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Overview

In Belize, volunteer in animal care and education. Live in a comfortable hotel in the heart of the town. Additionally:

 

About San Pedro Town

San Pedro Town is the main town on the popular Caribbean Island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. The town, which is in a picture postcard setting beside the warm, clear turquoise sea, is only one and a half-miles long and consists of only a few street blocks. Even so, on any given day it’s streets are lively with friendly, laid-back locals and foreigners going about their day. Most houses are wooden with zinc roofs, and many of the streets are sandy and lined with palm trees.

The town has a population of about 16,000, and the majority of people are of Mestizo-Spanish descent. English and Spanish are widely spoken, and the island’s warm, friendly reputation is well-deserved. Waiving and saying hello to strangers is expected, and nobody seems to ever be in a rush.

Tourism has become the number one industry in what was once a fishing village. However, while San Pedro has a growing economy, the rapid and uncontrolled development has put huge strains on roads, plumbing and other infrastructure. Additionally, many people have been left behind and the town’s poverty rate is still very high.  As a UBELONG Volunteer in Belize, you have the incredible opportunity to help children get an education and give care to the all too many neglected and abused animals on the island. Click on the tabs above to learn more.

Projects

Animal Care

San Pedro Town is a small town very much in tune with animals. It is surrounded by waters that hold such treasures as the Belize Barrier Reef, which is home to countless species like nurse sharks, stingrays and marlins. In the town itself, however, all too many animals, especially cats and dogs, face mistreatment, neglect and cruelty. Many people in the city don’t have the education or money to properly care for their pets and, unfortunately, there are also some people who simply see no problem with abusing animals.

The project is part of San Pedro’s only veterinary clinic. Volunteers have the exceptional opportunity to help in all areas of its operations, from working in the clinic as veterinarians to helping with the organization’s administration and community education programs. Volunteers live and work in San Pedro.

Click on a heading below to learn more.

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers serve four to six hours a day in an animal shelter that receives mostly cats and dogs. Some of the animals are pets, while others are rescued off the streets. With the rescued animals, the shelter’s veterinarians treat their ailments and then try to have them adopted by loving families. Volunteers help with tasks like bathing and brushing the animals, walking them, playing and giving obedience training. They also help with cleaning the kennels and any miscellaneous tasks that come up, for example working the front desk to check-in pets who come in and assisting with office work. Depending on need, volunteers also assist in community education programs that help increase peoples’ awareness about the importance of treating animals humanely and being a good pet owner.

Requirements to participate:
-Lots of affection and love for dogs and animals in general, which you will be constantly interacting with.
-Education and/or professional experience in an animal-related field is not required.

Minimum time commitment:
1 week.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday and runs year-round (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and allow an alternative start date – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work.
There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2. Some of the animals have been abused and/or neglected. As such, they can be aggressive. While the clinic is led by animal professionals, accidents, as they do in any animal shelter in the world, can happen. While you do not need education and/or professional experience in an animal-related field to join the project, you should feel very comfortable with animals and understand that they can be unpredictable. And, as in any other UBELONG Volunteer Abroad project, it is important to use good judgement and follow the instructions of the local team.

3. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

UBELONG Volunteer at the animal shelter with her favorite dog

Magdalena, from Austria, taking care of the dogs.

What do volunteers do?
For four to six hours a day, volunteers have the opportunity to work alongside veterinarians. Most of the animals are cats and dogs, although any sick or injured animal may come through the clinic, including birds and lizards. Many pet owners bring their animals in for routine immunizations or care for sicknesses and/or injuries, while other animals that come in are strays that have been rescued from the streets, oftentimes where they face maltreatment and abuse. Volunteers help in all facets of the animals’ care, including administering shots, assisting in medical procedures and operations, and helping to diagnose and design treatment plans. As the need arises, volunteers also help the staff in daily tasks like bathing and brushing the animals, walking them, playing with them and giving obedience training. It is a small clinic with a go-getter culture, so volunteers, as everybody else, are expected to contribute in all areas.

Requirements to participate:
-Lots of affection and love for dogs and animals in general, which you will be constantly interacting with.

-At least a first-year pre-vet, pre-med or pre-nursing school student.

Minimum time commitment:
1 week.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday and runs year-round (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and allow an alternative start date – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. To join this project, you must apply at least 30 days before your intended start date.
This is to give us enough time to obtain from the Belizean government the proper authorizations to have you work in the clinic.

2. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work. There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

3. Some of the animals have been abused and/or neglected. As such, they can be aggressive. While the clinic is led by animal professionals, accidents, as they do in any animal shelter in the world, can happen. You should feel very comfortable with animals and understand that they can be unpredictable. And, as in any other UBELONG Volunteer Abroad project, it is important to use good judgement and follow the instructions of the local team.

4. In their application, volunteers must provide their resume/CV, as well as an official transcript from their university showing their coursework and/or a certificate proving they are studying to become a medical professional and/or are already one.

5. Veterinary placements can be very rewarding, but they are also very challengingVeterinary clinics are very different than Western clinics – there is a lack of resources and manpower. Volunteers accepted into the project must exercise a high level of independence. Volunteers must be proactive in contributing their skills and being ready for a context that can be very chaotic, resource-poor and unstructured compared to their home country.

6. Volunteers must bring their own basic medical equipment, including doctor coats, eye protection, stethoscopes and rubber gloves. Closed toe shoes are also required when at the project – sneakers are fine.

7. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

belize-animal-volunteering

Meet Sandbar! He was rescued and then brought back to health so he could be adopted by a loving family.

Education

While Belize has avoided much of the violence and poverty that has plagued some of its other Central American neighbors, the country still faces serious challenges related to education. The public school system faces a chronic shortage of resources, and classroom overcrowding is a big issue. This problem is especially severe for the poorest people in Belize.

Volunteers work alongside local teachers. They help provide more individualized attention to students while bringing more energy and talent into the classroom. Volunteers live and work in San Pedro Town.

Click on a heading below to learn more.

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers serve four to five hours a day. They serve in various local schools and after-school centers with children ages 6 to 14 years old. Their primary focus is helping the children improve their reading skills by reading stories, engaging in reading games and providing one-on-one support to children falling behind. Depending on the local need, volunteers also have the opportunity to help the local staff cook and serve meals to the children, as well as play soccer, volleyball and basketball as part of the sports programs there.

Requirements to participate:
-At least an advanced level of English.
-The creativity and initiative to lead classes with limited resources.
-Teaching experience and/or certifications are not required.

Minimum time commitment:
1 week.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday and runs year-round (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and allow an alternative start date – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work.
There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

Living

When you volunteer in Belize with UBELONG, you embark on a life-changing volunteer trip that is all about volunteering, experiencing the local culture and making new friends. Live in a safe, clean and comfortable hotel that is perfectly located in downtown San Pedro Town right along the crystal blue Caribbean waters. Enjoy excellent food and have an authentic, immersive experience living as part of the local community. Read on to learn more!

Housing

In Belize, volunteers have the incredible opportunity to live in downtown San Pedro Town. They stay in a small, comfortable hotel that is right in front of the crystal blue Caribbean waters. It’s the perfect location to experience San Pedro, the quintessential Caribbean town with a friendly, laid back vibe. Volunteers share a room with one other volunteer. Each room is cleaned daily and has its own private bathroom. There is a front door receptionist on duty at all times and the hotel is perfectly situated next to conveniences like grocery stores, coffee shops, and banks. The center of town is also an easy walk away down the white sand streets that crisscross the town. Wireless internet is available at no charge and a laundry service is available for a small fee. If you would like a private room or would like to room with a friend, family member and/or significant other, please let us know in your application and we will do our best to accommodate you. There is an additional fee for having your own private room.

travel-belize-ubelong

Downtown San Pedro, as laid-back as it gets!

Food

Belizean food is very tasty and draws heavily on Caribbean and Mexican influences. Monday through Friday we provide volunteers with breakfast and lunch.

Breakfast: It includes tamales, waffles and bread, as well as local specialties like johnny cakes and fry jacks. Cereal and fruits are also popular staples, along with coffee, tea and juice. Depending on your work schedule, you eat breakfast alone or with other volunteers. Breakfast is served at an excellent deli near your accommodations.

Lunch: Lunch typically includes a main dish featuring local ingredients like beans, coconut, rice and tamales, as well as chicken and fish.  Vegetables and a small garden salad also at times accompany dishes in Belize. Lunch is a fun time to socialize and share stories, and it is served in an excellent local restaurant in downtown San Pedro.

