The Business of Helping Others

The Business of Helping Others
So if you have come to this article, you are considering to volunteer abroad. That’s amazing, it is a very rewarding experience. And a very generous thought too, helping others for nothing in return is extremely fulfilling and defines a person’s character. You would like to travel and make a change for the underprivileged, the environment, or any other good cause. But then you discover that some NGOs and organisations might require you to PAY a fee to volunteer or intern abroad. A BIG lump sum fee. Volunteering abroad does not have to be expensive. Welcome to the business of helping others. You may be having these questions:

Why Should I Pay to Volunteer Abroad?

It’s a reasonable question. You kind of understand that the organisation needs funds to survive, but sometimes the fees are just abusive. Still, you wonder why your efforts and time are not enough. Finding a place to volunteer has become a tough mission where, more than just being psychologically strong to face difficult situations, you will need to prepare your wallet too.

Volunteering gets you easy access to interesting and challenging projects. If you REALLY want to volunteer abroad and are willing to pay for it, you should spend your money as you see fit, in an organisation that is transparent and trustworthy. If you think that you SHOULD NOT pay for it, there are other solutions, and other organisations that don’t require you to pay, which can benefit you both professionally and personally.

Where is my 'Volunteer Fee' Going to?

Yes, some NGOs use these fees very transparently to contribute to the greater good, to keep their NGOs running and allocating the money to their beneficiaries. Unfortunately, sometimes these fees are used for other purposes. Agent Fees. The people who act as the middleman between you, the person who wants to volunteer abroad, and the organisation you want to contribute to. Helping others has now become a big booming business. A chunk of the payment goes to paying high salaries of marketing experts at these agencies. Local NGOs are very often short on funding and staff, the fact that they simply cannot afford to spend their resources on recruitment drives them to these agencies for their recruitment needs. Is it fair that these volunteering agencies charge NGOs that are working hard to help others for free, and their agents receive money so that you can work for free? You decide.

Is Doing Good a Privilege for the Rich?

To get a good job, you need good experience in your resume. From our research, we found out that to get that experience with a famous refugee-based volunteer programme here in Malaysia, you need to pay US$1,000 a month. Of course, this was not disclosed upfront on their website. Here’s the email a colleague of mine received: Would volunteering here make your resume look amazing? Of course! Doing voluntary work with one of the top humanitarian organisations in the world - who wouldn't want that on their resume? But what about those who can't afford to splash the cash? Does this rule them out of getting an opportunity they might otherwise deserve? Working with a renowned NGO should not only be a privilege for the rich then. There are many other NGOs out there with free volunteer programmes creating big social impact and empowering lives every single day. If you are short of funds but still want to make a change in the world, perhaps joining these NGOs that don't charge high volunteering fees is a better choice for you. You can work hard on helping others without constantly worrying about your financial situation while abroad or how your hard earned money is being put to use.

What Kind of Support do I get From the Payment I Give?

Here’s what’s normally provided:
  • Food
  • Accomodation
  • Airport pickup and dropoff
  • Training and orientation
  • Ongoing support and seminars
  • Certificate of participation
Here's what's excluded:
  • VISA processing charges and application (you are responsible for acquiring the necessary visa, and trust us, it’s not always easy)
  • International airfare
  • Any required vaccination and immunization
Some organisations will help you with the visa application and any support that you need. With no surprise, at an extra fee. Our research led us to seeing this line on an NGOs website: “Purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise”. The price is deemed as reasonable, and in case you were wondering, it’s ONLY £249 GBP / $349 USD / €299 EUR per person. You could potentially book a flight to somewhere in Asia with that amount. Just saying.

Voluntourism. What's Wrong With it?

Volunteer tourism, otherwise known as voluntourism, is currently an emerging trend. It can be seen as a good thing. People want to travel. People want to help. They get a chance to see the world while spreading social good. As with any booming industry, there are always organisations willing to to capitalise on it by taking advantage and commercialising the concept. One of the most popular forms of “voluntourism” is orphanage voluntourism. Multiple studies have shown the damage done by orphanage voluntourism, particularly in places like Cambodia where parents actually “rent” their kids to orphanages. Our research showed that there is an NGO somewhere in South America working with orphanages, that offers you different packages to choose from for your voluntary visits, ranging from $750 to $1,000 per week, EXCLUDING airfare. They promote the availability of stays in newly opened business centres, air-conditioned business suites, private conferences and recreation areas. They offer you the chance to help rescue an orphan in the form of a tourist attraction. Personally, a private recreation area isn't what I look for when I'm searching for NGOs to volunteer in. The money can be used in so many better ways, which brings me back to my 3rd point. Is doing good a privilege just for the rich? NOT AT ALL. There are viable options for others too. source -

Can I Have a Volunteering Experience Worth Remembering Without Paying an Insane Amount?

