FAQ

The CCS Experience

Can I go on consecutive programs in different locations?

Sure you can! There is no limit to how many CCS destinations you may volunteer in consecutively. Some of our volunteers have volunteered in more than seven CCS destinations in a row! While each program has a separate fee, you'll receive a discount for participating in multiple programs. We've also got some great, multiple-program itineraries up our sleeve, so be sure to let us know if you need a little inspiration.

How do you determine my volunteer assignment?

We believe that the most successful approach to international volunteering is one that looks to the needs and goals of the local community, and we're committed to providing volunteer work that helps them carry out their objectives.

Our volunteers complete a Skills & Interests Form to let us know their top two choices for a volunteer project. With that information, our awesome Program Site Specialists work with in-country staff to select the volunteer project that best fits your skills and interests, aligns with at least one of your top two choices, and addresses the needs of the local people.

Learn more about our process.

How many years has CCS been running international volunteer programs?

We've been running international volunteer programs since 1995. Today, our alumni community is over 30,000 strong!

Learn more about our story and how we measure our impact.

What kind of food will be served at Home-Base?

You and your fellow volunteers will be served three meals a day. Meals will vary in every destination, and always include a variety of healthy and delicious local cuisine. Vegetarian options are regularly available at all Home-Bases and our CCS cooks are happy to accommodate for any dietary restriction.

For more information on meals in specific countries, please contact us.

What types of volunteer projects are available?

We offer a broad range of impactful volunteer projects in order to match the skills and interests of the volunteer with the objectives of the local community. Whether you're working to improve education for children, enhance the quality of healthcare, assist with the care of infants and children, improve health and a sense of dignity among the elderly, improve the quality of care for people with disabilities, or support those affected by HIV/AIDS, volunteer projects are always aligned with current community needs.

Learn more about our volunteer opportunities, and find firsthand accounts of the volunteer experience on our blog.

Will there be time to travel while I’m volunteering abroad?

Free time is available some afternoons, most evenings, and every weekend. On weekends, you'll have the option to take excursions, or you may choose to stay in town and explore your new community. You may also choose to travel before or after the program, but this may affect the tax-deductibility of your airfare. Learn more about what's included in the CCS experience, and for some great ideas of what you can do during your free time abroad.

Read more about what CCS volunteers choose to do during free time on the CCS blog.

Can I choose a specific project on which to volunteer?

You can tell us the types of volunteer work you’re interested in, and you’ll get one of your top two choices. Your specific volunteer assignment is driven by ever-changing community needs, so that may not be known until a few weeks before you depart, but we can guarantee that your project will be high impact, sustainable, immersive, and incredibly fulfilling!

We've got tons of stories from CCS alums who were a bit hesitant about our uniquely community-driven volunteer assignment process, only to later fall in love with this approach. Our volunteer project assignment process has introduced countless volunteers to a completely new way in which they can make a real difference in the world. In fact, lots of our alumni have worked in impact areas that were completely new to them, only return home and change career or academic paths in order to continue to pursue their newfound interest. Want to connect with one of our satisfied alums? Just contact us and we'll connect you with someone in your area.

What is included in the CCS experience other than volunteering?

We believe that each part of your international volunteering experience works to complement the whole. That's why we offer a full and balanced international volunteer experience with time built in for guided cultural activities, solo adventures, cultural exchange, and personal reflection. Whether you're engaging in guided discussions on relevant local issues, or find yourself elbow deep in rice flour and learning how to cook an authentic dish, every organized Cultural Activity will offer you a deeper understanding of the community and all of its beautiful complexities.

Free time is available on some afternoons, most evenings, and every weekend. So whether you choose to go it alone or set out exploring with a crew of your fellow volunteers, every CCS destination offers plenty of time and tons of options for some off-the-charts excursions.

Where can I read stories from past volunteers?

If you're looking for firsthand accounts of exactly what it's like to be a CCS volunteer, you'll find exactly what you're looking for in the CCS blog. Are you a first-time traveler? Do you know what it would be like to plan your gap year with CCS? Wondering what our volunteers think of CCS safety? Whatever you need, you can get the inside scoop on the CCS blog!

Who from the CCS staff will be abroad with me?

