AM I EMPLOYED BY CUSO INTERNATIONAL WHILE OVERSEAS AND DURING A PLACEMENT?
During their placements, volunteers serve the local partner organization in the country where they work. The role of Cuso International is to broker their placement with the partner organization and to offer support in this placement by, for example,
– helping a volunteer understand what their local partner organization expects of them
– providing the training required by the local partner organization so that a volunteer can work effectively in their placement and within the context of the country they are volunteering in
– supporting both the volunteers and the local partner organization to maximize the mutual benefit of their partnerships
– making available to the volunteers certain financial and other types of support to allow them to take up their placement.
CAN I APPLY TO BE A VOLUNTEER IF I HAVE DEPENDENT CHILDREN?
Cuso International appreciates that many potential volunteers have partners and children. We recognize that there are benefits for all involved when children accompany a volunteer on a placement. Cuso International has previously placed volunteers with their families overseas. However, taking children on a Cuso International placement can often present practical difficulties and limited placement options. Please note that limited support for an accompanying partner and/or children can only be granted in the case of long-term placements (12 months or longer).
In cases where a volunteer’s partner is remaining in North America, Cuso International is not financially responsible for any dependents.
If you have any questions around volunteering with your partner, dependent children and the options available to you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAN I RETURN TO NORTH AMERICA DURING MY VACATION?
Returning to North America during your volunteering is possible. Some volunteers choose to return to North America for their vacation. The volunteer vacation time (terms and conditions) will be determined with your local employer.
Please note that Cuso International cannot cover the costs of any personal travel during this period.
DO I HAVE TO ARRANGE A WORK PERMIT AND VISA MYSELF?
Cuso International will arrange work permits and visa
DOES VOLUNTEER MEAN I WON’T BE PAID?
Volunteering your service overseas means that you are willing to take your professional skills and apply them in context that encourages a sense of partnership with the people with whom you are working. You will not receive a salary equivalent to a North American employee in a similar role, but you will receive a living allowance similar to that of your local colleagues.
Cuso International also covers your expenses relating to pre-departure training, airfare, health insurance, required immunizations and accommodation while you are overseas. Cuso International provides a comprehensive package of training and support in preparing for your placement. Please review the descriptions for each program to review which expenses are covered.
HOW DOES THE VOLUNTEER SELECTION PROCESS WORK?
The selection process begins when Cuso International receives your application. If you satisfy the criteria at the application stage, and after a preliminary phone interview, you will be invited to an assessment day. The volunteer is responsible for the cost of the first $200 of the most cost-effective means of travel to the assessment day while Cuso International will cover the balance for those volunteers whose travel costs exceed $200.
Once you’re invited to an assessment day, we will contact the three references you provide during the phone interview. A final decision about your suitability to go overseas with Cuso International will not be made until we have received the three satisfactory references. So please ensure your references complete and return the form provided in a timely manner.
I CAN’T WORK OVERSEAS RIGHT NOW, BUT I’D LIKE TO VOLUNTEER WITH CUSO INTERNATIONAL IN CANADA OR THE UNITED STATES. HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
Cuso International’s contribution to fighting global poverty does not only involve sending and supporting volunteers overseas. We also raise awareness of development issues here in North America, with the aim of encouraging more people to become engaged in a global community.
There are many ways that you can contribute to Cuso International’s work — you can
- fundraise to support our work
- volunteer at one of Cuso International’s offices
- become an e-volunteer (link to e-volunteering section)
- become a Cuso International selector in Ottawa
Please visit the Types of Volunteers section for more information about these opportunities to contribute.
I’M A QUICK LEARNER, BUT I DON’T HAVE LEVEL 4 SPANISH/FRENCH. CAN I BRUSH UP ON MY LANGUAGE SKILLS WHILE IN PLACEMENT?
Our partners require overseas volunteers with professional skills and experience, and an ability to function in the working language of their placement. Cuso International volunteers must meet minimum language requirements — in English, French or Spanish — before travelling overseas. In general, this means volunteers should function at a Level 3 or 4 ability in French or Spanish on the Cuso Language International Scale countries where these languages are required. Preference will be given to candidates who fulfill language requirements at this level.
I’M A RETURNED CUSO INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER AND I WANT TO VOLUNTEER AGAIN. DO I NEED TO RE-APPLY?
