At-Center Volunteer FAQ:

1.  What is the process to become an overseas volunteer with IHF and how long does the process take?

The first step of the process is filling out the overseas application on our website.  You will also need to sign the release waiver in order for us to begin processing your application.  We will check your two references, and then your acceptance will be decided by our founder, Carol Sasaki.  You will receive a letter welcoming you to the IHF family.

We aim for this process to take two to four weeks, but it depends on how promptly your references reply to us.

2.   What qualifications do I need to become an IHF overseas volunteer?

We look for volunteers who thoroughly enjoy working and caring for children. Experience working with children is therefore beneficial but we would be more than happy to accept people with various talents and experiences.  If you are under 18 years of age, you will need to have parental consent.  We are also always in need of medical volunteers, especially at our Kenya location.

3.   Where are IHF’s centers located?  How many are there?

There are four centers in Indonesia ; orphanages located in Banda Aceh and Jakarta, and education centers located in Medan and Bali.  There is an orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya , and one in Chiang Rai, Thailand .  We also have a local office in San Diego.

4.   Can I choose at which location I would like to volunteer?

Yes, you can choose which location you would like to volunteer at as long as it is not filled by other volunteers for the same time period desired. We suggest putting a first and second choice of location when you apply.

5.   What is the minimum time requirement for volunteering?

Our placements range in time from four weeks minimum, up to a year and even much longer. We are quite flexible.

6.   How much does it cost to volunteer with IHF?

Our fees are $100 US a week for volunteers living with us at all of our centers except for Bali. These fees are to be paid to the director on a monthly basis at the beginning of the stay and each subsequent month thereafter. Please note that for their culture, taking money from a guest is very uncomfortable, so they are trying to learn, but you may need to insist three times for some of their cultures. The $100 US a week is to help cover the volunteers food costs so we do not use the children’s donated money! This amount also covers your utilities and other such costs as long as you don’t use your air conditioning more than an hour or so a day… It does not cover special foods, sightseeing trips, international calls, nor airfare to the centers, or any such form of transportation. We used to not charge anything, but unfortunately ended up with some huge bills for phone etc. from a few volunteers here and there. I do not believe in charging volunteers, so am sad about even this $100 US a week. It is to be treasured when someone really wants to help others!

In Bali you can stay in our special guest house with pool and spa next to the center that costs $140 US per week, or you can stay at the school for $50 US a week.

For volunteers going to Kenya there are additonal costs that you should plan for (see chapter 20 and 27 below).

There is no fee for residents of the countries (local volunteers) where the projects are located, as the IHF projects have been comprised of community-based volunteers from the start, and many are unable to pay any fees but want to give of their labor and hearts.

7. Are there any other additional costs?

Additional costs could include any special foods, sightseeing trips, international calls, or airfares to the centers, or any such form of transportation, travel insurance, vaccinations, etc.

8.   What can I bring for the children at the centers?

The children and centers will greatly appreciate anything you wish to bring. We need items such as electronics, donated global cell phones, old cameras, radios, CD players, laptops, etc. Also, any games and toys will be wonderful. English as a second language CDs and DVDs would be great and very useful, as would any learning materials. Used or new clothing is so enjoyed by the children in Thailand and Indonesia. In Kenya its more usefull to bring books, learning supplies, used cameras, recorders, mobiles and wind up flaglights and radios, Vitamins and children’s medications are also needed…but an empty suitcase and one big you is wonderful too!

As in the centers there are limited computers to work (for both staff and volunteers) and teach the children in the classes - it would be a great bonus if you have a possibility to organise a (second-hand) laptop and donate to the center.

9. What type of clothing should I bring?

We suggest loose cotton cool outfits.  Loose cotton long sleeves are best for Muslim countries. Jakarta and Bali are far more casual than other places. In Aceh people cover not just arms and legs, but hair too.

10. What other items should I pack?

You can bring a basic first aid kit if you wish and hand sanitizer along with copies of your passport and ID and US dollars in twenties that you keep for some emergency—Carol has never needed this, but keeps them anyway.

11.   What are the accommodations like?

The accommodation provided for volunteers is simple. Most centers do not have hot water or western toilets. At some centers, volunteers sleep on the floor.  The bathroom facilities are also simple and most centers do not have hot water or western toilets.  

12.   What is provided at the centers?

Our centers' food and facilities are often very different from Western style. Volunteers eat local food, and meal times are not tightly scheduled. Toilets are squat toilets, and volunteers can shower using a bucket of water in the shower area. Beds are usually on the floor, or on mats in the Asian style. Unfortunately facilities and sleeping arrangements cannot be adjusted for volunteers who prefer Western styles.

