Frequently Asked Questions
The following Frequently Asked Questions may help answer some of yours, but we’d be happy to talk with you to answer any questions you may have. We are here to help!
How safe are these trips?
We have been working in these countries and communities for ten years and have always felt safe by taking a few recommended precautions. We will never compromise the health and safety of our students. We are confident in our approach, our logistical arrangements and partners, and our track record and hope that all of these help you to feel more comfortable allowing yourself or your child to enjoy this valuable experience.
Immersing oneself in the community is part of the experience. We offer an orientation upon arrival that instructs participants about any places or times of day to avoid being on the streets as well as ways to avoid calling attention to yourself and what to do if approached by strangers. Beyond that, we have rules around only being out in groups or being with or near a chaperone at all times and procedures for transporting travelers with our in-house drivers and guides, as well as safe, conveniently-located lodging. All staff members, both in-country and US-based, are vetted, trusted professionals, most of whom have been with us for many years. We do not go out after 9:30pm (when the streets get quiet), and are typically in by 7:00pm every day. During work time, our volunteers are with an adult supervisor at all times.
What sort of service work will we do?
All service work falls under the categories of education, sustainable development, and community development. The specific nature of the projects will vary depending on the location, age group of the participants, and the season or time of year. Some projects our groups have worked on in the past include: classroom construction, reforestation, organic farming, permaculture, delivering art/sports/music/environmental workshops to school children, school and classroom beautification, and building and setting up libraries.
How much in advance do we need to plan our trip?
Trip availability is based on first-come, first-serve. We recommend that you sign up at least one month prior to the start date of the trip. That said, the sooner you sign up and book your flight, the cheaper your airfare is likely to be. Also, we do have maximum capacities for each of our trips.
How do I sign-up?
To sign up, simply click on “Sign Up” for the trip you would like to join and complete the application form. You will be asked for a deposit to hold your space. Trips that are restricted to private groups (stated in trip description) may ask for specific information to ensure eligibility. All other trips are public and open to all.
Is there a minimum age to volunteer?
No, though there may be projects that require participants to be a certain age. We have trips designed for just about any and every age group. There are middle school trips, high school trips, college trips, family trips, and even custom trips. Find the trip that’s appropriate for you!
Do I need specific skills? What if I don’t know the language?
No specific skills are required. We engage in volunteer projects that can be done by just about anyone. For light construction and technical projects, there will be a local project leader guiding you throughout the project.
No language skills are required. We have bilingual staff and project leaders as well as hosts that have become accustomed to “creative communication” over their 10+ years of working with our volunteers!
Will I have Internet access?
In most of our locations, you will have some Internet access at your lodging. Keep in mind, that in many of these locations both the electricity and the internet signal can go out from time to time. Adapting to your environment and remaining flexible will be critical to your enjoyment of this unique experience.
Will I have any free time?
Yes, there will be free time built into the agenda most afternoons. Depending on the age of the group, free time will either be spent supervised by our staff (minors) or independently (adults). You may enjoy strolling through town, visiting a local cafe or restaurant, joining in a game of soccer, taking a nap, journaling, or just spending time with your fellow volunteers and community members.
How can I stay in touch with my friends and family at home?
Our representatives will send an email to the person listed as your emergency contact upon your arrival in country. Then throughout the week, they will periodically send updates to the same email address. Beyond that, you will have occasional Internet access to send messages or make Skype calls. In-country staff carry cell phones at all times and will be in regular contact with our team at headquarters should there be need for additional communication. Contact information and procedures are detailed in the trip preparation materials.
Should we bring gifts or donations?
Some volunteers like to bring gifts for their hosts and friends that they meet in the community. We recommend items representatIve of your town/state. For example tee shirts, mugs, frisbees, books, playing cards, drawing/painting materials, towels, hats, chocolate, stickers, playdough, etc.
As for donations, typically, our volunteers fundraise and/or collect donations in the months leading up to their departure. The vIllages where we serve suffer severe poverty. WhIle fundraIsIng Is not a requirement to participate, all efforts are appreciated.
