Thinking about volunteering overseas but not sure where to start? Volunteering overseas is a huge commitment, so you want to be sure that you’re choosing a sending organisation and placement that works for you. To help you along your journey, we’ve answered ten of the most asked questions about volunteering with Palms Australia.
1. What countries are volunteers placed in?
Palms has placed volunteers in regional Australia and various countries in Africa, Asia, Central America and The Pacific. The countries we place volunteers in vary from year to year, depending on the requests from our partner communities. To find out where we’re currently placing volunteers, visit our Projects page.
2. How long are volunteer placements?
Palms Australia’s volunteer placements last from one to two years, and in some cases can be extended to three years. Most of our host organisations prefer long-term volunteer placements to short-term ones. The main reason for this is that it takes at least six months, if not a year, to build your own personal capacity to live and work effectively in a developing community.
While you’re settling into your role, you’re also spending the first year developing an understanding of the culture, learning a new language, and building a network. Once you’ve started to develop an understanding of your new community, you will have a better idea of how you can best use your skills to fulfill the mentoring component of your volunteer role.
Two-years may seem like a long time, but many of our volunteers find that the first year passes quickly, and it’s often not until the second year that they really make the most impact. Of course, Palms understands that not everyone can commit to two years, and so one year placements are possible where host organisations agree.
3. How much does it cost?
Palms Australia covers all costs of a placement with funds raised from individual donations, CommUNITY Partnerships and grants from affiliated organisations. The only expense we do not cover is the cost of pre-departure medical expenses. While some volunteers choose to cover a specific cost, such as airfares or insurance, this is not a requirement. Additional travel not associated with a placement or flights home prior to completion of a placement (two years) are not covered by Palms.
4. Is there any age restriction on who can volunteer?
Our volunteers provide training and mentoring in their volunteer roles, so they need to have a certain amount of experience and/or qualification in their specific field to be of real value to overseas communities.
Volunteering at any time can be rewarding and fulfilling, but our older volunteers (who are in good health) often find it provides a wonderful opportunity to share their vast experience and knowledge.
5. Can non-Australians volunteer?
We welcome non-Australian citizens currently living in Australia or New Zealand to apply to volunteer with Palms.
All applicants must be able to fund their own travel to our pre-departure Orientation Course. For this reason, individuals living overseas may wish to consider volunteer sending agencies in their home country.
6. Do volunteers receive a living allowance?
All volunteers going away for two years will receive a living allowance or stipend. It is generally equivalent to a local wage and provides enough to cover food and personal items. Accommodation is often provided by our host organisations and where it is not, a rental allowance is included with the living allowance. Accommodation varies depending on what is available in the location. In some locations volunteers will have their own house, in other locations they may share with a local family (with their own room) or community where meals can be shared or provided. Palms conducts an accommodation check prior to the volunteer’s arrival to ensure that your accommodation is safe and secure.
7. What support does Palms give during the placement?
While Palms’ comprehensive pre-departure preparation training covers all the important issues, we’ve being doing this since 1961 and know not all needs can be anticipated prior to leaving home. At the heart of volunteer preparation is an eight day orientation course where you will meet fellow volunteers and the Palms team, who have travelled the road before you. Our team will link you up with returned volunteers who have either been in the same placement or location as yours, who will support you right throughout the placement, especially during the first six months when so much is new.
We prefer to cluster our volunteers so that there is always another Palms volunteer nearby. Our host organisations also provide a level of support when you first arrive and throughout the placement. They will nominate someone from their community to provide volunteer care and safety for the duration of your placement. Members of the Palms team will visit you at least once during your placement.
8. Is volunteering safe and secure?
Development work of any kind cannot be provided unless there is a level of stability within the country. Palms has a comprehensive scoping process that we conduct as part of our risk management strategy to ensure there is an understanding of the security risks. Palms completes a locality risk assessment for every placement. We also connect with the country’s DFAT post to make sure they are aware of our volunteer and their placement objectives. All volunteers are registered with DFAT, and any updates that the Australian government provides regarding safety and security is passed on. Within the first few weeks of arrival, volunteers and their host organisation complete and a personal security plan. Of course, it’s not possible to remove every risk, but we do attempt to prepare and support our volunteers to the best of our ability.
9. Do volunteers get holidays?
Yes. The amount depends on the organisation you are working with. Teachers usually have school holidays similar to those in Australia. Most other positions receive around four to five weeks of annual leave per year.
10. I’m not ready to volunteer right now. How else can I be involved?
Palms Australia relies strongly on community support and would welcome your assistance in a number of ways.
You can help by providing one-off or recurring donations to help us fund volunteers; starting a CommUNITY Partnership fundraising group in your area; or volunteer part-time in our Sydney office. Contact Palms Australia for more information.