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    Hiya,
    I was just wondering if anyone knew anything much about the ethical issues of volunteering abroad. I worry that, although i want to do good things I'm actually making things worse (taking jobs from loacals, doing work - such as teaching- while unqualified when really a qualified person is needed, changing the culture etc. etc.) and the main benefit goes to me in 'having an experience'. My brother was living in Guatemala for about 6 weeks learning spainish and he was saying that his feeling was that the gap year volunteers who came, building schools for instance, were just taking jobs away from local people. He was also saying that his feeling was that gap year programs were mainly just a fundraiser for companies/charities.

    I just wondered if people had any experience of this sort of thing and what peoples thoughts were - I really don't want to be having more of a negative impact...
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    they call it 'voluntourism' and yes from the sounds of it, these gap year companies which charge you an extortionate amount (£1500+) excluding flights, with most of that money going in their pocket. If you can find out how much goes back to the project/place and how much goes to 'administration costs.' I really don't know much about this subject though so can't properly advise you.
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    Yeah, it could definitely be a problem. The key here is that you can choose your project. Don't be naive about it, as you obviously aren't, and choose somewhere good where you can make a difference that's more help than harm.

    Example; Tanzania. Their schooling system means they have exams in English, a legacy from their colony days, but they all speak tribal languages first and even Swahili is a second language. Having an English speaker there is going to be a lot of help for them with subtleties that their teachers can't help them with, and that's just one.

    It's a big step, so really look around for something you're happy with.
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    I also want to know this. I am thinking about volunteering abroad with Bunac, you've raised some important points so i may just apply for a summer camp placement in America.
    Did your brother have some basic understanding of the language before he went?
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    You'd help more by getting a job and then giving some of your wages to charities which create jobs for local people in the community IMO. That doesn't mean you going is a terrible deed though.
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    The vast majority of volunteering courses are little more than pre-packaged self-esteems boosts for those involved. The focus is mostly on the enjoyment of the individuals involved, not the actual help of others. It's profit-motivated and as has already been said often takes money from the local economy, as well as not giving local workers a job who would likely be more experienced, in need of the money, and will be happier to work for their own community.

    In reality, for effective volunteering, you need to be somewhere for a long period of time, have a lot of skills and experience that can be used productively and work hard. Foreign long-term and effective charity work often involves administration, organisation and sitting in front of a computer for the majority of the day. Often it's in grief struck places, where natural disasters have meant it's impossible for those countries to cope alone. It can be tough, but it's also very rewarding.

    Volunteer courses in which you pay thousands to touch and feed elephants and the like aren't helpful. They are little more than a placebo that can often do more harm to communities than good. If you want to volunteer and help in a beneficial way, expect to it to be gritty, tiresome and hard work. Don't ever volunteer for anyone but a charity either and ideally you'll need some skills that can be effectively translated to specific work. Treat it like a job, not a holiday.

    Also, do a lot of research into who you are volunteering with. Don't choose someone like Real Gap for the reasons above.

    In lots of cases, it's much better, cheaper and more ethical to just go on holiday, instead of the pretence of volunteering.
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    Thanks for the replies guys - Its really interesting to hear different peoples ideas. If I go I'm thinking that I'd go with either lattitude or project trust or go independantly - has anyone got any experience with either of those companies?

    (Original post by marz bar)
    language before he went?
    He was actually in Guatemala doing a Spainish course (he had GCSE before he went), so he wasn't volunteering or anything. However, thats his observations based on nearly two months of living in Guatemala - and obvs. interacting with some gap year students.
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    (Original post by Yawnfest)
    The vast majority of volunteering courses are little more than pre-packaged self-esteems boosts for those involved. The focus is mostly on the enjoyment of the individuals involved, not the actual help of others. It's profit-motivated and as has already been said often takes money from the local economy, as well as not giving local workers a job who would likely be more experienced, in need of the money, and will be happier to work for their own community.

    In reality, for effective volunteering, you need to be somewhere for a long period of time, have a lot of skills and experience that can be used productively and work hard. Foreign long-term and effective charity work often involves administration, organisation and sitting in front of a computer for the majority of the day. Often it's in grief struck places, where natural disasters have meant it's impossible for those countries to cope alone. It can be tough, but it's also very rewarding.

    Volunteer courses in which you pay thousands to touch and feed elephants and the like aren't helpful. They are little more than a placebo that can often do more harm to communities than good. If you want to volunteer and help in a beneficial way, expect to it to be gritty, tiresome and hard work. Don't ever volunteer for anyone but a charity either and ideally you'll need some skills that can be effectively translated to specific work. Treat it like a job, not a holiday.

    Also, do a lot of research into who you are volunteering with. Don't choose someone like Real Gap for the reasons above.

    In lots of cases, it's much better, cheaper and more ethical to just go on holiday, instead of the pretence of volunteering.
    This.

    That said, there is nothing wrong with, for example, going to Guatemala for 6 weeks to learn Spanish (which is ridiculously easy to arrange yourself without paying anything to an agency) and helping tutor kids with their English homework, doing odd jobs at an orphanage etc. while you are there. But people who go to Africa to 'teach English' for 3 weeks or so are doing more harm than good. Very, very few (if any!) short term volunteer projects abroad are worthwhile from an ethical perspective.
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    (Original post by standreams)
    This.