Each of the CCS Home-Bases is staffed by an incredible team of local experts and headed by one of our fantastic Country Directors, all experts in the field of international development and volunteering. Find out more about our Country Directors, or learn more about each local team when you visit our destination pages.

What is a cultural activity? Why do you have them?

Cultural activities are organized by CCS and included in every volunteer experience. They are designed to give you a unique insight into your new community, so whether you're participating in an engaging conversation with a local expert, visiting a cultural landmark, learning a new language, or practicing traditional dance, each cultural activity will offer you a new level of understanding and genuine opportunities for cultural exchange. Read this blog post to find out more about why cultural activities are part of the CCS experience.

Who volunteers

Can I volunteer with a group of friends, colleagues, or relatives?

Yes, of course! As long as the program has not already been reserved to its maximum capacity, the more the merrier! Depending on the size of your group, discounts may be available. Find out more about the group volunteer experience, and read stories from families who joined the CCS family.

How far in advance do I need to enroll?

We suggest reserving your spot at least 60 days prior to your desired program start date. Many of our programs fill up quickly, and although we do accept enrollments within 60 days of the start date, we cannot guarantee a spot.

Do you have a minimum or maximum age for volunteers?

In general, volunteers must be 18 to participate independently on a CCS program. If traveling with a parent or guardian, the minimum age is 8 years old. There is no maximum age. Hear more from our volunteers of all ages.

We also offer High School Volunteer Abroad for teens, ages 15-17, who wish to travel independently.

Do I need any specific skills to volunteer abroad?

Our volunteer projects accommodate all levels of skills and experience.

Do I need to speak another language to volunteer?

A basic knowledge of English is necessary to follow the instructions provided by CCS staff. Speaking the local language is not required. In fact, read this blog post for a firsthand account of how impactful a CCS experience can be, even when you don't speak the language.

Do many CCS volunteers enroll solo?

Actually, most of our volunteers enroll on their own for the international adventure of a lifetime. You can rest assured that our programs are the safest around, and that you've always got an incredible team of in-country staff to rely on. The beautiful thing about volunteering internationally with CCS is that even if your fellow volunteers aren't your old friends, you're never really going it alone. In fact, chances are, you're about to meet some brand new, soon to be "old friends." Whether you find that special connection with your fellow-volunteers, the in-country staff, or new local friends, the moment you arrive in your destination of choice, you become a part of the family! Read this story about a solo female traveler and learn about the connections that you'll make on your volunteer experience of a lifetime.

Are CCS programs accessible to people with disabilities?

Yes! Cross-Cultural Solutions is committed to making the international volunteer experience a possibility for everyone. We understand that the accessibility of a CCS program site is defined by your unique needs and we are happy to provide comprehensive information about our program locations to help you determine which destination is best for you. We take great pride in making our programs accessible to all, and through the years, we've worked with many volunteers with disabilities in order to ensure accessibility and comfort. We partner with Mobility International USA (MIUSA) to make sure that we are maintaining an inclusive environment for people with disabilities at each of our program locations. For questions about the accessibility of our specific program sites, please don't hesitate to reach out to a Program Advisor.

Program fees and fundraising

Are there grants or scholarships to help finance my volunteer abroad program?

Travelocity has selected CCS as a partner for their Travel for Good℠ program and is offering grants of up to $5,000 for individuals or groups to volunteer abroad.

Additionally, quite a few universities and colleges have identified scholarships and grants specifically intended for international volunteerism. If you're a student, additional funding may be available through your university.

Is the program fee tax-deductible?

Yes! Program fees are 100% tax-deductible for U.S. residents, and for many, airfare is tax-deductible as well (dependent upon travel plans for before and after volunteering).

Why do I need to pay to volunteer?

With CCS, you don’t pay to volunteer. You pay for the assurance of living in a safe and comfortable Home-Base; an opportunity to be completely immersed in a warm and welcoming community, and to find the family that you never knew you had.

Your program fee enables us to create an incredible breadth of Cultural Activities, from language and cooking lessons, to exclusive lectures on local culture and history. Your contribution will help to create long-term sustainable jobs paying living wages for local people, like the CCS directors, drivers, cooks, and house guards, and to make sure that they’re all expertly trained. You’ll pay so that the ingredients necessary for the CCS cook to prepare authentic, healthy cuisine are purchased locally, and to ensure that the trusty passenger van safely transporting you to and from your volunteer project each day is ready for the job. The contribution of your program fee is an investment in your international experience, and in the local economy in a community that you’ll soon call home.

