Why should I be paying to volunteer abroad? I am going to sacrifice my time and energy to help the poor people in a third-world country, why should I also spend my money? Better yet, can’t they pay me for the expenses that I make because of volunteering? No, they can’t and in this article I’m going to give you 5 reasons why you can’t volunteer abroad for free.

Does this mean that no westerner can be paid to volunteer abroad? Well, I’m not saying that. But when expenses are paid, is it still volunteering? According to many dictionaries, this is the definition of volunteering:

Volunteering is work one does for the benefit of an individual or a community without receiving any compensation.

When you follow the above meaning of volunteering, then it means that receiving accommodation and meals, or even a plane ticket is a form of compensation or payment. The work that you are going to do is supposed to be for the benefit of the other. Being paid to go and explore another country while volunteering seems beneficial to the volunteer, doesn’t it?

paying to volunteer abroad, yes or no

Developing countries often lack funds not skills

At Experience Africa we focus on responsible travel in African countries. We see that there are amazing hard-working people here, who have all the skills that you might have or they outqualify you. But there is a lack of funds in most countries here.
So when you come to volunteer and you even want to receive some form of compensation, or at least you don’t want to pay for volunteering abroad. Ask yourself the following question!

Which skills are you bringing? Let’s say you join a building project. Can you actually build? Or are people busy guiding and helping you? Can you actually contribute, or is it more a learning experience?

Reason number 3 as to why you should be paying to volunteer abroad

Is someone cooking or cleaning for you, or do you do your own cooking and cleaning while volunteering? If you do your own cooking, who is doing the shopping. Are you using someones stove, electricity, kitchen and materials?

If someone is providing or assisting you, isn’t it logical that you pay for that? At least the expenses, but maybe also compensate the energy. I can hear you think! But I’m helping their community. Sure, I hear you…
So when there is an intern at your work at home, you quickly volunteer to spend your time, your house and energy to cater for them. After all the intern is helping at your work.

Can you travel independently during your stay?

guidance while volunteering abroad should be paid.

Are you able to travel on your own to the project? Or do you need airport pick-up and guidance to get to the project? After all, you are visiting a strange and new country.
And while at the project do you need more explanation or guidance on traveling? If you do need guidance, should this be a free service? 

Energy, effort, and guidance of others shouldn’t be for free during your learning experience – reason number 5 why volunteering abroad isn’t free

When you are new to a country, to a community, and to a volunteering job you must have lots of questions. Maybe practical ones, but also about the culture, the environment etc etc. Somebody has to answer these questions. Someone might have to guide you or teach you things. And since you are volunteering to help a project or community, why should they invest in, or paying for you if there’s no benefit for them?

3 reasons why you shouldn’t pay or visit volunteering projects

Of course, there are also reasons why you shouldn’t be paying to volunteer abroad or even visit a project. This is why you should always ask the following questions:

  • Do I take over the job of a local resident?
  • How are the fees that I pay being used?
  • What is the raison d’être of the project? By this, I mean whether the project is there because it actually helps the local population, or is the project there to make money by hosting volunteers.

While volunteering abroad, what are you paying for?

One of our main conclusions is that as a volunteer you should have a critical view of your skills, your abilities, and your flaws. Are you going to be helpful, useful and are you going to add something positive? Or are you mainly going for your own experience, to learn, and are you going to need a lot of help?

Remember that asking lot’s of questions, needing help with washing, cooking, and cleaning is taking something from the people you work with. I’m not saying that people are not willing to help. I’m simply saying that responsible volunteering should be equal in all ways. Also in terms of energy that is spent…

I know that I made hard statements in this blog post. I’m not doing that to point fingers. My wish is that you reflect upon yourself, on your motives for volunteering abroad and if your skillset is indeed better than the local person they could be hiring. If you really, really don’t need extra attention or guidance.
Because I just know that you don’t want to be that ignorant person who takes up the time, resources, and energy of the project and the people you want to help.

volunteering abroad
Interested in reading more? Click here to read how you can do good while volunteering abroad!