For dinner and weekend meals, volunteers usually eat out at one of the many local restaurants serving everything from delicious Belizean specialties to Western-style food. Generally, one can eat very well for US$10 to US$20. Volunteers can also purchase food and prepare it themselves at their accommodations, where a small kitchen is available.

volunteer-in-belize-ubelong-travel

Groceries for Cedric, UBELONG Co-Founder! In San Pedro, enjoy fresh, organic food and produce.

Free Time

San Pedro is in the heart of Ambergris Caye, a beautiful Caribbean Island located in the northeast of Belize. The crystal blue waters and swaying palm trees give the entire island a picture-perfect postcard look. The waters are calm, warm, and excellent for swimming and snorkeling. Boats can easily be chartered to go scuba diving, including to the famous Great Blue Hole. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world and offers a home to countless species, including green sea turtles, nurse sharks, marlins and stingrays. San Pedro itself is a small, bustling Caribbean town. Many of its buildings are painted in pastel colors and while there are some cars in town, most people get around using golf carts. Locals are known to be very friendly and San Pedro’s smallness means everybody seems to know everybody else. There are many foreigners, including retired expats, especially from the United States and Canada, who live in Belize year-round. San Pedro has many bar and restaurants, as well as conveniences like yoga studios, coffee houses and even a CrossFit gym. The outdoor artisan craft market is worth checking out, and the white sand paths that circle the town and go right up to the water make for perfect morning or evening strolls when the hot sun has gone down.

belize-travel-ubelong

The famous Caribbean waters of Belize.

Cost

Volunteering abroad with UBELONG is extremely affordable. Plus, when you consider that UBELONG Volunteers receive extensive support and the trust of joining an organization based in the United States with top reviews, you realize the unmatchable value UBELONG offers. It’s one of the main reasons thousands have already decided to join a UBELONG volunteer trip.

 

Volunteer Placement Program Fee (USD)
1 week $420
2 weeks $800
3 weeks $1180
4 weeks $1310
5 weeks $1630
6 weeks $1940
7 weeks $2260
8 weeks $2575
10 weeks $3210
12 weeks $3840

In addition to the program fee, there is a US$295 reservation fee due upon your being accepted into a project.

 

Additionally, please note:

Before your trip

Easy online application: You can apply online using our Volunteer Abroad application form. We use the application to get to know you and make sure that you join a volunteer project that is right for you based on your background, interests, and skills.

Preparation Booklet: The booklet offers you a wealth of information and helpful tips to prepare you for your volunteer trip with UBELONG. Topics range from health, safety and visa issues to the development challenges that your host community faces.

UBELONG Mentor: We pair you with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG volunteer abroad experience. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

Briefing Meeting: Prior to your departure, you have a meeting with your UBELONG Mentor. You go over staying safe during your volunteer placement, as well as tips for getting the most out of your Volunteer Abroad experience. The meetings generally occur over the phone or Skype, but if you are in the same location as your UBELONG Mentor they can occur in person.

UBELONG Shop 25% discount: The UBELONG Shop is a clothing store selling shirts, bracelets and other items that are inspired by travel. It’s another way for us to advance our social mission. A part of the Shop’s profits go to where UBELONGers serve, for example the hospitals, schools, environmental reserves, etc.

When you are accepted into a UBELONG program, you receive a 25% promo code for the UBELONG Shop. You can share it with your friends and family. The donations from purchases made with your promo code go to the projects in the location where you are travelling.

During your trip

Airport or port pickup: When you arrive at either the San Pedro airport or port, a driver meets you and brings you to your accommodations.

Orientation: Our Local Team Leader gives you a volunteer orientation to introduce you to the local team and go over everything from living locally to the volunteer work that you will be doing. The orientation is generally your first Monday.

Housing: You live in an excellent hotel that we work with. To learn more, click the “living” tab above.

Food: You receive breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday. To learn more, click the “living” tab above.

Discount card: As a UBELONG Volunteer, you receive a discount card that gives you significant discounts to many local businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores and snorkeling tour operators.

United States and Europe based support: UBELONG is an American organization with headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina. We also have a European office in Lisbon, Portugal. As such, you have the peace of mind that comes from having the support of a volunteer organization with an American and European presence.

In-country support: Throughout your Volunteer Abroad placement, we work with our Local Team Leader to provide you with any assistance that you may need. Whether you have a question about where to travel on the weekend or have an issue that requires immediate assistance, the local team is there for you.