MEDAN: The center located is in a house in which the director of the center stays with his family. It also has 2 rooms where the children are trained. For volunteers there is a big room which has a bed with sheets and pillows provided. There is a squat toilet and bucket shower available for volunteers. The room also has an aircon (the use is not included in the weekly payment from volunteers). Its a good idea to bring a sheet or sarong to cover you whilst sleeping. Just nearby (a 15 minutes walk or you can use local transport) there are facilities to play soccer, running or swim. To find cinemas or shopping malls you can use local transport (becak = tricycle, or angkot = local minibus).

ACEH: In Aceh a bed and pillow is provided, or some volunteers choose to sleep on the floor with a mattress. If you like something to cover you whilst sleeping it would be advised for you to bring a sheet or sarong. There is a western toilet and shower.

BALI: In Bali, the volunteer room has a bed with all linens provided; sheets, pillows, blanket, etc. There is a western toilet and shower.

JAKARTA:A bedroom with a bed and pillows is provided for volunteers, but we also have mattresses if you prefer to sleep on the floor.  You may want to bring your own sheet or sarong.

THAILAND :There is also a bedroom with a bed and pillows provided.  We also have lots of blankets.  If you prefer to sleep on the floor, we have mattresses.

KENYA : A bed or mattress is provided.  You may want to bring your own sheet or sarong.

13.  Will I have access to telephone and internet at the center?

ACEH: Internet and telephone access

MEDAN: Internet and telephone access

JAKARTA: Internet and telephone access

BALI: Internet. Telephone access

THAILAND: No internet or telephone

KENYA: No internet or telephone

* Volunteers should only use the internet and telephone at the centers for IHF related purposes.

14.  Is there electricity at the centers?

All of our centers have electricity except for the orphanage Nakuru, Kenya.

15.  What kind of visa do I need?

All of the countries that IHF serves provide visas upon arrival.  For longer term visas, please look on the internet for regulations pertaining to your citizenship.  Here are some suggestions of websites you can use:

KENYA: and

16.  What vaccinations should I get?

Please ask your doctor or consult your local travel clinic.

17.   What do the provided meals usually consist of?

All the food that is provided at the centers is traditional local foods. The staple food in all the centers in Thailand and Indonesia, three meals a day, is rice.  It is supplemented by fish, meat, vegetables, eggs, etc.  The food is sometimes spicy, sometimes bland. In Kenya many volunteers find the food to be bland, they eat ‘ugali’ and goat.

18.  What if I am a vegetarian?

If you have a vegetarian diet, you may find it difficult to eat provided food at the centers.   Being vegetarian in Kenya will be difficult but not impossible.  The main food source for the Pokot people is the goats that they herd, but they also eat a paste substance called 'ugali'. The center in Kenya is very isolated so any special foods would need to be purchased on the weekly trips into town. In Thailand and Indonesia , the staple food is rice which is supplemented by fish or meat; often pork in Thailand and fish in Indonesia .  It is not so difficult to find your own vegetarian food in Indonesia .  There are food stalls everywhere selling vegetarian food.  In Thailand , you can find vegetarian food, but you will not find food stalls within walking distance of the center. 

19.  Is the water at the centers safe for drinking?

Not all the centers have running water, and the water should not be consumed.  At the centers, they use boiled local water, possibly well water, as drinking water.  You will need to provide your own bottled water, and it is even recommended that you use bottled water for brushing your teeth.

20.  How can I find the center once I arrive at the airport?

The director of your center or a representative of the director will be at the airport to meet you and take you to the center.  The cost of transportation will be your responsibility. In Bali, you will need to take a taxi, and this cost is about $ 35,  In Kenya,You should expect a cost of $188 each way to cover gas expenses for being picked up and dropped-off at the Nairobi airport. This $188 cost is derived from gas cost alone for the required round-trip journey of two staff members($94 each way) It is required for a pick-up or drop-off from the Nairobi airport which is a very full day long if not two day trip.. If volunteers share transport, then this gas cost can be split. Thus, you should plan for a total of $376 round-trip for gas transportation to the center.
In addition the YMCA is 12.00 a night for you and another 12.00 for the staff sharing a room, if they must spend the night in Nairobi. To spend the night in the smaller city of Nakuru (that is half way between Pokot and Nairobi) is slightly less. Another cost to consider is not only food while traveling, but also bottled water. 

At the rest of the centers, the cost will be about $10 or less.  You must arrange the airport pickup directly with the director of your center.  You should also be in contact with the director of your center to introduce yourself before you begin your travels.  The directors and can be contacted at

21.  Will there be other volunteers at the center with me?

This depends on when you are volunteering.  You will be able to find out before you go if you are volunteering alone or not.

