One of the scariest parts of sending a volunteer abroad is the idea of anything happening and not being able to reach them. While that is a valid concern, I'm here to tell you there are more ways to reach them quickly than you may realize.
Did you know that two of our ILP directors have had daughters serve abroad with ILP? Steve and Jared both know first hand what it's like to have a child volunteering abroad in China, Russia or one of these ILP countries (Steve's daughter volunteered in Russia and Romania; Jared's two daughters have volunteered in so many countries it's hard to keep count).
Our program is led by directors who are also parents — learn more about our program (and how we keep volunteers safe) with this ILP guide for parents.
Staying in contact with parents is something we strongly encourage our ILP volunteers to do. There are many ways for them to stay in contact with you on a daily basis, but what about the other way? How do you get a hold of your volunteer, especially (quickly) during an emergency?
How to quickly get a hold of someone living abroad
- Get An International Phone Plan
- Skype/Facetime Them
- Contact The ILP Office
- Use Their Social Media
- Check Find-A-Friend Apps
- Email Them
Get An International Phone Plan
This is our biggest tip — if your volunteer isn't on WiFi, you can still reach them if they have data. Check with your current provider and see what they offer in terms of international plans. Some are quite affordable while others are a bit more expensive.
We've got another option if your provider's international data plans are a bit more than you want to pay (ahem, Verizon). ILP offers an affordable international phone plan through T-Mobile that we encourage all volunteers to get. It will allow volunteers unlimited texting and data. They will also have access to some international talking minutes in case of an emergency.
You will be able to text your volunteer at any time and (in the case of an emergency) call them right away. This is often the quickest and easiest way to get in touch when you need to.
If they have the phone plan, this will be even better. Since they have data, you can Facetime them and see their faces -- seeing them brings another depth of comfort versus just hearing their voice.
If they don't have a phone plan, but have internet, this is still a great option! All ILP volunteers will have WiFi - it might be at their home, it might be at their school, or maybe they're jumping into a cafe offering free WiFi but it's all around (although it's often slower than they're used to at home). If they're connected to WiFi and you're also using the same app you won't use any data and is free.
Contact The ILP Office
Call the ILP office if it is an emergency and you're having trouble connecting with your volunteer. You can even call after hours -- there is a voice message that will give you a couple of numbers to our directors who answer their cell phone's 24/7.
Every ILP head teacher has a phone given to them for ILP to use in case of an emergency. The directors will have those numbers and will be able to contact the head teacher as soon as possible, who is most likely with or near your volunteer.
Use Their Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool and can help you in an emergency. Just like at home, your volunteer is probably checking their social media more than anything else. Facebook has emergency check in's that may help you know that your child is safe when a natural disaster has occurred, for example.
There's also a chance that they (or a member of their group) will post that they are okay if you reach out to them. Check their social media and send them messages for when they have access to internet.
Check Find-A-Friend Apps
To give you the ultimate peace of mind while your child is serving abroad, use these apps so you can see where they are at all times -- even if it's not an emergency.
During an emergency, you can see exactly where they are and it may give you more options -- if it shows they are at a hotel, restaurant, etc, you can get the phone number for that place to call online and reach them that way.
The best thing you can do is to extend communication every where you can think of. While email may be the last thing they will check, you never know. It may be the only thing they can access at the time.
In case you can't get a hold of them, here are more options though travel.state.gov. Rest assured that you will not be the only person trying to contact your child during an emergency. ILP will be right there with you through it all!
We want our ILP parents to be just as happy as their children. Make sure you check out our ILP blog for more parent tips. If you have more questions, don't hesitate to contact our awesome ILP representatives -- that blue button will help you with that!