After your trip

Reference letter (including for graduate degree and job references): Upon request, we provide you with a letter stating that you joined our Volunteer Abroad program. As the UBELONG network extends widely into the university and professional worlds, participating in a UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program can be a strong positive in a university or job application. See some of the institutions in the UBELONG network.

Fundraising and networking: We hold fundraising and networking events throughout the year to support development initiatives. Join us online, in the United States or wherever in the world we are holding an event. To keep up with events, see the UBELONG Facebook page.

United States President’s Volunteer Service Award: If you are a U.S. citizen and shared your story in our Volunteer Abroad blog, you are eligible for the award, which we have been certified to give as a U.S. based international volunteering organization committed to the highest standards.

Airfare, airport drop-off, travel medical insurance, and visas are not included. Lunch and weekend dinners are also not included.

We also require that every person 18 years of age or older obtain a police background check to volunteer with UBELONG – this is part of our commitment to volunteer safety and community safety. The price you pay depends on what location you are in because every country/city has a different price. However, in general, the cost of a police background check ranges from US$40 to US$150 per person.

Additionally, miscellaneous spending like snacks and toiletries is not included. You may also have to take transportation to reach your volunteer project and you are responsible for the fare. Most volunteers budget US$15 to US$25 for each day of their placement for additional expenses in the field.

Please note: We require that you have travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, throughout your volunteer placement with UBELONG. We do not include it because there are many different plans available and you know best what is right for you. Before your departure we will ask you for general information about your policy, but it is your sole responsibility to determine its adequacy and any associated details like coverage levels and deductibles.

You can pay us via PayPal (which includes credit and debit card), bank wire, United States Postal Service money order, or certified bank check. We do not accept cash or personal checks. To learn about when fees are due, see our how to apply section.

FAQ

Application

Applying is easy, simply follow the steps we lay out in our How To Apply section.

If you still have questions after doing so, please contact us, we are glad to help.

Our accepting you into a Volunteer Abroad project is based on three things:

  • Availability: We receive many more applications than we have spots for. As such, there may be projects where we simply don’t have a need for volunteers anymore. This is why you should apply as soon as possible. However, you should only apply when you know the exact location, project, and dates of your placement, and when you’re completely sure you’ll join if accepted.
  • Your background, experience and skills: Make sure to check the description of each project carefully. You can find all the project descriptions for this location in the “project” tab above.
  • The UBELONG Mindset: UBELONG Volunteers have the well-deserved reputation of being the best of the best. So, we expect that you will approach your UBELONG experience eager to contribute, and with a caring, humble, proactive and respectful attitude. We just want good people with the right attitude.

Yes, as long as your dates meet the “minimum time commitment” and “project schedule” requirements we have for the project you want to join. You can see these requirements by clicking on the “project” tab above and looking at the description for your project.

Additionally, considering how affordable and popular UBELONG opportunities are, we sometimes run out of spots. So, while you should only apply when you are completely sure you will join if accepted, the earlier you can apply the better your chances of being accepted. Until you have submitted an application, we will not be able to tell you if certain dates have been filled or not – you must apply first.

For additional information, visit our how to apply section and see our application.

Yes. We believe that everyone has something valuable to contribute. If you do not have previous experience, we offer you the opportunity to have a great start with us. We make international volunteering easy – not only are our Volunteer Abroad opportunities rooted in offering you extensive support, but they are also very affordable.

Yes. Many of our Volunteer Abroad projects are designed to offer highly-skilled professionals the opportunity to contribute their expertise while growing professionally and personally.

We were founded by international development professionals and university professors determined to raise the bar in international volunteering. Empowering even the most senior development professionals to volunteer overseas is a key part of our mission.

While we are based in the United States, we offer programs for people of all nationalities. Most of our volunteers come from North America, Europe, and Australia, yet every year we welcome into the UBELONG community thousands of individuals from all corners of the world. As long as you have a willingness to discover the world and volunteer abroad, you’re welcome to join one of our Volunteer Abroad projects.

You should apply as soon as possible as we receive a very high volume of applications for a limited number of spots. However, you should only apply when you know the exact location, project, and dates of your placement, and when you’re completely sure you’ll join if accepted.

Most individuals apply three to six months before their start date, although some apply even earlier and some with as little as a week before. Again, the earlier you apply the better, but only do so when you’re completely ready to commit if accepted.

As of the date you submit your application, you must be at least 18 years old. There is no maximum age requirement. Whether you are a student or have recently retired, or whether you are a young professional or a middle-aged housewife, we probably have a Volunteer Abroad project that is right for you.

