UBELONG is about bringing motivated people into communities to volunteer alongside locals and create lasting change. The work is grassroots, hands-on and meaningful.
“It was an unforgettable feeling realizing how much we impacted their lives in such a short time.” – Jessica Vogel, UBELONG Costa Rica Volunteer from the United States – read her interview here.
We put a tremendous amount of effort screening applicants who apply for our programs and, once accepted, preparing them for the field. Our screening and preparation are some of the reasons UBELONG Volunteers have the well deserved reputation of being among the finest international volunteers in the world. UBELONG Volunteers are defined by humility, kindness and flexibility. They understand that volunteering abroad is not supposed to be easy. It’s tough work, and that’s exactly what makes it so meaningful.
Before arriving in the field, UBELONG Volunteers often ask us if they will make an impact. Our answer is simple: UBELONG will create the conditions for you to make an impact. We will put you into environmental or social projects where you will have the chance to work alongside locals in solving real-world problems. However, in the end it is up to you.
Showing up is important, but we also expect you to work, be proactive and push yourself. You are walking into developing world conditions that are difficult. UBELONG is about tackling some of the most pressing challenges of our generation. We do not sugarcoat reality – we give you the opportunity to intimately see it and become a force for positive change.
There may be few resources at your project, and there is probably far less structure, rigor and organization than you are used to at home. Your impact in the field will be part of a collective and ongoing effort of volunteers and locals that started long before you arrive and will continue after you leave. But if you push yourself, step up and rise to the challenge, then yes, absolutely, you will make a difference.
Your impact will be specific to you – every person experiences life differently. As a UBELONG Volunteer you will be part of a large and wonderful community of individuals who, together, are making an enormous 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.
Since our launch in 2009, over 5,000 people have become UBELONG Volunteers. They have ranged from 15 to 81 years old, and have come from 56 different countries. We encourage you to meet some in our extensive collection of alumni interviews. The majority are from the United States, Canada, Australia and Western European countries like England, France, Germany and Portugal, although UBELONG Volunteers have also come from countries as varied as Colombia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Ukraine.
Collectively, UBELONG Volunteers have served over 4 million hours. From leading nutrition campaigns in rural Laos to teaching English in Morocco to helping reforest hundreds of acres in the Amazon, UBELONG Volunteers have served across four continents on over 100 different community projects. Their impact is measured by benchmarks like number of acres planted, students taught and hospital patients treated, but also in the countless friendships they have formed. UBELONG Volunteers go beyond borders and stereotypes to help build bridges of understanding between people who come from seemingly incompatible worlds. They help bring humanity closer, and they advance a world vision founded on collaboration, kindness and sustainability.
Our pledge to reject “voluntourism” and “factory volunteering”
We at UBELONG are trying to perpetuate a grassroots movement to return international volunteering to its social and responsible roots. We believe in and are proud of our efforts, and if you join us as a UBELONG Volunteer then we hope you will stand by us.
We do not do “voluntourism” and “factory volunteering”, which are unfortunate ways of volunteering abroad that have grown in recent years.
We believe voluntourism and factory volunteering are not in the best interest of the volunteers or local communities where they serve. Those types of volunteering are driven by corporations that put profits above all else. Some are even owned by private equity firms, which are investment companies driven only by profit.
While these corporations spend millions of dollars on slick websites and advertising, we have come to believe that their sole focus is to pump as many people as possible into local social projects that really do not need volunteers. In our opinion, these corporations appear to have no regard for social responsibility and little interest in engaging locals in a collaborative, respectful manner.