Saturday, 2 May 2009

Volunteer Travellers

In the course of work today I had cause to look at a couple of websites for volunteer travellers -- those going abroad to do good works. In fact while the intentions are often very good, I do have serious reservations about how much real good most of these young travellers do, For a start they can often be taking away employment from locals. The average trip will cost the volunteer something around £1500-£3000 for a month's 'holiday' -- often a year's employment for a local. But more important is the lack of transparency of many of the companies involved. Most of the young altruistic volunteers assume that the companies are also philanthropic. But a quick look at the websites reveals...... very little. Unlike charities, they do not have to publish their accounts, nor reveal who is paid what.

Whenever I am asked about gap year volunteering, or 'expeditions' I always say 'caveat emptor'. Earthwatch and a few (relatively few, I am afraid) do a great job, but there are a lot of others who are little more than travel companies with the profits going to the shareholders or ownwers -- even when they appear altruistic.

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