How do I fundraise?

Many of our volunteers successfully fundraise all or part of their program fee and airfare. We encourage you to fundraise! Here are some fundraising tips and how you can get started. Also, be sure to check out our blog for fundraising and saving success stories from other fundraising CCSers.

How much does it cost to volunteer abroad?

Learn more about our program fees and start dates. But don't forget to check out our Fund Your Trip tool, filled with great tips on ways to save, stories of volunteers who made it happen, and even a handy Budget Wizard to help you calculate your out-of-pocket program fee.

What's included with my program fee?

The program fee includes everything, but your airfare and free time activities. Want to see the full package? Read more here.

Does the CCS program fee include health insurance while I’m abroad?

It sure does! Travel medical insurance for the duration of your program is included in the program fee.

Does CCS offer payment plans?

Why yes, we do! And we'd be happy to set one up for you. Just contact a member of our team and we'll create a payment plan that works for you.

What is a matching gift? How can that help fund my trip?

Certain companies offer matching gifts to employees and sometimes, they even extend the offer to spouses and relatives of employees as well. This means that they'll match at least a part of what you pay toward your Cross-Cultural Solutions program fee. Each company's matching gifts program is unique, so be sure to review eligibility criteria, match percentages, and other important details.

Find out if your company offers a matching gifts program that can be used toward your Cross-Cultural Solutions volunteer abroad adventure here. Once you've confirmed that your company offers matching gifts, please ensure that you're eligible before applying for a matching gift. For more information contact a Program Advisor today.

Do you have any good tips for how I can fund my trip?

Did you know that you can fund your trip by utilizing matching gifts programs, tax deductibility options, payment plans, fundraising, and more? Check out our Fund Your Trip page complete with tips on how to save, stories of volunteers who made it happen, and a handy Budget Wizard to help you calculate your total out-of-pocket cost. Once you take advantage of the CCS Fund Your Trip tool, you'll be amazed at how low the CCS out-of-pocket program fee can be!

Why are certain volunteer destinations more expensive than others?

The fees for each volunteer destination are carefully determined based on a number of factors, including the cost of living in that particular community, the cost of operating these unique programs, and the number of volunteers that we host in each particular destination each year. Ultimately, the fee for each country is what is needed in order to ensure that you have all of the components that you need for a safe and well-rounded experience.

Do you have any tips on how to find a flight

Of course we do! Check out this two part blog post with tips on how to snag great airfare all of the CCS volunteer destinations. And if you've got a tip of your own, be sure to share the knowledge by leaving a comment on the blog.

What is the most affordable program that CCS offers?

If you're looking for our most affordable programs, be sure to check out our Guatemala and Thailand programs. Both of these incredible volunteer destinations start at just $2480.

High School Volunteer Abroad

What is a typical day like?

As a High School Volunteer Abroad participant, your days are action-packed. Each weekday morning following a delicious breakfast, you’ll join other teens to complete meaningful service work directly with local community members. Return to the Home-Base for lunch with our full, local staff before beginning the afternoon Cultural Activities, which include excursions to local points of interest, language lessons, cooking classes, guest speakers, team building and leadership exercises, and much more to fully immerse and educate you about the culture and country. Of course, a family-style dinner of healthy, local cuisine is always provided, and structured activities are also included on evenings and weekends. Whether you’re playing soccer with our in-country staff, enjoying a game night, or on a weekend trip to a nearby destination, you’ll enjoy that perfect balance of unique activities with time to reflect on your experience and develop lifelong friendships with the exceptional global teens on your program—all from the comfort and safety of a Home-Base.

Because each schedule is created to address current needs of the local community and for interesting cultural events and celebrations, your exact itinerary will be sent to you closer to the program start date.

What type of volunteer work will I be doing?

CCS partners with sustainable community organizations to participate in community-driven volunteer work. This ensures that the work that you are doing is truly needed and requested by the community. Because we work to determine the most immediate needs of the community, we will provide you with the exact description of your volunteer work assignment closer to your program start date; however, you will be working alongside local people on a community driven project.

