A week or two ago, almost fearless, Christine Gilbert's Blog, ran a guest post entitled "Should You Pay to Volunteer Abroad?" The post was from Shannon Whitehead who took two years out to volunteer abroad and ended up not paying much at all for the experience.
I actually really did like Shannon's post, even as GeoVisions indeed charges for volunteer abroad experiences. We try to keep our fees among the lowest...sometimes we can, sometimes we can't. But what I liked about Shannon's post was that she demonstrated how she actually volunteered without having to pay a lot of money for the experience.
Shannon left alone the article that spawned the post...the article in the Guardian UK entitled Before You Pay To Volunteer Abroad, Think Of The Harm You Might Do. Shannon, instead, focused on what motivated her to volunteer, how it helped both her AND the communities and how she did it for next to nothing. I didn't find much of anything in the Guardian's article to write about, except to say I'd prefer journalists and researchers to actually go volunteer for a time and then write about it.
I was drawn to Shannon's post and I also wanted to thank Christine Gilbert for running it. It's true, you don't need to pay organizations to send you to volunteer. But you are going to have to pay to volunteer...no two ways about it.
It is also true there are some organizations out there charging many thousands of dollars for a volunteer abroad opportunity. And it is no secret that you will almost always be able to find the same experience in the same community for the same length of time at half the price.
You don't need to pay to volunteer, but most people will. You don't need to buy vegetables at the market because after all, you can grow them yourself. But most people will buy their veggies rather than grow them.
You can volunteer abroad for (almost) nothing. And do all the work Shannon did. And personally, I applaud her for making this happen in her life. And you can also spend some time researching projects and the pricing of those projects.
Shannon writes about her project in Cambodia. It is exactly that type of experience we tell everyone about in our Why Do I Have To Pay To Volunteer page on our website. "I would need to find my own housing and pay for my meals and transport, but [the organization's director] invited me to volunteer for “free,” pending I gave a small donation that would go directly to the children."
Either you go on your own and pay your airfare, housing, meals and transport or you pay someone else to grow the veggies for you.
Please read the post. It's really good. And if you're interested in a list of organizations who don't charge a ton of money to volunteer abroad, Shannon provides it along with the urls.
We would love to hear from you about this post in the Comments section below.