Global Crossroads Volunteering

1. Does volunteering in Africa rather than in other continents enable one to learn new particular skills?

Yes, though there are many developing countries in the world, Africa offers the most insights into real issues faced by developing countries in regards to poverty, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation as well as other issues affecting the global community in its entirety. As a result, volunteering in Africa helps individuals better understand these real challenges while simultaneously gaining experience and skills which cannot always be discovered in the more developed countries in Asia or Europe.

2. Do any of your volunteers go on to a full time career with the UN or other corporations operating in Africa?

Yes, each year, Global Crossroad receives hundreds of volunteers/interns wanting to go to Africa. The majority of volunteers and interns traveling to Africa (as well as our other destinations) are students studying international development, sociology, anthropology and other issues related to cross-cultural learning. Our volunteers join these programs to not only experience issues facing these developing nations, but to also ready themselves for a future in international relations/development. With the experience gained working as an international volunteer or intern in this most impoverished region of the world, these globally-aware individuals begin their careers as full time employees working with a number of international agencies.

3. What are the main working experiences people are exposed to during their time in Africa ?

This depends on the particular projects chosen by the volunteer or intern. The majority of projects in Africa consist of assisting already-established and in-need projects such as orphanages (usually housing children who have been orphaned due to poverty or parents dying from AIDS), resource-poor schools, environmental/wildlife/conservation programs, local NGOs, and other grassroots organizations. As a result, these international volunteers and interns gain invaluable, authentic, hands-on experience in areas such as children’s rights/issues, teaching (ESL), international development, cross cultural learning while achieving an overall understanding of life in another corner of the world.

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

Working within the private sector and working for an NGO are two very different opportunities/experiences. While neither falls within the jurisdiction of the countries’ respective government (in that they are created by private individuals or organizations with no governmental participation or representation), NGOs – which are either fully or partially funded by the government – address a need and attempt to create a solution to a problem whereas most privatized businesses in developed countries offer a service in hopes of a profit. Volunteering in an NGO gives back to the people and is the perfect option for those looking to travel abroad and experience another culture while simultaneously lending a helping hand to impoverished communities and destitute children – providing some of the most satisfying opportunities in Africa. In summation, working for an NGO as opposed to working in the private sector is altruistic rather than capitalistic.

5. Tell me what the typical experience is like for a volunteer on their way to Africa from start to arrival. What paperwork, visas, and medical care is necessary prior to beginning the volunteer experience?

Prior to arriving in Africa, the prospective volunteer first chooses their destination where they would like to volunteer followed deciding on the particular project they would like to contribute to. Volunteers choose to work in orphanages, rural schools (where they teach English as well as various other subjects), HIV/AIDS campaigns, and/or conservation/wildlife projects . After selecting their project and having any project-related questions answered by our coordinators, volunteers then submit their application to our offices.

The completed application is then immediately forwarded to our In-Country Coordinators who then carefully read over the application and select the project which best matches the individual’s interests, education and skills. Additionally, our In-Country Coordinators then finalize details for each volunteer, such as living accommodations, meals and supervisors. Once placement details are completed, they are then sent to our US offices for final approval before being sent over to the volunteer along with a letter of acceptance.

At this point, we recommend that volunteers begin receiving the required vaccinations, doing some additional research on the location/culture and contacting our offices for any additional questions they may have. Volunteers who do not have a passport are urgently recommended to acquire one before applying or at least ensure that they will be in possession of one prior to departure. Depending on which country the volunteer is from, some countries allow visitors to receive their visa upon arrival (in the airport). In some cases, volunteers are required to submit their passport to the nearest embassy where their passports are stamped with the appropriate visa.

Before departure, volunteers are required to submit their detailed travel itinerary to our offices to ensure that they are met at the airport by our in-country staff members.

Upon arrival in their chosen country, volunteers are received and transferred to their accommodations. Usually, the following day consists of orientation and introduction to their projects where volunteers receive additional, detailed information about their projects and duties.

6. Do you see a difference in the approach European, American and Asian volunteers take to your volunteering? What can they learn from each other during the volunteering process that can make it more worthwhile?

There are not many differences among American, European and Asian volunteers’ approaches to volunteering, as the majority of these individuals are looking to lend a helping hand to the global community while gaining some hands-on experience and existing within another culture. However, there does exist a personal, philosophical difference in each volunteer’s approach to volunteering abroad. While most volunteers are more than happy to be able to serve humanity, occasionally (albeit rarely), some volunteers do become frustrated when they are unable to comprehend or observe a “see-able” aspect of the difference they are making. From our experiences, over 95% of our volunteers are self-motivated, proactive, humanitarian travelers.

7. What careers (in the business world) in your opinion benefit most from the cross cultural Africa volunteering experience?

Currently, the world of business is becoming more and more diversified – reaching into an ever-increasingly global market. New approaches to globalization such as outsourcing and international expansions are becoming more and more of a normal practice. Volunteering in Africa provides a deeper understanding of aspects such as microeconomics, community development, civil rights, project management, financing and even self-sustainability all very important factors which anyone applying for a high-level position anywhere would benefit from being knowledgeable about. We believe that volunteers exposed to the conditions, culture, work ethics and infrastructure found in any developing country would serve as a special asset to any international organization/company.

8. Is there any African country that is easy to volunteer in than another? Is there any country where you suggest people should start off in their volunteering career?

For volunteers who are passionate about serving the impoverished people of Africa while being immersed in a fascinating culture which is especially warm and receptive to travelers, we suggest Tanzania. In addition to its people, Tanzania has a number of exciting things to offer volunteers in the form of some of the world’s most diversified wildlife, land formations and truly altruistic projects.

9. Are there any of your programs or other volunteering programs you know about that will help students in earning credits towards their university report?

In collaboration with Seattle Community College, we offer college credit for a large number of our international volunteer experiences.

10. If one half of a married couple is thinking of going volunteering for a period of time, would you be able to help his partner find a job in the same location or find a volunteering position? Is this something that is a common occurrence?

We often do receive requests where significant others are looking for a volunteer position in the same location where their spouses are employed. Furthermore, we can often place couples in the same programs together.