Thursday, August 16, 2012

Volunteer Work While Traveling?

Would you “pay a fee to do volunteer work 
in a foreign country while on vacation? 

A community center in the predominately Black district of El Carmen in Chincha, Perú where I can volunteer free of charge... makes perfect sense!
I used to seek out volunteer work in Spanish-speaking countries I planned on visiting because I figured that it would help improve my Spanish and be culturally immersed, but was appalled to learn that these agencies are charging $100 to $1400 to work for “free.” One year, while planning my vacation to Ecuador, I contacted an agency asking about the logic of paying them to volunteer your time to help with a worthy cause. This person responded with an arrogant tone explaining his logic, and to this day, it still does not make any sense. And with his attitude transmitted in the tone of his e-mail, I would have thought twice about paying him a dime, if anything at all, even if I were willing to pay a fee. You would think that these people would be happy to have someone work for free vs spending their money enjoying their vacations.
I'm having trouble believing that people are actually paying these fees, but they are out there. I've spoken to them in forums, such as and on other travel sites. They too could not give me a logical explanation for their motive when they could be spending their hard-earned dollars on enjoyment and souvenirs.  Would YOU do it, and why?   I heard the argument that these fees help with operational costs, however, seeking donations and seeking volunteers are two different things.
I brought this up in a forum and one comment that stood out for me was, in my humble opinion I can make more of a difference walking into a school, orphanage, community organization that needs help that day/week and just get it done! I am in total agreement, for example, there is a black community in Southern Perú that I know very well who can use my skills in tutoring children in English and developing their literacy and math skills. Upon my return to Perú, I will definitely volunteer my time, and even buy refreshments for the kids and staff. These people will not even think of being unethical enough to charge me a fee.

Some well-traveled acquaintances of mine agreed on the fact that "volun-tourism (volunteer tourism)" is one of the most notable, lucrative, and corrupt hustles. Often times the money does not go the project or the people it is supposed to be serving. Sadly, this is the case in many "underdeveloped" countries.

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