A guide to ethical volunteering

A guide to ethical volunteering

We often hear from members of Jack’s Flight Club who need help flying to remote locations to volunteer, or to tell us about their successful adventures to raise money for charity. Volunteering is a great way to see the world and give back at the same time. Before you sign yourself up, however, it’s important to do your background checks on any programs you choose to work with.

If you’re new to volunteering abroad, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the vast number of projects worldwide. They can look very similar but with varying costs and durations. Knowing how to differentiate between reputable programs and those looking to exploit some free labour will help you whittle down your options and be comfortable that you are working with groups that add the greatest value to the communities and projects they’re involved with. 

 We’ve used our experience helping our members to write this short guide with the best ways to start your search. Usually, this means looking for organisations who have won awards for their work and ethics - we have found two of the best to help you kick off your own volunteering journey.

 Global Volunteers is a US-based organization founded in 1984 that has been granted special consultative status by the United Nations and has hosted over 30,000 volunteers since then. You can see how serious their commitment to ethical volunteering is in this recent blog post.

As you might have guessed from the name, Plan My Gap Year offers opportunities which suit students and young people especially. Most often they’ll have affordable placements in childcare, teaching, wildlife conservation, community projects, and mental health projects in Africa and Asia. They are very big on transparency and accountability, with their team personally assessing projects and matching travellers with an initiative that complements their skills and interests. They also have Special Recognition from the United Nations in Sri Lanka for their work with sustainable & impactful projects.

 Another great program to look at is Global Vision International, which has hosted over 25,000 program participants and operates its own projects. Using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, each project they offer has long, mid and short term objectives that are defined with all of their local partnership groups. By working within these parameters, Global Vision International ensures they are making the biggest difference possible, for all parties involved.

 If you’re looking for something different from what they offer, then head over to International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ). They research and vet all the programs they work with so you can be confident that you are choosing an ethical program. IVHQ was founded in 2007 and offer a variety of programs across 40+ destinations in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. They have worked with over 80,000 volunteers. IVHQ has built a solid reputation as a trusted, low-cost volunteer organization, with program fees starting at just £90 (approx. $120). IVHQ partners with local NGOs and initiatives and focus on programs that work in education and childcare, conservation and wildlife, community building, medical care, and more. They also provide excellent initiation sessions and 24/7 support while on placement.

 Here’s a selection of some of the projects they suggest:

  • IVHQ’s Kerala Special Needs Care Project in India works with disabled children. Volunteers help offset the negative social stigma families experience when their child has a physical or mental disability. Tasks vary, but you can expect to help with teaching basic English, assist with physical movement exercises and aid with basic sensory activities. No experience is required as training will be provided on arrival to work with the children, ages 2 through 18. 
  • If you are an outdoor/wildlife lover then IVHQ’s Bali sea turtle conservation center is the program for you. You’ll stay and work on the island of Nusa Penida, a world-class diving destination and a locale of natural, rugged beauty. Volunteer duties include feeding and cleaning turtles, participating in beach cleanups, assisting with waste management improvement of the surrounding areas, and educating tourists and the local community about sea turtles. Program fees start at £300 (approx. $600) for a minimum of two weeks. 
  • Interested in social issues? Consider an IVHQ volunteer program that takes you to Brussels to provide support to disadvantaged youth and young adults, including Syrian refugees seeking temporary asylum in Belgium. As a volunteer on the Educational Support project, with its emphasis on teaching basic English and math, you’ll provide valuable assistance to local teachers at community centers that are struggling with the rising homeless population. Program fees start at £300 ($495). Learn more about this invaluable project and be sure to prepare for this program with an online TEFL certification course.
  • Learn about the unique Amazon eco-system at a jungle conservation camp in Peru. As an IVHQ volunteer, your tasks include reforestation, trail and home-base maintenance, basic research, and taking inventories of native animal species. There is activity throughout the year at three different locations, and volunteers are placed where the need is the greatest and field conditions permit it. Previous volunteers rave about their long hikes exploring the jungle, planting vegetables and fruits, bird watching, fishing, and more – and now it’s time for you to make your own memories! Accommodations in bungalows and dormitory-style rooms are comfortable but rustic. Program fees start at £145 ($295) for two weeks.

 This is just a few of the programs they offer and you can search for all the others via their website. It’s a great starting point.

 If you use Jack’s Flight Club to find a flight deal for your volunteering trip then drop us an email, we love to hear about your adventures!