FAQS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Here are our FAQs with lots of information to help you on your way to volunteering!

We have organised our FAQs into sections below. If you can’t find the information you are looking for, please contact us and we will be very happy to help.

APPLYING AND REQUIREMENTS

How do I apply to volunteer?

If you would like to apply to join a volunteer project, all you need to do is complete our online application form.

There is no commitment by making an application, and when we receive your application we will contact you and send you a detailed volunteering guide about the project. We give you all the information up front to help you decide if it’s the right project for you.

We hope to receive your application soon!

How do I find the right project for me?

There is lots of information on our website to help you find the right project for you, however feel free to contact the Pod Volunteer team anytime to discuss choosing the right project for you.

Do I need any specific skills or experience?

Any related skills or experience are always highly valued but for most of our projects no specific skills are required, just energy, enthusiasm and a willingness to get involved! If there are any specific skill requirements or previous experience needed we state so on the individual project pages.

How can I find out the availability for each project?

The availability for each project can be found at the top of each project page.

When should I apply?

We recommend applying as soon as you are interested in a project as our projects are popular and availability can change at short notice. There is no commitment by making an application, and when we receive your application we will contact you and provide further information about the project. We are able to accept bookings up to 18 months in advance.

In general it’s good if you can apply at least 2 months before your preferred start date.

Can you accept last minute applications?

Yes, subject to availability and there being sufficient time to complete the volunteer application process. In general it’s helpful to apply at least 2 months in advance of your preferred start date.

Can I apply for / join more than one project?

Yes, you can combine any of our projects to make an amazing volunteering trip of a lifetime! There is also a discount for doing more than one project. For details see our combinations page.

I am from outside of the UK, can I still apply?

Yes, although we are a UK based organisation, we are very pleased to accept applications from all over the world. We receive many non-UK volunteers, in particular from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.

I am a solo traveller, can I still apply?

Yes, most of our volunteers are solo travellers and we welcome them on to all our volunteer projects. It’s a great way to join a team of like minded people and volunteer / travel together.

Can I apply to volunteer with a friend / partner?

Yes, we welcome friends and partners on to all our volunteer projects and it can be an amazing way to share the experience!

Can my partner and I share a room?

For the vast majority of placements it is possible to share a room with your partner. You should make sure that you mention that you would like to do this on your application or let your Pod Volunteer placement manager know so that they can request this when they book your placement.

Can my partner / friend travel with me but not volunteer?

This is possible on some of our projects, so please contact us and we can make recommendations for you.

Can I apply to volunteer with my family/children?

Yes, we have a number of volunteer projects that can accept families so please see our family volunteering page.

Is there a lower or upper age limit for volunteers?

For individuals the lower age limit is usually 18, however please check individual project pages on our website for more information.

There are exceptions for specific under 18 trips we run once a year and for family trips.

For most of our projects there is no maximum age limit as long as you are in reasonable health for the project. We highly value mature volunteers and the experience they bring.

We receive a wide mix of volunteer ages and backgrounds and we find that this adds to the volunteering experience. About 25% of our volunteers are 18-20 years old, the remaining 75% spread from 21-80 years old.

Can I apply as part of a group?

Yes, on most of our projects we are able to accept groups of volunteers. We are also able to offer bespoke tailored group volunteering trips. For more information please see our groups page.

Can I apply if I have medical issues?

Pod Volunteer can often accept volunteers with medical conditions but it is important that you are in good physical and mental health for an overseas volunteer placement. Our projects are generally in challenging environments with limited local medical facilities so you should carefully consider the implications of travelling and volunteering overseas on your health.

Please click here to read our medical policy.

Do I need a Criminal Records Check?

For our projects that involve working with or being located near to children, you will need a criminal records check. We will assist you in applying for your DBS in the UK, or equivalent from other countries.

Can I apply if I have a criminal record?

Pod Volunteer undertakes to treat all applicants fairly and not to discriminate unfairly against any subject of a criminal record check on the basis of a conviction or other information revealed.

