International travel, especially to the resource-poor locations where UBELONG Volunteers serve in, carries inherent risks. We cannot guarantee your safety – and no organization in the world can. With that said, safety is our top priority and we design our trips so that you are surrounded by five layers of protection.
“Everyone went above and beyond to make me feel safe and taken care of.” – Louise Helldén, UBELONG Portugal Volunteer from Sweden – read her interview here.
1: Comprehensive program set up
All our volunteer programs are personally inspected by a member of our team who goes through an extensive field checklist. We evaluate the local team, 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 to volunteer with UBELONG, 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 the opportunity to have a Briefing Meeting with your UBELONG Mentor. You go over staying safe during your volunteer trip, 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 teams
We have built and continuously manage a network of local teams, 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.
We believe that our team’s combination of being local, American and European, allows us to best prepare our volunteers for cross-cultural issues, as well as country specific safety risks. Simply, we have a very broad cultural understanding of what it means to volunteer abroad. This allows us to offer trips that are more impactful, more meaningful and more safe.
“I decided to volunteer through UBELONG because it gave me an opportunity to do more than just travel or volunteer. UBELONG connected me with an incredible family of coordinators, volunteers, teachers, and students which I would never have otherwise gotten to know.” Jacob Humerick, UBELONG Ecuador volunteer from the United States – read his interview here.
4: Continual program monitoring and travel medical insurance
We are proactive in identifying and dealing with issues that may affect volunteer safety. We monitor local conditions where programs are located and continuously communicate with our local teams to determine if any safety steps need to be taken. Our team also spends many months on the road supervising placements and checking the safety of our programs.
Additionally, every person travelling with UBELONG must have travel medical insurance. As much as program monitoring is important, travel is inherently risky and we want you to be covered by insurance if an adverse situation occurs while you are in the field.
We do not include travel medical insurance 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.
5: Communication with you
Throughout your volunteer trip, we work with our local teams to provide volunteers 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, you have staff available to you both in country, as well as in our executive offices in the United States (Charleston, South Carolina) and Europe (Lisbon, Portugal).
Do you still have questions about safety? Contact us, we’re always glad to connect on phone or Skype and chat further.