“Why should I pay to volunteer abroad?“ This is the first – and legitimate – question that I am asked when I talk about volunteering abroad. “Where does the money go? Why do I have to pay to do voluntary work?” are usually next.
In order to give a satisfying answer to those questions, it is important to be aware of the definition of volunteering. Volunteers are defined as someone who does something willingly without being paid to do so. In other words: You offer your help and support underprivileged communities and programs in person, as well as through funds – but do not get any money in return.
Both sides benefit from volunteer services because they offer a valuable chance for direct cultural exchange.
Particularly for social projects volunteering is a great opportunity and often vital to operate successfully.
It is important to understand that when someone starts working somewhere, even when they are not paid for their work, costs arise that need to be covered. Social projects are generally non-profit and therefore they do not have the funds to do so.
Therefore, volunteer programs are often accompanied by fees you have to pay to volunteer.
You can see where the money ends up
In most cases these fees are being used to cover accommodation, administration and living costs for the duration of their stay. Although, the costs can sometimes appear to be quite high, you should consider that the amount is not chosen randomly. It depends on various factors like the program length or accommodation standards.
More importantly, these funds directly support the programs’ social cause. A male lion can eat up to 40 kg of meet per day. Wildlife conservation projects are charged with the task to provide enormous amounts of food for every rescued animal (daily!). This would be near to impossible to achieve without the help of dedicated volunteers. Wildlife conservation, youth education, health prevention or environmental protection – no matter the social impact, every single program would not be able to support itself.
That is why volunteers are needed in the first place!
That does not mean that volunteering has to be extremely expensive because projects need financial funding. Generally, you can be sure that the longer you stay, the cheaper the average costs will get. Projects are aimed at sustainability and they welcome long-term volunteers that can make a continuous difference. Other than when you donate money to a charity, volunteering assures that you can actually see how your contribution is spent.
Volunteers get paid in experience
Another question that I am frequently asked is what volunteers get in return for their work. Volunteering should not be a business with monetary profits and therefore should not be treated as one. Volunteers willingly offer themselves to support the project without expecting money in return.
Primarily, a voluntary service is an exchange of knowledge and experiences to support a social cause. Even though you invest real money into the programs, you will get paid with all kinds of experiences and cultural exchanges. Moreover, there are 20 more inspiring reasons why volunteering abroad pays off.
Consequently, most social projects are depended on committed volunteers. They help them manage day-to-day activities and make sure that the project can run smoothly. Costs inevitably emerge that need to be covered but generally these projects do not have the extra funds to carry those.
In result, you are not paying to work but to be able to work in volunteer projects and for its social cause. What is more, with the contribution you guarantee a sustainable change and offer continuous support. It is important to understand that your impact on the social cause should not stop with your departure.