We encourage all applicants to provide details of their criminal record at an early stage in the application process. We will then assess the relevance and circumstances of offences to determine whether we can proceed with your application.

Please click here to read our recruitment of ex-offenders policy.

Can I use my volunteering placement for my DofE Gold Residential Award?

Yes, many of our volunteering placements can be used for this award, please see our DofE page for more details.

Can I use my volunteering placement towards my University or College credits and placement hours?

Yes, let your Pod Volunteer placement manager know that you would like to do this and they will let you know whether the project fulfils your requirements. They will also assist you with any paperwork.

I’d like to take my pet when I volunteer overseas, is this possible?

No, unfortunately this is not possible.

SAFETY AND SUPPORT

What support will I receive?

All our projects have local support staff who are there to support you throughout your time and help you make the most of your volunteering placement.

As well as the local team at the project, you will have the continued support of the Pod Volunteer UK team. We visit our placements regularly and are available to support you by email or telephone while you are away.

We pride ourselves on providing a strong support structure for volunteers.

What health and safety standards do you follow to keep volunteers safe?

Pod Volunteer takes the health and safety of our customers, our staff and local people seriously. We have a staged approach to managing the risks and health and safety implications that may be encountered in our locations and placements which is set out in our health and safety policy. We use BS 8848 as the foundation for our operational procedures.

Do you follow BS 8848?

Pod Volunteer uses BS 8848 as the foundation for our operational procedures and as a management and support tool to benchmark placement planning and operational systems against current good practice. We apply this in the following ways:

  • Helping us to develop internal procedures and processes
  • As a step-by-step guide to planning our volunteer placements
  • As a reference document to review organizational processes and check that all the key procedures are being implemented
  • Assisting in the selection of partner projects and third party suppliers (e.g. transport, accommodation)
  • Building internal knowledge and processes and enable continuous improvement

Will I receive detailed information about the placement?

Yes, as soon as you have applied you will receive a volunteering guide about the project you are interested in; this will give detailed information and all you could need to know about volunteering and the placement. Unlike many other organisations, we give you all the information up front to help you decide if it’s the right project for you.

Will I receive any training for the volunteer placement?

You will receive an induction and any project specific training during your first few days at your volunteer placement.

Is there someone I can contact 24/7?

Yes, there are placement staff on location who are contactable if there is a problem, as well as ongoing support from the dedicated team in the Pod Volunteer office. You will be given a travel document which includes contact phone numbers so you can reach someone 24/7.

How can I hear from past volunteers?

You can hear our past volunteers views on our Reviews page and on our Facebook page.

Can I get a certificate or a reference from Pod Volunteer after I have completed my placement?

Yes, we are happy to provide these for any of our volunteers after they have completed their volunteer placements.

COSTS AND PAYMENT

How much will it cost and what is included?

There are two elements to the cost. The first is our project fee which is stated on of each of our project pages. The second is the other costs you will incur, such as flights and visas. When you apply we provide detailed budgeting information.

Pod Volunteer is run on a non-profit basis so fee levels are set to match costs and we keep these as low as we can to ensure that the opportunities we offer are available to as many people as possible.

Where does the placement fee go?

Fee levels are set to match costs (on a non-profit basis) and any surplus monies are distributed to the overseas organisations and charities we work with via the Pod Charity. For a breakdown of our costs and more details please see our Where The Money Goes page.

Why do I pay to be a volunteer?

The organisations we work with do not have any budget to cover volunteer costs and are often struggling to fund their work, so it is very important that the cost of supporting volunteers is covered and doesn’t jeopardise their sustainability or limit their ability to carry out their charitable aims.

Pod Volunteer’s only source of income is volunteer fees so without charging a fee we would not be able to exist in order to support the projects we work with.

We charge a fee to volunteers for all our placements in order to cover the overseas costs of volunteering and the costs of running our organisation in the UK. We keep the fees as low as we can on a non-profit basis but we have to ensure that we can provide a high level of support.

Are there any discounts available?

