Volunteering overseas after you’ve finished working can be a rewarding, useful and inspiring experience – so why not see if it will work for you in retirement?

Golf, gardening and spending time with family are all worthwhile pursuits - but so is getting out of your comfort zone and giving back.
Volunteering overseas is a great way to do that.

Here’s an overview of what’s involved before you consider taking the plunge.
Give back by volunteering overseas International charities and other organisations welcome retirees and career gappers who want to donate their skills and wisdom to short and long-term projects in developing countries.

Semi-retired Perth-resident, Nina Boydell, recently completed her fourth overseas assignment in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with the Australian Volunteers program, an Australian Government initiative.
“I wish I’d started sooner,” she says.

Boydell and her husband, John, had enjoyed PNG as tourists, so when an opportunity arose in Bougainville for a land use planner (John’s profession) they took on the challenge.

Owing to the longevity of many Australian volunteer assignments, partners and dependents are encouraged to accompany volunteers. As luck would have it, Nina was just right for another volunteer position on the island, working with the Bougainville Women’s Federation.
With her focus on women’s empowerment and small business mentoring, Nina was then able to contribute to the community by initiating a continuing health education project for the women and girls of Bougainville.

Do it for the right reasons
The international volunteer placement sector is vast, with as many ways to volunteer as locations. Scrutiny is advised, not only to weed out unsuitable organisations and assignments, but also to confirm your own commitment.
Sean Lynch, recruitment manager for the Australian Volunteers program, is used to fielding Monday morning phone calls from people who’ve had enough at work or something’s changed in their life and they see volunteering overseas as the answer.
“This shouldn’t be a snap decision,” he says. “It’s not about having a big heart and wanting to help people – you must have a skill you can pass on and share.”

The Australian Volunteers program has strict protocols to ensure its volunteers can fulfil a project’s professional requirements, and demonstrate the mental and physical capacity to adapt to the challenges of a new environment.
The interview process covers everything from the power dynamics in developing communities, through to language, diet, climate and cultural differences. Prospective volunteers also undergo stringent reference checks, police clearances and psychological assessments.
There is no age limit, nor will a pre-existing condition rule you out. However, it’s important to remember the Australian Volunteers program reach extends from Southern Africa across to the Pacific Islands, and up north as far as Mongolia.
“We work in a lot of humid countries, which affect people who aren’t used to it,” says Lynch. “And if you’re going to a country without Australian-standard hospitals, you need to indicate how you can manage a pre-existing condition.”

Get your ducks in a row
The Australian Volunteers program specialises in professional placements that typically run from three to 24 months, for people with skills in the business management, the legal sector, finance, IT and HR. Those areas, along with English language teaching and some marketing and communications roles, are in high demand.
Current assignments are posted on the website and can be filtered by country and sector. But, be aware, country-shopping is discouraged as it’s about responding to local needs.

“You have to have all your ducks lined up, and at the same time in there has to be a need for your particular skill somewhere in the world,” says Lynch. “I was looking at our roles the other day and there’s one for a bee keeper.
“I’ve been here 10 years and never seen that,” he admits, as you never know where your particular skills might be needed.

Helping you be ready for next
While there are many details to consider before you go, it’s also worth speaking to a financial adviser to ensure that your retirement plans remain on track while you’re away.

To find out more about the Australian Volunteers program, visit https://www.australianvolunteers.com.