Deciding To Go
What is Unearth the World (UTW)?
Unearth the World is a service-learning social enterprise that promotes cross-cultural learning through responsible international exchange programs. We plan personalized and meaningful international exchange experiences for students, professionals, groups and families. We prioritize social impact, financial transparency, and volunteer education. We vet each volunteer project by traveling and volunteering there ourselves. Our goal is to help facilitate a responsible volunteer travel experience for our trip participants. We are not travel agents or missionaries. We simply believe that the most meaningful and transformative travel experience involve volunteering alongside local communities. To read more about what makes us different, read this article: Unearth the World’s Our Secret Sauce
Why volunteer abroad?
People decide to volunteer for many reasons. Some enjoy the adventure and unique cultural experience that traveling to a foreign land brings. Others crave the cross-cultural learning. Whatever your reason, we take great care to promote impactful, enriching, ethical and unique projects. We value community partnerships, financial transparency and volunteer education. We do our best to ensure that these values are reflected in everything we do! Unearth the World forms mutually beneficial relationships with our host communities, keeps costs low and transparent, and provides an in-depth training program for travelers (before, during and after your trip)!
Why engage in volunteer travel with UTW? How is UTW different and unique?
Unearth the World is committed to ethical travel, responsible international exchange, and service-learning. We believe that every person interested in volunteering and seeing the world should be able to do it. So, we focus on partnering with community driven international projects that truly benefit from volunteers. Our goal is to engage in reciprocal partnerships so that both the volunteers and local communities are mutually benefitting. We have actually volunteered with each of our partners so we understand their needs and wants as well as the unique circumstances a volunteer will face while on the project. We pride ourselves on preserving the dignity of those we are working with and are dedicated to financial transparency. While there is a fee to travel with Unearth the World, we believe that every dollar you spend while traveling and volunteering through us should be accounted for. Finally, we support each traveler during preparation for the trip, while volunteering, and during re-entry into normal life through pre and post-trip training. To read more about what makes us unique, click here.
How do I travel with UTW? Follow these 10 steps to get started:
1. Choose your program and/or location
2. Submit your application online – Unearth the World will respond to your online application within 72 hours and send you an email confirming the receipt of your application and requesting a phone interview
3. Interview with Unearth the World staff to discuss intentions and confirm/finalize project availability
4. Pay application fee – Once volunteer is accepted into a project, they must acknowledge and sign the Unearth the World Liability Waiver and Code of Conduct and pay $500 application fee.
5. Finalize project match and receive project manual – Once application, payment, and forms are received, volunteers receive a confirmation letter and project manual via email to aid in guiding preparation. Volunteers will schedule a date and time for pre-departure training.
6. Start logistical planning (flight, passport, visa, vaccinations, background check)
7. Pay program fees – If the start date of your placement is more than 120 days away, then the program fee is due at least 120 days before your start date. If the start date of your placement is less than 120 days away, then the program fee is due right away with your application fee.
8. Pre-departure volunteer training – Complete pre-departure training. Training includes 5 independent modules and one phone call with Unearth the World
9. Enjoy your adventure
10. Post-trip reflection and guidance – After your trip, it is important to reflect on your experience and strategize on how to incorporate your project into your normal life. Post-trip reflection includes independent work, an Unearth the World survey, and a 30-minute coaching call with Unearth the World.
Do I need to be from the U.S. to volunteer with UTW?
No. In fact, we love working with people from around the world!
Do you have an age limit to volunteer?
This largely depends on which project you are going to engage with. Some projects have an 18 year age limit while others welcome children and people of all ages.
Do I need specific skills to volunteer abroad?
No. However, during our application and matching process, we do our best to match your specific skills and interests with the needs of the project.
Do I need to speak the local language?
No. There are plenty of English speakers at every project. But, prior to your departure, we will discuss the local language with you and teach you basics during a personalized volunteer orientation.
How do I find a volunteer project that fits my needs?
Send us email (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that we can discuss the different program options. We will talk with you about your needs and motivations for volunteering and do our best to pair you with a project that will be a good fit.
Preparing To Go
How do I apply with UTW?
Email Unearth the World (email@example.com) to receive a volunteer application. We will respond to your application within 72 hours and reach out to discuss the different volunteer travel options with you. Once you have committed to volunteering and are paired with a project, you will be asked to pay an application fee. After that – you will receive a packet of information guiding you through trip preparation and educating you about the country and project you are visiting.
How far in advance do I need to apply for the volunteer program?
We recommend applying at least 3 months before your departure. While we can pair you with a project quickly, there are a lot of travel details (flight booking, visas, vaccinations, insurance, etc) that need to be completed prior to travel.
Do I need a passport?
Yes, you will need a passport with at least 6 months dating before expiration.
Do I need a visa?
In most cases you will need a visa. This depends on which country you are from and which country you are visiting. This can easily be determined by a quick online search. Please note that the visa application process and timeline varies greatly so it is important to research this right away.
Do I need insurance?
Yes, we require that each volunteer purchases traveler’s insurance. We are happy to help make recommendations for you.
Do I need vaccinations?
You may. Contact your local physician to determine what vaccinations you need.
Can I volunteer alone? With a group? With my family?
Yes. We welcome solo volunteers, families and groups!
