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Thread: Volunteer Abroad

  1. #21

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    That was interesting to read. Last week I found myself googling about volunteer opportunities and why they are so expensive. I can't afford more than half of the volunteer trips that I see advertised. And when this "why is it so expensive?" question was posed on a few forums, a lot of people responded that all the money goes to a good cause, that you're actually getting a bargain compared to what it costs to maintain the program's regular employees or resources (like building supplies), or for the cost of lodging and meals, etc. I understand that charitable organizations don't get a lot of money in comparison to businesses, but I'm sure that there are organizations out there that don't really utilize the money as efficiently as they can. Reading those forums made me more skeptical toward the industry too, because even if it's not the norm, I couldn't erase the stereotyped image from my head of well-to-do brats throwing their parents' money at these volunteer organizations in order to pat themselves on the back, get a vacation, and put it on their resume so they can get in to med school. I know a girl who went to the Philippines for a week for volunteering and she posted on her facebook status something like "I'm going to go help poor people, YAY!"

    Yes, I know that many people have a genuine desire to help those less fortunate, which is great, but the image can sometimes gets a little warped.

  2. #22
    Feckless Manchild Otaku word's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trivial View Post
    Her blog over at Lessons I Learned|NGOs, Voluntourism, Cambodia, and Life Lessons is a great resource for learning more about the subject...
    Holy s**t; that is some good reading material.

    I'm kinda with wry; I'm not sure that I'll be able to afford a PEPY tour anytime soon, but I might try to get in touch with you guys next time I'm visiting the area (hoping to do another 'Nam/Cambodia/Thailand trip with MG this GW; maybe something a bit more involved during this summer, if we can swing it). I'm curious to see what all you guys are doin' over there, and it'd be cool to have a beer with ya again.
    Last edited by Beer Baron; September 24th, 2011 at 04:34.
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  3. #23
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    Wow! Lots of great discussions going on here.

    At PEPY, we started out by offering "service trips". Our volunteer programs allowed people to show up somewhere, feel helpful pat ourselves on the back, and go home. What we realized is that we were part of a larger movement breeding an elitist, harmful, and wasteful voluntourism industry that was feeding travelers the idea that they can show up somewhere, and just by the nature of being foreign, or "well educated", or rich, therefor able to "HELP."

    What we realized is, YOU HAVE TO LEARN BEFORE YOU CAN HELP.

    We did it all wrong - we showed up - eager to help, plugging in wherever we could, giving our time and money and things away freely, without much of a plan and without much knowledge about Cambodia.

    Here is a piece I wrote about the transition of our work from "giving" trips to "learning" trips: Traveling Responsibly – Learning Trips Over Giving Trips?|Lessons I Learned

    The idea for PEPY Tours now is that you come to Cambodia, you get angry, interested, inspired by what you see and who you meet, and THEN you go out and improve the world. Rather than using 10 days of the year to "help", you can use the other 355 to do so and use your 10 days to learn - learn how to be a better traveler, donor, volunteer, activist, etc.

    You also help to fund ongoing programs - programs which started before you arrived and will continue on long after you leave. Therefor your funding is helping to make sure that locally applicable programs are happening which no longer need short term volunteers to maintain.

    In our tips page Tips for the responsible traveler - Educational Travel in Cambodia | Cycle Cambodia we link to a speech by Ivan Illich called "To Hell with Good Intentions". After having made a lot of these mistakes, I agree with him:

    "I am here to entreat you to use your money, your status and your education to travel in Latin America. Come to look, come to climb our mountains, to enjoy our flowers. Come to study. But do not come to help."

    Thanks for engaging in this discussion.

  4. #24

    Default Re: Volunteer Abroad

    How about a "Let's clean up Sendai" trip?
    "The complex Japanese language and its writing system are inventions of the devil, designed to prevent the spread of Gospel."
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  5. #25
    Senior Member kalliea's Avatar
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    I asked about this. They don't want us.
    Numbers and colors are my bread and butter

  6. #26
    always put off today what should have been done yesterday

  7. #27
    Senior Member kalliea's Avatar
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    Default Re: Volunteer Abroad

    Sort of random, but...

    If anyone wants to volutneer in Tohoku this spring break, a group of JETs is driving there from Kyushu to join up with an All Hands NPO group for golden week. It also includes a BBQ sponsored and created by JETs. We leave on Friday, and there is room for one more. Message me if you want details.

    Hotdogs and Hugs
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hotdog...11974408829387 (Or just search Facebook for hotdogs and hugs (cause)
    Last edited by kalliea; April 26th, 2011 at 13:21.
    Numbers and colors are my bread and butter

  8. #28
    Senior Member mothy's Avatar
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    Last time I did a search for hotdogs and hugs I got an erection that wouldn't go away for 3 weeks.
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  9. #29
    Senior Member kalliea's Avatar
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    Default Re: Volunteer Abroad

    Yeah. We had a hell of a time making a logo that wasn't dirty.
    Numbers and colors are my bread and butter

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerseywonder View Post
    Word - very interesting article, cheers for the link. This is a topic that I find really interesting, although I'm still unsure as to which side I fall on. I volunteered at a slum children's charity in India for 3 months ... fitting the stereotype in the Guardian article, I was 19 and on my gap year, and I didn't really have a clue about what I was doing, I didn't have a prior understanding of the childrens' backgrounds or cultures, and I don't know if I made much of an impact other than providing some short-term entertainment. However, it is one of the most life-changing things, for me, that I've done. Selfish, maybe, but it has given me a different perspective on many things. Now I'm older and wiser (a bit), and I am planning to return to the charity next year after JET for an indefinite period. This time, I know what to expect. I know more about how and why people end up in these situations. I know that I won't be saving the world, but hopefully I can make a small difference, whatever that may mean.

