OSSO FAQs

If you have a question about the volunteer experience, donating to OSSO, or anything else OSSO-related, check out our list of frequently asked questions below. Scroll on down, click the question that applies to you, and read the answer that appears.

Still got questions? Call us Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, and we'll be happy to answer: 208-359-1767.


+ How do I apply? What is the application process?

Simply fill out the application that applies to you. Once you’ve submitted your application and paid your application fee, we will run a background check and contact all of your references. We will then let you know if you have been accepted and inform you on what to do next.

+ What does it cost? Can I fundraise my fees?

How long you stay is how much you pay, so it varies from each volunteer to the next. Check out our breakdown of fees here.

Since we are 501(c)3 certified, you can fundraise as much as you can to cover your costs. All who donate to your volunteer experience will receive a tax receipt if they wish.

+ What immunizations do I need before traveling?

We ask that you are up to date with your immunizations and the CDC regulations. We also suggest getting hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, and flu shots.

+ What is the volunteer work like?

OSSO volunteer work consists of loving and helping children of all ages. The goal behind OSSO's orphanage work is to help orphans reach their potential. You’re there to give a helping hand to the orphanage workers and to plan daily activities for the children.

The work can be demanding but also very rewarding, so come prepared to serve. Learn more here.

+ How can I donate?

Simply click donate at the top of our website and then click the donate button on the next page.

If you would like to become a sponsor for OSSO and make monthly reoccurring donations, simply fill out our sponsor application.

+ What donations do the orphanages need?

The types of donations needed fluctuate often with the needs of the orphanage changing as kids grow or get adopted. The best way to know what is needed is to contact our office by phone (208-359-1767) or email (info@orphanagesupport.org).

+ Who can volunteer?

Anyone! We welcome individuals, families, couples, and organized groups to volunteer with us.

Our volunteers vary in experience and professions. While experience in childcare, international travel, or other related fields is helpful, no specific experience is required. As long as you come prepared to serve and have a clean background check, you can volunteer.

No matter what stage of life you are in, you can volunteer with OSSO.

+ What should I pack?

Here are suggested packing lists for Thailand and for Ecuador.

+ What activities should I prepare to do with the children?

Be prepared to do many activities with children of all ages. We suggest that you plan and come prepared to do at least three different activities: a toddler activity, an activity you can do with about fifty 8-18-year-old girls, and an activity for children with special needs and wheelchairs. Discover activity ideas on our Pinterest.

+ Do I need a visa?

This depends on the length of time you are staying, and which country you're going to as well.

In Ecuador you only need a visa if you are going to stay over 90 days.

In Thailand you need a visa if you are staying over 30 days.

*This is subject to change, as countries rules change. Please look up the country you are going to and check their recent rules and regulations on visas.

+ What do the program fees include?

  • Food, housing, wifi, and utilities inside the volunteer house
  • Transportation to and from airport
  • Work assignments and activities at orphanages
  • Excursions and activities as outlined in "What can I do in my free time?"
  • Scheduled work shifts of direct interaction with the children (35-45+ hrs. weekly)
  • In-country assistance (Volunteer Directors living on-site with volunteers to aid in training, translations, medical needs, and living accommodations)
  • $500 donation to be used directly for the children

+ What do the program fees NOT include?

  • International Airfare
  • Application Fee (this is a separate nonrefundable fee of $190, which covers our office work to process your application, call references, and perform a background check)
  • Passport & Visa Fees
  • Independent Touring (see "What can I do in my free time" for more information)
  • Medical Expenses and Medications (We recommend that each volunteer check with their health insurance provider to make sure international travel insurance is provided)
  • Taxis for shopping or sightseeing during free time
  • Souvenirs

+ What if I cancel? Does the program offer refunds?

  • The application fee is completely nonrefundable. If we complete a background check, process your application, and choose not to accept you, your application fee is not refunded. If you decide to cancel your application, your application fee is not refunded.
  • You may choose to defer your volunteer time up until the time of departure, and all payments will be held for your new departure date.
  • If a volunteer is sent home for breaking Code of Conduct, volunteers will be responsible for all fees associated with ticket changes and travel fees to leave early.
  • OSSO cannot and does not offer any refunds for money spent on international airfare.
  • No program fee refunds will be given to volunteers who choose to sign out of the program, changing the time they have previously committed.

