Since doing my Sahara trek for UNICEF last November, I’ve been keen to find other ways of combining adventurous travel with “giving something back”. So I’ve been looking into volunteering, perhaps in Africa, Mongolia or South America. But after extensive research and asking-around, I’ve been decidedly discouraged by my findings.
Googling the word “volunteer” brings up swathes of companies worldwide who will organise your volunteering experience, whether it’s working with orphaned kids in Malawi, teaching English to Tongan students, helping out on an archaeological dig in Peru, or tracking endangered dolphins off Mombasa.
The experiences all look amazing – but I was staggered by some of the costs quoted. In many cases, a couple of weeks volunteering would cost more than a decent holiday in a nice hotel with all the trimmings. And for someone like me, wanting to dedicate perhaps three or six months to a worthwhile project, the accumulative costs become, quite simply, prohibitive.
I totally understand these companies have “administrative costs” they must cover. But when I’m paying for my own flight, living in very basic accommodation, and giving a huge chunk of my time (and skills) for free, I’m struggling to see why I have to pay someone such exorbitant fees for that “privilege”. Sadly, volunteering seems to be largely the domain of those who can afford it, rather than those with a genuine desire to give something back. And when it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg financially, it does somehow deflate the “goodwill bubble”.
So, somewhat disillusioned, I’ve put my volunteering aspirations to one side for now. I’m going to look for a way of organising my own – affordable – “giving back” experience…
Got a view on this? I’d love to hear it, so do post a comment below!