There are free volunteering opportunities in Asia. Volunteer in Asia with an organised NGO with programmes to help the community. Enter SOLS 24/7. Lucky for you, our volunteer opportunities are absolutely free for you to take part in. We don’t believe our volunteers have to pay us on their mission to spread social good. Not only that, we also provide our volunteers a host of benefits that they might not get elsewhere. Here’s what we offer. We provide the following opportunities for smart, motivated big thinkers who want more than an average volunteering opportunity while working abroad in Asia. Our staff is made up of people like you who wanted to help while travelling, and are now here working hard for those in need. Read what our interns and volunteers have to say about their experience with SOLS 24/7. There are also other amazing NGOs in Malaysia that don’t require you to spend a huge amount of your savings for volunteering fees. Check them out and the amazing impact they are creating here in Malaysia: Makna Malaysia - They mobilise resources in order to provide curative, preventive, research and support services to cancer patients and their families, high-risk groups and the general public, in Malaysia.         AWAM - AWAM envisions a just, democratic, and equitable society where all persons, in particular women, are treated with respect and are free from all forms of violence and discrimination     NGOhub - An online and offline platform dedicated to enable, empower and serve changemakers. They champion effectiveness, transparency and sustainability, and connect NGOs to information, resources, experts, volunteers and grants.  

Here are Some Volunteering Stereotypes That You Should be Aware of.

Stereotype #1

Volunteering is Only for Young People with Time and Energy.

Volunteering is for all ages, not just youngsters. We believe that anyone, of any age or gender, can give a significant contribution in an organisation or community. Everyone has different experiences, skill-sets, and stories - we value each and every one of it.

Stereotype #2

Volunteering Abroad is Expensive.

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most culturally rich destinations – a region that combines ancient civilizations and the modern world like few others can. Known for its gorgeous beaches, beautiful volcanic mountains, and incredible cuisine - it offers a lot more than many other parts of the world. From rapidly developing countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to lower-income countries with economic zones such as Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, Southeast Asia offers a huge range of destinations with one factor in common: uniformly low prices. Our location in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, provides an ideal location as a base for your travels while in the region. As we’ve mentioned, accommodation and food are FREE at SOLS 24/7, there are no transport costs from our end for volunteers who live in our dorms. To sum up, there are virtually no costs for volunteers to be here.

Stereotype #3

Volunteering can Only be Done for a Short Time.

At SOLS, we offer volunteering opportunities ranging from 6 months to 1 year, according to what you are looking for. Whether you want to live in the concrete-jungle that is Kuala Lumpur, to the beautiful white beaches of Tioman, or in the middle of the jungle in Gerik, we have options prepared for you! Why 6 months to 1 year? We believe that you can only make a clear impact in a community over a minimum period of 6 months, especially if you’re a Volunteer Teacher. The duration lets the community develop their trust and build long-term and meaningful relationships with the teacher, while allowing the teacher to identify the solutions to the challenges faced in each community.   We have amazing people in the office who initially joined us as volunteers, and today, they are full time members of staff, managers, and even directors! Here are some of their stories: Chun Wah Hoo, Malaysia - After spending almost a decade in a multinational company, I began to contemplate the meaning of my work and started to feel restless in search of work that is more fulfilling than meeting sales targets. By chance, I got more involved in social issues, I got to know a lot of NGO workers and began to change my perception about people who work for NGOs. Armed with some savings and a newfound appreciation of social work, I convinced myself to make a career switch 6 years ago and have never looked back. I found SOLS 24/7 by researching the internet and volunteered for 3 months before making the decision to join full time. It was one of the best decision I made career wise. The learnings, growth and contribution I made in SOLS 24/7 was beyond what I could imagine I can get from a “job”, and that’s what work for a humanitarian organisation like SOLS 24/7 is, a calling and a mission.   Leonardo Alexis Peralta, Italy - I was working in a gaming company in China, concentrating on career and money. Earning more and more was the only thing I was thinking about, which led me to sacrifice my social life and relationships for my company. I got everything I wanted, a great salary and a lot of freedom at work, yet I felt empty and unhappy. I realised that earning a good salary was not making me as happy as I thought I would be, somehow I was lonely and going to work became a burden. Then I remembered, what used to make me happy - helping others. I started volunteering for several charities in Beijing, but I still had to go every morning to a job I disliked. I decided to start over in Malaysia, leaving my career to volunteer in a humanitarian organisation as a full-time videographer and photographer. From the first day I felt happiness, surrounded by people who care more about others than themselves. Now, my life has meaning, and everyday I do what I love, for the people in need. It doesn't get much better than this!   Your hard work has a direct impact on other people's lives. Volunteering here is a life changing experience that will definitely be worth remembering, especially, if you have the will to grow and push yourself to keep learning new things. You get experiences that you cannot find anywhere else. Proper humanitarian organisations train their staff thoroughly before they start working. We train our staff and volunteers to keep growing, and if you feel like staying after your volunteering period ends, we are more than happy to discuss full-time positions. Written by Marcomms Manager, Hitesh Vasnani
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