    That said, there is nothing wrong with, for example, going to Guatemala for 6 weeks to learn Spanish (which is ridiculously easy to arrange yourself without paying anything to an agency) and helping tutor kids with their English homework, doing odd jobs at an orphanage etc. while you are there. But people who go to Africa to 'teach English' for 3 weeks or so are doing more harm than good. Very, very few (if any!) short term volunteer projects abroad are worthwhile from an ethical perspective.

    I'm not planning to do short term volunteering however, I was planning to go for at least 6 months?
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    I have heard about people going out to Africa, working with kids in orphanages for a few weeks or months, the children get really attached to them, and then obviously the volunteers have to go home, and this really upsets the kids obviously.
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    To add onto what people have already said...
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...lidays-madonna

    Also you'll find if you go onto a charities UK website they will say they only hire locals because it benefits the charity more.
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    (Original post by And then...)
    To add onto what people have already said...
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...lidays-madonna

    Also you'll find if you go onto a charities UK website they will say they only hire locals because it benefits the charity more.
    Thats awful Its the kind of thing I was really worried about.
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    (Original post by Angelicus)
    Thats awful Its the kind of thing I was really worried about.
    Why is it 'awful?' EDIT: realised you were talking about the link and not the charities only hiring locals.

    As for a 6 month volunteer placement, well I think the positive impact you could have will depend entirely on the project. A 6 month teaching placement would be a waste of time, whereas if you were working on a short term project (building a school for example) which could be completed in that time period then, yes, you could be making a positive impact.

    Charities and NGOs exist to help the people they serve. They do not exist to enhance the CVs of young British people or to give them 'an experience.' I wish more people would be like you and consider the ethical implications of their gap year.
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    http://www.dfid.gov.uk/ics
    http://www.vso.org.uk/volunteer/volu...ents/index.asp
    http://www.wwv.org.uk/world-wide-vol...px?sectionid=1

    These links seem to be excellent, the ICS this year was the test year so lets see what comes of that, however it probably been cut now along with everything else.
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    I recently volunteered with International Volunteer HQ, and I have to say their program is very cheap and well run. So cheap in fact, that profiteering companies who pull the whool over volunteers eyes and charge them extortionate prices have become angry, and feel they are being cheated by this program that is undercutting them by about three times as much. They even try to slander them with bad reviews.

    Although having said that, it is possible for you to get in contact directly with local charities and NGO's that need volunteer help. The organisation I worked with in Vietnam (through IVHQ) was called Volunteers for Peace Vietnam.

    An educated google search will probably find you many such organisations around the world.
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    Hey! a good friend of mine went away last year with Inspire Volunteer. She said it was amazing, they do cost some money but a massive chunk of that actually goes to the charity they are partners with and supports the place you are going to. So there is a direct link from your money to where you are volunteering!

    There site is www.inspirevolunteer.co.uk

    Its worth checking out GapGuru too, they do a load of the same projects and more + I think its with the same charity!

    Let me know how you get on!
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    Inspirevolunteer: Tanzania 1 month: £1190
    IVHQ: Tanzania 1 month: $530 (USD) ≈ £340

    That's pretty much three and a half times as much for the same thing.

    Only difference: You'll be living in a five star hotel, with aircon, fridge, tv, big single bedroom, expensive meals etc.

    Just saying...
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    i have to say, it really depends on the organisation you go with.

    i've lived abroad a lot of my life, in the kind of countries that people go and volunteer in... for example, i currently live in ghana, and i definitely think a lot of the time westerners rock up and don't actually help out much in the long-term.

    i'm starting out on a gap year now, and i really wanted to do a bit of travelling and possibly some volunteering, but i couldn't find anywhere that i really thought was worthwhile, that didn't take away jobs from the locals etc. as many of these 'charities' do...

    but then someone told me about raleigh, and i thought it sounded so great that i'm now booked up for an expedition to borneo in january! basically, they have a permanent presence in the countries that they operate in, and they work WITH locals to choose projects that will benefit everyone.

    so yeah, i think that volunteering can be done with the right organisation.
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    (Original post by Angelicus)
    Hiya,
    I was just wondering if anyone knew anything much about the ethical issues of volunteering abroad. I worry that, although i want to do good things I'm actually making things worse (taking jobs from loacals, doing work - such as teaching- while unqualified when really a qualified person is needed, changing the culture etc. etc.) and the main benefit goes to me in 'having an experience'. My brother was living in Guatemala for about 6 weeks learning spainish and he was saying that his feeling was that the gap year volunteers who came, building schools for instance, were just taking jobs away from local people. He was also saying that his feeling was that gap year programs were mainly just a fundraiser for companies/charities.

    I just wondered if people had any experience of this sort of thing and what peoples thoughts were - I really don't want to be having more of a negative impact...
    Don't worry about it, plenty of foreigners come to the u.k and take jobs from the "locals" so don't worry about doing the same, its the joys of globalisation.
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    I agree entirely with this thread.

    I really want to go abroad for 2/3 months next summer.

    I've come across: www.thinkpacific.com

    They plan the volunteering with the local people and the government, to meet long term aims within the country. It's also small, and one of the few organisations i feel are really dedicated to making a difference. Check it out and you'll see what i mean!
 
 
 

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