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.
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 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?
- 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 have a breakdown of traveling with a phone that you'll want to be aware of.
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.
Use These Apps
If they have the phone plan, this will be even better. Since your volunteer will have data, you'll be able to keep in touch with your volunteer in a bunch of ways. That post has information about our favorite ways to keep in touch, including some app options that allow you (the parent) to see where in the world your volunteer is in, which can add another layer of comfort.
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.
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.