17 November 2011

"Why do I have to pay to volunteer overseas?" is one of the most common questions we get asked. We understand - you're giving up your time to work for free, but you have to pay for the placement. Here's why.

Reason 1: This isn't Britain

The country where you're volunteering is poor. There's often no welfare state - people have to pay for healthcare and to send their children to school. Under these circumstances, projects to educate children, build wells, or help women start their own businesses couldn't exist without the financial contribution of the overseas volunteers who come to help out.

Reason 2: You need to cover your costs

As well as contributing to the project itself, it is important that you don't place a financial burden on your host country or community. Everything that you use - your food, accommodation, etc - plus whatever you need for the project, such as teaching materials or cement - must be paid for. You're also paying for the security of having the organisation's representatives available (usually 24-hour) both locally and back in the UK.

Reasons 3 & 4: Stability and sustainability

Projects are often long-term - for example, awareness projects to reduce the spread of Aids, or environmental projects to protect fragile eco-systems. Funding such projects through the stability of volunteer contributions provides a secure future for them, and the people they help support.

On the plus side, your volunteer project doesn't have to cost the earth. When looking at prices, bear in mind how much you normally spend at home, on food, bills, rent or mortgage, going out, and general bits and pieces. You'll usually find out that the cost per month of volunteering abroad is less than you're spending at home.

Your next steps