Experiences and Program Questions

Do I have to be a vet to volunteer?

Absolutely not! Our Placement Partners all assist animals in some way, these organizations need help with every aspect of their work. While some of our Experiences are specially made for veterinary professionals, you do not have to be a vet to volunteer. AEI Experiences are designed to provide training and support for people who love animals but haven’t had the opportunity to work with them before. If you have a particular skill that would help our Placement Partners be sure to bring this to our attention. Examples of professional skills that can be applied to AEI Experiences are design, construction, admin, fundraising and education. It doesn’t matter who you are or what experience you have, you will be able to make a difference!

What if I am applying less than 6 months in advance?

If you are applying less than 60 days before departure your deposit will be 50% of your total fees. The deposit will be due 7 days days after your interview. Your full fees will be due 14 days after your interview.

What if I am under 18?

Some of our programs have strict policies about the age of volunteers, this is because of local laws, regulations and liabilities. However, we have a few programs that allow clients from all ages. If you would like to see a list of them you can visit our All Ages Volunteering page.

How long do I have to volunteer for?

The length of your AEI Experience is entirely up to you. That is one of the great things about volunteering with AEI – each of our placements accept volunteers year-round so your date of travel and length of stay can be based on your schedule. Most of our Experiences do however require that you volunteer for a minimum of 2 weeks. We have found that volunteering for less than 2 weeks is just not worth it for our clients and is not enough time to fully benefit our Placement Partners. We want to make sure you spend enough time in training to be truly comfortable and have the best adventure ever!

Do I need to book 6 months in advance?

Some of our Experiences are very popular. To make sure you are able to volunteer for the dates you prefer, we recommend you apply at least 6 months in advance. If you are applying less than 6 months before your departure date, that is okay too. We can’t guarantee you a spot at every Experience but we will do our best for you! Apply early and you will not only get the best timing possible, you will also be more successful with your fundraising. More time to plan means a more successful AEI Experience!

Can groups volunteer?

Of course! Not all of our Experiences have room for exceptionally large groups but most have space for at least groups of 5. We have had people use these Experiences as graduation trips, honeymoons, family trips and get-aways for best friends who want to volunteer together! Groups of 5 or more get 10% off their individual fees.

Do I have to learn another language?

English is spoken at all the AEI Experiences. You won’t have to learn another language if you speak English. You will however be working side by side with volunteers from other countries and with people from the country you are visiting, so there will be an opportunity to pick up other languages if you are interested. You will be provided with information about the language of the country where you will be volunteering, including English translations of common words and phrases. We always encourage our clients to make attempts to speak a little of the native language – people always appreciate it when visitors make that effort. And some of our Experiences even have language classes available so you can learn a new language while you volunteer!

How will I know how to act? I don’t want to offend people.

This is important to us, too! And it is why we wrote our AEI Travel Manuals after visiting each country and spending time with each Placement Partner. We gathered information, asked all the tough and embarrassing questions, made all the mistakes, and did extensive research so you won’t have to! Once you read your AEI Travel Manual you will understand how to dress, how to tip, how to say hello and how to have an amazing adventure. Of course, throughout your planning and traveling you can always contact us and ask any question you have. For further ideas on how to lower your negative traveling impact please visit our Responsible Travel page.

Can I use this for co-op/continuing education credits?

It is quite possible that you can! Many colleges and universities allow students to use international placements as their Co-operative or Clinical Placement. We will work with your program coordinator to determine if the AEI Experience of your choice meets the educational requirements of your program. If you are a professional interested in using an AEI Experience to earn Continuing Education credits contact your professional organization for approval. We can answer any questions your professional association may have, and are more than happy to provide any supporting documents and evaluations required. Your program coordinator or association administrator can reach us at info@animalei.com. Want to know who we partner with already? Check out our education page.

When do your trips start and end, are they scheduled for us?

We partner with sustainable centres whose ongoing conservation efforts never stop. All of our Placement Partners operate 365 days a year. This means they need volunteers every day of the year. Of course, there are high and low seasons and we will make sure to explain what tasks you will be participating in while you are at the Placement Partner's centre. Some centres ask that you start on specific days of the week, but that is the only limitation. The best time to volunteer is when you are available- the animals will always need you.