Due to the humanitarian nature of thIs trIp, you may even find creative ways to ask friends, relatives, colleagues, school professors, store owners, etc. for monetary and in–kind donations. Some of the greatest needs include chIldren’s clothIng, shoes, and school supplies. Monetary donations are the most helpful. If each participant raises at least $100, we would be able to send 2-3 teens to school for an entire year as well as improve the physical structure of the local elementary schools they attend.
Please note, upon request, we can provide you with two documents, which may aid you in your efforts:
- in-kind & monetary donations letter for store managers or business owners
- in-kind & monetary donations letter for frIends, relatIves, and teachers
All tax-deductible checks can be made payable to the Young Dreamer Network, a 501(c)3 non-profIt, and mailed to our headquarters office at: Dream Volunteers, PO Box 390726, Mountain View CA 94039.
What travel documents do I need?
You will need a valid passport to travel to any of the countries in which Dream Volunteers operates its service projects. Depending on which country issued your passport, you may or may not need to apply for a visa.
For all US, Canadian, and European citizens, no visa is required to visit Guatemala and Costa Rica. An on-arrival visa is required to visit India, Vietnam and Ghana. These on-arrival visas can be applied for online a few weeks prior to traveling.
For holders of passports from other countries, it’s best to consult the consulate website for the particular country you are considering visiting to determine visa requirements.
How much exploring or sightseeing will we get to do?
All our service trips include sightseeing and travel to other parts of the country beyond where we will be working. Examples include trips to the Taj Mahal in India, Manuel Antonio National Park and Beach in Costa Rica, Lago Atitlan in Guatemala, and Mui Ne Beach in Vietnam. The villages and communities where we operate are also quite breathtaking, so we’ll set aside time for touring in and around our home base as well.
What about the weather?
The weather varies depending on the location and time of year. When you sign up for a particular trip, we will send you information about the location and trip preparation that will include information about the weather, currency exchange, packing lists, and much more.
What do I need to pack?
Your packing list will depend quite a bit on where you are going and the time of year. When you sign up for a particular trip, we will send you more information about the location including a packing list, weather details, currency exchange, and much more.
Housing & Accommodations
Will I have my own room?
Most of our trip participants share a room with at least one other trip participant. If you are staying with a host family, you will never share a room with a member of the host family, but you will most likely share with another volunteer.
Will I be able to do laundry?
Yes, there are laundry services in all of our programs. In Costa Rica, your laundry is washed at no extra charge. In all other countries, you pay a very small amount per pound to have your clothes washed, dried, and folded, as desired.
What kind of food will there be? What if I don’t like the food?
Most of the food will be local cuisine or dishes with a local influence. For example, in Guatemala and Costa Rica, many meals will include black beans and rice. In India, lentils are quite common, and in Vietnam and Ghana, you will find a lot of rice or noodles. Our volunteers generally rave about the food as being one of the highlights of their trips. If you have specific dietary restrictions, just let our staff know and we’ll do our best to accommodate your needs/requests. Please know that our kitchen staff and host families have been preparing food for Western stomachs for years. They take great precaution in handling and preparing the food so that it is contaminate-free and safe for our digestive systems.
What if I have special dietary restrictions?
Our kitchen staff and host families have been preparing food for us for years. They are quite used to vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut allergies, and much more. As long as you are clear with us about your food restrictions, provisions will be made for you.
What if I need other health accommodations?
For most basic needs (i.e., refrigerating medicine, setting up a daily meds schedule, plugging in a C-Pap machine, keeping certain animals away), we are quite accustomed to making accommodations. Just let us know your needs on the registration form, and we will make the necessary arrangements, or call you to further discuss.
Health & Safety
What travel vaccinations will I need?
We are not able to offer medical advice. Please consult your physician or your local travel clinic for their recommendations. There is some information on each trip page about the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for each country but you should speak with your own care providers for more specific information.
What if I get sick while on a trip?
There are various over-the-counter and prescription medications on our packing list that we suggest you consider bringing. Our standard protocol when someone complains of not feeling well is to ask for symptoms, then take one of the following steps depending on the severity: have them stay home and rest with supervision (staff or host nearby); call home to speak with parents/family members about symptoms and preferred response; drive to the clinic or hospital for medical advice; or help them obtain necessary medications, if requested.
