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Why Choose United Planet for Your Volunteer Abroad Program?
United Planet is renowned for its respect for the community and for volunteers. Please join us to open your world for good.
While United Planet takes great pride in the excellence and integrity of our Volunteer Abroad Program, we regard it as one piece of our effort to build a better world, one relationship at a time. We invite you to join us as we venture out with respect, curiosity, and open hearts and minds. We honor our volunteers and our communities, and do all we can to make a real difference.
The central principle that informs everything we do is relationships. We work with people in their communities to find meaningful, helpful work for the volunteers. We place volunteers in the homes of local families, so they can form relationships and learn about the realities and joys of daily life.
We hope you will join us on a wonderful journey!
“United Planet is Padrino General of the Aldea Infantil."
--Director of the orphanage Aldea Infantil Juan Pablo 2 in Cusco, Peru
Many United Planet volunteers have worked at the orphanage over the years; United Planet recently supplied funds for materials to repair and restore kitchens and buildings for the 64 children who live there.
About United Planet
United Planet was founded by Executive Director David Santulli in 2001 to encourage more people-to-people connections across cultures. United Planet's global network of leaders and volunteers strives to unite the world in a community beyond borders by:
- Fostering cross-cultural understanding
- Addressing shared challenges in communities around the world
The underlying principle of our programs is the concept of Relational Diplomacy -- recognizing that the relationship between people of diverse backgrounds is the basic building block for uniting the world. United Planet’s innovative programs are designed to expose our common human bonds, generate respect and appreciation for our cultural, racial, and religious diversity, and enrich lives of our neighbors worldwide.
Our Quest Volunteer Abroad program fulfills this mission through cultural immersion experiences and community-based projects.
United Planet aims to provide volunteers with 100% cultural immersion experiences. To achieve this we...
- Place most of our volunteers into host families (read more about home stays and host families),
- Provide language classes where possible
Offer cultural activities such as local dance and cooking lessons
- Arrange exciting excursions to local landmarks and museums as part of the volunteer Quest (depending on length of stay).
We thoroughly train our volunteers so as to help them respect local customs and integrate into local life as smoothly as possible, rather than reinforcing mutual stereotypes. Many of our volunteers also participate in a Cultural Awareness Presentation (CAP), which is a chance to make the cultural learning two ways so the hosts also learn about the volunteer’s home and culture. United Planet is not just another volunteer sending organization. Our mission and programming supports volunteers’ involvement both on the ground and when they return.
“I often felt homesick, and paralyzed by my new surroundings. New roads, new languages, new customs, new traditions! But there frequently are those moments when I look around, sigh, and realize that coming to Kenya was the best decision I've ever made. Just yesterday I was on a matatu back to Nairobi from Naivasha, sitting next to a man with a pooing chicken on his lap, and looking out the window at the baboons sitting along the sides of the highway. It may seem strange, but it's those moments when I feel luckiest. “
--Laura Dick, Long-Term Quest Volunteer, Kenya
When a volunteer asks for advice, our staff is able to advise them about our programs since we speak from experience. The United Planet team consists of people from all around the world who have lived, worked, and/or studied in the region they coordinate, as well as previous experience working with volunteer programs, international development and non-profit organizations. Our Quest program staff is always monitoring issues on the ground in all our host countries.
Your Regional Coordinator guides you through the entire process of preparing for your Quest, beginning with the first inquiry about our programs. Coordinators will communicate any special needs you might have to your In-Country Coordinator, confirm your placement, send you country guides and relevant documents, arrange your insurance and online pre-departure training date. After being accepted into a UP program, you are welcome to call or email us at any time to ask questions about your Quest destination. Once in-country, volunteers have 24/7 phone access to UP’s In Country Coordinator who conducts an orientation upon each volunteer’s arrival and checks in regularly with all volunteers in the field.
"When I first signed up for my United Planet Quest in Romania, I had no idea what to expect. After Rasha Musharbash called me for an interview, I was so encouraged! She was so helpful and informative. I really felt like I could trust her...United Planet has excellent coordinators who really made me feel secure and excited about my upcoming quest. Rasha sent me a postcard with my Romanian coordinator's contact information and a handwritten note. I really felt like she cared about me and what I was doing."
--Sarah Woldum, Romania 2010
As preparation and education are key to a volunteer’s success abroad, United Planet provides you with comprehensive pre-departure training covering topics such as health and safety, setting realistic expectations, cross-cultural adjustment, in-country logistics, and more. This includes a mandatory training webinar for Short-Term Quests (1-12 weeks) and an in-person training weekend for Long-Term Quest (6-12 months) volunteers, conducted by United Planet program staff. You will be asked to review relevant materials on the United Planet HUB – an on-line space with important country-specific information and documents about the program, health and safety, language learning, volunteer tips and more. Once in country, volunteers have 24/7 phone access to UP’s Country Coordinator who checks in regularly with all volunteers and conducts an orientation upon each volunteer’s arrival.
“I'm glad I was able to meet other volunteers with similar interests and concerns. It was also great to meet the United Planet coordinators. It's different communicating via email/phone and actually meeting them in person. This weekend training was a great idea and I'm glad I was in the group who was able to participate.”
--Long-Term Quest Volunteer, January 2010, Bolivia
More information on safety, logistics, emergency procedures and health can be found here.
Volunteers' safety is United Planet's number one concern, which is why we provide you with emergency cell phone numbers of your In-Country Coordinators, the UP Home office and your insurance provider. We train volunteers in safety and health best practices before sending them out into the field and also thoroughly vet our host families and projects.
"My two children participated in a United Planet Quest to Peru last summer. They enjoyed their experience so much that this summer they are both going to Guatemala. Both of them truly loved what United Planet organized for them in Peru. Not only did they feel that they were helping underprivileged children in Peru, and making a difference in their lives, but they also bonded with their local host families, became more fluent in Spanish, and were able to travel throughout the incredible countryside of Cuzco. To feel that way is a very empowering experience for teenagers. It has opened their eyes to the world and given them more respect and understanding for other cultures."
--Renata De Dalmas - Parent of two United Planet volunteers
Our coordinators provide personalized attention for each and every volunteer to find a program that is the best fit for them. To thoroughly prepare our volunteers we also provide comprehensive pre-departure information and training via an online portal and one hour webinar. Upon arrival volunteers receive an on-site orientation by their In-Country Coordinator, who will explain logistics, public transportation and local health and safety precautions.
"My entire United Planet Quest experience in Ecuador was even better than anticipated. From the friendly staff at the UP offices, country coordinator and host family, to the volunteer placement and cultural activities, its only enhanced my desire to return to a Quest sooner than later."
--Karen Berry, United Planet Volunteer in Ecuador
Chances are this will be a life-changing experience for you. As a volunteer with United Planet, you will be 100% immersed in the local culture through:
- Home stays
- Language practice
- Placements at local organizations
Volunteering affords you with unique insight into your host country. You’ll gain inside knowledge into how local non-profits, schools and healthcare providers operate in-country, and learn how to communicate cross-culturally. Seeing your identity challenged through the lens of another culture is an experience unto itself! We know you’ll grow a lot and hope that you savor every minute of your Quest.
"My experience was a perfect balance of personal challenge along with enough support from UP to feel comfortable."
--Serena Clardie, Nepal Volunteer 2009
Read more about United Planet’s Responsible Travel and Sustainability Policy here.