A few weeks ago, I wrote about an organization called Go Overseas. They work to help match travelers with volunteer opportunities all over the world. My article focused on the great intuitive setup of their website. I love how they feature reviews from volunteers who’ve had experience in the field and was curious to learn more about how the organization works. I was fortunate to have a chance to speak with Katie Boyer, the Volunteer Director at Go Overseas. Katie explained how the organization works, how they choose their featured opportunities, and what they plan for the future. Enjoy!
What is the mission of Go Overseas and what attracted you to the organization?
Go Overseas was created to help travelers make more informed and educated decisions about long-term, meaningful travel programs. With millions of options out there, it can be incredibly overwhelming to try to find a program abroad and Go Overseas solves this problem. Go Overseas focuses on first-hand reviews of study, intern, teach, volunteer, and gap year programs abroad.
I have always been interested in travel that connects you with your host community and offers a sustainable way to give back. I have volunteered in Peru and Mexico and worked with various nonprofit organizations at home too. I first learned about Go Overseas when I reviewed one of my volunteering experiences and was impressed with the way the staff connected with each user via reviews and interviews. No one had ever given me such a great resource to share my volunteer experience and learn about other opportunities.
How do you choose the volunteer opportunities you feature on the site?
It’s very tough to choose – we are approached by program providers every day who want to be added to the website. Since we are more than a directory and we provide fresh content daily, we can’t just add programs all day. We look to add programs that have reviews first, as well as organizations that are willing to collaborate with us to put time into creating a valuable listing and profile.
What advice would you give to a first-time volunteer traveling abroad?
I would tell a first time international volunteer to prepare as much as possible without relying too much on expectations. First of all, make sure you know why you’re volunteering. Ask yourself some questions: What are your personal and professional motivations? How are you hoping to contribute to the community? What skills do you have to contribute? What do you want to get out of this experience?
While it’s important to prepare (read reviews, learn about the culture, etc.), it is also necessary to be open minded and understand that there are many things you can’t plan for. Remember to stay positive and don’t let new things throw you off. Expect the unexpected!
I’m curious about your job: what does a Volunteer Abroad Director for Go Overseas do in an average day?
As Volunteer Abroad Director, I manage the Volunteer Abroad section of Go Overseas and get to do a little bit of everything! One of my main goals is to get the word out about Go Overseas. My daily tasks consist of marketing, interviewing past volunteers, adding volunteer programs to the site, editing, and more.
The best part of my job is connecting with passionate volunteers and travelers. Every experience is unique and I love getting a glimpse into thousands of volunteer trips.
It’s clear that the volunteer travel industry is growing! Have you noticed any trends in recent months? Do people seem savvier as the arena expands or is the inundation of choices posing problems for volunteers?
It’s an exciting time to be in the “voluntourism” industry and to watch its growth and diversity. I have seen people get overwhelmed with the amount of options available, which is one of the reasons Go Overseas is always growing. Go Overseas makes it easier find the best volunteer programs by providing first-hand reviews.
There are many websites out there meeting the needs of savvy consumers who rely on unbiased reviews of products and services to make informed decisions; Go Overseas meets that demand in the voluntourism industry. I like to think of reviews as part of a continuous cycle in the volunteer abroad world – prospective volunteers use reviews to make educated decisions before going abroad, and then leave reviews afterwards to share their knowledge with others.
Do you have any predictions for the future of volunteering abroad?
Volunteering abroad is becoming a bigger, more long-term part of people’s travel plans. It seems like I talk to more and more repeat-volunteers every day. More people are willing to take long-term trips and turn volunteering abroad into a gap year experience or a job. This is a positive trend because it will create more sustainable projects that can have lasting effects on developing communities.
People who volunteer abroad are generally more globally conscious and aware. As this group of people continues to increase over time, I hope to see larger changes worldwide in issues that volunteering addresses, like poverty, hunger, universal education and health care, gender equality, and more.
Volunteer Director, Go Overseas