5 tips for you who are researching *RESPONSIBLE* international volunteering options

Since you made it to this article, we gather that you have done some research on how to go about volunteering abroad in a responsible / ethical / sustainable / decolonised way.

We are also researching and discovering new aspects about this important topic every day. We have found some resources that we think could be useful for you – at least we hope so! 


Let us present our 5 responsible volunteering tips:

We are sharing some of our responsible volunteering tips.
Let's Talk: Responsible International Volunteering – 5 tips

tip 1

Still researching because you are unsure if volunteering is for you?

We don’t blame you. Doing some good while also enjoying an adventure is something a lot of young people are looking for. On the other hand, voluntourism and ignorant westerners doing more harm than good also needs to be addressed. “It’s complicated!”

So, if you are just starting out and need some direction on the issue of volunteering, we recommend reading “Learning Service”. This is from their introduction:

“Navigating the diversity of options while avoiding the pitfalls of volunteer travel is a daunting task. That is where this book “Learning Service” comes in. It provides practical advice as well as a new way of thinking about international volunteering: it’s an exposé of the problems, a manifesto for what is possible, and a guide of how to get there.”

Check out Learning Service

Next responsible volunteering tip:

Learning Service – preparing for responsible volunteering

tip 2

Already have skills and extensive travel experience?

If you already have some travel experience under you belt, possess professional skills and experience, have a good grip of what your intentions are and a clear idea of how you can contribute – we recommend “People and Places”.

“Peoples and Places” is a UK based award-winning responsible volunteering service. They specialise in matching the skills of prospective volunteers with the needs of their partners in other countries. In their own words, People and Places “matches volunteer skills to project needs. We need teachers, nurses, healthcare and social workers, business and practical skills … and more!”

Check out People and Places

Next responsible volunteering tip:

People and Places: Responsible Volunteering tips

tip 3

Familiarise yourself with the values of Project Volunteer Nepal who insist on being ”a counterpart to neo-colonial, commercial voluntourism organisations.”

“We are a Nepalese non-profit organisation who sees itself as a counterpart of the massively growing sector of Commercial Voluntourism. Our goal is to fight the downsides of commercial voluntourism by creating awareness and by offering responsible volunteer projects that really benefit local communities.”

If your values align with theirs, they will consider you to become a volunteer with them, at no cost. They will provide in-service training such as “Cultural Understanding” and will include you in their existing project. As a general rule, only candidates that can spend three months or more in Nepal will be considered.  

Check out Project Volunteer Nepal

Next responsible volunteering tip:

Responsible Volunteering opportunity in Nepal

tip 4

Work through a Volunteer Charter to prepare yourself

The Irish global solidarity organisation Comhlámh’s Volunteer Charter consists of seven principles which “encourage good practice in volunteering for global development.”

You will examine your reasons for wanting to volunteer, you will reflect on your role as a volunteer, think about how to adopt being a learner and guest and more.  

You can also attend free on-line webinars at Comhláhm and find resources for returning volunteers to help them readjust to life back home.

Check out Comhlámh’s Volunteer Charter

Next responsible volunteering tip:

Action Global Justice: Comhlamh in Ireland, good responsible volunteering tips.

tip 5

Take a specialised three-month course in preparation for working at a Humana People to People project

Join an “all-inclusive” programme which provides comprehensive pre-service training (3 months), placement at a project where your skills are needed (6 months) and post-experience reflection and debriefing (1 month).

This is an “all-in-one” solution where you will do all the preparations with a group of people from the beginning to the end. The hosting NGOs will pay all your expenses at the project, plus flights, insurance and vaccinations.

In return, they insist on volunteers having completed a training programme with a curriculum they have approved: Knowledge about history, the causes of poverty, development theory, practical action, solidarity, humanism, project values, the roles of international volunteers and more. The training takes place at not-for-profit learning centres in Europe but you need to invest in this training yourself.

Check out take10volunteer.org

Preparation is key: Take 10 Volunteer is a 10 month responsible volunteering programme.

Read more about aspects of responsible volunteering

Solidarity Activism

What does it mean to be a solidarity activist? Solidarity activism’s essence consists of fighting shoulder to shoulder with others for a long-lasting change

Reflecting & Sharing

Reflecting on your experience is an important aspect of any volunteer programme. It is highly valuable not only for you but also for others. What did you learn from reality?

Advice from an ex-volunteer

“Take your time. Prepare yourself. The longer, the better. Be realistic about your skills and use them wisely. And finally: Work with people. Solve problems shoulder to shoulder.”

Sustainability & volunteering

Sustainability reflects “the ability to continue a defined behaviour indefinitely”. A development project needs to ensure that all factors involved – environmental, social and economic – are in balance.

Solidarity or Charity?

On International Charity Day we ponder the differences between charity and solidarity. Charity, according to the United Nations, plays an important role in bringing about positive change. Is this true?

Voluntourism vs Intl. Volunteering?

Be realistic and honest about your role, be it as a short-term voluntourist or a longer-term international volunteer. Always put the interests and needs of the community first and before your own.

Be aware of stereotyping

As an international volunteer, you need to be aware of your negative stereotypes and implicit biases. You want to avoid unintentional neo-colonial behaviour. Proper training of volunteers is one way of doing it.

Responsible volunteering abroad

The topic of how to avoid the neo-colonial, eurocentric perspective in international volunteering is an important one. On this page, you will find articles, tips and news about it.

Signs of Quality in Intl. Volunteering

Seven Signs of Quality which you can look for when you are trying to determine whether an international volunteer organisation is a transparent, legitimate, quality project provider or not.