Please note: In certain cases, we will allow people under 18 years old to become UBELONG Volunteers. To learn more, see the two FAQs right below this one.

Yes, we have many wonderful families with children volunteer on our projects. It is a great way for families to come together, and we have found that children coming in as volunteers can very positively impact the local communities.

For families with everybody 13 years or older, all our volunteer projects are open to you. Visit our families page to learn more about families volunteering abroad with UBELONG.

For families with children younger than 13 years old, due to project qualification requirements, logistical challenges and safety precautions, in certain of our locations we cannot have children under 13 years old join. To see the list of volunteer projects that are open to families with children under 13 years old, please visit our families page.

If you are under 18 years old, you can still volunteer with UBELONG either with your family or with a high school group. Click on the links to view more information about each option.

Groups

Yes. All groups, including couples, families and friends, can join any of our Volunteer Abroad projects and volunteer together. Every year we have thousands of individuals become UBELONG volunteers as part of corporate, university and religious groups. We can have groups of up to 500 people.

The application procedure for groups is easy and very similar as the one for individuals. You can review the entire process in our How To Apply section, and for your convenience here is an overview:

1. Each group member submits his or her own application online with these points in mind:

  • Everybody in the group should apply within the same 24 hours so we can review all the applications together.
  • In part 1 of the application there is a field where each person types a common group name. The group makes up its own name, past examples:
    • For a couple: “Jane and John”
    • For friends: “Peter, Trent and Mike”
    • For large groups: “Cornell University summer 2015 team” or “Jake’s winter 2018 team from the University of Michigan”
  • If you want to house together or volunteer on the same project, please let us know in your application. We will do everything we can to accommodate you; generally it is not a problem as long as you let us know in your application.

2. Once we receive all the applications, we will review them together. Assuming you are all accepted, we will pair the group with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG experience to support you. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

As always, if you have any further question please contact us, we are glad to help.

Yes, we have accepted many alternative breaks teams into our Volunteer Abroad program and had great success.

We have had teams from over 100 institutions from throughout the world, including:

  • Cornell University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Rice University
  • McGill University
  • Oxford University
  • La Sorbonne
  • College of Charleston
  • University of Indiana
  • New Mexico State University
  • University of Melbourne
  • Dartmouth College
  • Columbia University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • University of South Dakota
  • New York University

The teams volunteered throughout the world on our projects across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Some have gone for a week during spring break, while others went for longer periods. Moreover, as we have over 150 projects, depending on their backgrounds teams have joined projects ranging from teaching English and conservation to healthcare and microfinance.

We encourage you to connect with past teams by visiting our Volunteer Abroad News section as well as the UBELONG Facebook page.

Yes, we work with many high school groups from all over the world.

Visit our high school groups page to learn more about high school groups volunteering abroad with UBELONG.

Mindset

We believe everybody has something to offer by volunteering abroad – this is why our Volunteer Abroad program is rooted in affordability and flexibility.

At the same time, volunteering abroad is not easy. Expect challenges. There is no typical day or script to follow, and in the developing world conditions can change quickly. You must be flexible and ready for anything. Some days will be frustrating and not what you expected.

However, the challenge of international volunteering is also what makes it so special. You will push yourself and step out of your comfort zone. You may develop relationships you would never have ever imagined. Or, in making an impact on those around you, find yourself growing immensely. And when it is all said and done, you may realize you gained even more from volunteering abroad than what you put in.

Volunteers are not tourists. Volunteers expect to serve, tourists expect to be served. As a volunteer your role is to fit in your project and not the other way around. Think what you can do for your hosting community, not what it can do for you. We expect you to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in an area you were not expecting to work in.

You must be open, flexible and proactive. That is the challenge, but also the beauty of becoming a UBELONG Volunteer – you will be out of your comfort zone, but don’t be surprised if in making an impact you yourself have the experience of a lifetime.

Finally, while tourism companies offer overpriced “voluntourism” opportunities, we believe that’s unfortunate. Volunteerism and tourism have nothing to do with one another. They require very different attitudes, and attempting to combine them creates disappointment for the volunteer and generates no positive impact for the local community. And, while tourism companies may speak of the “volunteer travel industry”, authentic volunteering has nothing to do with an industry. For UBELONG Volunteers, volunteering is about people coming together for positive change – there is nothing industrial about it.

