Most first-time travelers to Africa are worried and fear the unknown. “Africa” is often treated as a single country (Sarah Palin!) when it is in fact one of the largests continents. True, there is always bad news: Ebola, malaria, poverty, extremism, droughts, but we shouldn’t forget that most regions of Africa are perfectly safe to…
There are many websites that offer you a volunteering opportunity. On average, you have to pay somewhere between $100 and $2000 for such programs. If you feel about volunteering like just another tourism alternative, that’s alright. But if you take it seriously and see it as a job, it sounds a bit strange.
You offer your expertise (really, you shouldn’t volunteer if you don’t have any) in exchange for a fun time and rewarding memories. You also take care of yourself (meaning your food and accommodation). But if your labor has negative value, which it does if you have to pay to work, you should ask yourself if it makes any sense, not only for you but first and foremost for the organization you work for.
There is a way around this. You don’t have to go through arrogant organizations that are competing for you to pay their overhead. You can go to kindmankind.net or volunteersbase.org. That way, you get in touch directly with the local people who actually need your help. They can’t pay you (Hey, that’s why it’s called volunteering!) but you can actually help where it makes a difference.
Example. Try offering the following to a big organization. They will tell you that they can do that “in-house” and maybe offer you a paid volunteering position.
- Creating a web site for them
- Connecting them with other organizations
- Translate for them
- Bring a package to the capital
- Lend them your car
- Repair their computer
Now here are all things a local organization would be very happy about. But don’t expect your local big name NGO (Greenpeace, UNICEF, CARE, Amnesty International, …) to be overly enthusiastic. For them, your labor might indeed be of negative value.
But not for a community program in Mozambique! Not for a soup kitchen in Mumbai! Not for a nursery home in La Paz!
Come and volunteer for free, not “with us”, but “with yourself”.
A go-getter mentality is all you need in the Internet age.