Below are the most frequently asked questions, and answers, about International Volunteer Network. If you do not find an answer to your question, please feel free to email or call us. We would be happy to discuss the details of our volunteer programs.

Why volunteer abroad?
Volunteering while traveling abroad opens the door to many new and exhilarating possibilities. Volunteering creates a feeling of personal satisfaction. It grants you a privilege not afforded to the typical tourist: a unique opportunity to experience local everyday life while making a positive impact. Volunteering abroad immerses you in a new culture which improves your language skills, gives insight of a culture from the inside out and hopefully broadens your view of the World.

Why choose International Volunteers Network?
International Volunteers Network offers customized program placements and provides one-on-one personalized experiences. We cater to the individual looking for a unique volunteer travel experience. Knowing that people often have a limited time frame, we offer both short and long term placements ranging from 1 week to 6 months. We know that people like choices. For our programs you get to choose which program and project you would like to participate in and for how long. We do not have fixed start dates; however, we recommend you arrive in-country on a Saturday or Sunday if possible.

Is volunteering abroad for me?
Volunteering in another country can be both challenging and rewarding. Our programs are not summer camps. You will not have every minute of every work day planned for you. You must be an inventive, self-starter who can handle situations where schedules are occasionally non-existent and resources are scarce. Flexibility and patience are the keys to having a satisfying experience. Developing countries, in particular are not as obsessed with time as the US or Europe. Often schedules are ignored or appointments begin later than arranged. NGOs, international non-profits and volunteer organizations are almost always understaffed. If you are willing and able to except this, volunteering abroad can lead to an unlimited feeling of personal satisfaction.

What types of projects are participants involved in?
Projects are determined and directed by our INV project coordinator in conjunction with the local communities and involve work that almost anyone can participate in; no special skills are required. Examples of past projects have included building a health clinic, renovating a youth center, planting trees, teaching in a primary school, and installing playground equipment. Projects may not be decided upon until shortly before the arrival of the volunteer or the volunteer team. Volunteers should be aware that everything is subject to change. As worthwhile and fulfilling as the work you do will be, the true rewards come from the cross-cultural learning which takes place on these trips.

I don't have any specific skills. What can I do?
Although no special skills are required to participate, except for our medical programs. These programs are available for medical professionals or medical/nursing students. There is no TEFL or teaching qualifications needed for our teaching programs. We believe everyone has skills--some yet to be discovered. Each volunteer contributes what he or she can. Expertise needed for a project will be provided by the local community.

Do I need to bring my own supplies from home, or are they provided?
Most schools, clinics and orphanages which you will be placed in are very under resource. Supplies from home that would be of benefit to you should be taken with you. Or, as most volunteers do, buy supplies locally once they arrive in Uganda. Medical volunteers should bring their own lab coats and rubber gloves. You can also find out from the program coordinator some of the most needed supplies which you can bring with you for the communities.

What physical considerations are there?
Living conditions, terrain and the nature of work projects vary from site to site. In general, however, participants should be in reasonably good physical condition. If you have significant physical limitations, we encourage you to talk about your situation with our IVN project coordinator prior to your arrival at the project site.

Getting around:
Buses connect all major towns daily. Minibuses and shared taxis are a good way of getting around and are the most commonly used by Ugandans - they are frequent, have fixed fares and leave when full. A few airlines offer scheduled and charter flights within the country; some places can only safely be reached by air. Cars can be rented from Entebbe Airport, Kampala and other major towns.

At local hotels and restaurants, tipping is not common, but tips of 5-10% are expected at tourist-orientated establishments. It is customary to tip guides and drivers.

Visitors are advised not to take photographs of military or official sites, including Owen Falls Dam.Homosexual practices are frowned upon.

What if I have more questions?
If you have any questions or would like to discuss our programs in more detail, please don't hesitate to contact us by emailing or calling us at: +256 718 330 234, +256 700 162 243

How can I pay my program fees?
We accept all payments to be done either online by PayPal with VISA card, Master Card or American Express Card or via a bank wire transfer direct to our bank account in Uganda. Individuals are responsible for the $30-$35 wire transfer fee.

Duty Free:
Travelers to Uganda over 17 years of age do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 227g tobacco, or a combination of 227g tobacco products; 1 bottle of wine or spirits; and 500ml of perfume or eau de toilette.

Who are your partners abroad?
International Volunteer Network is your number one partner while you are volunteering here in Uganda because we are knowledgeable in the needs of our society and hence offers insight and guidance to our volunteers while working within the community. IVN does also collaborates with other local NGO’s, private institutions and community organizations dedicated to the improvement of their communities who believe in the benefit of international assistance and value our volunteer's time, skills and knowledge.