+ Can I attend church services while volunteering with OSSO?

Yes! OSSO is not officially affiliated with any religion; however, we do our best to support volunteers in attending worship services of their choice. While OSSO volunteers are required to work in the orphanages on Sundays, it is possible to also attend church services.
If you desire to attend a church of any religious denomination, we will do our best to find a local congregation in the city where you are volunteering. Please don't hesitate to ask!

Many of OSSO volunteers are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Because of this, we have become familiar with the meeting times and locations for LDS church services and activities. In Ecuador, LDS meetings such as sacrament and institute are held weekly in English. The English sacrament meeting is held during volunteers' lunch break so volunteers' may attend weekly. If volunteers wish to attend an LDS ward in Spanish, they can occasionally request their free time on Sunday mornings. However because of work commitments in the orphanages, it is not possible to request free time every Sunday morning.

In Thailand, volunteers can attend English LDS sacrament services weekly.

+ Is Spanish or Thai required?

Nope! Although knowing the language is very helpful, it is not required for our volunteers. There is a discount for long-term Ecuador volunteers who speak Spanish. See the Costs tab.

The majority of our volunteers do not speak Spanish or Thai. There are directors and coordinators in both cities who speak English. See our helpful Spanish Study Guide, tailored to vocabulary with children and orphanage workers. For those wanting to practice their Spanish, we recommend the free online language program Duolingo.

Thai volunteers will be taught vocabulary once in country to communicate with the children. Language guides are also helpful.

+ Is there running water and electricity available?

Yes, and (where needed) purified water is provided.

+ Is there internet service where I'll be staying?

Yes, but it is not the same speed or quality of internet as in the United States. Expect slow speeds and for it to quit working often.

+ How do I contact a volunteer while she/he is serving?

Email is the best form of communication with your volunteer!

The volunteer house in Ecuador has an internet phone line. Volunteers can use the phone, and family & friends can call them. Your volunteer can share this information with you from their travel instructions packet. The phone is connected to the internet; expect slow internet speed, and it occasionally stops working.

In Thailand, your volunteer will be given the team leader's cell number for emergencies.

+ Can I visit my child while she/he is volunteering?

Yes! We love having parents come to visit volunteers who are serving with OSSO. You will need to fill out an individual application so OSSO can approve you to be on orphanage grounds.

If you plan to stay at OSSO's volunteer house, you will need to pay the program fees associated with your stay. If you plan to stay offsite of OSSO's grounds, you won't need to pay the associated fees, but you still need to fill out an application because anyone who wants to enter the orphanage must be approved by OSSO first.

+ Can I get college credit for volunteering?

Yes, you may earn college credit for your OSSO experience. OSSO welcomes interns! Students from a variety of majors have completed internship and course hours during their service with OSSO. Please complete our internship application.

You can earn 2 to 6 credits of upper-division practicum credit in Child and Family Studies through Weber State University (these credits may transfer to other universities). If you are not currently enrolled in Weber State, you will need to contact your university to determine if the credits will transfer. Contact Dr. Schvaneveldt at Weber State for more information at pschvaneveldt@weber.edu.

+ What currency do they use in Ecuador and Thailand? How do you recommend I get money while I am there?

Ecuador uses the American Dollar. In Thailand, the Thai Baht is used.

We recommend you take at least $30 cash with you while traveling. DO NOT bring large amount of cash with you, as this is risky and creates a safety issue.

Once you arrive in country, there are safe and reliable ATMs to withdraw money from. Be sure to contact your bank to let them know you will be traveling or they will block your account and not allow you to withdraw money. Depending on the bank, each time you withdraw money, they usually charge a few dollars.

We strongly recommend bringing small bills as it is difficult to get change in the markets.

+ What is the food like in Ecuador/Thailand?

