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Signs of Quality in International Volunteering

One of the biggest concerns and discussions around responsible volunteering is where does the money go in the end? A top priority is being certain that the organisation you are collaborating with is a serious and responsible one.

 

Does it take the needs of the local community into consideration, does it provide a clear overview of where the money goes – and how sustainable is the project, exactly? In other words, is it transparent and honest with you and the participants? Does it provide quality? 

A good thing to make sure is that the volunteer organisation you are partnering with creates the relevant impact reports. This way you can accurately understand the project’s progress. Furthermore, you will be able to see an actual representation of the organisation’s involvement with the local community and evaluate their work ethic and principles.

 

What are you paying for?

“But given I am donating my time, and efforts shouldn’t organisations be covering my costs?”

Not entirely, let’s be honest here. Think about it – you are going to do work in a place where you are most likely not familiar with the culture, way of life, and way of doing things. You are not actually an expert who knows better than the locals or trained project leaders. Volunteer organisations have many costs to cover in regards to arranging the projects and they usually also cover some of your costs like accommodation and food.

There are NGOs who will cover your expenses while you are at the project, but they are few and far between.

 

A two-way process

What you are doing is offering support and an extra pair of hands but in order to be of help instead of slowing down the process you need guidance, support, and teaching. Furthermore, after the project is done you will actually walk away with more than you arrived – a better understanding of the culture and an improved set of skills and knowledge.

Most organisations spend a lot of time, and energy training and preparing volunteers and this costs money. Not to mention organisations have other considerable costs to cover already so they will most likely need some sort of investment from your side as well.

Considering what you get out of the project it might not be a big deal at all – just be sure to find out what exactly your money is being used for and what part of the project is the organisation (and their partners) covering.

 

Beware of voluntourism

Despite all of that, there are plenty of “voluntourism” agencies who require volunteers to invest large sums of money and they are not at all honest and transparent about how this amount of money is spent. Where does it go? Is it to cover the volunteer’s expenses? If so, what exactly, how much goes for what? Is part of the money kept by the organisation or is it donated to a cause? How much goes where?

It is essential that the project organisation is completely honest and open about how much of your money is being spent on what exactly. This way you actually know what you are contributing to. Always ask questions and be slightly sceptical but do not dismiss the opportunity just because you have to pay some money – you might miss out on the experience of your life.

 

How is the project funded?

One of the things that need a thorough consideration and research when you are planning to volunteer is the funding of the project. Usually, most volunteer projects have some kind of funding whether it is provided by partners, sponsors or donors – who can be government or private.

Some organisations raise funds by inviting volunteers to their project, so the volunteers will “pay for their experience”. This can of course raise some concerns: Is the project there fo the benefit of the community, or is it there to generate an income, and for whom? Are there too many (paying) volunteers and no work for them? 

Thus, it is important to investigate the partners of the project and organisation – are they legitimate and how are they providing support for the project. 

Find out what partners the organisation you are considering has and make a background check – who are they, what are they doing, how do they relate to the project, and what is their role. You can see the check list below:

 

Seven Signs of Quality To Look For in a Volunteer Organisation

1. They are transparent about spending

Probably the most important factor when it comes to transparency with volunteer organisations is where the money they take goes. A good and responsible organisation will always be transparent and open about their spending. This means you will be able to get a receipt for your payments, as well as a detailed breakdown of how much money goes for what purpose.

This also gives you a good insight into the work ethic of the organisation and their values. If the money is used for absolutely necessary expenses or part of it flows into the community and cause they are serving, this means they are collecting resources for the right reason.

You should be careful not to funnel cash into a dead-end project, or in the worst case into a complete scam. 

 

2. Good Reputation Within the Community (and other NGOs)

A good way to check the legitimacy of the programme and the organisation is to investigate their reputation in the community. If the organisation has a proven record of successful projects and satisfied communities (and partners) this most certainly means you are dealing with a serious institution.

 

3. Clear and Achievable Goal

What exactly is the point of the project? What are you contributing to? The organisation should be able to explain not just the project (e.g. teaching farmers about sustainable farming techniques) but also the bigger goal they are trying to achieve (fe.g. showing the benefits of sustainable farming, teaching farmers how to generate income and produce better products).

A list of specific tasks and areas in which volunteers are expected to work is also a good sign the organisation has good control over the project and has a clear idea of what the community needs.

 

4. Active and Clear Involvement of the Community & Locally-Driven Goals

The worst thing you can do and get yourself into is to take part in projects where there hasn’t been any input from the local community. It is essential to understand that the community and the project leads are the experts and they know what is needed best. If there is no communication and understanding then the project is very likely to result in a complete fail and more harm than good. A reliable organisation will always take measure in this filed.

 

5. Does the project have a long term effect?

It is always a good sign if the organisation makes sure that the project you will be part of will have a positive impact even after you are gone. If the project is something you do for a while and has no value after you leave it is just a waste of time for all the people involved.

Volunteers are also affected by long term results. What will you walk away with after the project is over – will you improve any of your skills, will you get new ones, more knowledge, personal development? Volunteering should be a beneficial process for all sides involved.

