Responsible volunteering

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Raleigh Expedition - Change Starts Here

Why should I focus on responsible volunteering on sustainable development projects?

Volunteering overseas on sustainable development projects is a powerful way to tackle poverty and inequality. Itis also a crucial way to create human connections, share cultures and generate global citizenship. The work volunteers undertake is proven to have a lasting positive impact on both the communities where projects are taking place and on the volunteers themselves.

When can volunteering do more harm than good?

  • If well intentioned young people who want to volunteer do not understand what responsible volunteering looks like they may make the wrong choice. They can then find themselves in poorly managed projects, inadvertently doing more harm than good.
  • If an organisation places more importance on profit, volunteers cannot be sure that the money they contribute is actually going towards projects.
  • If the proper security, safeguarding, and wellbeing processes are not in place then volunteers and the communities they are working with can find themselves at risk.

Responsible volunteering is:

  • About prioritising long-term impact, not profit.
  • Adding mutual value and opportunity to the communities where projects are taking place. They do not take employment from others.
  • Focused on factors such as collaboration, safety, and sustainability.
  • Based on the needs, priorities, and agreement of the communities where projects are taking place.

Responsible volunteering is not:

  • Short-term projects which do not meet or support broader goals.
  • Exploitative and potentially causing harm to the communities and volunteers.
  • Imposed on communities and condescending.

What are some examples of irresponsible volunteering?

  • Volunteering on short-term projects in orphanages can be harmful. Research shows that children placed in orphanages suffer emotionally, educationally, and developmentally compared to children raised in family-type settings.
  • Despite volunteers’ best intentions, orphanage volunteering can perpetuate poverty, inequality, and discrimination.
  • Volunteering in orphanages can also lead to exploitation of children and their suffering, leading to accusations of poverty tourism.

How does Raleigh International support responsible volunteering?

We’re a respected youth-driven charity with more than 35 years’ experience of working through young volunteers to deliver and inspire meaningful change. 

  • Over 90% of volunteer fundraising supports our projects. These are based on long-term relationships in the countries where we operate, are designed to meet real needs in the communities we work with and contribute to the achievement of the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
  • We work to recognised national and international standards and work in partnership with local governments, businesses and other charities to make sure our work is safe for all and achieves maximum impact.
  • While bringing together volunteers from across the world and engaging face-to-face with each other has considerable value in the projects they do and the long-term personal impact, we encourage volunteers to consider their carbon footprint before, during and after their programme; to choose an environmentally friendly airline; and to fly direct; purchase a carbon offset.
  • We are members of the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (Forum), the Gap Year Association (GYA) and the Year Out Group (YOG).

We recommend anyone considering volunteering abroad review the guidance on gap years, volunteering overseas and adventure travelling provided by the UK Government.

Find out more about Raleigh Expedition

Are you are feeling inspired to start creating lasting change? Arrange a one-to-one phone call with one of us or attend one of our information events! Or if you are feeling ready to apply just do so at the top of the page.

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