As a HSVA participant, you may find yourself teaching English in a Mayan school in Tecpan, Guatemala, planting mango trees with a school in Hohoe, Ghana, or painting a mural with local children in Orosi, Costa Rica. In all of your volunteer work, you can be assured that you’re engaging in social issues alongside the local community to make a meaningful difference.

Where will I stay?

The CCS Home-Base, your in-country home away from home, is part of what makes each of our programs so unique. You’ll live in a house in the local community dedicated exclusively to teens, with the full 24-hour support of our local, in-country staff. Each CCS Home-Base features comfortable accommodations, with 4 - 6 teens per room (separated by gender), and common areas to interact with new friends, learn about the local culture, and enjoy meals. This gives you the perfect balance to relax in a comfortable environment while still living in a local neighborhood as a member of the community, and is just one example of what we do to ensure our stringent safety and security standards.

Learn more about the Home-Base on the CCS blog.

Can you accommodate dietary restrictions?

Absolutely! We have tons of experience with food allergies and dietary restrictions, having supported over 30,000 international volunteers. Whether you’re vegetarian, Kosher, gluten-free, have peanut allergies, or anything else, just let us know beforehand and we’ll make sure you’re covered. Our in-country cooks, who prepare delicious home-cooked meals, have specific training in food restrictions and allergies, food safety standards, and are experienced in preparing meals for a variety of preferences.

Who participates in High School Volunteer Abroad programs?

Cross-Cultural Solutions participants are exceptional teens with an interest in service and international issues, all of whom have been individually selected through our application and interview process, and have been trained before arriving in-country. These teens include a mix of young men and women from around the world. In fact, CCS alumni represent over 100 countries in total, adding a unique blend of cultures and perspectives to your cultural experience.

Who supervises this program in-country? What training is provided?

CCS programs are unique because of our dedicated full-time, in-country staff. Each program is led by a Country Director, who is an expert with at least 10 years of experience in international volunteering and international development. The Country Director also leads a full team of professional staff who truly love the work we do. Our team includes cooks, drivers, guards, and Program Officers. Cross-Cultural Solutions has a full training program in place for our worldwide staff that runs continuously throughout the year, making sure that our high quality and safety standards are consistent worldwide. We think you’ll be impressed too once you get a chance to learn about the experience of our dynamic and inspiring team!

How is supervision handled? What is the staff to volunteer ratio?

We take supervision on the High School Volunteer Program very seriously, and provide 24-hour supervision to all teens with one male and one female highly-trained and experienced CCS staff member present at all times. You can be assured of a minimum 6 to 1 volunteer to staff ratio at all times, ensuring that the HSVA experience is safe and well-structured.

How do I prepare for an international volunteer program?

We know the importance of preparation and information before you begin your program, and our team of alumni is there to guide you every step of the way. Starting when you are considering your program, you can reach out to a Program Advisor to help determine the best location and start dates for you. Once you enroll, you’ll be guided through a training process by your dedicated Program Site Specialist, all of whom are proud CCS alums. Parents and teens alike will have opportunities to participate in individual calls and conference calls with other volunteers and parents of volunteers, complete with a wealth of program information to ensure that your every question is answered and you can be effective and prepared for your program. And, once you arrive in-country, you’ll have a full-day orientation, including a tour of your new community, an introduction to cultural norms, and effective international volunteering. Finally, once you return, you are part of the CCS global family, where we offer tools and guidance on how to leverage your experience, continue your impact, and remain engaged in global issues.

What does the program fee include? Do I need to budget for any additional expenses?

We've created our program fee specifically so it’s inclusive for all of your in-country expenses. What does that mean? Accommodations in the Home-Base within the local community, delicious meals prepared by local cooks, unlimited safe drinking water, all of your activities including Cultural Activities and language lessons, and of course the full support and guidance of our in-country staff of local nationals. We also provide transportation to and from the airport and your volunteer project, and comprehensive travel medical insurance. And most importantly, we arrange and support you throughout a meaningful volunteer assignment that is based on the needs of the community. All in all, you get almost 20 years of experience from the leading organization in the field. We virtually invented this kind of volunteering. You get an unmatched safety record that includes 24-hour security and supervision, and the peace of mind to know that our experience informs safety measures in areas that you’d never think to ask about. And, you get our track record on providing quality programs. Overwhelmingly, we hear that “volunteering with CCS changed my life.”