Cuso International welcomes new applications from serving or former volunteers who wish to re-volunteer. Cuso International follows a modified application process for returned volunteers, which is determined on a case-by-case basis but typically involves the following:
- reviewing the Cuso International reference and any additional documentation from the country of the first placement
- filling out a Cuso International re-volunteering questionnaire
- having a re-volunteering discussion with a volunteer advisor over the phone or in person
- meeting the Cuso International terms and conditions
IS CUSO INTERNATIONAL RIGHT FOR ME?
Being a Cuso International volunteer requires professional and personal commitment, flexibility and adaptability to handle new situations and challenges, and the ability to live and work in another culture with an approach that values two-way learning and mutual respect.
MY WORK EXPERIENCE IS NOT IN A TRADITIONAL PROFESSION LIKE TEACHING OR NURSING. DOES CUSO INTERNATIONAL STILL HAVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ME?
Cuso International doesn’t just work in health and education, but also in community economic development, natural resource management and governance, to name a few areas. As such, we are able to place volunteers from a range of skill areas and professions — from accountants to performing arts specialists.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE ASSESSMENT DAY?
Cuso International will contact you with the results (by phone or by e-mail) of your assessment day within five working days. Should you successfully meet the criteria and be selected as a volunteer, you will begin the next steps.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY IN THE COUNTRY WHERE I AM WORKING?
The personal safety of volunteers is of primary importance to Cuso International. In the event of an emergency during your placement, the Cuso International program office in the country where you are working will take the necessary steps to ensure your safety, and have excellent response systems in place.
Even before placing volunteers, Cuso International makes an independent judgment that placements have met an acceptable level of safety.
Volunteers are briefed on health and safety issues at the pre-departure training courses as well as a briefing once they are in the country. Volunteers must also read the Cuso International security briefing for the country where they are considering a placement before accepting the placement.
WHAT IF I GET SICK WHILE I AM OVERSEAS?
Living and working in the developing world, where conditions may be fairly basic, demands a certain level of physical and psychological fitness, so it is Cuso International’s policy that you have a medical examination within one month of your selection as a volunteer, before going overseas. Previous medical treatment will not necessarily disqualify you from being offered a placement, although it will be considered in deciding your suitability.
While you are overseas, your health will be of paramount importance. This is why placements must ensure that you have a reasonable standard of living, clean water and a healthy diet.
Cuso International has its own medical advisors both in Canada and overseas, and can offer up-to-date vaccination advice and make healthcare recommendations.
Once you have arrived in the country, program office staff will advise you on medical facilities near your placement. If you have a medical problem or emergency, program office staff are able to provide advice and will make necessary arrangements to ensure that you receive appropriate care.
WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT CAN I EXPECT FROM CUSO INTERNATIONAL WHILE I AM OVERSEAS?
Cuso International maintains program offices in most of the countries and all of the regions where volunteers are working. Program office staff provide support to volunteers by conducting in-country orientation, basic language training and support throughout your placement. For volunteers working on a two-year placement, you will receive a placement visit from a member of the program office staff during your initial six months in placement, with an additional visit midway through your placement. Of course, in the event of an emergency, the program office is responsible for taking whatever action is necessary to ensure your safety.
In terms of your daily work, volunteers report directly to a local employer, and are expected to approach the employer as a first contact.
WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT WILL I RECEIVE FROM CUSO INTERNATIONAL UPON MY RETURN TO NORTH AMERICA?
When you return to your country, you will receive a resettlement pack that will provide you with some tools to help you make a smooth transition to being home. Cuso International’s medical insurance covers you for up to three months (depending on the length of your placement) upon return to North America and after the end of your volunteer service.
All returned volunteers from North America are invited to attend a reintegration workshop, at Cuso International’s expense, held approximately three times a year. Reintegration workshops give volunteers an opportunity to reflect on their experience from both a personal and a professional perspective, and explore options for the future. The three-day workshop also includes a full day of global education and public engagement training to help you share your experience and learning with people in North America.
WHAT TRAINING DOES CUSO INTERNATIONAL PROVIDE?
One of Cuso International’s key approaches to development is a commitment to learning. We offer pre-departure and in-country training programs in addition to providing support for volunteers to conduct self-briefing throughout their preparation process. We provide briefing materials, references for further reading and contacts with returned volunteers.
Cuso International expects you to actively engage in your own learning and attend a face-to-face training course.
