Our Most Common Volunteer Travel Questions, Answered!

At FIMRC we are incredibly proud to have so many passionate volunteers join us at our project sites around the world. Our volunteers are a crucial part of our mission to help improve access to healthcare worldwide. We know that traveling abroad can be daunting, so we want to make sure that our volunteers feel as prepared as possible so they are comfortable taking that leap of faith and enrolling in an exciting and life-changing volunteer trip!

Check out some of our most frequently asked questions and some first-hand experiences from our wonderful volunteers below!

What will I be doing on site?

All of our volunteers will gain clinical experience and participate in health education outreach in the community. Because each project site and its surrounding community is unique, clinical and outreach activities vary by project site. One of our volunteers, Riley, who volunteered with us in Project Cavite in the Philippines, provided an awesome overview of the diverse clinical and outreach activities she participated in while on-site:  

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“My month at Project Cavite was filled with amazing experiences. Every week, I started in Manila working in the pediatric oncology ward at Philippines General Hospital. I got to meet and build relationships with many children and adults in the infusion center. Other days of the week, I went back to Cavite to be a part of FIMRC’s rural outreach project where I shadowed physicians and dentists and even learned how to give a basic prenatal exam. What I loved most about the project was that every day was different!”

Do I need to know the language?

Certainly not! Our volunteers often form bonds with the community, without speaking the local language. Although we encourage our volunteers to try to learn some words and phrases to communicate with the community and staff, not knowing the language should never stop someone from volunteering. Danielle, who volunteered with us in Huancayo, found that traveling to a site where she did not speak the language helped get her out of her comfort zone and find different ways to engage with the community. Her favorite part of the trip was playing with the local children:

“After we were done working, we played ball or pushed the children on a swing. It was amazing because we didn’t need language to play with the kids.”

Where will I stay during the trip?

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We provide housing and transportation for our volunteers at each of our project sites. Depending on which site you choose, you will either stay in a homestay with a local family or in a guesthouse with other volunteers. Volunteers enjoy both types of accommodations for different reasons and the housing situation is definitely something to consider when choosing a site! Volunteers often enjoy living with a homestay family because they feel that they can be truly immersed and welcomed into the community. As Sydney, who volunteered with us at Project Alajuelita in Costa Rica, shared:

“My homestay family was very inclusive. They had a daughter who was our age and they’d ask all about us. We’d have dinner at our house with everyone. It wasn’t forced at all, it felt very natural.”

Will I have free time?

Definitely! Volunteers spend most of their time volunteering Monday through Friday. Volunteers are free to explore the community on evenings and weekends. We have plenty of recommendations for fun things to do in and around our communities. Site staff can help volunteers plan weekend excursions if they choose. For example, at Project Anconcito in Ecuador, there are plenty of opportunities for excursions such as hiking, surfing, whale watching, jet skiing, and deep sea fishing! As volunteer Kathleen recently shared:

“We traveled to Puerto López, a coastal town in the Manabí providence, just north of Santa Elena. We spent Saturday on a boat, traveling to Isla de La Plata (“Island of Silver”), snorkeling in the Pacific, seeing whales, hiking on the island, and watching incredible animals on the island.”

I am nervous about traveling alone. Is it common for volunteers to travel by themselves?

We completely understand your concerns! Traveling alone can be intimidating and our team is here to help you feel comfortable. Our site staff and community members welcome all of our volunteers with open arms. Depending on when you travel, other volunteers may be on site to share your experience. Even if you are the only volunteer on site, you will form relationships with our staff and the community that will make you wonder why you were ever nervous in the first place! Stephanie, a recent volunteer who traveled with us to La Merced, Peru told us about her experience traveling solo:

“My host mom was amazing, especially because I volunteered alone. She welcomed me in with open arms and treated me like family. Leaving was really hard. The relationships that I built with the children and the staff were amazing.”

Read more about Stephanie’s experience in La Merced here!

How does FIMRC ensure its programs are sustainable and mindful of the local community?

We work hard to ensure that we are working with our communities to meet their specific needs. We are proud that 94 percent of our field staff are from the local community. This helps us build trust and develop relationships with the community that keep them coming to our services week after week. Approximately 90 percent of our revenue comes from our volunteer programs, which ensures that our services operate year-round, whether or not volunteers are on site to support those services. When asked about what was the most rewarding part of her trip, Tara, a pediatric nurse who volunteered with us in Uganda, answered:

“Getting to know that I’ve made an impact long-term with an organization that continues to work in the community.”

Interested in learning more about how we ensure that we are making an ethical impact? Check out our blog where we discuss responsible volunteerism!

I know I want to serve, but I’m not sure which site is best for me, will your team help me decide?

Yes, we’d be more than happy to! We have plenty of guides and resources we’d be happy to provide to you to learn more about each of our project sites. Email us at missions@fimrc.org or fill out an inquiry on our website and we’d be excited to match you with a site that best suits your skills and interests!

We hope you will join us soon as part of one of our many volunteer opportunities, including our Summer International Health Fellowship (SIHF). Slots are still available for both summer sessions, sign up today or email missions@fimrc.org any time to learn more or ask us anything!