One thing is certain: like the belly of the marbled hatchetfish, or like the original universe for that matter, the volunteer/voluntour universe is expanding! I keep coming back to this point because I think it’s important: the Internet is a wonderful resource for finding opportunities, but it can also be overwhelming, especially for the new, inexperienced volunteer. That is why I’ve been so excited about social network-like sites for volunteers and volunteer organizations. Each site I find has its own style of promoting opportunities. VolunteerMatch.org, for example, has a great search function, so volunteers and organizations can find the people they’re looking for, but they don’t offer a lot of social content. GoOverseas.com, the subject of today’s article, has a less robust search function, but they make up for it with reviews, blog posts, articles and well-organized program listings.
I’m always in the market for a one-stop-shop: the volunteer resource that gives me everything I need. This is a tall order. Every information-seeker has unique preferences. Some people want a job listing site like Monster.com, while some want a classifieds-like atmosphere like Craigslist. Others are looking for academic guidance, exploring the ethics of various opportunities, like those on Voluntourism.org. And some people want a social experience where they can read reviews of other consumers, like on Amazon. Of necessity, different volunteer resources meet different needs, and yet some do manage to fill multiple roles. GoOverseas.com offers the classifieds of Craigslist with the community reviews of Amazon. They have some academic articles, like Voluntourism.org, and offer volunteer-generated blog content like all of the best volunteer resource sites.
One of the things I like most about GoOverseas.com is the organization of opportunities. They have a very intuitive navigation bar divided up logically into different kinds of volunteer trips. These include: Teach Abroad, Study Abroad, Volunteer Abroad, Internships Abroad, and Gap Year. This feature is appealing: often the best sites fail to make even this basic distinction among volunteer types. Sorting through pages of two-week long placements when you’re looking for a year-long opportunity is frustrating, to say the least. And simply searching on Google for “gap year volunteer” (for example) yields thousands of un-vetted results. Each section is further segregated into geographic area, so if you want a gap-year placement in Africa, you can leap directly to your category.
I’m hoping to talk with the purveyors of GoOverseas.com to learn more about how they choose organizations for their lists (stay tuned). Regardless, it is wonderful to have all of these links so attractively and intuitively organized in one place. The reviews are submitted by users and make choosing an opportunity much easier. Their mission is to help volunteers make the most informed decision possible and they provide the resources volunteers need to do it.