As long as you take your volunteering seriously and approach your experience with an open and proactive mindset, absolutely.

Your impact will be specific to you – every person experiences life differently. And while you will not “save the world”, as a UBELONG Volunteer you will be part of a large and wonderful community of individuals who, together, are making a significant positive global impact.

There are three general areas where you can expect to make an impact:

  • Project: You bring energy, experience and skills to share with the local community. Whether you are helping plant trees or sharing medical skills on a health project, you are making your mark.
  • Cross-cultural sharing: When people come across borders to live and work together, it’s powerful. It breaks down barriers and dispels stereotypes. Whether you are connecting with a local or another UBELONG Volunteer from a different country, those relationships you create matter.
  • Yourself: In travelling and volunteering, you will probably change for the better. You will pick up new skills, have new experiences and make new friends. How each of us grows is deeply personal to who we are, but be ready to change in ways you may never have imagined.

One of the best ways to learn about the impact of UBELONG Volunteers is to meet them. Do so by reading their interviews in the Volunteer Abroad news section and meeting them on the UBELONG Facebook page.

Community

Yes. While certain times of the year are busier than others, there are generally 5 to 20 UBELONG volunteers in any location at any point in time. You’ll be meeting plenty of other volunteers during your UBELONG experience. A great place to meet them beforehand is our Facebook page – you should like our page and connect with the other people hanging out there.

We encourage you to connect with others in the rapidly growing UBELONG community. It is a great way for you to hear firsthand about what it’s like to be a UBELONG Volunteer.

There are thousands of UBELONG Volunteers around the world, so getting in touch is easy. You have three principle ways:

1. We frequently publish interviews with alumni in our Volunteer Abroad news section.

2. Many people connect with each other via our rapidly growing UBELONG Facebook page. We suggest scrolling through the timeline and seeing the many pictures, videos, and testimonials posted there. If you have a comment or question, do not be shy, start a conversation.

3. Read some of our volunteer abroad reviews.

Health and Safety

San Pedro is a very small, tight-knit town where everybody seems to know one another. Waiving and smiling at people in the streets is normal and expected. It is known to be very safe. With that said, as in any place in the word where you are a foreign traveler, you must take precautions when you are volunteering in San Pedro. There are parts of the town that are not safe, and you should be careful with petty crime. Traffic is also something to be aware of – many people in San Pedro drive golf carts, which, while small and slow, can still be dangerous as they come down San Pedro’s many narrow, sand covered streets. Once you become a UBELONG Volunteer, we will provide you with extensive materials and support to help make sure you stay safe and comfortable.

As international travel and volunteering carry inherent risks, we cannot guarantee your safety. However, your safety is our top priority and we work hard to minimize the risks. We design our programs so that you are surrounded by five layers of protection:

1. Comprehensive program set up
All our programs are personally inspected by a member of our team who goes through an extensive field checklist. We evaluate the local staff, inspect the living facilities, ride the public transportation, speak to former and current participants, taste the food, visit the work sites, and walk the neighborhoods, among many other activities. The program set-up process is long and thorough, but we consider it the most important part of our work. Our philosophy is to only offer placements where we would feel comfortable sending our own families.

2. Your preparation
When you sign up for a Volunteer Abroad project we send you a Preparation Booklet. The booklet offers a wealth of information and helpful tips to help you prepare for your experience. Topics range from health, safety and visa issues to the challenges in your hosting community.

We also pair you with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG experience. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

Additionally, prior to your departure you have a Briefing Meeting with your UBELONG Mentor. You go over staying safe during your Volunteer Abroad placement, as well as tips for getting the most out of your experience. The meetings generally occur over the phone or Skype, but if you are in the same location as your UBELONG Mentor they can occur in person.

3. Local partners
We have built and continuously manage a network of local partners, including community organizations, NGOs, private citizens and schools. They are well positioned to look after your day-to-day safety and comfort. They have extensive local contacts, understand how things work on the ground, and implement appropriate safety measures.

4. Continual program monitoring
We are proactive in identifying and dealing with issues that may affect your safety. We monitor local conditions where programs are located and continuously communicate with our local partners to determine if any safety steps need to be taken. Our team also spends many months on the road every year supervising placements and checking the safety of our programs.

5. Communication with you
Throughout your Volunteer Abroad experience, we work with our local partners to provide you with any assistance that you may need. Whether you have a question about where to travel on the weekend or have an issue that requires immediate assistance, staff is reachable 24/7.

