01603 280702 to check the latest availability on projects.

13. What are the average ages of volunteers?

The majority of our volunteers are aged between 18-25, we welcome people of all ages and often have a good mixture of age groups on projects. The months of October/November and February/March and May are ideal if you are looking for a broader age group.

14. I am looking for a busier project with lots of volunteers

For projects at busier times, we recommend travelling in the peak holiday periods; Christmas/New Year, Easter and mid June to mid September. Morocco is a good choice for a very busy Christmas or Easter!

15. I am looking for a quieter project

If you want to travel when it is quieter call us now and speak to one of our project advisors, let them know where you want to go and they will advise you on the best time. It is still important to book early, even for a quiet time of year as there may be less volunteer accommodation available than in the summer.

16. After I have registered, when do I pay for my project?

Information is provided on how and when to pay. For projects payable before arrival, payments are usually required no later than 2 to 3 weeks before arrival.

17. Can I travel from one project to another?

Yes. We can accommodate flexible travelling itineraries and won’t charge you thousands for a multi-trip route like some organisations. We also know quite a lot about how to keep the costs down and how to do things independently whilst you are on your travels even if we are not selling you the tour. For example, did you know that the inca trail trek in Peru is typically now £130 including porters, tents, equipment and hot meals prepared for you along the way and can be booked on arrival? Typical costs if pre-booked with agencies are £250 – £1000 for the same experience! Whilst travelling between projects, you can keep us updated with your movements easily by email as you travel. Cambodia is the latest hot destination and combines easily with independent travel in Vietnam and Laos which are only a few hours away. South America is ideal for multi-projects and affordable travel. A popular Latin American route would include all or part of the following in either direction: Mexico – Peru – Argentina. For those doing a round-the-world trip, all or a part of the following is popular: Kenya – India – Thailand – Cambodia – Mexico. A popular African multi trip route would be part or all of the following in either direction: Uganda – Kenya – Tanzania – Malawi – South Africa.

18. How many volunteers will be on the project at the same time as me?

Call us now to find out how many volunteers you will be joining on the project. There is no average or typical number at any time as numbers fluctuate during the year.

19. How can I get more information?

Call us and ask to speak to a projects advisor, they know lots of other little bits and pieces that we cannot squeeze into the website and because we only look after volunteers booking through us we like to think we know everything you need to know about your chosen project. Call us now on 01603 280702

20. Do I need to attend an interview?

To be fully accessible, Original Volunteers does not require volunteers to attend interviews. We found many years ago that interviews were not good indicators of success in a developing country. The shyest most inexperienced interview candidates often came out of their shell once they got to their project and in many cases were the longest staying volunteers!

21. What happens after I book on?

Once you are booked on we will send you further information for all of the projects that you are interested in and add your name to that project’s arrival list for the month you have chosen. This information varies between projects but usually contains the ‘nitty gritty’ from what to pack to visa information and what you need to do next to prepare for your trip. It will also tell you if you can also go ahead and book your flights. We want you to have the best trip possible so if you have any questions or worries before you go, one of our advisors in our volunteer support team will always be happy to help, just press option 2 when you call in.

22. Can you put me in touch with other volunteers before I go?

Yes. You can get in touch with other volunteers via the Travel Buddy List (see Extras tab, top right tab). The Buddy List becomes fully accessible once booked on and works like our own social networking site for volunteers. A lot of people find travel companions using it and if booking early enough can get the same flight.

23. Can I apply if I am not a British citizen or do not live in the UK?

Yes, you can still book with us even if you are not a British citizen or you do not ordinarily live in the UK. We currently have volunteers from all over the world taking part in our projects; from Spain, Singapore, China, America and New Zealand.

24. Can I apply if I am currently travelling or at University and do not have a fixed address?

Yes, you can still book with us if you are not at your home address. A valid email account is all you will need to set you on your way.

25. Can I apply if I am not your usual younger student?

Yes! We have volunteers of all ages and background on our projects from civil servants and engineers to fitness instructors, gardeners and grandmothers who have more time on their hands. Our maturer volunteers tend to more camera shy when coordinators are taking photos which is why you won’t see so many photos! If you would like a smaller group of more mixed ages then we we would recommend visiting projects between September and May.

26. What projects do you recommend for a first time volunteer?

We would recommend calling us for an informal chat about your interests and the type of project you are looking for. This is because they are all so different and hard to describe on just a few pages on a website. For example, you may want a get-away-from-it-all back to basics experience. Perhaps you would rather volunteer in a large group in an easier environment with other volunteers just like you to dip your toe in the water for a more challenging experience at a later date. Maybe it is more important to you to genuinely make a difference to children and animals in desperate need and you want to come home saying,”I achieved X,Y and Z, made a difference and left my mark”. Call us now 01603 280702 and we will be happy to go through the options and advise to help you find the right project for your first adventure! Or Let us help you get the right advice what type of experience you are looking for and we’ll be in touch.

27. Does the year’s membership start from when you book or when you arrive?

Unlike other organisations, our registration fee covers you for as many projects as you would like to do in your year. The year also starts when you arrive at your first project, not when you register with us. For example, if you register with us on January 1st 2016 and arrive at your first project on July 15th 2016, you have a year with us to arrive on any project until 15th July 2017!