Cross Cultural Solutions Volunteering Abroad

In your opinion do gap year activities help students in their career later on?

Absolutely, the gap year provides an opportunity for the participant to explore another culture and gain additional perspectives on their own culture. It's an opportunity to see how policies impact other countries and to understand their inter-connectedness. Additionally, seeking out an international experience illustrates a lot of initiative; the ability to adapt to another culture and language illustrates flexibility on behalf of the student. Employers value prospective employees who have gained international perspectives; quite often this translates into a much higher degree of cultural competency.

Your organisation focuses on Development, what are the main skills that volunteers learn that can be used in their career later on?

Volunteers gain a clear understanding of the global issues that are faced by local communities. Volunteers also learn about ways that local communities handle issues related to health or education, and learn about how they may contribute to these development goals.

Is it possible to have a full life time careers with NGOs ?

Yes. NGOs have placements that are full-time, part-time, permanent, or temporary. NGOs may be based in the countries of operation and headquartered in another country, providing jobs both domestically and internationally.

What do you say to people who have been working in the private industry for more than 15 years and are thinking of joining an NGO to do some good?

It's important to gain some domestic work or volunteer experience in the non-profit/NGO sector. This could be through a local volunteer program, church, or community organization.

What should first time volunteers expect? Concerning risks to health and safety, in what ways should they prepare prior to leaving?

All Cross-Cultural Solutions volunteers will be supported throughout the pre-departure process by experienced Program Managers who have been through the program. Your Program Manager will give you all of the tools and information that you need whether you are a first time volunteer or international traveler, or if your passport is already well worn. In regards to health, we do recommend that volunteers see a doctor prior to travel, so that they may discuss their plans with an expert and make educated health decisions well in advance.

What areas are in most dire need of help right now? Is there a special need for educated volunteers such as nurses in certain areas of the world?

Cross-Cultural Solutions believes that local people are the experts on the needs of their communities, so we always defer to local objectives when assigning our volunteers to individual placements. We have programs in Brazil,China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa,Tanzania and Thailand. The most common request in these countries is for volunteer assistance in the areas of health, education and social services. We believe that everyone has skills to offer, so regardless of a volunteer's level of experience or formal training, we will find an appropriate need in the local community where you can be of meaningful service to local people.

What makes Cross-Cultural Solutions different from other volunteer organizations?

Cross-Cultural Solutions is widely known as the leading organization in the field of international volunteering.The safety and support of our volunteers is our number one priority, and we go to great lengths to ensure that our volunteers have everything that they need to have a productive and enjoyable experience. We work in partnership with sustainable, community-led initiatives in each of our program sites. By providing a steady flow of volunteer assistance year-round, and deferring to the objectives of the communities themselves, we are able to focus on the sustainability of our programs. In addition to coordinating the volunteer placements, we also provide Cultural & Learning Activities to put the work that you are doing into a cultural context, making you a more effective volunteer. Our Home-Base structure is unique, and is designed to provide the type of safe and comfortable living environment that our volunteers need worldwide. Also, our dedicated in-country staff will support you through every step of your experience, to make sure that you have the experience of a lifetime.

What considerations are important when a student is choosing to study abroad? What should they do to make an informed decision about the country or place they are choosing to volunteer in?

When choosing a country or region of the world, it's important to ask questions about cultural differences and what you can expect, so that you can make an educated decision regarding your comfort level. First time travelers might be more comfortable in one region over another. Safety and security is always important, but what's more important than the country is the organization with which the student chooses to travel. You should be sure to ask questions about housing, meals, safe drinking water, travel medical insurance, cultural education and staff support, before you commit to any one program.

Are there certain risks involved with volunteering that a potential volunteer needs to be aware of? I am sure you disclose these things, but I am curious as to what risks are involved.

Volunteering abroad doesn't have any unique risks that would not be standard for any type of international travel. However, we work hard to ensure that we minimize every risk for our participants. Cross-Cultural Solutions provides 24-hour in-country support staff and security, safe ground transportation, healthy meals and drinking water, comprehensive travel medical insurance, pre-departure materials, and a detailed orientation upon arrival.

Why is it more difficult for volunteers to be acquired in some areas of the world than others?

I have hypothesized that this might have to do with visas or local governments, but some insight would be helpful.

If you are interested in making a meaningful contribution to a community abroad, it is usually easier and safer to go with an established organization rather than trying to arrange your own independent experience. Setting up a legitimate, sustainable program requires a lot of work with local government and non-governmental organizations, and there are instances when laws and regulations prohibit or limit the types of partnerships that volunteers are looking for. In other cases, an organization may not choose a particular country due to health or safety issues which may not be overcome by even the best infrastructure. It is also important to recognize that not every community may have the resources to welcome short-term international volunteers. Cross-Cultural Solutions only works in communities which warmly welcome our presence, which is just one example of our values of Shared Humanity, Respect and Integrity at work in the choices that we make.

Skills from the private industry may directly transfer to NGOs, yet the prospective employee must understand and possess the ability to explain it. For example, does experience working in a bank equate to fundraising for an NGO?

Many skills from the private industry transfer to the nonprofit sector. At the same time, the skills and successes of a prospective employee are more relevant than the industry from which one is making the transition. In general, experience in management, technology, project management, strategic planning, and sales/marketing can transfer very well. By working in a bank, your skills would not automatically equate to fundraising. Fundraising requires skills in development and relationship management. However, in the role of a bank teller, one gains customer service skills and knowledge of financial transactions. This experience could transfer well for a customer representative position in a nonprofit organization. It is important to be able to explain your skills and successes in the private industry and how they may be applied to the role in the nonprofit sector, or specifically to the goals of the organization. A clear understanding of a particular nonprofit organization's activities and functions is also necessary. In short, many skills are transferable and they must be pertinent to the role for which you are applying.