Volunteering

Advice

Volunteering Abroad vs. Work Exchange Programs

Volunteering abroad is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason! The benefits of good, well-developed, sustainable volunteering projects are numerous for both the communities involved and the volunteers themselves. Volunteers can develop skills, gain experience and enjoy a fulfilling, often low-cost trip abroad, while communities benefit from skills such as language tuition, public health education and community arts projects. However, there is another way of gaining such experience abroad — work exchange programs. Through sites such as HelpX, WWOOFing and Workaway, travelers can work approximately twenty-five hours per week in exchange for food and lodgings, a chance to live with a local host, and a cultural exchange. The work can vary, from nanny and housekeeping roles, to hostel and bar work, to education, farming and community based volunteering opportunities. There are many pros and cons of both work exchange programs and traditional voluntary projects overseas, for volunteers and host communities alike.

Legitimacy

One of the biggest risks of volunteering abroad is that the project will not be beneficial, or indeed will be harmful, to the community involved. Voluntary programs do not necessarily consider the opinions or autonomy of the people they seek to work with, and volunteers can…