In all of our locations, we have trusted and vetted clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals should the need arise. In all locations except Costa Rica, these facilities are within a few minutes drive. (In Costa Rica, they are 45 minutes away, however most local staff are trained in first aid and carry first aid kits with them at all times.)
What if I am / my child is taking medications?
Please indicate all medications you / your child are taking on your registration form. We will provide any support required such as refrigeration or scheduling reminders.
Do I need health insurance?
The first thing you should do is check with your insurance company to determine what coverage is provided when you travel outside your country. Additionally, It is a good idea to purchase travel medical insurance. Seven Corners is a provider that Dream Volunteers has used with great satisfaction.
Is the water safe to drink?
In most countries where Dream Volunteers operates, we do not recommend drinking the tap water. Purified water is available at all of our lodging facilities. We recommend you bring a durable water bottle to refill daily.
Should I be worried about bug bites? (zika, malaria, etc.)
There are often mosquitoes and other biting insects in the areas where we operate. It is advised to pack insect repellant and use it on a daily basis. It is also recommended to wear light clothing that covers most of your skin.
In India, Vietnam, and Ghana, there is a malaria presence. Most clinics recommend taking anti-malarial pills while you are visiting these countries. It is best to consult your doctor or travel clinic for their expert advice.
In the areas where we work and travel in Costa Rica and in Guatemala there is no presence of zika or malaria. That said, we are vigilant about insect repellent application and regularly remind all volunteers throughout the day.
Fees & Fundraising
Why do I need to pay to volunteer?
As a non-profit organization dedicated to the betterment of the communities we serve, as well as the growth and development of our volunteers, Dream Volunteers strives to keep costs down as much as possible. Nevertheless, there are many expenses associated with providing a safe, quality experience for our volunteers. We pay a staff of drivers, guides, project leaders, cooks, and housing providers. We arrange adventure and sightseeing excursions. We purchase materials and supplies for our volunteer work. All of the trip components carry costs that must be covered by a trip fee in order for us to effectively function.
Are there grants or scholarships available to help finance my service trip?
Dream Volunteers works with certain school groups to provide need-based travel scholarships. These are partial scholarships. To qualify for a travel scholarship, you must show significant financial need. We also provide official letters that can be used by prospective volunteers to solicit grants or donations for their trip. We suggest combining our letter with your personalized letter, reaching out to friends, family, and local businesses to request support.
Is there a payment plan option?
Typically, Dream Volunteers charges 40% of the trip fee as a deposit to register and secure a spot on a trip. The final 60% is due one month prior to the start date of the trip. If you would like to arrange a plan different from our standard 40%-60% plan, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss alternatives with you. For those whose trip fee does not include airfare, all but $200 of the 40% deposit is refundable if requested at least two months prior to the start of the trip. If airfare is included in your trip fee, the airfare is not refundable once the tickets have been purchased. Of the remaining deposit minus the airfare, all but $200 is refundable if requested at least two months prior to the start of the trip.
How much spending money do I need to bring?
Depending on the length of the trip, we recommend anywhere from US $150 to $250 for spending money. Keep in mind that, with the exception of one to two meals, all trips costs are covered. You are only responsible for souvenirs, gifts, and social spending. There will be an opportunity to exchange US dollars into local currency when you first arrive or you can use your ATM card. ATMs are easily accessible when spending money is needed.
About Dream Volunteers
What makes Dream Volunteers service trips unique?
Dream Volunteers works in the communities it serves year-round through a program called the Young Dreamer Network. The Young Dreamer Network provides academic scholarships and training programs to youth based in the communities we serve. These youth form service and leadership groups.
How many years has Dream Volunteers been running service trips?
Dream Volunteers began running service trips in Ghana and Guatemala in 2007. In 2010, we added trips to India, then Costa Rica in 2011, and Vietnam in 2016.
What staff will be on the trip? What experience do they have?
Typically, there is at least one Dream Volunteers HQ staff person with our groups as well as a few locally-based staff members. These local staff members range from project leaders and guides to drivers and cooks. Staff has been working with us for several years. They are vetted professionals who make the safety of our volunteers their number one priority. Student trips also have parent, teacher, and/or administrative chaperones that typically accompany the group.