Last updated on 26 February 2020 at 03:00 pm
If you are reading this article, you are likely considering the option of volunteering abroad for free or at a minimal cost. Good for you! No doubt, it is a rewarding experience. Generous of you as well, for wanting to give back to society. It is fulfilling and builds character when you help others. You possibly want to travel while making a difference for underprivileged communities, whether it is animals, the environment, or any other worthy cause.
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 at that too. Not all NGOs offer free volunteering opportunities. However, you CAN volunteer abroad for free, if not, at a minimal cost.
Welcome to the business of helping others. You may have some of these questions:
Why Should I Pay to Volunteer Abroad For Free?
It’s a reasonable question. You probably understand that the organisation needs funds to survive, but sometimes the fees can be extreme. Still, you wonder why your efforts and time are not enough. Finding a place to volunteer can be a tough mission where, aside from being mentally strong to face difficult situations, you also need to ensure your bank account can take it.
Volunteering gives you easy access to interesting and challenging projects. If you REALLY want to volunteer abroad for free and are willing to pay for it, you should spend your money as you see fit, with an organisation that is transparent and trustworthy.
If you think 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. However, these free volunteer opportunities abroad can be difficult to find and will still require some costs one way or another.
Where Does My ‘Volunteer Fee’ Go to?
Yes, some NGOs use these fees in a transparent manner to contribute to the greater good, to keep their NGOs running and allocate 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 become a big and booming business. A chunk of the payment goes to paying high salaries of marketing experts at these agencies. Local NGOs are often short on funding and staff; the fact that they simply cannot afford to spend their resources on hiring, drives them to these agencies for their recruitment needs.
Are you willing to go with this option instead of the free volunteer opportunities that exist? Is it fair that these agencies charge NGOs that are working hard to help others, yet the agencies receive money so that you can work for free? You decide.
Is Doing Good a Privilege for the Rich?
Very often, whether or not you find free volunteering opportunities or otherwise, you will end up forking over some cash – whether it’s for accommodation, transport or food expenses. In that way, it’s easy to assume that volunteering is a privilege that only some people can afford. Some volunteering programmes abroad require fees that can amount to US$1,000 a month – not everyone has the luxury of forking out that much.
Would volunteering make your resume look amazing? Of course! Doing voluntary work with the best 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. There are many other NGOs out there with free volunteer programmes creating huge social impact and empowering lives every 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 at 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 usually provided:
- Airport pickup and drop-off
- 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 immunisation
Some organisations will help you with the visa application and any other support you might need – but it might cost you extra. Our research led us to see this line on one NGO website: “Purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise”. In case you were wondering, it’s ONLY £249 GBP / $349 USD / €299 EUR per person. You could potentially book a flight to an island in Asia with that amount. Just saying. After you’ve figured out why you want to volunteer abroad, choosing the best organisation to work with is the next major step, and we can’t stress enough how important this is.
Voluntourism. What’s Wrong With It?
Volunteer tourism, otherwise known as voluntourism, is currently an emerging trend. People want to travel. People want to help. They get a chance to see the world while making a difference. However, like any other booming industry, there are always organisations willing to capitalise on a hot trend like voluntourism.
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. This is corruption in its rawest form and what some organisations are willing to do just to scam naive do-good-volunteers.
Our research led us to an NGO somewhere in South America working with orphanages, that offers 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 activity.
We hope the above examples are enough evidence that it is best to do your own research, even after you’ve spoken to a representative of your shortlisted NGO.
If you want to know how to volunteer in Asia for free, or anywhere else in the world, it is imperative that you do your due diligence. Despite the fact that it may be a bit difficult to find free volunteer opportunities, it will be worth it if you find one that resonates with you.
There are organisations out there which offer the chance for people to volunteer abroad for free, it’s just about finding the right one.
- 7 Reasons You Should Volunteer With SOLS 24/7
- 5 Volunteering Stereotypes You Should Be Aware Of
- Life As A Volunteer in Malaysia
- 5 Ways to Volunteer in Malaysia You Should Know
- Volunteering: The Battle Between Money Vs. Meaning
- How to Prepare to Volunteer in Asia
- Discovering Malaysian Culture While Volunteering