While the volunteer projects in Belize do not require sustained manual work, the weather can be very hot and humid. You should be in excellent physical health.

Prior to arriving in Belize we suggest that you visit your physician or a travel health clinic to ensure that you are in good enough overall health for your placement and obtain any suggested and/or required immunizations.

If you are coming from a country that is considered to have a risk of yellow fever then you must present an International Certificate of Vaccination (Yellow Card) to show proof of yellow fever immunization. Most of the countries requiring yellow fever immunization are in Africa and South America, although regardless of where you are coming from you should consult your country’s Belizean embassy for the latest information.

Additionally, you should see your physician or a travel health clinic prior to arriving in Belize as most doctors recommend at least a few precautionary vaccinations before arriving, including:

-Routine immunizations for polio, measles/mumps/rubella, etc.
-Hepatitis A
-Hepatitis B
-Japanese encephalitis
-Rabies
-Tetanus
-Typhoid
-Yellow fever

The risk of malaria in Belize is low. However, if you plan to travel throughout Latin America after your placement, you should consult a medical professional as there are high malaria risk areas on the continent.

Yes. For all our Volunteer Abroad projects we require that you have travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, throughout your experience.

We do not include it because there are many different plans available and you know best what is right for you. Before your departure we will ask you for general information about your policy, but it is your sole responsibility to determine its adequacy and any associated details like coverage levels and deductibles.

Travel Logistics

Citizens of most countries can enter at no charge with a passport valid for at least six months from the date you enter Belize. Once you become a UBELONG Volunteer, we will provide you further information and guidance on obtaining a visa.

Most volunteers arrive in Belize through Belize City, which is the capital. Its airport, Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport, serves many international destinations.

From Belize City, we suggest then taking a small propeller plane to San Pedro. The flight is about 20 minutes. Alternatively, volunteers can take a boat from Belize City to San Pedro. The boat ride lasts 1.5 to 2 hours.

The volunteer program in San Pedro starts on Mondays, so you should arrive on your first Monday.

A driver will be waiting for you at either the airport or port in San Pedro to welcome you and bring you to your accommodations.

Yes, you’re welcome to volunteer in multiple of our locations back to back. Just remember that travelling between locations takes a lot of energy and time. You also need time to settle in and get up the learning curve in each location.

So, while you can do back to back placements, we suggest you think it through to make sure you’re not cutting yourself short. Generally, we advise against volunteering in multiple locations back to back if you’re spending less than two weeks in any particular location.

Project

Your orientation generally happens during your first two days and is led by our Local Team Leader. During the orientation you go over your project scheduling and receive further information about your work. You also meet other volunteers and staff, and take a tour of the city.

Although Spanish and Creole are commonly heard in Belize, English is the official language and is widely spoken.

It depends on the availability of positions and the participation requirements of the project you wish to join. Additionally, remember that it takes time to settle in, get up the learning curve and find your role within a project. As such, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, we expect you to stay in your original project for at least two weeks before requesting a switch.

Yes, but we ask that you limit any financial or material donation to your project to US$20 for every month you spend in the field. We do not want to encourage a culture of dependency whereby volunteers are viewed as a source of money.

Additionally, as an international development organization, we believe the culture of handouts that has been perpetuated by “voluntourism” organizations with no real commitment to making a genuine local impact is unfortunate. Handouts stifle local innovation, self-reliance, and long-term sustainability.

In general, all of the projects run Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday are off, as well as local holidays. Your days off are free, so it’s entirely up to you what to do.

As for the number of hours a day you will spend at your project, every project is different. For every project description under the “project” tab above we offer an approximation of what you can expect.

Finally, remember that in accepting you as a UBELONG Volunteer we expect you to be understanding that local needs are always changing. You may find yourself volunteering either more or less days and hours than you expected, and you must be adaptable and flexible.

As it says in each project description under the “projects” tab above, we require a police background check from every UBELONG Volunteer. Once you apply and are accepted into a project your UBELONG Mentor will ask you for it.

In terms of obtaining one, every country, state and city is different. For example, getting a background check in Washington, DC, where UBELONG was founded, is different than getting one in a neighboring city like Boston or New York. Similarly, countries like Australia and Canada all have their own unique processes.