Pod Volunteer is run on a non-profit basis with fee levels set to match costs. We are not therefore able to provide discounts unless you are doing more than one project or are a returning volunteer. Please contact us for details.

Can I fundraise towards the costs of my placement?

Yes, we encourage volunteers to fundraise towards their costs if they would like to. As a volunteer on a Pod Volunteer project you are donating your time and effort to help make a positive difference to the communities that you will work with. Fundraising towards your costs may enable you to join one of our projects or volunteer for a longer period of time than you were originally able to.

We have developed a Pod Fundraising Guide to help enable volunteers to fundraise as effectively as possible. If you would like a copy, please contact us and we will email one out to you.

Are there grants, bursaries or other funding opportunities available for my placement?

Pod Volunteer will be launching a bursary scheme. You may also be able to apply for external grants or bursaries.

We also have a comprehensive fundraising guide offering lots of ideas and advice - contact us if you would like a copy.

When do I have to pay a deposit and when is the final payment due?

We ask for a deposit to secure your place, but only after we have sent you a comprehensive Volunteering Guide. We give you all the information up front to help you decide if it’s the right project for you.

The deposit is £200 per project per person and comes off the price of the project (it is not an additional payment).

If you are booking within 8 weeks of your intended start date you will be required to pay the full payment instead of a £200 deposit.

Payment in full is required at least 8 weeks before your project start date.

Can I pay in instalments?

This is unfortunately not possible. You will need to pay a deposit and then final payment 8 weeks before hand.

What payment methods do you accept?

We accept payment by bank transfer, cheque or debit / credit card (via PayPal). There is an additional fee for card payments.

Is my money safe and protected?

Yes, Pod Volunteer is a member of The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT) which provides financial protection under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.

Can I claim back my tax on placement costs?

Volunteers from the US: Unfortunately US volunteers are not eligible to reclaim their contributions or out of pocket expenses since Pod Volunteer is not a qualified organisation for this purpose as it is defined as a “foreign organization” on the US IRS guidance Publication 526.

Canadian volunteers: Unfortunately Canadian volunteers are not eligible to reclaim their contributions or out of pocket expenses because PodVolunteer is not a “qualified donee”” since we not a registered charity in Canada.

PLANNING YOUR TRAVEL AND VOLUNTEERING

How do I arrange flights?

We work a very experienced travel agent which organises flights for our volunteers, so you can contact them to help you find the best flight for your trip. They are ATOL bonded and insure your flight tickets against airline failure so you can book with confidence. Make sure you quote ‘Pod’ so they know you are one of our volunteers.

Journeys Are Made @ Gapyear.com
UK: 0844 560 9884
International: +44 203 056 1146
Online enquiry form: click here

Do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance is essential and Pod requires that you have suitable travel insurance.

We work with a specialist travel insurance broker called Banner Insurance that arranges travel insurance for Pod Volunteer at a special rate. For all the details and to arrange travel insurance please click here.

Do I need a visa?

Depending on the country, project and duration you will be travelling for, you may require a tourist or volunteering visa. We send out a volunteering guide when you apply which provides full details of the visa requirements and how to apply.

Do I need any immunisations or anti-malarial medication?

You will probably require some immunisations and for some locations malaria medication is also required. We send out a volunteering guide when you apply which provides full details of the requirements.

You should arrange a visit to your doctor to receive the latest health advice and arrange immunisations. Some immunisations require a series of injections, so this visit should be arranged as soon as possible. Make sure you inform your doctor that you will be volunteering and tell them the nature of your project work so they can advise you accordingly.

What accommodation is provided?

All of our placements include volunteer accommodation. Please see the individual project website pages for more details of accommodation and living arrangements.

As volunteering is a challenging and demanding experience we do always try to provide safe, clean and comfortable accommodation, but it cannot generally be compared to the standard of accommodation on holiday trips.

Can I travel before or after the placement?

Yes, this is a great way to see the country and we work with an experienced travel agency that can help you make plans for this. Please feel free to discuss this with your Placement Manager, we would require that you are in the correct place to be met on your volunteering start date.

Can you help me to arrange other trips and tours?

