You already know that people who take the opportunity to volunteer overseas are a different breed. It’s difficult to identify how many Americans volunteer abroad full-time, but it’s safe to estimate it’s between one and 1.6 million, figures provided by GoOverseas.com and Moving Worlds.
You probably know what immunizations you’ll need and how to safeguard your passport. Two other items to think about deal with your eventual return home. Knowing how to safeguard your funds and ensuring that you stay in touch with the volunteers who inspired you to take this next step are of utmost importance.
Keep Your US Bank and Credit Accounts
Closing down your bank accounts and credit cards is not a good idea, as Yahoo! Finance explains, also advising that even expats should keep them open. Closing healthy accounts can damage your credit scores. Keep your bank accounts as well; the easiest way to pay for any purchases you make online or with a credit card is through a secure Internet connection to your bank.
Since the potential for fraud is now (almost) a given, consider buying into a credit watchdog service. You won’t be home to get any calls or text alerts if someone else uses your credit or debit card, but a domestic service like Lifelock can do this for you and take proactive steps to safeguard your finances and identity. The best services even monitor black market websites that buy and sell stolen IDs. You can get tips about credit and ID protection by following @LifeLock.
Finally, many employers today run credit checks on potential employees. Any activity they consider unusual—like closed bank or credit cards—can leave an unfair stain on your record, even if there are no payment gaps.
Remain Involved With Local Volunteer Contacts
Even if you’re shifting your volunteer focus, it’s very important that you keep in contact with the volunteers you’ve worked with. For one, many of them, particularly the organizers, may have provided references for you when you applied for overseas opportunities. If you’re a younger person starting out, these are very important contacts to keep for future employment and social contacts.
According to Moving Worlds, a service that matches volunteers with social impact organizations overseas, almost 70% of overseas volunteers left a paying job. If you’re leaving one, remember that your group’s organizers are your peers and can help you make important employment contacts when you return.
Start a blog before you leave and link it to a Twitter account that reaches out to these folks and your other contacts (family, friends, coworkers). It’s a great way to let people know about the cause you’re supporting with your life. It will also serve as a great resume-booster for the job hunt when you return home.
Involve Your Current Volunteer Colleagues With Your Future Endeavor
It really doesn’t matter if your upcoming overseas work is a completely different turn from your domestic volunteering. Your volunteer friends will be very interested in what you will be doing. Give them opportunities to support your upcoming work while you both continue to do the good work at home.
For example, host a yard sale or swap meet to raise funds for both organizations. The Volunteer Overseas blog notes that you won’t be taking 20 pairs of shoes with you, so go ahead and sell them. Publicize your event through the groups’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and encourage your contacts to do the same with theirs. Take a ton of pictures to put on a Pinterest page, and remind everyone to share, share, share!