Volunteering overseas is becoming known as a gap year placement, an alternative travel experience, or as a meaningful retirement activity. However, you, the volunteer, will still foot the bill, in case you’re planning this sort of trip you’ll want to make sure your money and time is spent well.
Volunteer programs abroad are advertised as a chance to produce a real difference. It appears just like a win-win situation that benefits the community and also the volunteer. The catch is, volunteer abroad aren’t always mutually beneficial. Poorly thought-out projects may well not benefit communities, which suggests well-meaning volunteers can discover themselves in places where they’re not needed.
Organisations that send volunteers overseas have also become increasingly commercialised as a result of an influx of for-profit companies and travel agencies jumping on the volunteer tourism bandwagon. Some organisations spend the vast majority of a volunteer’s fee on administration, marketing and organisational costs as opposed to on in-country living costs and also the local project.
Volunteering abroad is the new backpacking, says Stephen Wearing, an associate professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, and specialist in volunteer tourism. But he adds that volunteers will tend to pay a significant amount over a backpacker. “Once [it’s] commodified want it is currently, you merely get projects that are put there for keen tourists to accomplish.”
Useful volunteering – Volunteer programs have the potential to accomplish plenty of good. But too frequently well-meaning volunteers have arrived at projects only to find their good intentions be wasted. A written report by UK think tank Demos this year learned that a significant quantity of volunteer tourists felt the work could have been carried out by locals and were unsure as to if their voluntary work actually benefited the communities.
One basis for this is that advertising can provide volunteers an over-inflated feeling of their usefulness. Short trips are increasingly being made to suit the benefit and motivations from the volunteer instead of the destination community.
But community involvement in planning the project is essential to its success. Projects that aren’t well considered and simply outsourced to local partners without close supervision or consideration of local needs and values are frequently unhelpful. “A great company will spend a couple of years deciding how that project will almost certainly work,” says Wearing.
To find the right overseas volunteer opportunity, it’s essential to comprehend the complexities from the development landscape. Trips offering cultural training programs and inductions before are a positive start.
Paying to volunteer overseas – Many overseas volunteer trips include hefty costs and will vary a great deal. For 2 weeks’ volunteering in India, excluding flights, we found prices that ranged from about $300 as much as more than $2000.
What do you obtain for the volunteer fee? Few organisations are truly transparent about how exactly volunteer fees are spent. We asked 18 volunteer abroad providers to have an average breakdown of where volunteers’ funds are spent but only a few provided this.
From the organisations that did give us fee breakdowns, about 50 % the volunteer fee went towards direct in-country living costs and projects. One other half was used on general administration, organising placements, implementation and monitoring of projects, volunteer recruitment and presumably some profit for the companies.
And each and every company fails their costs differently rendering it tough to know exactly how your money is spent. Given that many volunteer abroad companies operate in an international environment, which Australian companies having an annual turnover of under $25m generally aren’t necessary to submit financials for the corporate regulator, particulars on company profits are often simply not available.