So the only expenses that you need to think about are airfare to and from your home country to the country where you’ll be volunteering, any visa fees or airport exit fees (if required), and any funds for personal expenses on the program, such as long-distance phone calls or souvenirs.

How do the flights work?

CCS volunteers come from around the world, so we allow you the flexibility in determining the flight that works best for you. Once you arrive in-country, you’ll be greeted at the airport by a CCS staff member—right at the arrivals gate—who’ll transport you in a CCS vehicle to the Home-Base. Since volunteers arrive on the same start date, you’ll often be on a flight with other volunteers, and we connect you with those volunteers and their parents well in advance of the program, so that you can plan to fly together, if you wish. Though many teens opt to arrive independently, we also offer a flight option for teens from a US-based gateway city where you can meet up and board the flight together to arrive in-country as a group.

How can teens and parents stay in contact during the program?

We realize it’s important to stay in touch during your program, and for parents of HSVA participants to have a way to reach Cross-Cultural Solutions day and night. At every Home-Base, there is a volunteer phone that accepts international calls, and that number will be provided to parents of participants. In addition, internet access is either available in the Home-Base or in a nearby internet café that we visit as a group, so that you can stay in touch via email, social media, and Skype. Finally, to add to your peace of mind, a 24-hour hotline is available for emergency questions where you or your parents can always reach a CCS staff member at CCS HQ. Of course, your Program Site Specialist will continue to be available throughout (and after) the program to address any concerns and answer all questions, and they are in regular contact with our in-country staff.

Can parents visit teens on the program?

To ensure the safety of the Home-Base environment, we only allow High School Volunteer Abroad participants, ages 15-17, and our in-country staff members to stay or visit the Home-Base. However, we do encourage parents to join their teens before and/or after the program to explore the country together, through independent travel.

Can I speak to past HSVA participants and HSVA parents?

Yes, and we encourage you to speak with alumni and parents of alumni as well. Everyone is eager to share stories, and with tens of thousands of happy alums, we've got quite a long list of folks—volunteers and parents of volunteers—who are happy to talk you to about the CCS volunteer experience. Just email Laura, our Alumni Engagement Specialist, at laura@crossculturalsolutions.org and she'll put you in touch with an alumni family in your area.

Read firsthand accounts of the CCS High School Volunteer Abroad experience on our blog.

How do you ensure the CCS experience is safe?

The safety of our volunteers is our #1 priority and, with almost 20 years of experience and more than 30,000 international volunteers, we’ve learned what is important to keep volunteers safe. It starts with the initial selection of our program sites—every location is chosen with safety in mind, and we are continuously monitoring the country and community so that we are aware of local events. We think about the big things that you might already have in mind, like building relationships with local doctors and hospitals and providing drinking water safe for travelers. We’re also thinking about those small details that you might not have in mind, like comprehensive daily vehicle inspections and installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors within each Home-Base. Our experience and our commitment to safety make us the safest international volunteer program out there, and we invite you to ask us more about our detailed safety standards. We’re sure you’ll be impressed.

And you can learn more about CCS safety by visiting our blog!

What happens if a volunteer gets sick?

A lot of our safety procedures have been put in place to help protect against illness in-country—like traveler-safe food and drinking water. But, in the case of an illness, we are ready to ensure that the volunteer receives appropriate and professional care. Whether it means a warm bowl of soup and a comforting hand, or an appointment with a local doctor or hospital, our experienced staff is trained and ready to handle any situation. It starts with our comprehensive travel medical and emergency evacuation insurance, which provides the peace of mind that your needs will be covered in the event of a medical issue. We've also developed relationships with nearby doctors and hospitals so that any concerns can be handled immediately. And, our in-country staff will be there every step of the way—and we are confident that a dedicated and caring professional who is there 24/7 is often the best comfort of all when your teen is overseas.

How do you work with participants who take regular medication?

We are equipped to work with teens who are taking mood altering medications and prescription painkillers, and have developed standards to ensure the proper use and distribution of these medications. After enrollment, you will indicate any medications on our Health and Emergency Contact form, and we will collect these from you once you arrive in-country for safe keeping in a secure environment for the protection of all participants. We are equipped to handle refrigeration needs, and our in-country staff, who is always available, will distribute the correct dosage.

