- What do international volunteers do?
- Who can be a volunteer?
- What is Palms’ recruitment process?
- In which countries are volunteers placed?
- How long are Palms volunteer placements?
- Is there any age restriction on who can volunteer?
- How much does it cost?
- How do volunteers afford food and accommodation?
- Can non-Australians volunteer?
- What support does Palms give during the placement?
- Is volunteering safe and secure?
- Do volunteers get holidays?
- How do volunteers stay healthy on their assignment?
- What support does Palms provide when volunteers return home?
- I’m not ready to volunteer right now. How else can I be involved?
What do international volunteers do?
In a nutshell – skill share. Palms Australia volunteers are recruited to fulfil the requirements of requests from our partner communities overseas. Most of our volunteers are placed in health, education, trade or administration roles, but every placement is unique, depending on the needs of each community. Transferring skills in this way allows a community to become more self-sufficient and better able to determine their own future.
Who can be a volunteer?
Our partners abroad request any skills that meet their needs. Our volunteers are educators, managers, tradespeople, agriculturalists, IT specialists, community and social workers, lawyers, doctors, and health workers. If you don’t see your skills requested in our current opportunities, submit an enquiry in the form to the right and we’ll keep you updated when a community requests your expertise.
What is Palms’ volunteer recruitment process?
We want to ensure we are providing the best possible candidate for our partners. We also want to ensure our volunteers are prepared and committed for the challenges of living and working away from home for up to two years. For these reasons, our recruitment process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Successful applicants must complete:
- An enquiry briefly outlining skills and expertise through our ‘Apply to Volunteer’ form (available right)
- An application form exploring personal competencies and suitability for volunteering abroad
- An in-depth interview with Palms’ recruitment staff
- Reference and Working with Children checks (for volunteers who may work with children)
- Palms orientation course, held in January and July each year.
Volunteers who will be working in a school may be required to wait until the commencement of the next school year to begin their assignment.
In which countries are volunteers placed?
Palms has placed volunteers in regional Australia and various countries in Africa, Asia, Central America and The Pacific. The countries we place volunteers vary from year to year, depending on the requests from our partner communities. To find out where our current volunteers are working, visit our Projects page.
How long are Palms volunteer placements?
Palms Australia’s volunteer placements last from one to two years, and in some cases can be extended to 3 years. We rarely, if ever, send a volunteer abroad for less than one year. 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 in, you’re also developing an understanding of the culture, learning a new language, and building a network. This enables you to have a better idea of how you can best use your skills to fulfil the mentoring component of your volunteer role.
Two-years may seem like a long time, but many of our volunteers reflect 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.
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. Therefore, we do not often recruit school leavers or graduates, unless they can demonstrate the necessary skills and qualifications.
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.
How much does it cost?
Volunteers give their time, not their money. Palms Australia covers all costs of a placement with funds raised from individual donations, Community Partnerships and grants from affiliated organisations. This includes a stipend reflective of local expenses. 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 (within two years) are not covered by Palms.
How do volunteers afford food and accommodation?
All volunteers 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. 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.
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 in Sydney. For this reason, individuals living overseas may wish to consider volunteer sending agencies in their home country.
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.
In addition to the stipend, Palms keeps in regular contact with all of our volunteers. We are always on hand to provide support and guidance via email and phone when needed. All volunteers will have access to internet and be within mobile service range. We encourage volunteers to keep regular contact with us so we can discuss how they are transitioning on a professional and personal level.
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. However, we do attempt to prepare and support our volunteers to the best of our ability.
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.
How do volunteers stay healthy on their placements?
Palms provides a comprehensive health workshop during our orientation course, conducted by one of our tropical medicine practitioners. Our volunteers are also required to undertake a medical health check prior to accepting any placement. They are advised that specific health concerns should be discussed with a travel doctor or their general practitioner. Volunteers are also advised on particular health issues relevant to their placement location, and what measures they need to take to stay healthy.
What sort of support does Palms provide when volunteers return home?
Palms provides volunteers with post-placement resources about three months prior to their return home. These resources are designed to help volunteers reflect on their experience while they are still working. It also gives them the opportunity to discuss this preparation with Palms, and have any questions answered.
Once a volunteer returns home, Palms will provide an initial placement debrief and connect newly returned volunteers with other returned volunteers from the same area. A Re-Entry Workshop is scheduled each year, and returned volunteers are encouraged to participate. It provides an opportunity to hear the stories of other returned volunteers and to process their experience within a reflective framework. We often invite our returned volunteers to engage with the preparation of new volunteers. Returned volunteers are also invited to be involved in our wider network.
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. If you’re interested in visiting some of our volunteers in the field and finding out more about development volunteering, you can join us on a short small group trip to Timor-Leste or Samoa with one of our Encounters. Contact Palms Australia for more information.