Our training program explores issues related to personal preparation, health and security, values and behaviours in intercultural settings, the broader development context and ways that volunteers can involve their family, friends and communities in their overseas experience.
Our five-day course introduces practical skills and attitudes volunteers will need to implement Cuso International’s approach to development during their placements. Through an experiential learning approach that integrates action, theory, reflection and planning, volunteers design participatory tools and practice facilitation skills to work effectively with the multiple stakeholders in their placement.
Upon arrival in-country, volunteers will be provided with in-country training. This training and learning session will focus on information specific to your country and region of placement. Topics can range from very practical (health, safety and security), cultural orientation and development issues. Depending on your country of placement, this may also include language training.
WHAT WILL MY ACCOMMODATION LOOK LIKE?
The type of accommodation will vary depending on what is available in the country, but you can expect to have your own bedroom and basic hard furnishings such as a bed and mattress, storage space, a table and chairs, and cooking facilities. Accommodation varies from a mud-floored room to an urban apartment, depending on the location of your placement. Some volunteers are asked to share accommodation with other Cuso International volunteers.
WHAT’S THE VALUE OF SERVING AS AN OVERSEAS VOLUNTEER?
In the words of a former volunteer:
“While Cuso International provides support such as accommodation and health coverage, you earn a local stipend and live modestly. Your flexibility, adaptability and capacity to learn are constantly tested. Volunteering overseas is an unimaginably rich opportunity for personal growth. Surmounting daily challenges, growing as an individual and developing strong working and social relationships are profoundly satisfying elements of an overseas volunteer’s personal experience.”
Professionally, it is an incredible opportunity to both refine your skills and learn new ones. Volunteer placements often afford you the opportunity to try out new ideas, be resourceful, show initiative and lead. Combined with the fact that working in an intercultural environment is highly valued in the North American workplace, a rich overseas experience looks good on a resume. Many returned volunteers have said that when their employers were reviewing applicants, it was their overseas experience that made them stand out.
Volunteering overseas can connect you to like-minded people with development organizations in Canada and around the world. Fundraising to support your placement (and projects you may undertake in-country) expands your networks and visibility, further paving the way for career opportunities.
WHO ARE CUSO INTERNATIONAL’S OVERSEAS PARTNERS?
Cuso International’s partners include a wide range of organizations, from government ministries to community-based organizations, from small enterprises to local, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). We seek partners who are committed to change and who can provide the organizational structure and resources needed for volunteers to be effective.
WILL CUSO INTERNATIONAL COVER MY MEDICAL INSURANCE WHILE I AM OVERSEAS?
All volunteers are covered for medical expenses while overseas. Once a volunteer is confirmed for a placement, a medical should be scheduled and the Cuso International medical forms filled out by the volunteer’s doctor. Medical coverage is automatic upon receiving your medical clearance from Cuso International’s medical advisor. Please note that we do not cover pre-existing medical conditions.
Medical insurance covers any necessary medical treatment, such as hospital or ambulance costs, and medication prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner. In the case of a medical emergency, essential evacuation and related expenses are also covered.
Cuso International’s medical insurance also covers you for up to three months upon return to North America after your placement is complete.
WILL I HAVE TO LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE WHILE I AM OVERSEAS?
Cuso International operates in French, English and Spanish. Cuso International is currently experiencing high demand for volunteers with fluency in English, French and Spanish. However, language expectations differ depending on where you are going. You may need to learn or improve your skills in local language in order to be effective in your placement.
Most volunteers receive basic to intermediate language training on arrival in the country. The length of training can vary from two days to two months depending on the importance of the local language to your placement. Where necessary, Cuso International also offers support for you to continue learning a language once you are in your placement. Regardless of the language used in your placement, volunteers find that making an effort to learn the language spoken by their colleagues and neighbours greatly enhances their personal experience and increases the impact of their work.
WILL I HAVE VACATION TIME?
You and your local employer will establish the terms and conditions of employment, such as hours of work and vacation time. However, Cuso International specifies a minimum of three working weeks’ paid leave per year (one week for short-term specialist assignments) or the same amount as local colleagues, whichever is greater.
WILL THERE BE OTHER VOLUNTEERS NEAR ME?
Proximity to other volunteers depends on the type of placement and the country in which you are working. In some cases, Cuso International ‘s work may be most effective if volunteers are placed in ‘clusters,’ while in other cases, you may be a distance from another volunteer.