How long does the process take?

Once you apply you will have an interview with our volunteer coordinator. These take place on weekdays and are 45 minute Skype/phone interviews. Once you have been approved for the experience we just need your signed waiver, contract and deposit and we will confirm your volunteering Experience with the Placement Partner! If you have everything ready immediately, you can be approved immediately. We have had people apply and volunteer the next week- it can’t always work this fast because of availability, but we will do everything in our power to make the process quick and easy so you can get to volunteering as soon as possible!

What are the steps to volunteering?

1. Review our Experiences
2. Apply (normally done 6-12 months before your desired departure to give you enough time to receive any necessary immunizations, to apply for and receive your passport, apply for any necessary visas, fundraise, etc)
3. Send back the signed originals of your waiver and contract. Your non-refundable 20% deposit is also due at this time. Once these have been received, the volunteer coordinator confirms your placement at the Experience.
4. Fundraise! 
5. Review your AEI Travel Manual, training materials and online training sent to you by the volunteer coordinator.
6. Book your airline ticket and send us the information and trip itinerary. Once this has been received, the volunteer coordinator will set up your airport/hostel/hotel pick up. 
7. Sixty days prior to your departure the balance of your fees is due. Also due are your copies of transcripts/professional licenses (if you are volunteering as a student or professional for educational credits), vaccination records, doctor’s note and a copy of your photo identification (such as your passport). These can be scanned and emailed to us.
9. You will be sent a post-trip debriefing questionnaire that we ask you fill out so future clients can read reviews, learn from your tips and see if the Experiences are right for them. We will also ask for pictures or videos to post on our Facebook. We want to see them too!!

How do you keep us volunteers safe?

We have been to all of the Placement Partner locations to inspect, participate, view and judge the transportation, activities, animal care, volunteer arrangements and living conditions. We have met the people you will be staying with, working with and who will be transporting you around. We have a great relationship with all of our Placement Partners. Our volunteer coordinator emails with all of them at least once a week, some of them once a day! These organizations run successful international volunteer programs and have hosted many volunteers over the years. We are confident in our partners’ abilities to make good judgments, maintain high safety standards, provide appropriate emergency medical care if necessary and ensure that you will be safe. Our partners have signed agreements ensuring that they will provide medical supportive care and bring you to authorities/hospital/transportation/whatever you need in the event of an emergency or crisis. As well, all AEI volunteers sign agreements to follow procedures and rules outlined by AEI and the Placement Partner. This ensures that the work and volunteer environment remains safe and professional. All AEI’s Placement Partners know that if any volunteer participates in acts of violence, harassment, illegal activities or behave in a way that endangers animals or people (including themselves) they will be asked to leave the Experience.

AEI provides its volunteers with a complete travel package aimed at ensuring their trip will be as smooth and worry-free as possible. You will be picked up from the airport when you arrive at your destination country, and safely delivered to your placement. AEI provides you with up to $500,000 in travel insurance through our insurance company - International Volunteer Card - insurance especially for “voluntourists”. IVC provides you with the added security of a 24 hour emergency support line that is manned by people who specialize in travel emergencies.

We provide you with an AEI Travel Manual that we have written ourselves after visiting the Placement Partner sites. This manual covers everything from parasites in the water to how to deal with culture shock- these manuals are mini guidebooks specifically designed for you and your exact adventure. Anyone interested in additional preparation is encouraged to purchase Traveling Without Baggage. Written by our volunteer coordinator, this book will help you stay safe while traveling. Traveling Without Baggage is available as an e-book for purchase from our online store. We're sure all authors think their book is important, but we really believe that this guide contains the essentials for physical and mental health while traveling and volunteering.

All of that being said, ultimately this is your trip that you make on your own. We encourage all of our volunteers to be smart and trust their instincts! Be prepared, stay alert, and if something feels unsafe, it probably is, so be empowered to say no and trust yourself when you do. As in all things in life, we can't guarantee that nothing bad will happen to you, but we try our very best to minimise the risks and put everything in place that will help you stay safe and healthy on your adventure.