Will I be met at the airport?
Yes, airport transfer on arrival and departure are provided. If arriving overland, transfer to/from the bus station will be arranged.

Will I be on my own or will I be with other volunteers?
Our programs are customized and individual based. This being said, you will never be isolated. Our volunteer program placement is year round, so you may have the chance to meet other volunteers. You also have the support of the Project Coordinator, the local staff at our organization and the host family that you live with.

Is there any training involved?
We provide in-country orientation on arrival to help familiarize you with the city where you will be living. You will be shown how to use public transportation, where to exchange money, local restaurants and a general sightseeing tour of the city you will live in. However, prior to your departure for your hometown, we will send you information on the project, health advice, what to pack, currency and visa etc.

Is emergency medical and evacuation insurance included?
Yes. Emergency medical and evacuation insurance is part of the program fee for all volunteers who will be working at our project sites. However, you need to Check with the Center for Disease Control and your local travel clinic to find out about required or recommended immunizations prior to traveling.

What traits make for a good experience?
IVN does not require any specific skills of its volunteers. We do, however, look for participants who are culturally sensitive, flexible, optimistic, willing to both share and learn, work well in a team setting, and above all, are open to new experiences. We ask participants to be experience-minded, not project-focused, since the “work” is actually only one part of the experience and may not always go as planned! IVN's primary focus is cross-cultural exchange, not the work project, and flexibility is key!

Do most volunteers become sick? What happens if I do?
Most volunteers do not experience any major medical problems. The most common complaint is an upset stomach as one's body is introduced to new foods. If take sensible precautions and follow the guidelines we suggest on healthy traveling (such as using bottled water and avoid eating uncooked food) you should not have any major issues. There are several international medical facilities in Kampala city. However, if you do have any serious medical complaints you are advised to contact our Project Coordinator for immediate hands-on assistance.

What are the age requirements?
All ages are welcome on family-friendly trips. For children under 8, please consult the IVN office. Certain sites are more conducive to having children than others. There is no maximum age – we just ask for each person, no matter the age, to consider the working and living conditions.

Can families participate?
IVN absolutely welcomes families, and is a leader in family-oriented cross-cultural experiences. Most times children want to participate on the work project; thus we do not plan specific activities for children.
If the children are unable to participate on a project, the parents are responsible for seeking out alternative activities for the children in the local community. Generally, children are greatly welcomed and easily incorporated into the life of the host community, adding yet another dimension to the immersion experience. Join a scheduled public trip or customize your own family trip.

What does a typical team look like?
A IVN team consists of 6-14 participants, accompanied by a trained team leader. Expect an intergenerational team of participants, coming from the U.S., Canada, and other countries. But we also offer volunteer opportunities for those who are interested in our program, but would like to come on trip as solo.

Where do participants stay in the village? Where do they eat?
Lodging varies by site. Home stays with local families are arranged whenever possible. Local community centers or other community buildings have also served as places of lodging. Sleeping arrangements may be in beds, hammocks or on the floor. Some sites have electricity and indoor plumbing; others may not. Meals are prepared either by team members or by a local cook. To allow for as much immersion and insight into the culture as possible, volunteers generally live as the local people live.

Do participants have any free time to explore other places in the country or region?
Yes. Generally one or three days are allowed for participants to explore and visit other places in the region. Participants are also welcome to do more extensive travel on their own before or after the IVN program.

What if I don't speak the local language?
Our trips have no language requirement, although we do encourage participants to learn basic phrases to enhance their experience. IVN's team leaders also serve as translators when possible and/or necessary.

Where does the team meet for the first time?
Generally, the team meets at the airport in the capital city of the country or at the IVN offices and thereafter transferred to the place where they will be visiting.

What type of pre-trip training is provided?
Upon applying for a trip, participants receive an orientation manual with information on the country and the village, along with a reading list, packing list and other health and travel tips. The orientation process will continue with on-site orientation and daily team meetings.

How far ahead do I need to sign up for a trip?
Applications are accepted until a team is full and are accepted on first come, first serve basis. It is important to plan early; this helps to ensure that you are placed on a team, and enables IVN to know early on that a team has the sufficient number of volunteers to send. To reserve your place on a team, you must submit a completed online application.And once you have been confirmed, you be advised to deposit your program fee so as to secure your spot.

What does the trip cost cover?
International Program fees include- airport pick-up and in-country transportation, hostel/homestay accommodations, most meals, cultural orientation and training, emergency medical/evacuation, contribution to community project, and project administration. Program fees do not include- airfare to/from host country, travel insurance or medical insurance, immunizations/vaccines, visas or entry/exit taxes, lodging/transportation/meals during free time. All program fees, are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

Why do I have to pay to participate?
When you participate you are donating your time and labor, but there are still costs associated with program development. IVN is a volunteer organization that is 100% financially self-supported through its program fees revenue and individual contributions

IVN is committed to maintaining low overhead costs while ensuring consistent, quality, safe and rewarding experiences. Therefore, you are not paying for your volunteer work; you are paying for your local accommodation, your meals, airport transfers and arrangement for the program placement and other arrangements. And again as a non religious and private agency, we receive 100% of our funding from the volunteer program fees.

