Frequently Asked Questions: Onsite Volunteering/Internship/Research
Can one person really make a difference?
Yes. You will have a direct positive impact on the community you are working with. Volunteers donate many hours of valuable work. Also, the cultural exchange that results from a placement enables the sharing of unique ideas and ways of life. By giving their time, energy, and talents, participants make major contributions to the communities in which they work.
Am I eligible to apply?
Anybody who is over the age of seventeen and is physically able to go overseas may apply. That being said, SODEIT is looking for mature volunteers who possess ambition, sound judgment, compassion, and an interest in international development or human rights.
What if I have dietary or health concerns that may restrict my ability to participate?
It is essential that participants are in good health. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you have specific dietary restrictions or conditions, you may contact us to see if these would limit your participation in an exchange. Normally we can accommodate vegetarian and other types of diets.
How does the application process work?
The application process is not competitive, nor is it based on quotas. We are looking for committed, motivated individuals who are driven by a desire to gain a deeper understanding of, and contribute to, overseas development. A positive attitude, adaptability, and a willingness to learn are essential for volunteering abroad.
When can I go abroad?
We send volunteers abroad year round. Generally, we prefer to have six weeks at the very least between when you first contact our office and your departure date. That being said, we are skilled at making things happen. In some circumstances we have prepared volunteers in as little as three weeks.
Aside from program fees, are there other costs I need to consider?
Yes. Your program fee does not cover airfare, insurance, required medication and vaccinations, visas, and local transportation. Generally, these costs are quite predictable and easy to plan for ahead of time. The amount of pocket money spent on shopping, potential travel opportunities that arise, and social activities vary from person to person. Consider these costs when planning your budget.
What do I need to get prepared?
Once you have decided to volunteer abroad, we will send you a pre-departure package to guide you through the preparation process. You will need to obtain travel documents including a passport and visa, and required vaccinations and medications. We also advise you to do your own personal research on the country where you will be volunteering. For those taking language lessons, we recommend investing in a dictionary and verb conjugation resource. We will do our best to make sure you are prepared and confident to volunteer abroad. It is also up to you to play an active role in getting ready to go abroad.
What should I bring with me?
Whatever the length of time you plan to spend overseas less is more. In fact, those who don’t follow this rule often decide that they want less whilst living abroad and leave belongings behind. A detailed list will be provided in your pre-departure package. Generally speaking you will want clothes that are modest and comfortable in the heat. For women this means skirts below the knee, shirts that fully cover the midriff, and no spaghetti straps. Do not bring jewelry, expensive clothing, or unnecessary electronics. If specific clothing items are appropriate for the volunteer activity you will engage in, we will help you to plan accordingly.
What is provided while I am overseas?
The SODEIT will provide transportation to and from the airport, trip planning guidance and pre-departure orientation, accommodation, and a placement with a local organization. Our programs have an in-country Coordinator. Food vary slightly depending on location. It is clearly stated what is and isn’t included on all of our program listings.
What does a Country Coordinator do?
The Country Coordinator arranges aspects of your exchange before you arrive, and acts as a guide as you settle into life overseas. Before you arrive, the Country Coordinator arranges everything including language courses, Guest apartments, homestays, research plans, and volunteer, gap year students plans, Adventure activities, tours and internship placements. Upon arrival, your Country Coordinator will pick you up from the airport and bring you to your host family. In your first week he or she will set you up in language class and introduce you to the organization you will be working with. The Country Coordinator will guide you through many aspects of local life from how to use public transportation and make a phone call, to how to eat according to local customs. The Country Coordinator will help you to become self sufficient while abroad, and is available 24/7 to help managing all aspects of your time abroad.
Where will I be living?
Accommodations vary by location, and the type of accommodation is clearly stated on each of our volunteer listings. You will always have electricity and running water. We have homestays or shared volunteer apartments and guesthouses. You may have a room to yourself or share with another volunteer.
What will my volunteering schedule be?
Schedules vary and are determined with your supervisor upon arrival in-country. Schedules are dependent in part on the type of volunteering you are doing and whether or not you are taking language classes. Please refer to the section on Typical Volunteer Hours on our volunteer listings.
Is it safe?
This is one of the most common concerns of potential volunteers. The answer is that it is up to us and it is up to you.
Your safety and security is our priority. By volunteering abroad in a developing country, you are choosing to spend time in a nation with widespread poverty. Therefore, it is important to be well-informed about how to stay safe, as well as volunteer with an organization like SODEIT that understands the importance of safety for participants.