    Nonetheless, I still feel uncomfortable when I hear of people going off to foreign countries to volunteer, particularly for short periods such as a fortnight or even less (which amazingly, some charities accept). Hypocritical I know, and I accept that I wasn't aware of the issues raised in the article when I went away for the first time, but I did choose the charity I volunteered at partly because it only accepts volunteers who do a minimum of three months, which I guess the staff see as the point where short-term blurs with long-term volunteering. They also require a police check from all volunteers, don't charge extortionate fees (don't charge any in fact), and have a permanent core of Indian staff who provide a support network to the children. I looked into many different placements whilst planning my gap year, and found lots of companies, such as i-to-i, that charge hundreds or thousands of pounds for a couple of weeks in an orphanage.

    In Cambodia over Christmas I saw flyers inviting tourists to come and visit orphans. I saw Westerners throwing out handfuls of sweets to street children who immediately passed them onto the adult accompanying them without eating any. My friend actually went to Kenya with i-to-i and has stories of tourists swanning into the centre she was at, posing for photos with the 'orphans', distributing toys and games, and then disappearing after an hour, probably to boast to their friends about how they saved some African children. She ended up hating everything about the company, which channels very little of what people pay to volunteer to the charities themselves.

    I'm sceptical about the good things like this can do, and sometimes of the motives for volunteering. Again, I'm fully aware of how hypocritical this is of me, and this is an issue that I've not managed to reconcile in my head yet. But an example - some JETs from my prefecture went to Thailand over Christmas to volunteer at some children's charity. They went for a week. They spent another 2 weeks in Thailand, no doubt sunbathing and drinking. But I'm sure because of this first week, they felt vastly superior to all the other people just there on holiday. Things like this surely can't be doing any long-term good. I guess the most we can hope for is that they don't do any long-term damage either.

    Sorry for the (possibly incoherent) ramble, but as I said this is something that I'm really interested in, and I'd like to hear other people's opinions if anyone's willing to share!
    Wow, this thread is really thought provoking, it's definitely making me reconsider some options. As an alternate for this year, I'm trying to come up with some back-up plans and as someone passionate about conservation and wildlife, I would love to get involved in some sort of overseas conservation volunteering.

    I find it a little ironic that as a qualified teacher, I am possibly able to offer some technical skills to volunteer opportunities teaching in developing countries, which is what a lot of this thread is discussing. However, I am more interested in working with wild animal conservation for which I am totally unqualified except for a passion in this area. (The grass is always greener, right?)

    Jerseywonder, your post totally hit on the nail with where things have gone wrong in voluntouring that I have previously done. Last year I went to Thailand with i-to-i, "working" at an elephant study centre in Surin for 10 days. The project was completely the opposite to what I believed was being promoted by i-to-i. Granted, I didn't do a lot of research into the trip as it was already booked by my friend and I was basically just along for the ride. However, I believed I was going to work at a sanctuary rehabilitating elephants who had been working on the streets, begging or in circuses and who were now being provided with a life closer to that of elephants in the wild. Totally untrue. We spent our days with elephants and their mahouts who kept the elephants chained up all day in the sun, then took their elephants to the forest at night to be chained up once again. The elephants had no life at all except for to perform in a circus show at the study centre and giving elephant rides.

    One day our job was to help a local government initiative plant trees on the study centre's land. This seemed like a great idea until after the ceremony was over and all the plastic bags which had contained the tree seedlings were left next to the planting site along with a mountain of plastic cups which the officials had drunk water from. The rubbish was left there to add more litter to the village, completely defeating the purpose of planting the trees.

    So I definitely don't recommend i-to-i as a responsible volunteering organisation. *rant over*

    As has already been said, the best organisations are probably those where there is no middle-man involved, and only accept trained people for a long term project. Which doesn't help me with my quest to find a conservation project as an unqualified person.
    Last edited by rosec20; May 21st, 2011 at 08:32.

  11. #31

    Default Re: Volunteer Abroad

    Some links from AJET about helping in Japan.

    Volunteer & Donation Information By Prefecture

    Another really neat opportunity is peace boat. Though I cant vouch for the quality of it, sounds pretty cool.
    PEACE BOAT - What is Peace Boat
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  12. #32
    Senior Member kawaiijutsu's Avatar
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    I second the post from elleohelle, especially the Tohoku section. I know some of the Fukushima JETs have mentioned they do volunteer work often. If you want to volunteer along with some fellow JETs, definitely ask your predecessor or some of the other 2+ year JETs in the area if they know things if you want to help more in your local community.

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