What does ELI do?

ELI looks for, and partners with, small humanitarian and environmental organizations without the means to recruit volunteers. The technology costs alone - computers, Internet access, website maintenance - are often insurmountable for these groups. ELI screens volunteers, helps with placements, provides travel planning assistance and is responsible for customer service western volunteers expect and rely on. This frees the host organization not just from technical expenses, but also from the expense of hiring an English-language staff to answer phones and emails. In other words, we do all the legwork, take care of the details and provide wide-ranging assistance, then send volunteers to projects where they are needed. In the meantime, ELI serves as your advocate - and is here to help you have the richest, most rewarding volunteer travel experience possible.

Why do I have to pay to volunteer?

You don't have to pay to volunteer in another country. If you would rather search for organizations yourself, this can certainly be done. Of course, you might find it difficult to verify how legitimate they are. You may also have trouble finding acceptable accommodations. ELI is a placement organization. We work hard to keep costs down. We urge you to comparison shop - you'll discover that ELI's prices are not just competitive but also downright low compared to most volunteer travel organizations. By far, our biggest expense is to our foreign partners. We emphasize a fair fee for their services.  This helps the local economy and raises the quality of life of our partners and their families.There are organizations that pressure their foreign partners to get the lowest possible price. A sad irony for a volunteer program.

Now that you've seen what others charge, consider expenses ELI and our host organizations face -- expenses that dictate the need to charge volunteers:

  • Infrastructure: Odds are, you found us over the Internet. Website construction and website maintenance cost. As do computers, software, advertising, Internet connections, international phone service, etc.
  • On-site support: From the moment you arrive at your ELI placement you rely on the services provided by the local organization and paid for, in part, by your fees. Consider just your airport/train pick-up: cars, gasoline and automobile insurance are necessary. Salaries of English-speaking local coordinators, by definition educated and skilled, need to be factored in. If your daily work as a volunteer takes you to a remote area, the host organization must provide food you can eat, water you can drink and in some cases even guides/guards to insure your personal safety. What if you get sick? Break your leg? Have a family emergency? The host organization must have the means to meet your needs - and in the third world, that alone is a huge and costly challenge.
  • Housing: ELI programs vary but in all cases the host organization is tasked with housing for volunteers. In some projects, local families are paid to host the volunteers: someone needs to find and screen these families and provide alternate accommodations if necessary. In other projects, where placement with a family is not offered, local coordinators must find appropriate hostel/guest house accommodations and then negotiate a reasonable fee for ELI volunteers. All this takes time, involvement and personal investment on the part of the local organization.

Do I need travel insurance?

Yes. First, if you already are insured at home, you should check with your carrier to see what kind of coverage, if any, you will have while abroad. ELI does not supply insurance for the simple reason that we believe that you should be able to decide on the nature of your coverage. Some insurance, particularly for students, is very inexpensive. We recommend  STA Travel International Travel Insurance. You can call STA at 877-777-8717.  Trip cancellation and interruption insurance is wise, since we are unable to offer refunds once your program begins.

Other sources for affordable insurance:

How much does it cost?

It depends on the program you choose. Most programs have a one time program fee based on how long you will stay.  This fee covers our costs associated with setting up the program, accommodation, some meals, and in-country administrative expenses.

Please see our costs page for more information.

When can I go?

The programs are ongoing, so you can decide when you would like to go. Please see the country cost page for the specific start dates in a country.

What is the application process?

We set up all placements on a completely individual basis depending on the information in your application and the needs of the organizations at the time you will be in the program. For an application to be considered complete, we need to receive your application form, application fee, CV/Resume, cover letter,  questionnaire, and waiver. If you applied to a program in Latin America your CV/resume and cover letter should be in Spanish. You will receive the questionnaire, waiver and a request for the CV and cover letter after receipt of the application fee. Once we have your complete application, we send the information to our in-country coordinator. The coordinator submits the application information to local organizations for their approval. Matching an applicant with a position usually takes 4-6 weeks, but it can take more time or less time. Once the coordinator has finalized your placement, we will send you the details and an invoice for the program fee. We need to receive the program fee 30 days before you depart in order to make sure everything is ready for your arrival.

 Can you tell me exactly what I will be doing?

Once we finalize your placement, we will send you a job description and information about the organization you will be working with. Remember that all placements are set up on a completely individual basis, so your experience with a specific organization may be entirely different from a past participant's experience. Keep in mind that you are working to fill a need in the organization and needs change over time. International volunteering requires flexibility. We will do our best to inform you of your tasks, but tasks may change once you are in-country.

Do you offer scholarships or other financial aid?

Unfortunately, we do not have the funding to offer grants or scholarships for the programs, but we really work to keep our prices as low as possible for everyone. If you are receiving a grant or scholarship from another organization and wish to apply it toward an ELI program, we will be happy to work with you.

Is ELI nonprofit?

Yes, ELI is a registered 501(c)3. The program fees may be tax deductible for US taxpayers. You will need to check with your accountant or tax preparer for details on how to do this.

What immunizations do I need?

This varies depending on what country you are going to. For the final word on immunizations, you will need to make an appointment with a doctor specializing in travel medicine, but we recommend following the guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/travel/

Will I need a visa?

Some countries require that travelers obtain a visa before entering the country. Participants are responsible for obtaining their own visa if it is required.

When should I apply?

It is best if we receive your application at least 2 or 3 months before you plan on starting a program. We will accept applications earlier, of course. Sometimes we are able to set up programs with less notice. Please inquire if you need to set up a program in less time.

How long does the program last?

This depends on the country you wish to volunteer in. Generally, programs can last any length of time from two weeks up to six months.  Please see the country costs page for the time limits within a specific country.

What are the age requirements?

All participants must be at least 18 years old at the time of participation. We work with people of all ages over 18. Our oldest participant was 81 when he volunteered.

Can I be placed with my travel buddy?

Yes, we often work with people traveling together so this is not a problem.

Where do I stay?

It depends on the program. Participants stay either with a local host family or in volunteer housing associated with the project.

Do I need to be a US citizen to Participate?

No. We accept participants from all over the world.