22.  What are my goals and responsibilities as an IHF volunteer?

The goal of the IHF volunteer is simply to enrich the lives of the children at our centers.  You will be teaching English at the scheduled class times at your center, organizing and participating in games and special activities for the children, as well as using your individual talents and knowledge to benefit the children.  You will also be responsible for doing work for IHF internationally.  These tasks will be assigned to you by our founder, Carol Sasaki.  You will be required to communicate with her daily to report on the children, the center and your progress in your tasks.  In Kenya , you will be required to communicate weekly as the internet is a journey away from the center.  You’ll be writing a weekly report for the center, as well as your own personal weekly report.

23. What documentation do I need upon arrival at the center?

We ask that you bring a copy of the following:

            1.Your acceptance letter.

            2. A copy of your signed waiver.

            3. A copy of your signed MOU

4. A paragraph summary of your at home tasks completed before arrival to the center, along with your tasks assigned by Carol Sasaki that are to be worked on during your stay at the center. 

24.  What is a typical day like at the center?

The experience will be slightly different for every volunteer. These are accounts of volunteers who have spent time at the centers.

MEDAN: In the morning I usually spend time working on the tasks that have been assigned to me by our founder, Carol Sasaki. These tasks are both locally and internationally focused. I also spend time preparing for the English classes. I assist the local volunteer teacher in all the English classes which are run at various times in the afternoons and evenings from Monday – Friday – the children are so enthusiastic and eager to learn English so the classes are always great fun.

ACEH:  I wake up early in the morning and see the children off to school.  My mornings are spent doing administrative work, I am on the volunteer coordinating team which I will continue to be a member of when I’m finished working overseas.  When the children get home from school, we often play games or volleyball in the backyard.  In the afternoon, there is an English class that I prepare for and teach with another local teacher.  In the evening, we have English circle and game time.  The children then do homework, and we head off to sleep.  On Sundays, we do special activities together such as go to the park or beach, play sports, do some art…it’s always a great day.

THAILAND :  We wake up early in the morning and I help the children get ready, and then see them off to school.  I then hop on my bicycle and go into the town to the internet where I work on my administrative duties.  In the afternoon, the children have some free time when we would love to play basketball among other games together.  After dinner is homework time, and I would fit in an English circle time lesson whenever possible.  On the weekends, we would do some special activity like going for a bike ride, to the park, or for a hike.  The children love the weekends!

JAKARTA: We wake up early in the morning and sometimes get out for some pre-sunrise exercise when we are feeling motivated!  After the children leave for school, I work on IHF tasks both local and international and prepare for the afternoon classes. The English classes are so enjoyable at IHF Jakarta; I assist the local volunteer teachers with the English classes. Sunday is the only day of the week when the children do not go to school and there are no classes held at the center. We usually spend the day having fun and try to do some special activity like going swimming or playing sports.  It is also a cleaning and organizing day.  Sundays are great at IHF Jakarta.

BALI: The Bali IHF center is an educational center where free English, Computing, and Mathematic classes are available for the children. The classes are held in the afternoons and the children are always very keen to come to classes – they even came on a public holiday for two hours – this shows how dedicated they are to learning! So as a volunteer I assist with these classes from Monday to Saturday. During the times when the classes are not on a lot of work needs to be done for both local and international IHF tasks. There is always something to do. Visiting the TEP children in their villages is always very interesting and exciting for everyone.

KENYA : The experience in Kenya varies tremendously depending on your skills and experiences. Medical care is in desperate need and anyone with medical experience such as a nurse or doctor would spend their time working in this field. At least once a month a famine feed is carried out so if you are in Kenya during that time you would be involved with this. Everyday water needs to be fetched from the well and brought back to the center. Once a week volunteers need to go to Nakuru to get supplies and to do IHF work including sending a weekly report to our founder, Carol Sasaki. When you are not working on other tasks you also help with the teaching of classes. The center in Kenya is very isolated, hot and dusty, but the children are absolutely wonderful and make the experience so wonderful and unforgettable.  

25. Will we have a day off for sightseeing?

At most centers Sunday is the day off. At some centers it is Friday. While there, You may also prearrange with Titim and the Centers Director to take off several days at some point for sight seeing.

26. Is it okay to take and post photos on our personal, private blog or website?

Having your own private website and posting photos on it is not a violation of the photo agreement as long as it is a personal blog or web, and not a site used for personal profit. Please be very, very careful about personal information you put up about the child that might embarrass the child, even make her unmarriageable in her culture if it is read by one of the wealthy, educated or more powerful members of her culture, if they google her/your name as many might do.  It is important to get such personal information approved by Titim or even the IHF CEO first, especially if it is sensitive and private in nature and exposes our children's privacy. Any information already posted on our web is allowed. Thank you for putting the welfare of our children first, above any need for your blog. You will have plenty to write about that is not unethical to the child or staff or community. And you will be keeping daily journals for IHF, helping to keep track for information and dates for your blog also. We understand writing and sharing is often very important and helpful for volunteers dealing with being in a culture different from their own.