Ecuador: Monday through Saturday, a cook prepares lunch for all volunteers. Almost every Ecuadorian meal includes rice. Volunteers are responsible to prepare their own breakfast, dinner, and snacks. There is a large variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from when shopping, but there are not a lot of "instant" or "freezer meals" available. Once a week, the directors or volunteers go grocery shopping and keep the house stocked with baking and cooking supplies, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, tortillas, eggs, milk, yogurt, rice, pasta, flour, oatmeal, sugar, etc. For volunteers who are interested in trying traditional food, there will be plenty of opportunities!

Thailand: Volunteers will eat out at safe restaurants within Chiang Mai. Thai food consists of a lot of stir-fried vegetables and meats. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also in abundance.

Follow us on Pinterest to see some typical foods from Ecuador & Thailand.

+ Is travel insurance required to participate with OSSO?

OSSO does NOT require participants to show proof of travel insurance in order to volunteer. However, we recommend you consult with your private insurance provider to consider additional coverage for your trip. A Google search of "travel insurance" will also help you find many options. Below are links to a few suggestions:

+ What can I do in my free time?

There will be down time, time to spend in the city, and time for adventures. Explore your future adventures here.

Volunteer director with child in orphanage.

OSSO's Photo/Video Policy*

Our current media policy prohibits volunteers from taking photos or videos of any child at an orphanage.

Due to Thailand and Ecuadorian laws, it is prohibited to take photos/videos of any child at an orphanage. Violating this policy could lead to legal prosecution from the Thailand or Ecuadorian governments. 

All photos and videos Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) publishes in print or online are not in violation of this policy and these laws because OSSO has been given the right and/or permission to take and use that media. Media we post of children in orphanages does not show the children's faces. Media showing children's faces is not from an orphanage.

We care deeply about the children we serve and their safety along with the safety of our volunteers — this is our number one priority.

*Our policy is subject to change.

Orphanage Support Services Organization is not an adoption agency. However, we are advocates of adoption! And we're happy to have you call us for adoption agency referrals.

Some of the greatest joys come from seeing the children we serve receive families through adoption. While we cannot legally help with adoptions, but we can refer you to those who can help in your adoption process.

For citizens of the United States, visit the U.S. Department of State's website for Intercountry Adoption information.

For additional guidance and information about the adoption process, visit Adoption.com.

 

Because Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) is a U.S. nonprofit 501(c)3 charitable organization, you and your sponsors are eligible to receive tax deductions*, motivating many companies to match your donations. 

Federal Tax ID #82-0507523

For U.S. residents, your personal donations to our organization may be tax deductible—consult with your tax advisor to find out how these donations can benefit your tax planning.

Receipt stating tax deductibility of your contributions for that year will be sent by January 31 of the following year.

*Donations must be made to OSSO directly from the donor to receive a tax receipt. All those who donate through the fundraising webpage we set up are eligible.

Rules and code of conduct

The number-one priority of OSSO’s code of conduct is to ensure safety among volunteers and children. OSSO’s strict code of conduct has helped establish and maintain respectable relationships with the nuns, directors, and orphanages we serve.


Volunteers will likely be dismissed from the program and sent home at their own expense for any of (but not limited to) the following:

  1. Breaking curfew
  2. Consuming alcohol
  3. Taking pictures of the children
  4. Violating Confidentiality Policy
  5. Engaging in romantic relations with other volunteers, orphanage staff, children, or people you meet in town.
  6. Repeated unexcused absences
  7. Promoting any religious agenda against the will of the orphanages
  8. Using OSSO’s internet or electronics to view any type of pornographic material.

Specific rules and safety guidelines may be adjusted at any time.

We leave it to the discretion of OSSO’s in-country directors to make appropriate adjustments. Volunteers are expected to comply with rules announced by the Directors.


Confidentiality agreement

The children OSSO serves in the orphanages come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Many have experienced neglect, abuse, and all have experienced the trauma of being removed from their home. Each orphanage has professional staff such as psychologists, social workers, therapists, and directors. These staff members are responsible to work with each child and their family on an individual basis. Each child in the orphanage is not “abandoned” or available for adoption. The social worker of the orphanage works with many parents to set goals which enable their child to be “reinserted” with the family upon approval of the courts. OSSO requires all volunteers to respectfully leave this role to the professionals at the orphanages.