In general though, it is a relatively easy process that simply requires you to walk into your local police station and ask for one. For volunteers living in the United States we also have a couple helpful tips that we offer you in your Preparation Booklet once you become a UBELONG Volunteer.

Living

In most cases yes and, considering the difficulty of meeting dietary restrictions in the countries UBELONG Volunteers serve in, we believe we do an excellent job. For example, restrictions related to dairy, eggs, gluten, poultry, meat, nuts and shellfish are generally not a problem.

With that said, there are limitations because of the different resources available in the field. For example, if your allergy is very severe, we cannot guarantee cooking environments that are completely free of a particular type of food product, for example peanuts or seafood. Remember, you are travelling to an environment that may not be built to cater to your requirements.

So, if you have a dietary restriction, simply let us know in your application and, if we cannot meet it, we will let you know. You can also contact us before you submit your application and ask us about your particular needs.

Yes. We encourage you to discover different places, experience new cultures, and meet other people. These are fundamental parts of the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad experience, and you should take advantage of your free time in the field.

San Pedro Town has a sub-tropical climate, so the weather is warm year round and there is no winter. Like most Caribbean countries, there can be the occasional tropical downpour but it usually doesn’t last more than a couple hours. Temperatures during the day range from lows of 78°F (25°C) to highs of 92°F (33°C). The humidity can be very high, but San Pedro’s location along the water means sea breezes are a welcome relief. At night, it generally never gets cooler than 63°F (17°C).

 

No. The UBELONG experience is as much about volunteering on your project, as it is about cross-cultural exchange and community building. A lot of that happens through the housing that we have set up. Additionally, for safety reasons all volunteers must live in vetted housing. As such, for you to become a UBELONG Volunteer you must live in our accommodations. 

Network Opportunities

The United States President’s Volunteer Service Award was created by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation to recognize the contributions of American volunteers and encourage others to serve. There are various award levels, depending on the number of hours served.

UBELONG has been certified to give the award to UBELONG Volunteers. UBELONG successfully passed the selection process as a U.S. based international volunteering organization committed to the highest standards.

The award can be bestowed to U.S. citizens, and we award it to UBELONG Volunteers who, upon returning home, share their stories in our Volunteer Abroad news section.

Washington, DC is the most important international volunteering center in the world. Our network is strong and we have unparalleled resources at our fingertips. Most notably, the city is home to influential development organizations, government agencies, embassies, think-tanks and universities. We tap heavily into these networks to help us design safe, affordable, and high-quality programs.

Cost

You are not “paying to volunteer.” Among other services, you are paying for your pre-departure preparation with a UBELONG Mentor, project supervision, housing and meals. Additionally, your fee goes towards the extensive structure we put in place to support you. Offering safe, comfortable and meaningful volunteering experiences in developing countries takes an enormous amount of resources. It does not “just happen.” From large details to ones you will never notice but that are still crucial, we make sure that you can focus on discovering new places and making a difference instead of worrying about logistics.

Additionally, in many cases it is significantly cheaper to join a UBELONG Volunteer Abroad project than traveling alone and trying to plan logistics like airport pickup, housing and meals on your own. Not even counting UBELONG services like pre-departure preparation, project supervision and volunteer flight discounts, it is very difficult to travel on your own and have what we charge you give you the same comfort, security, and support that UBELONG volunteers receive.

UBELONG has revolutionized how people volunteer abroad. A fundamental part of our mission is to offer the highest quality experiences at the lowest possible cost. We are able to do so for two principal reasons:

1. There are very few organizations offering one week to six month international volunteering opportunities. As a result, even those claiming to be nonprofit get away charging exorbitantly high prices. Strong demand and low supply means elevated prices.

We believe that a new approach is needed. We are a social venture, which means we aim to advance our social mission in a sustainable manner instead of widening our profit margins. Moreover, being led by former international volunteers with extensive academic, international development and management experience, we can keep our overhead costs low while focusing on the quality of our programs. We do much more with much less.

2. The resources we have as a US-based organization are unmatchable. We have access to embassies, governmental organizations, NGOs and universities that allow us to build the highest quality programs in the most cost-effective manner. Additionally, considering that the majority of international volunteers come from North America and Europe, our being an American company led by North Americans and Europeans lets us reach volunteers very easily. Instead of spending resources on marketing we can focus on building our programs and supporting our volunteers.

To learn more, we encourage you to read a post by UBELONG Founder Cedric Hodgeman, in which he talks about the affordability of the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program.

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