Do you know who can help my group with booking airfare?

Certainly! Easy Group Airfare! They are the ultimate online destination for discounted group travel. Whether you are traveling across the country or around the world, Easy Group Airfare serves as your travel agent and advocate, by providing travel assistance and support for groups traveling the globe. A triple-bottom-line company, Easy Group Airfare donates 5% of profits back to the non-profit organizations that book their travel with them. Request a quote with Easy Group Airfare!

What about booking my own airfare? 

We have a great partnership with Corporate Traveller. Don't let the name fool you, they are awesome! They have a charge of $25 and then they do all your work for you, making sure you get the best prices for flights and proving you with 24 hour support before and during your trip- just in case! Just contact Timea: timea.tamas@corporatetraveller.ca

Payment and Fee Questions

What happens if I cancel my trip after I make the deposit?

Once your application has been accepted, you will be required to pay a deposit equal to 20% of your total AEI Experience fee. This deposit is non-refundable, and is used to secure your reservation and process your trip. If you decided to cancel your trip after you send in your deposit, AEI will allow you to transfer these funds to another AEI Experience if done within one year from the date of your cancellation. After one year, these funds will no longer be transferable.

Can I get a tax receipt?

The donations you send in will be going to the Placement Partners who are charities in their own country. Unless you pay taxes in those countries, you will not be eligible for a tax receipts. We are not a charity, we are a B Corp!

Where do all my fees go?

That is an excellent question - and a very important one to us at AEI, where as a B Corp we have pledged social, economic and environmental responsibility. The majority of your money goes directly to our placement partner to pay your placement fees which cover your accommodation, meals, airport pick up and drop off, training, support while on project and any membership fees and uniforms that are required. Your travel insurance and IVC Card benefits cost $65 and carbon balancing your travel with the Carbon Farmer costs $50. The rest of your fees go towards supporting our placement partners (such as the place you are volunteering), developing new placement opportunities and allowing AEI to function as a socially responsible B Corp. Remaining fees are broken down as follows: Promotion of our partners: 17.6%; International educational support: 15%; Pre-departure client support, including travel manual(s): 17%; Client recruitment: 17%; Placement assessments and site visits: 7.5%; In-kind donations: 3%; Investment in new partners: 4.5%; Bank fees, currency conversion, applicable taxes: 6.4%; Administrative costs: 12%. By traveling with AEI you are supporting important, hard-working organizations around the world and making a significant difference in the lives of animals!

AEI Questions

What is a B Corp?

B Corps are certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. For more information please visit the B Corporation website. Our commitment is not only to changing the lives of AEI clients and the animals they help, but to changing the lives of our Placement Partners as well. This is an important part of being a B Corp – or Benefit Corporation. One of the goals of AEI is to encourage our clients to share their knowledge. Veterinarians, accountants and chefs all have very different skill sets but each has the potential to make a difference in a very real way. There are no placements for the sake of placements. All of the AEI Experiences are built around the needs of our Placement Partners. We encourage our clients to ask questions, be engaged and learn from the people they will meet. Education flows in both directions on AEI Experiences. In this way AEI’s clients can not only aid animals around the world, but their impact also makes a significant difference to the people and communities we serve.

How do I know this trip will be as excellent as you say?

We have been on these trips! We only sign up Placement Partners that we have visited in person! At AEI we want to make sure everything is exactly as it seems, and we establish relationships with the organization that are essential to ensuring placements run smoothly. During the interview process, we explain more of the details to you, answer all of your questions and if you- or we, think it isn’t the right fit, we can recommend another Experience. We are not in the business of selling trips, we are in the business of empowering volunteers to help animals. We travel and volunteer to make sure the Experience is right for you and you are right for the Experience.

Do you have a Privacy Statement?

We certainly do and it's long! You can read how we collect your information, why we collect it and how we keep it safe on our Privacy Statement page.

Do you have a mission statement?

We sure do! Provide clients from all different background, safe animal volunteer experiences that are locally supported and run, provide fair wages, conduct educational programs and have high standards of conservation.