 

6. Transparent Communication

Transparency when it comes to communication with potential volunteers is not to be taken lightly as well. Organisations should always be clear about living conditions, types of work, potential impact, and of course any risks.

 

7. Adequate Training and Clear Volunteer Support

It is important that you feel safe while contributing to any cause. When an organisation has clear information and way of providing support for volunteers you know that they are responsible and well-prepared for what they are doing. Do they have transparent systems for who to contact during your time as a volunteer? What kind of in-service training and support will you have access to? 

Best of all are volunteer organisations who provide proper pre-service training, the longer the better. The more you understand about the complexities in international volunteering (socio-economic situation of the destination country, colonial history, power relations, unintentional stereotyping, etc.), the more succesful an experience you will have.

Note: A three-hour online session on “how to prepare for volunteering” will not suffice. 

 

Quality International Volunteering

“If you see
volunteering as
a way 
of learning
new skills, then you shouldn’t resent paying some of the costs.”

How is the Take 10 Volunteer programme funded?

Project period

The project period of 6 months is fully funded.  Our partnership NGOs, who are all connected to Humana People to People,  finances volunteers with a scholarship of €1,600* which covers:

  • Return travel to the project destination
  • Traveller’s health insurance for the project destination
  • Visa for the project destination
  • Necessary travel vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis for the project destination

Additionally, Humana People to People will provide accommodation and a monthly allowance of US$150 to cover food expenses for the period at the project destination.

* In our experience, this amount is adequate to cover project period costs.

Preparation period

To ensure that the volunteers are adequately equipped with relevant skills, appropriate awareness and in other ways are prepared to contribute to the projects in a purposeful way, our project partners insist that all volunteers undergo training at a learning centre in either Denmark, Norway or the UK. The three-month preparation period is an intensive course and it costs €2,700 which covers basic expenses including accommodation in a shared room, three meals a day, tuition and programme expenses such as books, films, sports equipment, stationery, field trips etc. 

The last month of the programme, the reflection and information period also takes place at the learning centre. The costs for this period is included in the €2700

Other expenses

  • If you are a European Union citizen, the Health insurance for the four months at the learning centre will be financed through your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). 
  • If you are NOT a European Union citizen, you yourself will have to cover expenses for health insurance during the months spent in Europe.
  • Personal items such as medication, toiletries, sim card, laptop and any other personal expenses will be covered by yourself for the duration of the programme.

 

Responsible Volunteering Signs of Quality
Humana People To People Report 2018

Signs of Quality in International Volunteering

Quality International Volunteering

One of the biggest concerns and discussions around responsible volunteering is where does the money go in the end? A top priority is being certain that the organisation you are collaborating with is a serious and responsible one.

 

Does it take the needs of the local community into consideration, does it provide a clear overview of where the money goes – and how sustainable is the project, exactly? In other words, is it transparent and honest with you and the participants? Does it provide quality? 

A good thing to make sure is that the volunteer organisation you are partnering with creates the relevant impact reports. This way you can accurately understand the project’s progress. Furthermore, you will be able to see an actual representation of the organisation’s involvement with the local community and evaluate their work ethic and principles.

What are you paying for?

“But given I am donating my time, and efforts shouldn’t organisations be covering my costs?”

Not entirely, let’s be honest here. Think about it – you are going to do work in a place where you are most likely not familiar with the culture, way of life, and way of doing things. You are not actually an expert who knows better than the locals or trained project leaders. Volunteer organisations have many costs to cover in regards to arranging the projects and they usually also cover some of your costs like accommodation and food.

There are NGOs who will cover your expenses while you are at the project, but they are few and far between.

“If you see
volunteering as
a way 
of learning
new skills, then you shouldn’t resent paying some of the costs.”

A two-way process

What you are doing is offering support and an extra pair of hands but in order to be of help instead of slowing down the process you need guidance, support, and teaching. Furthermore, after the project is done you will actually walk away with more than you arrived – a better understanding of the culture and an improved set of skills and knowledge.

Most organisations spend a lot of time, and energy training and preparing volunteers and this costs money. Not to mention organisations have other considerable costs to cover already so they will most likely need some sort of investment from your side as well.

Considering what you get out of the project it might not be a big deal at all – just be sure to find out what exactly your money is being used for and what part of the project is the organisation (and their partners) covering.

More than 1000 projects in Africa and Asia

Beware of voluntourism

Despite all of that, there are plenty of “voluntourism” agencies who require volunteers to invest large sums of money and they are not at all honest and transparent about how this amount of money is spent. Where does it go? Is it to cover the volunteer’s expenses? If so, what exactly, how much goes for what? Is part of the money kept by the organisation or is it donated to a cause? How much goes where?

It is essential that the project organisation is completely honest and open about how much of your money is being spent on what exactly. This way you actually know what you are contributing to. Always ask questions and be slightly sceptical but do not dismiss the opportunity just because you have to pay some money – you might miss out on the experience of your life.

How is the project funded?

One of the things that need a thorough consideration and research when you are planning to volunteer is the funding of the project. Usually, most volunteer projects have some kind of funding whether it is provided by partners, sponsors or donors – who can be government or private.

Some organisations raise funds by inviting volunteers to their project, so the volunteers will “pay for their experience”. This can of course raise some concerns: Is the project there fo the benefit of the community, or is it there to generate an income, and for whom? Are there too many (paying) volunteers and no work for them? 

Thus, it is important to investigate the partners of the project and organisation – are they legitimate and how are they providing support for the project. 

Find out what partners the organisation you are considering has and make a background check – who are they, what are they doing, how do they relate to the project, and what is their role. You can see the check list below:

 

Seven signs of quality in international volunteer programmes: transparency is one

Seven Signs of Quality To Look For in a Volunteer Organisation

1. They are transparent about spending

Probably the most important factor when it comes to transparency with volunteer organisations is where the money they take goes. A good and responsible organisation will always be transparent and open about their spending. This means you will be able to get a receipt for your payments, as well as a detailed breakdown of how much money goes for what purpose.

This also gives you a good insight into the work ethic of the organisation and their values. If the money is used for absolutely necessary expenses or part of it flows into the community and cause they are serving, this means they are collecting resources for the right reason.

You should be careful not to funnel cash into a dead-end project, or in the worst case into a complete scam. 

 

2. Good Reputation Within the Community (and other NGOs)

A good way to check the legitimacy of the programme and the organisation is to investigate their reputation in the community. If the organisation has a proven record of successful projects and satisfied communities (and partners) this most certainly means you are dealing with a serious institution.

 

3. Clear and Achievable Goal

What exactly is the point of the project? What are you contributing to? The organisation should be able to explain not just the project (e.g. teaching farmers about sustainable farming techniques) but also the bigger goal they are trying to achieve (fe.g. showing the benefits of sustainable farming, teaching farmers how to generate income and produce better products).

A list of specific tasks and areas in which volunteers are expected to work is also a good sign the organisation has good control over the project and has a clear idea of what the community needs.

 

4. Active and Clear Involvement of the Community & Locally-Driven Goals

The worst thing you can do and get yourself into is to take part in projects where there hasn’t been any input from the local community. It is essential to understand that the community and the project leads are the experts and they know what is needed best. If there is no communication and understanding then the project is very likely to result in a complete fail and more harm than good. A reliable organisation will always take measure in this filed.

 

5. Does the project have a long term effect?

It is always a good sign if the organisation makes sure that the project you will be part of will have a positive impact even after you are gone. If the project is something you do for a while and has no value after you leave it is just a waste of time for all the people involved.

Volunteers are also affected by long term results. What will you walk away with after the project is over – will you improve any of your skills, will you get new ones, more knowledge, personal development? Volunteering should be a beneficial process for all sides involved.

6. Transparent Communication

Transparency when it comes to communication with potential volunteers is not to be taken lightly as well. Organisations should always be clear about living conditions, types of work, potential impact, and of course any risks.

 

7. Clear Volunteer Support

It is important that you feel safe while contributing to any cause. When an organisation has clear information and way of providing support for volunteers you know that they are responsible and well-prepared for what they are doing.

 

How is the Take 10 Volunteer programme funded?

Project period

The project period of 6 months is fully funded.  Our partnership NGOs, who are all connected to Humana People to People,  finances volunteers with a scholarship of €1,600* which covers:

  • Return travel to the project destination
  • Traveller’s health insurance for the project destination
  • Visa for the project destination
  • Necessary travel vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis for the project destination

Additionally, Humana People to People will provide accommodation and a monthly allowance of US$150 to cover food expenses for the period at the project destination.

* In our experience, this amount is adequate to cover project period costs.

Preparation period

To ensure that the volunteers are adequately equipped with relevant skills, appropriate awareness and in other ways are prepared to contribute to the projects in a purposeful way, our project partners insist that all volunteers undergo training at a learning centre in either Denmark, Norway or the UK. The three-month preparation period is an intensive course and it costs €2,700 which covers basic expenses including accommodation in a shared room, three meals a day, tuition and programme expenses such as books, films, sports equipment, stationery, field trips etc. 

The last month of the programme, the reflection and information period also takes place at the learning centre. The costs for this period is included in the €2700

Other expenses

  • If you are a European Union citizen, the Health insurance for the four months at the learning centre will be financed through your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). 
  • If you are NOT a European Union citizen, you yourself will have to cover expenses for health insurance during the months spent in Europe.
  • Personal items such as medication, toiletries, sim card, laptop and any other personal expenses will be covered by yourself for the duration of the programme.

 

Some examples of quality international volunteer programmes that do provide pre-service or in-service – apart from our own programme, obviously. 🙂

24 month programme in Denmark / Africa / Denmark.
Total cost: €1000

Minimum 6 months volunteer experience in Nepal.
In-service training to counter neo-colonialistic behaviour.
You only need to pay for the accommodation.

College for International Cooperation and Development in the UK
Various programmes Asia / Africa
Possibility to earn programme costs at a pre-course

Various programmes Caribeean / Central America
Focus on sustainable living and climate resilience

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