How do I apply to join CCS High School Volunteer Abroad?

CCS HSVA participants come from all around the world, and have shown the dedication and maturity necessary to be successful international volunteers. To start your journey, complete an online application. We will be in contact with you upon receipt to invite you to join us for a 20-minute interview via phone or Skype. Following the successful completion of this process, a Program Advisor will let you know if you have been selected for the program, and if so, to provide you with an enrollment code. We advise teens to enroll early, as spaces on our programs do fill quickly!

Other

What volunteer programs are available in the summer?

Each summer, thousands of students, families, working professionals, teens, and retirees volunteer abroad with CCS in one of 11 program sites across the globe. Over the summer, there are more start dates available to help ensure everyone can volunteer when it is convenient for them, but spots fill up faster during these times. There are also certain volunteer programs that are only offered in the summer.

Summer-Only Volunteer Trips (from May through August):

Summer volunteering programs offers many opportunities for school groups, high school students, college students, and graduates:

  • Are you looking for summer teen volunteer options? Our summer teen programs are specifically designed for high school students ages 15-17 who wish to experience a structured, safe volunteer program.
  • Want to plan an unforgettable and educational summer class trip? Summertime is the most popular period for faculty-led, and other group trips.
  • Trying to find a remarkable graduation gift? A CCS program is a wonderful, life-changing opportunity to experience the world and have fun at the same time. CCS program fees are 100% tax-deductible for U.S. residents.

Find out more about summer volunteer abroad experiences of a lifetime.

Check out our Dates, Fees & Availability for this summer and start planning your trip today!

Does CCS offer alternative spring break programs?

Cross-Cultural Solutions offers exciting opportunities for college students to travel, have fun, and give back on an alternative spring break.

You'll work side by side with local people on community-led initiatives and enjoy the adventure of traveling to and exploring another country in a safe, structured program.

Here are the programs offered over March and April for one or more weeks:

Check out our Dates, Fees & Availability for this spring break and start planning your trip today!

How is Cross-Cultural Solutions different from the Peace Corps?

A CCS program is a great way to experience all that volunteering abroad has to offer for a shorter period of time than the Peace Corps, which requires a two-year commitment. Learn more about the similarities and differences in CCS vs. the Peace Corps

How long should I volunteer for?

Forever! Just kidding. We offer a variety of program lengths so that we can meet the needs of every kind of volunteer. Only have a week to spare? We've got plenty of week-long programs that offer an excellent introduction to your destination of choice through volunteering, cultural immersion, cultural activities, and free time. And the best part is, one week is plenty of time to make a real impact.

Our volunteers love their CCS experience, but here's one thing we hear over and over: "I wish I stayed longer!" Try a longer duration of stay and reduce the cost per week of your experience. So if you've got more time to spare -- three weeks, seven, twelve (you get the point) -- enroll to volunteer in any destination for up to 12 weeks. And if after that, you're ready for even more, we've got some great options for pairing programs so that you can volunteer in multiple destinations, one after another.

Can I apply my CCS hours to The Presidential Volunteer Service Award?

Absolutely! If you're interested in applying volunteer hours served during your Cross-Cultural Solutions experience to The Presidential Volunteer Service Award just email our Alumni Engagement Specialist at alumni@crossculturalsolutions.org and she will make sure that your hours are applied to your 12-month volunteer service period or hours served over the course of a lifetime. Visit The Presidential Volunteer Service Award for award criterion and benefits information.

Can I receive academic credit for my volunteer program?

Absolutely! When you volunteer with CCS, the experience you get is not only life-changing, but also educational. Many of our past volunteers have received academic credit that they were able to apply to service learning programs, internships, and/or independent study requirements. Be sure to check with your academic advisor to assess your eligibility for academic credit.

Read our blog to learn more about how students just like you were able to get academic credit for their CCS experience.

Can the CCS cook accommodate my food allergies?

Absolutely! We have tons of experience with food allergies and dietary restrictions, having supported over 30,000 international volunteers. Whether you’re vegetarian, Kosher, gluten-free, have peanut allergies, or anything else, just let us know beforehand and we’ll make sure you’re covered. Our in-country cooks, who prepare delicious home-cooked meals, have specific training in food restrictions and allergies, food safety standards, and are experienced in preparing meals for a variety of preferences.

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