What kind of pre-trip support does Unearth the World provide?
We think that pre-trip preparation is extremely important! So, we take great care to ensure that our travelers are fully prepared for their journey.
- When a volunteer initially signs up for a project, they receive a detailed packet of logistical travel information (visa, vaccinations, insurance, etc.) to guide in the planning process.
- Then, in the weeks leading up to the trip, volunteers engage in a more formal training in the form of a global service-learning curriculum. Unearth the World travelers receive several emails leading up to the trip focusing on worldview, culture shock, reflection, and power and privilege – all key themes for any international traveler.
- Finally, travelers have a pre-trip phone call with Unearth the World staff in order to discuss last minute project details and guide trip participants in setting their individual learning plans. Read more about our global service-learning training curriculum.
Safety and Security
Does Unearth the World (UTW) take any extra safety precautions?
Yes. Unearth the World’s number one priority is the safety of our travelers. While unfortunate circumstances can unexpectedly arise, we as an organization take many steps to mitigate risk and promote the safety of our travelers. Please read the rest of the safety FAQ or speak to an UTW representative for more information.
How does UTW choose which countries to work in?
UTW only forms partnerships in countries and regions that do not have travel warnings of any sort. And, are approved for travel by the US State Department.
How does UTW choose partners?
UTW has developed a strategic and in-depth partnership vetting process that ensures that travelers engage in meaningful service and the local communities truly benefit from volunteer presence. We visit, vet and volunteer with each organization before forming partnerships and ensure that our volunteers possess the proper skills to contribute to each organization. Our process involves an in-depth questionnaire, 3-5 Skype calls and a personal visit. Safety is a primary reason for this in-depth process.
Do UTW travelers receive any safety training?
Yes. As an organization, UTW provides each volunteer with a pre-trip safety training. Additionally, travelers receive a safety orientation from our international partner projects when they arrive on site.
What happens if something goes wrong while a traveler is onsite?
All of UTW’s international partners have emergency and evacuation plans in place, should a situation occur. UTW carries Risk & Liability and Kidnap & Ransom insurance in addition to requiring individual international travelers insurance for each traveler. While we have never had a situation where we needed to use any of these plans to date, we find it important to be prepared. We are happy to share our Risk Management manual with you if you would like to read it.
What should I do if I have more safety and security concerns?
If you have any additional questions about safety, UTW is always happy to address any concerns. Please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While volunteering: Fees and Experience
Why does UTW only have six partners?
Unearth the World prides ourselves on engaging in effective and reciprocal partnerships. We only partner with community driven projects that we have visited so that we can ensure that the volunteer has the most meaningful and effective experience possible. We will continue to add additional partners in the future but are currently focused on quality rather than quantity of partners. Visit our projects page to learn more about our opportunities in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Zambia.
What about money once I arrive?
As you can imagine, your money goes a long way once you arrive at your destination. Your food, accommodations, and in-country travel are included in your project fees so you will only need money for incidentals. We recommend changing money at the airport when you arrive.
What will the accommodations be like?
Accommodations will vary based upon the project you are paired with. All accommodations are modest and clean.
What will the food be like?
Food varies upon the project you are paired with. You can count on sampling plenty of local specialties! Please let the UTW staff know if you have any dietary restrictions.
Will there be time to travel once I arrive?
Yes! We encourage taking time to travel around the region that you visit and are happy to make recommendations! The amount of travel time will vary on your length of stay.
Why do I have to pay to volunteer?
You are not paying to volunteer. Rather, the majority of your money is going directly to the volunteer partner so that they can provide healthy food for you to eat and clean and secure accommodations for you to stay in. Additionally, a portion of your money will be used as a donation towards the non-profit partner so that they can continue to do their work. UTW is committed to financial transparency so that you can not only understand exactly where your money is going but also see its impact. Take a look at our projects page for a detailed breakdown of each dollar.
Can you break down the fees?
Application fee: $495. This fee goes towards Unearth the World and includes the matching of the volunteer candidate with the international program, volunteer education and orientation, pre-trip training, an information packet on volunteer program and country of travel, 24/7 support from UTW staff, post-trip coaching, program marketing costs, travel costs to inspect programs and communication costs with volunteer.
Volunteer fees: These vary based on the program that you choose. They go towards accommodations, food, and in-country transportation. Part of the fee is also a donation to the international non-profit. Please see our specific projects page for a detailed breakdown.
What is included in the volunteer travel fees?
All meals while volunteering, accommodations, and in-country travel are included in your volunteer fees. You will also receive support from UTW staff before, during, and after your trip in the form of 24/7 communication, guidance, volunteer orientation, and post-volunteer reflection.
What is not included in the volunteer travel fees?
Flights, travel insurance, visas, passport fees, and any personal expenses while at the destination.
Do you have any fundraising suggestions?
Yes! We would love to help you fundraise. We believe that lack of money should never be the reason that someone is unable to have a meaningful international volunteer experience. Just contact the UTW staff for guidance. (E: email@example.com)
What happens when I come home?
Unearth the World believes that even though your travel experience may be short-term, the impact on the traveler and community, should be lasting. So, we provide post-trip coaching to each volunteer to help you bridge your international experience into your everyday life.