Who are IVN's team leaders?
IVN team leaders are dynamic, responsible individuals chosen for their leadership skills and willingness to facilitate meaningful experiences for others. Those who attend training will be better prepared to lead in ways that align with IVN philosophy, as well as respect and honor host communities’ needs.
Does IVN have any religious affiliation?

No. IVN is a secular organization. We may, however, work with a group within the host community who has religious or government affiliation. In that case, we have made all efforts to ascertain and be assured that the host group works with all members of the larger community, regardless of religious or political beliefs and associations.
Can I fund-raise for my trip?

Absolutely! We know the cost of volunteering abroad can be extremely daunting. There are transportation costs, program fees, visa/vaccinations expenses to consider, then your everyday living costs while you're away. After you submit your application and have been accepted to participate in our program, you will be advised to deposit your program fee to the IVN bank account and thereafter we will email you a fundraising guideline with helpful information.
Is there an age requirement?

We accept volunteers 8 years and older. But those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by their guardians or parents. We do not have a maximum age limit in place, as an increasing number of volunteers are retirees. As long as you are physically and mentally healthy with an open mind you shouldn't have any problems participating on our programs.

How is my program fee being used?
We use a small percentage of the program fee for our National office overhead administrative expenses and salaries, as well as on-going recruitment and new project development costs. The remaining 80% goes directly to the project site where you are volunteering, in the form of salaries for the local staffs, your accommodations & meals, ground transportation, and volunteer materials and coordination. Our company goal is to be sustainable and offer professional support and services. We can not do this without the volunteer program fee.

What is the average length of a project?
We offer short term programs ranging from 1 to 4 weeks, as long term placements up to 6 months. Some projects can extend up to 12 months. Most volunteers commit to a 2 week program allowing enough time to acclimate to their new surroundings as well as complete orientation and still feel as though they made a contribution to the program.

Do I need a passport and visa?
Yes, you need a passport, with an expiration that is no less than 6 months from the time of travel. Visa requirements differ by country, based on the length of time and nationality of the volunteer. Please check the local embassy within your home country about specific requirements. You can find information on our News & Travel Links page.

Is there an application deadline?
Most people will sign up 3-6 months prior to traveling. You should apply no later than 30 days before your intended start date. Some exceptions can be made for last minute traveling, please contact us for more details.

Do I need any immunizations?
The only vaccination required for entry into Uganda is Yellow Fever and Cholera vaccinations. However, we urge participants to consult a travel doctor at least two months before arriving in the host country, to discuss any necessary immunizations and for advise on staying healthy while traveling. You can find more information from www.who.int

Do I have to book my plane tickets myself?
Yes, you do. We aim to be as flexible as possible and allow our volunteers to pick their travel dates, carrier and times of departure.
Is travel insurance included in the program?

IVN does not provide insurance for the simple reason that we think our participants should be able to decide on the nature of your coverage. Some insurance, particularly for students, is very inexpensive (ex. US$33 for 2 weeks). For students from the USA, we recommend STA International Travel insurance, Tel:+1 877-777-8717. More affordable insurance sources are Patriot Insurance and Multi-National Underwriters.

Can I volunteer with my sister/friend/husband/boyfriend?
Yes! We can arrange for you to live and work together in the same host family and placement.

Can IVN arrange a group trip?
A cross-cultural trip with International Volunteers Network is an innovative experience that can be shared by and enrich any group, offering many opportunities for growth, cultural enrichment and team building. The opportunity for individual and group growth and benefit is endless. Select a IVN program or community that resonates with your group, and explore the possibilities.

Each IVN team is led by an experienced, trained team leader. IVN will make pre-trip preparations and send you an orientation manual, handle all in-country logistics, and facilitate nightly team meetings. Each IVN trip allows for some free time to explore the surrounding area, and has some flexibility in arranging certain dates for your group’s trip. Discounts are available for groups: groups of five, one person pays half price of the program fee; groups of ten, one person participates in our program for free!. However, there is no Team sizes limit incase the group wants to come with more than ten persons on the group.

Can I get college credit for my IVN trip?
Many colleges encourage and support cross-cultural experiences by counting the project towards your academic program as an internship or independent study. Make sure to talk to an advisor to facilitate this process. For any other questions, please feel free to contact us by email or call us at +256 414 597 607.

International Volunteers Network