How to Find Free Volunteer Work Abroad
So what is volunteering abroad? According to GoOvereas.com
Volunteering abroad is a project to share your skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm, while immersing yourself in a unique culture, discovering new places and contributing to a good cause. However, the price tags on some programs can scare off volunteers before they even open their destination's guidebook.
That is a good description, but it misses one essential audience: the organizations that will receive you. The best international volunteer projects are with locally-led initiatives. More so than any other resource, social impact organizations need the right talent and expertise to grow and create real change. According to the United Nations, and their new Global Goals, volunteers play a critical role in supporting these projects to reduce poverty and inequalities.
Why Do Most Organizations Charge For Volunteer Work Overseas?
Historically, most organizations charge you to volunteer overseas because they have to make up projects for you, like in this story featured in the Huffington Post: The Problem With Voluntourism. This problem stems primarily from one issue: safety, and the willingness to pay for safety. It makes perfect sense that if you are traveling around the world, you want to be safe. As such, many organizations capitalized on this by creating new projects, inserting international staff, and designing projects so that people from other countries could travel and volunteer, without any risks. This industry started in the 1980's, long before the internet could help address questions related to safety.
Today, just like AirBnB and Couchsurfing has made it safe to stay in stranger's homes around the world, matching sites like MovingWorlds have also made it safe to volunteer overseas at a fraction of the cost.
Is It Ethical to Pay to Volunteer Overseas
Not always, but it can be. If you are paying to volunteer, the organization is most likely after your money, not your skills. One exception to this rule is environmental non-profits who create a unique and immersive field experience in order to raise money to continue their research and species protection. However, other pay-to-volunteer projects, like paying to teach kids in an orphanage, paying to build a home or digging a well, is a pretty good sign that a project is being invented to procure your money, not to make a long-term impact or solve a root-cause issue. Paying can createunintended consequences , and must be done carefully.
As you consider volunteering overseas, make sure to do research and consider all sides of the international volunteering debate. and recognize that there is a big difference between Experteering and Voluntourism.
How To Find Free and Ethical Volunteer Projects
We have been published on Devex, Huffington Post, Forbes, Why Dev, and on popular travel blogging sites about best-practices to find ethical, skills-based volunteering projects overseas that we call Experteering. The lessons of these articles can be summarized in these 5 lessons:
Find legal and ethical organizations overseas
Ensure they have a locally-driven need and a local representative to manage the project
Plan in advance by discussing important travel and work details with your host organization
Create a partnership with your host organization so you both benefit
Make sure that skill-transfer is part of the project