OSSO volunteers are not to discuss a child returning to their family or being adopted, without specific instruction from the orphanage staff and confirmed by the OSSO directors. When the child is close to being adopted, the orphanage staff may post a picture of the child’s new family and ask that volunteers help reinforce this idea to help prepare the child.

OSSO requires all volunteers to treat each child’s personal story and information with the highest respect and confidentiality. Often the child’s background is unknown, as it is continually investigated. The OSSO directors will inform the volunteers if they need to know a specific concern from the child’s past to better serve the child. When this information is shared, it will be done privately in the volunteer house. OSSO volunteers are not permitted to discuss the child’s past at the orphanage; regardless of age, mental understanding of the child, or language spoken.  If volunteers have a concern or question about a child, it should be addressed with the OSSO directors in private at the OSSO volunteer house. In the past, volunteers have said comments in English on the orphanage grounds, only for a child to overhear resulting in obvious emotional damage. The comments are not said to hurt the child, but it often brings up painful memories. OSSO’s volunteers are asked to create the most loving and safe environment for the children we serve. For this reason, we require the highest level of respect and confidentiality with details about the children’s background.


Dress and grooming

The people of Ecuador and Thailand are more conservative and formal in dress and grooming. Grungy, immodest, or very casual attire is not worn in public. While you will see tourists who do not dress according to this local standard, you will lose the respect of the local people and will not be a proper role model for the children you serve, if you dress inappropriately. Modest clothing must also be worn in OSSO housing. Clothing should be modest in fabric, fit, and style.

The dress and grooming (including hairstyles) of both men and women should be modest, neat and clean.

NO Tank tops or sleeveless shirts, shorts or short skirts, skin-tight or revealing clothing, extreme visible piercings.


Safety

Volunteers are prohibited at any time to be outside orphanage grounds alone.

When exploring the city or traveling, you must be in a group of 3 or more* and have notified the OSSO staff of your intended destination(s).

*This can be adjusted based on the size of the volunteer groups. For your safety, each city has specific rules about traveling outside OSSO accommodations that includes a strict curfew. Exceptions to the curfew or traveling rules must be approved by OSSO’s managing director in Rexburg.


No Dating

Volunteers are not allowed to date while participating in the program. Hugging, kissing, flirting, and other intimate behavior is prohibited. You may not be in the bedroom of a member of the opposite sex. There are many complex cultural differences in international dating that make romantic relationships unwise and even dangerous.


Attendance and work commitment

We recognize OSSO volunteers give of their time and money to serve the children. Volunteer housing is reserved for those committed to assisting OSSO fulfill its mission by working in the orphanages. The schedule of an OSSO volunteer is designed to give first priority to serving the children.

We recognize volunteers older than 18 as adults and expect them to independently care for themselves as well as fulfill work commitments. We cannot legally discuss private details about an adult volunteer with their parent. WE encourage parents and participants to keep a direct open communication with each other. Volunteers older than 18 have the right to sign-out of the program, he/she may not use any of OSSO’s resources. For liability reasons, OSSO staff cannot help or accommodate a volunteer’s travel plans outside of OSSO. The volunteer becomes responsible for all safety, transportation, food, and housing accommodations during their travels. No refunds are given if a volunteer chooses to change the volunteer dates they have previously committed to.


OSSO and religion

We are a non-denominational organization.

We do believe in God, and we pray that He will help us in our efforts to better the lives of the children we care for. We expect everyone to be tolerant and compassionate toward the religious beliefs of other volunteers and staff members. Most of the orphanages we work with are primarily Catholic (Ecuador) or Buddhist (Thailand).

OSSO leaders try to support the volunteers physically, emotionally and spiritually. OSSO’s leaders, employees, and volunteers are NOT to use their participation with OSSO to proselytize or advance any particular religious doctrine or agenda. This is taken most seriously in the orphanages. Volunteers may be sent home for promoting a religious agenda against the will of orphanage leadership.

