Top Reasons to Research Volunteer Programs before Applying
Volunteering is a thing that many people wish to do, especially when it involves travelling abroad. The idea of being able to help people or animals in need in a new country sounds like a great experience. However, care should be taken to ensure that you really are making a genuine difference, and not being exploited whilst being convinced otherwise...
Reasons to be Cautious
There are many projects which claim to make a genuine difference. For example, there are countless lion breeding facilities in South Africa (and more in other countries) which claim to release lions into the wild. They allow volunteers to help raise lion cubs, and also allow volunteers and tourists to walk with older lions. However, unfortunately, many of these volunteer projects are simply exploiting volunteers and tourists, and actually participate in the sale of lions to zoos, instead of releasing lions into the wild, as they claim. More disturbingly, many of these same farms are also involved in the canned hunting industry, where lions are hand raised by paying volunteers, walked with by paying tourists, and eventually shot by paying hunters.
Many of these projects can be booked through some of the best gap year companies, who specialise in working and volunteering abroad programs.Because of this, many volunteers do not carry out their own research of the project before volunteering there. Instead, they trust the information and judgement provided by the agency. Unfortunately, this is naive, and what aspiring volunteers should do is research any projects as thoroughly as possible before considering volunteering at them. In doing this, they may realise the true nature of some dishonest projects, such as the many breeding/canned hunting farms operating under the false pretense of conservation.
Although many genuine volunteer projects in Africa and other destinations exist, it is encouraged to research any projects that you may be considering as much as you possibly can. People looking for a volunteer project can use resources like Google, TripAdvisor, or even contact people who have taken part in the project. Contacting the project directly, asking their aims, and for evidence of their good work is also a good idea. Any genuine project will appreciate your enquiry, and should answer your questions as clearly as possible.
For example, if you are asking for evidence that an animal rehabilitation centre does in fact release animals into the wild, they should be able to tell you the details of the animals that they have released, and where and when they released them. In this situation, answers such as 'a private game reserve' avoid answering your question with an actual answer. This, along with answers which avoid providing precise information are something that you should be wary of.
Other Ways to Help
In addition to taking the time to find and research a genuine volunteer project, there are other ways to help people and animals in need. For example, you could donate to charities such as UNICEF, WWF, and other similar organisations. If you perhaps cannot spare the money to donate, helping to raise awareness of a particular charity or cause can also be greatly helpful. Also, you could consider other smaller ways to help whilst you travel. For example, you could consider supporting local people and projects, or even taking the time to visit a charity or orphanage when visiting a country.
Although projects should be rewarding for the volunteers, the main aim of them is to help people and animals in need. By bearing in mind the suggestions in this article, potential volunteers may be able to ensure that they make informed decisions about volunteering projects, meaning that they can avoid being exploited, and hopefully make a real difference instead.
By Keeton Hill
OneWorld365 Note - We try to check all volunteer projects before adding them to our website and check to see if they are ethical but if you see any opportunities you think we might have missed or should take any listings down please contact us.
- Volunteer in Asia
- Volunteer in Australasia
- Volunteer in Central America
- Volunteer in South America
- Volunteer in North America
- Volunteer in Europe