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Choosing a Responsible Volunteer Programme: Why does it matter?

So, you’ve decided that you want to volunteer abroad… now it’s time to choose your volunteer programme! There are many factors to consider when choosing your perfect volunteer experience, including location, duration, activities, and price. However, when programmes are dealing with social and environmental issues, it is also important to consider ethical volunteering organisations to ensure the programme you are applying for is responsible too.

What is the purpose of volunteering abroad?

Volunteer programmes offer amazing experiences to people who want to travel with a purpose and leave a positive impact on the places they visit. When done responsibly, volunteer programmes can be hugely advantageous for local communities

volunteers with backpacks and sticks looking over a view

What is a responsible volunteer programme?

There are many factors that make a volunteer organisation responsible. When considering your programme options, keep in mind that responsible volunteering will:

  • Place environmental and community concerns at the forefront of their work.
  • Collaborate with local communities and take time to fully understand their history, culture, traditions, and way of life to ensure that they are meeting their needs.
  • Thoroughly train their volunteer staff so that their work will contribute to a long-lasting impact and positive change.
  • Follow the best environmental practices to ensure that the work is truly sustainable, long-lasting, and effective.

Why is it Important to Choose a Responsible Volunteer Organisation?

Volunteer organisations make a real, positive impact on disadvantaged communities across the world. They also provide young people with the unique opportunity to work on issues that they care about, as well as grow and develop individually. However, it is vital for organisations to be focused on responsible and ethical work, otherwise, they may inadvertently harm communities, rather than serve them.

close up of team collectively putting hands together for a cheer

How to Choose a Responsible Volunteer Abroad Programme

It is important to take time to research and carefully consider the organisation you want to volunteer with.

Some useful questions to ask yourself might be: 

  1. What is the mission of this volunteer organisation? What do they aim to do and how do they go about doing it? 
  2. How reputable is this organisation? Does it have a longstanding, trustworthy history as an ethical volunteer organisation?
  3. Does this organisation work with local communities? Are they conscious of local needs and wishes? 
  4. Is this volunteer organisation’s work established with long term goals and sustainability in mind? Will this work serve the community after my programme is over? 

Check out our expeditions in South Africa & Costa Rica

Back portrait of volunteering walking on foot path with shovels

Raleigh’s Commitment to Responsible Volunteering

At Raleigh International, we pride ourselves in being a responsible volunteer organisation. Here are a few of the ways in which we assure our participants that our work is ethical: 

1. We prioritise the needs of local communities.

Our volunteering initiatives are 100% integrated with local communities – we won’t run a project unless the community wants us there and has ownership of the project. 

2. Our volunteers undergo a comprehensive induction programme.

By doing this, before the programme even begins, our volunteers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to do the best work possible! 

Volunteers planting new plants and trees from while using soil from wheelbarrow

3. Our volunteers are immersed in communities and cultures.

We do this so our volunteers have a deeper understanding of the important history, traditions, and way of life of the people they are living with. 

4. We employ full time staff in the countries we work in, and our programmes are community led.

This means important decisions are made in communication with the local communities. Our projects have long term goals, and are aligned with sustainable best practice.

We are dedicated to being a responsible volunteer organisation that is led by the communities we work in. We work to serve communities in the best and most effective possible way, whilst also providing our volunteers with the opportunity to contribute something meaningful and have a life-enriching, responsible volunteering experience.

Read more about our commitment to responsible volunteering

This blog was written by Georgie, our Social Media Intern.

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