Volunteering with IVHQ

NOTE: This review is not in anyway sponsored by IVHQ. I'm writing this from my previous experience volunteering with them to help you decide if you should volunteer with IVHQ. All opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.

If you're wondering who you should volunteer with or what volunteering with IVHQ is like, I've put together my experiences from a four week volunteering trip with them back in January 2014. 

Why did I choose IVHQ?

I did quite a bit of research on which organisation to pick before I even knew where I wanted to go or what I really wanted to do. All I knew is I wanted to go overseas, and I wanted to volunteer while I was there. 

IVHQ stood out for a few reasons:

  1. They are based in New Zealand.
  2. They've placed over 50,000 volunteers since 2007.
  3. Placing so many volunteers means a lot of feedback on all the programs and plenty of people to ask questions of!
  4. Depending on which program you choose you will volunteer with quite a few other people meaning lots of chances to make new friends. I've kept in solid touch with a lot of people I volunteered with.
  5. They have a lot of destinations on offer (there are currently 39 different places you can go and volunteer).
  6. They have a variety of programs in the different locations (everything from teaching English and wildlife conservation to special needs care and NGO support).
  7. They work with already established charities and organisations, meaning more affordable fees and the money goes to the local community.
  8. They preach Responsible Volunteer Travel and they practice what they preach.
  9. They provide you with support the entire time so you don't have to worry about a thing.

My Personal Experience with IVHQ

After deciding on volunteering with IVHQ I was left with a really tough choice.. what program to do and where to do it? I chose the only Surf Outreach program they had and so South Africa was my destination. 

The only thing that sucked was putting on the wetsuits.

The only thing that sucked was putting on the wetsuits.

I applied for the program and was accepted fairly soon afterward. It was official, I'd be heading to South Africa for 4 weeks by myself in January 2014. I wanted to know what it was like, what should I expect and what to bloody pack! I joined the Facebook group for IVHQ South Africa (there is also a general IVHQ volunteer Facebook page and Facebook group ) where current and old volunteers posted pics and advice. Newbies could ask questions and get a real sense of what to expect when they left the comforts of their home to travel to Africa. I also checked out all the photos being posted to Instagram both on their profile and under the different hashtags (#ivhqsouthafrica, #ivhqweekends, etc). This alone helped ease my worries and I just started being excited instead of nervous. I wanted to meet the kids, I wanted to meet the other volunteers and I wanted to explore South Africa. 

When you're accepted into your program you are put in contact with your IVHQ program co-ordinator and you receive an information booklet with everything you need to know. They also keep in touch throughout your program so you know they are never too far away if you have questions or need help. After the program, you are able to fill out a survey and give IVHQ feedback about themselves and also about the Partner Organization you specifically helped out with!

I honestly, and wholeheartedly can't recommend IVHQ enough. They made my first solo trip and first volunteering experience really easy, and really stress-free. The program was something that I got a lot out of personally and even though I went there to change other people's lives I think I ended up changing my own more. I'd jump at another chance to volunteer and wouldn't hesitate to pick IVHQ again for all the reasons listed above.

I'll put up another post about the specifics of volunteering with Dreams To Reality (the charity in South Africa) separately but I just really wanted to talk about IVHQ, why I picked them and why you should too. You can always find out more information on their website but you'll probably sign up for a program right then and there, they are so tempting!

So let me know, have you volunteered with IVHQ or do you plan on it?