27. How do I choose a team and an activity on this team, if I can choose what I do on it?

We have now posted our complete description of each team on the web.
Each volunteer comes up with one or more project for themselves in the team they choose. IHF then approves the project or not. This process shows us their creativity, self-initiative and willingness to follow through. At times IHF may have a particular assignment on a particular team they need help with and will then write you about this specific task with specific instructions to be followed. Always feel free to ask many questions if you have them.

28. How do I talk to groups about the IHF organisation and its Center, if I have not yet left to go live at that center?

In order to make a good presentation about an organisation you don't know much about, you will need to study the organisation. This is a good thing to do before going to one of their centers to live, in any case. You can write to some of the previous volunteers at that center. Ask Titim, Director of Volunteer processing and Placement for the names of former volunteers to your particular center, who have offered to help in this way.

29. Can DVDs we want to buy as gifts for the children be played in the centers?

Please ask the stores where you purchase any DVDs if they can be played on the PAL system that is used outside the USA-PAL system is used in Asia, Europe and Africa too. Many but not all DVDs can be played on Pal also.

30. How can I fund my volunteer experience?

A suggestion from Cece – an International volunteer in Thailand :

I had some money which I saved to use towards this trip and volunteer experience, but I really didn't have that much. I was able to raise funds to come through friends, family, churches* and other acquaintances, even a few businesses that I have close relations with. My suggestion is to sit down and write out a statement about why you want to volunteer overseas with IHF and exactly what you think you can or want to accomplish by doing so. Make an estimate of how much money you will need and then begin writing letters and talking with friends and family about it. In the letters tell why you want to volunteer, what you want to accomplish, how much it will cost, why for what ever reason you don't have enough money yourself and add that you are asking people to consider helping you accomplish this goal of helping to change underprivileged and abandon childrens' lives around the world.  Also I don't know if you are a church goer, I am, and I have 2 small churches helping fund me, so if you have connections to a church you may look there also for help. A person donated frequent flyer miles as well so that the cost of my plane tickets would be less. You may use this as a suggestion too.

* IHF is a nonreligious organization that respects all religions


31. Information for Volunteers going to Kenya

List of things which you can bring when volunteering at our center in Kenya:

Deet - 34%
Permethrin Spray
Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard (from Avon)
Buzz-Off Clothing
Pop-Up Mosquito Net that fits over sleeping Bag

Hepatitis A & B
Yellow Fever - must have certificate for Customs
Malaria Pills (Malarone)  On my first trip the folks from another organization used another prescription and got sick - I never did.
First Aid Kit

Sleeping Bag
Headlamp (Check with REI)  Everyone borrowed mine when I was there the first time to go find a place to go to the bathroom and ran my batteries out!!
You are going in May so should take a rain poncho.
Small spray bottle - useful to brush your teeth and spray the children when you have water!
Unscented SPF - no perfume!!
Wipes, wipes, wipes, and more wipes
Lots of Kleenex - invaluable!
Bandanas that I could wet and tie around my neck when I got too hot
I also took "No Rinse" shampoo and "Campsuds".  You don't have to use water to bathe with them.
Quick dry lightweight towels
2 Suitcases - one with your stuff - one with stuff for kids/orphanage

Loose fitting shirts and long pants (Preferably lightweight cotton or Buzz-Off)
Sneakers and sandals - I took boots but never used them
Lightweight sleepwear - most of the time I slept in a pareo

I took $500 in cash but you can use your credit/debit card at the airport ATM when you get there that dispenses shillings.  You will need the shillings on the road for bottled water, gas, etc.  I did use my credit card to purchase supplies in Nakuru.

In total you should expect to pay $376 in gas costs (which can be split between multiple volunteers) and $24 in staff accommodation to pick you up from the Nairobi airport.

Gas Costs.  The gas costs for a staff member to ‘drive to’ and ‘return from’ the Nairobi airport are $188 ($94 each way from the center).  Therefore, for pick-up at the start of your trip and drop-off at the end of your stay, the total gas costs incurred by our staff come to $376 ($188 x 2).  If volunteers share transport, then this gas cost can be split.

Staff Accommodation.  For all arrivals, you will need to pay for the accommodation of yourself, a staff member and driver, approximately $24 total at the YMCA hostel.  Also be prepared to buy dinner for the staff picking you up (should be no more than $USD20).

Supplies.  Please plan and ration your supplies wisely during your stay.  If you decide to make an unscheduled trip to Nakuru for supplies, you should expect to spend $100 total in gas costs (or $50 each way).

Class Program

Class Program

Medical Program

Medical Program

Famine Feed

Famine Feed

The Education Program (TEP)

The Education Program (TEP)