We only operate where we can be assured of a reasonable level of safety for volunteers. For comprehensive information, please view our page dedicated to safety while volunteering abroad.
Will there be an opportunity to travel in the country of my volunteer placement and the surrounding region?
There will likely be time to travel to nearby areas. After your volunteer placement has finished, you can travel as you wish. If you decide to do so, your country coordinator can help by providing travel information and, if necessary, help you to obtain onward visas. If you want to take a long weekend while volunteering that is ok, just let your supervisor know ahead of time. This is a common courtesy.
Will a placement with SODEIT help me to find future employment?
A placement with SODEIT is an asset on your resume and life. Many people volunteer abroad to gain valuable work experience or learn a second language, helping them to reach future career and education related goals. The overseas experience compliments your work and education, and often demonstrates adaptability, initiative, and compassion. You will rise to the challenge of living in a foreign country. In doing so, you will gain:
A demonstrated ability to be flexible and work effectively in a cross-cultural environment.
Credibility for your international portfolio
Confidence and comfort managing international situations
An advantage when exploring employment on an international level
Depending on your placement, skills you will gain include:
Project planning & coordination
Project monitoring & data collection
Needs assessments,survey and research
Understanding of issues such as HIV/AIDS, human rights, gender, conflict resolution, community development, and the environment
Peer and adult education
A second language
As our objectives states, we aim to foster leadership in international cooperation and development. As such, we will work with you to stay involved in international development once you have returned from your exchange. We are happy to act as a reference when you are applying for work or further education. If you need a reference letter, you must request this prior to your departure. You may also be able to earn course credit for you pursuing a program with us.
How can I learn a language and volunteer at the same time?
Whether taking Standard or Intensive language, on the days you have lessons you will volunteer for half the day and learn a language during the other half. Whether you will be volunteering or learning a language in the morning or afternoon will be decided once in-country.
Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? View FAQs for individual country pages or contact us.
BOARD AND LODGE
What part of the city will I be living in?
You will be living in a University community town called Buea. It is a growing cosmopolitan town with over 40 000 higher education students. Thus, it provides an excellent opportunity to integrate into the local way of life. The town is also the political city for the South West Region hosting the Governor of the Region, many regional delegations of Cameroon Government Ministries and home to many of our partners serving south west region’s poorest people. Thus, it is ideally situated close to where you will volunteer.
How are host families chosen?
We work with host families who we know and trust. These are contacts that have been built over time with whom we have an established relationship. Families are committed to providing a welcoming home, integrating you into the local way of life, and looking out for your safety.
Can you tell me more about hose families and accommodation?
Families are middle class. Many are early career professionals and have young children. You will have a room to yourself or shared with one other person. If shared, you will have your own bed. Internet cafes and markets are within walking distance.
How far is it from my house to where I will volunteer?
Depending on who you live with and where you volunteer, you can expect to have a five to fifteen minute walk, or up to fifteen minutes in local transport.
How will I manage if I don’t speak French?
You will learn. In a very short amount of time you will learn the basics for getting around the city, buying your own food and taking your transport. Your Exchange Manager will assist you with this, and you will find you will build your confidence in speaking French in a short amount of time.
How will I get around the city?
Shared taxis and moto-taxis are everywhere. We recommend taking shared taxis as they are safer. Moto-taxis are small motorbikes which take passengers around the city quickly.
What is the local food like?
The corn, rice, yams, potatoes, bananas and plantains are the local staples. There are also many fresh vegetables like carrots, avocados, onions, hot peppers, tomatoes, and okra, as well as a variety of edible leaves that locals use to make sauces. Soups with fish or meat are common. Baguettes are common.
I have only one month and basic French. I would like to do volunteer activities that use my university education rather than basic activities like caring for children. Is this possible?
It will be unrealistic to meet this request. It is not that we are not willing to accommodate. Rather, if you have one month do volunteer activities which require administration, reading, writing, and speaking in French, you will get frustrated. Think, for example, if a foreigner was to come into your workplace for one month and did not speak English. No matter how skilled this person is, he or she will not be able to share these skills in a language that you and your co-workers understand.
If you are starting with basic French and have only one month, we would recommend volunteering with children, as an intermediate level of French (or having the time to learn more French) is not needed. Yet, you will have the opportunity to improve your French in this setting. Alternatively, if the work experience is a greater priority for you than learning French, we would recommend volunteering in a region where English is the working language.