So after all my persuading on this blog, (have you seen my posts from my time teaching abroad?) you’ve finally decided not only to travel abroad as a courageous globetrotter, but to also give back along the way by volunteering. But as you research different volunteer programs that you can do in your chosen countries, you notice something: some of them expect you to pay to volunteer. You are free labor, so what is that all about?! Let me explain, because I was faced with the same issue when I volunteered abroad. There are a few things you should consider about why these programs are charging you fees, and the good and bad about going this route.
As Go Overseas explains, program fees vary based on what the program offers in return. From logistics and orientation to in-country support, these organizations are there to make sure you get the most out of your time abroad and are there to help if you find yourself in a tight situation. Other organizations may include room and board in their fees. So it is important to read the fine print to find out exactly where your fees will be going and what will be covered for you. You should also look into the general cost of living when comparing programs, as the fee may be adjusted based on which country you are looking at, and this could save you some money in the end. This is also important if you decide to go your own route.
Or as IVHQ, another paid volunteer program breaks it down, your money goes towards:
- Registration Fee – ongoing support from IVHQ staff, program marketing costs, information pack, administration costs,
- IVHQ Fund – this fund was established by International Volunteer HQ in 2013 to support the projects set up by previous IVHQ volunteers, who are making long-term and sustainable contributions to developing communities abroad.
- Travel costs to inspect programs and communication costs with volunteers. So you know where you are going is safe and reliable.
- Program Fee – basically, this is how you are going to live outside of the time you are volunteering. They set up all of that. Airport pick-up, orientation, program supervision, accommodation and meals during your volunteer program period, in-country volunteer support and in-country administration costs.
Basically, if you pay to volunteer, you know the program has been vetted and you are getting a more organized experience. Which is good for some of the OCD people in the world (ehemmmm) . If you decide not to pay, and just take part in something you love and want to help with, you run the risk that the organization you spend your time with might not be as legit and worthwhile as you once thought. People around the world have different standards for organizations. Neither one is right or wrong, it is really how you want your experience to go. Talk to family and friends, interview anyone you know who has done a trip like this, and go with your gut. You know what type of experience you want to have.
The most important thing before you embark on an international volunteer assignment, RESEARCH the sponsoring organization of your choice, and do it thoroughly. Regardless if you are paying them or not, you want to make sure your time is being spent on something worthwhile. If you have questions: ASK. And if they don’t have answers, or something sounds fishy about what they tell you, trust your gut. You want this to be an experience you never forget, but all for the right reasons.
I promise you, it will all worth it.