Yes, we are always very happy to help advise and our expert team has in-depth knowledge of all the locations and countries we send volunteers to. We also work with a very experienced travel agent which organises tours in the countries we work in at a discounted rate.

For projects that involved teaching / education, should I do a TEFL or TESOL or other teaching course before I go?

For most of our teaching placements it is not a requirement for our volunteers to have completed a TEFL course (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or other qualification however past volunteers have found a TEFL course or LRTT (Limited Resource Teacher Training) to be very useful for their volunteer placement.

For projects that involve diving, should / can I do a PADI qualification before I go?

It is not necessary for volunteers to have had completed a PADI (or equivalent) qualification before beginning a placement as our Marine and Reef Conservation projects offer the opportunity to gain PADI or SSI qualifications whilst at the project. If you already have some diving qualifications you can also choose to further these if you wish to.

If you have not previously done any diving we strongly recommend that you try it before joining the project to make sure you enjoy it and don’t have any issues. Many local dive schools and swimming pools offer taster sessions.

Should I learn the language before I go?

For most of our projects, there is no requirement to speak any local languages although it is always a good thing to make some effort to learn the local language and the people you meet and work with will be very appreciative of your efforts.

Project support staff will communicate with you in English.

POD VOLUNTEER

What is Pod Volunteer?

Pod Volunteer is an award winning non-profit organisation arranging ethical, inspiring and supported volunteering opportunities around the world since 2001.

Volunteers are needed from 1 - 12 weeks for animal, conservation, child care, education, teaching, building and community volunteering projects around the world.

How long has Pod Volunteer been running?

Pod Volunteer was established in 2001 and our first volunteers travelled out to Africa in 2002. We now send over 600 volunteers overseas each year.

How do you protect the people, animals and environments at the projects you work with?

We work in many locations with vulnerable environments and sensitive communities. Our care for these places is the driving force behind us arranging placements for volunteers. For this reason we are extremely dedicated to ensuring that our impact is always positive and never damaging.

We evaluate the social, economic and environmental impact and identify ways to maximise the benefit to the local projects and minimise any negative impact on them. We visit our projects regularly to ensure that we only work with projects that we know are ethically run and are making a genuine difference.

Please see our Responsible Volunteering policy for details of the steps we take to make sure we are doing things in the right way and that everything we do is as responsible as it can be.

How do you select and monitor your projects?

We have a careful and independent selection process, ensuring that we only work with sustainable, long term projects that we know personally and where there is a lasting, positive impact on the local communities. We believe in supporting existing projects (whose aims and ethics match ours) rather than creating new projects.

We vet projects carefully culminating in a visit from one of our UK team. We ensure that every project we work with has a genuine role and strong support network for our volunteers. A member of the UK team visits all projects on a regular basis and we hold an annual review with each project.

Can I help to promote Pod Volunteer?

Yes, you can help make a difference by promoting Pod Volunteer and responsible volunteer travel in your university, school, workplace and amongst your friends. We have a Pod Volunteer Rep Scheme which is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who loves travel and volunteering or would like to gain industry experience.

Does Pod Volunteer have any current job opportunities?

Please see our jobs page for details of any current vacancies for roles in the UK office or overseas.

POD CHARITY

What is the Pod Charity?

Since 2002, Pod Volunteer has been providing volunteers to help at charitable projects around the world. The Pod Charity builds on this success by also providing financial assistance.

The Pod Charity was established in 2010 as a grant making body to support overseas projects and has already raised over £100,000!

How can I donate to or fundraise for the Pod Charity?

Volunteers are always also encouraged to consider fundraising as a donation to the project they will join, before or after they go to their project. Fundraising for donations towards the Pod projects is vital as the projects are usually struggling to finance the charitable work they are doing so every penny makes a real difference. Donations to projects are handled through the UK registered Pod Charity.

Your fundraising efforts can help us create life changing opportunities for local communities. Not only can you help to raise funds but you can also take part in the development work yourself.

For all the details including how to fundraise and donate please see the Pod Charity page.

AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal