How to Avoid Scams when Volunteering Abroad
Researching a volunteer programs around the world? Not looking to spend a fortune or get scammed by a un-reputable organisation? In recent years literally hundreds of new volunteer organisations have sprung up, most are legitimate but don't get caught out by some scams. There are lots of scams and things to watch out for when you are beginning the process of applying to volunteer to give service, this goes with both large international sending agencies and also grass roots non-profits / charities. Read on for more information.
What to Watch Out For
Some international travel companies have been accused of ripping off applications and charging them fee's which are really high when if you apply direct to the local project there is only a small donation really needed. Whilst a lot of local organisations claim to have non-profit or charitable status and have positive testimonials on their websites which makes them look very appealing but in reality they are just out to con potential applications into paying for something.
We just want to prepare you and help you not to get caught out. We have heard feedback from people who have booked, paid and turned up in country for their placement either no to exist or to be not as described. Some organisations offer special prices and cheap upfront fees but towards the end of the booking and also don't be fooled by some organisations have non-profit status, sometimes the owners will pocket the money at the expense of local staff.
Recent Media Coverage
Recently in the media there has been quite a lot of press and coverage about how effective international volunteers are, and is participating doing more harm than good. You might want to read some of these articles before applying which generally have been focusing on orphanage volunteer programs in countries like Cambodia which has been booming, Westerns / foreigners pay a fee to help children when in reality the children shouldn't be there in the first place.
Orphanage tourism is currently big business and it is alleged that some organisations have been taking children against their families will, or even paying their families to have the children put in a care home just so they can get money through donations and international volunteers. Of course this is not the case for all orphanages but it should give you food for thought when applying, or give you more reasons to thoroughly find out as much as you can about projects before applying.
There are lots of ways to avoid being scammed though and this generally involves using common sense and research. On the internet there is a vast amount of information, from reviews to social media pages where you can read feedback and actually talk to previous volunteers.
Please research all organisations before applying, there are lots of really rewarding opportunities but also some scams to watch out for. To avoid scams check to see if the organisations has a valid website/feedback or if they are listed on reputable resources like Idealist and One World 365. People are your best form of guidance, check feedback on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Trip Advisor and forums. Contact past participants to see how their experience went and if they would recommend the organisation.
Please note most organisations will require you to pay a deposit to book a place but if an organisation starts asking for more money than initially stated or demanding extras fees this is usually a warning sign. Prices can vary from company to company if you are applying through an international sending agency so you will need to shop around for the best deal - some charge a much higher fee for the same placement you can find at the fraction of the price. Also if something seems a bit too good to be true, suspicious or you have any reservations don't be afraid to ask questions.
Don't Let This Put You Off Applying...
There are lots of reputable volunteer organisations offering reasonable prices and even lots of really worthwhile special local operations around the world, just check everything before signing up. If you have any questions about certain organisations feel free to contact us for independent advice.
- Volunteer Programs in Africa
- Volunteer Programs in Asia
- Volunteer Programs in Europe
- Volunteer Programs in South America
- Volunteer Programs in Central America
- Volunteer Programs in North America
- Volunteer Programs in Australia
- Volunteer Programs in New Zealand
- Volunteer Programs in Fiji