Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of our most frequently asked questions. If you have a question we haven’t answered below, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Eligibility and Enrollment


What do you look for in applicants?

Utopia Volunteers is looking for champions with the will to help others. Even if you do not think you have something to offer, you do! We’ll talk with you about your strengths and passions, then match you with a volunteer project where you can make an impact and improve the lives of others.


Do I have to be a student to volunteer?

No.


Is there a minimum age requirement to volunteer?

Volunteers traveling without adult supervision must be 18 years or older. If you are under 18 and would like to volunteer, please contact our office for details. Families with children are also welcome to volunteer!


What if I live outside the U.S.?

We welcome all international volunteers!


What is the screening process?

To make sure we find a fitting project and location that will let you make the biggest impact, first we talk with you, then we review your application and submitted background check.

Do you turn applicants down?

We work diligently to find a place for all volunteers. We will turn down applicants that have an unfavorable criminal record as noted on the background check.

Do I need prior experience in any of the activities offered?

In most cases, we can place volunteers without related experience in any project. For some positions in the healthcare field, however, we do require you to have formal medical training. Our prime desire is that you have a willing, open heart and that you want to work hard to make a difference. Talk with us about your goals, skills, and talents and we’ll connect you with a project that will let you give back in the biggest way.

Can I volunteer with friends, family, or co-workers?

Yes! We can place you and a friend, family member, or co-worker in the same project and accommodations, or you can choose to live in the same accommodations and work on different projects. Talk with us about your specific situation and we’ll make it work!

What is the maximum capacity for a group volunteering together?

There is no limit. If you would like to volunteer with a group or family, please contact us and we’ll discuss your options. We can accommodate both small and large groups, sometimes even building a new project based on the needs of your group. So, if you have an idea for group volunteering, let us know!

 

Project and host details

Can I enroll in more than one project?

Yes! We want you to make a big impact on the communities you serve, so if you’d like to use your skills in more than one area, great! We’ll be more than happy to discuss all your options including volunteering with multiple projects in one country, or extending your stay and volunteering in multiple countries.

How are homestays/accommodations selected?

We visit each lodging location and make sure to carefully interview the host family for our homestay accommodations. We require each host family to offer private rooms for our volunteers in a safe, clean environment. Some of our non-homestay project options have on-site volunteer rooms, or a volunteer house in which all volunteers live together.

What kind of food will be served?

The specific food options will vary in each location based on the local cuisine. No matter where your project is, you’ll be provided with three healthy, delicious meals each day. If you have dietary restrictions, let us know and we’ll be happy to make arrangements for you.

In-country questions

What is a typical schedule of a volunteer project?

First, you’ll start your day with a big breakfast at your home accommodations. Then you’ll head out for your volunteer project and will work there until breaking for lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. (depending on location). Sometimes you’ll stay at your project and enjoy lunch with the locals, or you may return to your host accommodations. After lunch, you’ll return to work until 4 or 5 p.m. This is a generic schedule and your unique project may be different.

What will the actual fieldwork be like?

Fieldwork will vary in each location and project. When you’re choosing a project, our staff will explain the tasks for each project. And, prior to your departure, we’ll send you a placement packet that will include details of your daily work.

How much free time will I have?

You can expect to have weekends and evenings free. There is plenty of time for you to enjoy the culture and visit local sites during your downtime.

What if I don’t speak the local language?

That’s ok! In most countries, English is a second language and you’ll be able to communicate with most everyone this way. In Latin American countries, knowledge of Spanish is helpful but not required. A language barrier hasn’t stopped a volunteer yet! Let us know if you’d like some tools for learning the basics before you go. Your in-country coordinator can also provide useful phrases.

What happens if I get sick?

All communities are within a short driving distance from good medical care. Your country coordinator will make sure you receive the help you need should you become sick or injured while in your project country. We also require that you purchase international travel insurance that will be very useful in emergencies.

Am I able to communicate with my family and friends back home?

Yes of course! You have many communication options including email, social media, and Skype (internet cafes and wireless hotspots are common throughout our project countries). You may also be able to use your current cell phone (but be sure to check on international rates), or purchase a local SIM card for your phone, or even purchase a local phone when you arrive. Each country has many different options that we’d be happy to discuss with you.

What is the drug and alcohol policy?

We have a ZERO tolerance drug and alcohol policy. Any volunteer caught using drugs or alcohol will be dismissed from the program immediately and all associated costs will be at the volunteer’s expense.


Cost Information

How much do the projects cost and what is included?

Costs depend on your project and location, and on how long you plan to volunteer. Everything is included except for your flights, vaccinations, visa (if required by destination country), travel insurance, criminal background check, and personal expenses. Note that each destination country is unique but we will make sure you understand all costs before leaving on your trip. Check out our Dates and Fees page for details and contact us with any questions.

Why do I have to pay to volunteer?

You are not paying to volunteer, but you are paying for the assurance of safe and comfortable accommodations and a verified, community building and enriching project to volunteer with. Think of us as a volunteer travel agent who is setting everything up for you and supporting you in each portion of the experience.

When must I pay for the trip?

A $350 non-refundable registration fee is due when you apply and your program fee is due in full at least 60 days before your start date.

Can I make payments?

Yes! We will be happy to work with you on creating a payment plan that will help you pay for the trip in full before you leave. Let us know if you want to discuss this option.

Can I fundraise? How?

Yes of course! There are many options for fundraising. Check out our fundraising tips and contact us if you’d like to brainstorm more possibilities.

Are my costs tax-deductible?

In some circumstances, travel and other expenses you necessarily incur directly because of your volunteer efforts with Utopia Foundation may be tax deductible. For more information, please read the IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions (available at www.irs.gov). Utopia Foundation cannot provide tax advice and encourages you to consult with a tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

Preparation Questions

What type of insurance do I need?

Volunteers are required to purchase comprehensive international travel insurance and email a confirmation to our office. See our Helpful Tools page to view recommended travel insurance agencies and let us know if you have any questions.

Do I need vaccinations?

Some vaccinations may be required depending on your project country. We suggest you visit the Center For Disease Control (CDC) for a full overview of recommended vaccinations, and for a suggested list of medicines to carry with you on your trip.

Do I need a visa?

You will need a tourist visa to volunteer abroad, and it is your responsibility to obtain this visa. The process for getting a tourist visa differs based on your nationality and destination country. For Americans volunteering in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and South Africa, you will not need a visa in advance. In Kenya and Uganda, however, Americans will need to obtain a visa in advance. Check out our Helpful Tools page for more information on visa requirements and contact us if you have any questions.

Am I required to register as a traveler abroad?

Yes. We require every volunteer to register with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Misc.

How long has Utopia Volunteers been around?

The Utopia Foundation was established in 2007 by a team of innovative board members who are committed to providing opportunities for people to express their good intentions in local and international communities. A few years later, in 2011, Utopia Foundation began the volunteer initiative now known as Utopia Volunteers. Our staff has decades of combined experience working and volunteering with international volunteer programs and can assure you professional, dedicated support. Find out more about us on our About page.

Contact us if you have any additional questions! We’ll be more than happy to talk with you and address any concerns.