In Thailand, Buddhism is the primary religion. Buddha is seen as sacred and the government has mandated that no replicas or Buddha heads should be taken from the country. Many souvenir shops still sell these items, but you can be heavily fined for purchasing and taking a Buddha head from Thailand. We ask that OSSO volunteers refrain from purchasing Buddha figurines.


Work Expectations

Thailand:

Volunteers work between 25-30+ hours each week in the orphanages. Orphanage and OSSO directors coordinate to set work schedules with two main orphanages—a baby and toddler home as well as a boy’s home—located on the same grounds. Shifts are from 9-11:30 AM and 2:30-4:30 pm, Monday through Friday in the baby and toddler home. Depending on the schedule, volunteers will plan evening activities for the boy’s home a few times a week. During free time, volunteers can go into the city with another volunteer, sightsee, sleep, call family, relax in the house, etc. Depending on scheduling, volunteers take off an entire day together for a field trip paid by OSSO.

Ecuador:

Long-term volunteers( 4+ weeks) are expected to work 45+ hours each week in the orphanage. The nuns and Orphanage Directors coordinate with the Volunteer Directors to set work schedules for volunteers. Typically, work shifts in Ecuador include: 7:30-12:30 and 2:30-6:00 with a 2-hour lunch break each day. Volunteers are given 3 shifts off each week, including time for a weekly Spanish class (optional). During free time, volunteers can go into the city with another volunteer, sightsee, sleep, call family, relax in the house, etc. Once a month, volunteers take off an entire day together for a field trip paid by OSSO. Volunteers may work additional evenings or night shifts as needed.


Your responsibilities may include:

  • Bathing, feeding, dressing children, and changing diapers
  • Preparing activities, crafts, and sports to do with the children
  • Possibly work during the night to care for infants or special needs children (Ecuador)
  • Provide therapy and help the children reach developmental milestones
  • Cook meals with other volunteers
  • Sweep, mop, take out garbage, clean bathrooms, bedrooms, and general living areas in the volunteer house.

Terms and Conditions

INDEMNIFICATION Each volunteer indemnifies and holds Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) harmless of any and all claims of real or perceived injury or loss they may sustain during their association with Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO). 

FORCE MAJEURE Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) reserves the right to cancel, change or substitute any program due to insufficient participation, strikes, lockouts, riots, wars, changes in currency exchange rates, natural disasters or Acts of God, or any other circumstances beyond the control of OSSO. In such instances, OSSO shall be held harmless by each and every volunteer.

As an applicant, I voluntarily and knowingly authorize any present or past employer or supervisor, university or institution of learning, administrator, law enforcement agency, state agency, federal agency, consumer reporting agency, private business, military branch or the National Personnel Records Center, personal reference, and/or other persons, to give records or information they may have concerning my criminal history, motor vehicle history, employment records, worker’s compensation claims, general reputation, character, or any other information requested to Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) or Personnel Security, Inc. and/or their agents or representatives. I further authorize the release of any past information or legal proceedings that may have been sealed because of my status as a juvenile. I voluntarily, knowingly and unconditionally release any named or unnamed informant from any and all liability resulting from the furnishing of this information. The signature of authorization below shall be valid one year from the date signed and a photocopied or faxed copy of the authorization shall be as valid as the original. By signing below, I, the applicant, acknowledge that I have read the application form and all “General Information” on the website related to OSSO’s volunteer program. I agree to all terms and conditions set forth by OSSO and agree to live according to OSSO’s Code of Conduct (which I have read thoroughly) if accepted into the program. I hereby certify that all information I have provided on this application is true and complete. I indemnify and hold Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) harmless of any and all claims of real or perceived injury or loss I may sustain during my association with Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO). I voluntarily, knowingly and unconditionally give Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) the right to keep my parents or next of kin updated on emergency or safety conditions that may affect me, or changes in my itinerary or travel plans. I understand that Orphanage Support Services Organization (OSSO) has the right to accept or reject my application at OSSO’s own discretion.