Volunteering abroad can be an intimidating experience. New travelers and first time volunteers can be apprehensive about visiting developing countries or “paying to volunteer”. This page serves to alleviate some of those concerns by addressing many frequently asked questions. As always, if you have any additional questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.
Why should I pay to volunteer?
Contrary to popular belief, volunteering is not free. The fees charged are used to offset the costs incurred of hosting volunteers for the projects they’re working on. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) receive no governmental funding so they rely on donations, sponsorships, and fees paid by volunteers to operate.
Where is my money going?
At GOAT Volunteers, we only work with NGOs that invest the majority of their funds into hosting volunteers and the projects themselves. These organizations do not have fancy offices, corporate cars, or expensive advertising campaigns. The money you’re paying to volunteer is covering the costs you incur by being there, specifically (but depending on location) any of the following: lodging, meals, airport pickup/drop off, and project transportation. Many of the NGOs also contribute funds/materials purchased directly to the projects as well. Administrative costs such as staff salaries, supplies, marketing and materials are kept to a minimum.
Why do I have to pay an application fee?
GOAT Volunteers is an altruistic organization, but at the end of the day it is still a business. I, Justin, still have to be able to eat, pay my student loans, and occasionally buy new socks. The application fee also allows GOAT Volunteers to continue operating and adding new partnerships with NGOs around the world. The application fee is in line with the industry standard and is the only revenue GOAT Volunteers receives from volunteers apart from small commissions for optional trip add-ons or affiliate purchases. There are no hidden additional fees.
GOAT Volunteers is the fictitious name (DBA: Doing Business As) of JMB Global Consulting, LLC. It is not an NGO. Hopefully, it’ll lead to the creation of a separate NGO in the future.
How can I be sure my project fee is being used responsibly?
I give you my personal guarantee that the project fees are being used appropriately, but that’s only worth as much as you trust my word. The NGOs that I work with have varying budget structures, but administrative costs are kept to a minimum. The vast majority of the project fee is used to cover volunteer-incurred costs and operating expenses.
Why can’t local workers be hired instead of volunteers on these projects?
In most cases, the projects that are supported by the NGO simply don’t generate enough money to create additional paid positions to cover the amount of work needed. The volunteers are filling a void that is needed now that can be built upon to promote development in the future. All of the organizations that GOAT Volunteers works with employ local staff members and support local businesses. Many also give back above and beyond the projects listed on this website; including providing/supporting vocational training and building or financing schools/shelters/sanctuaries/etc.
Does short-term volunteering even make a difference?
Whenever the topic of short-term volunteering comes up, there’s always the argument that it doesn’t actually make an impact. In the grand scheme of development, it’s true, the impact by spending a few weeks on a project is likely to be very minimal. But, that’s looking at the development from a grand scale.
As a volunteer myself, I believe that not everyone was meant to change the world in a major way. But not everyone has to. If a lot of people give what little time they have available to make a difference, the sum of their parts adds up. If there is a consistent flow of good, hard-working volunteers on a project; they can make a significant impact even if they’re each only able to volunteer for a few weeks or months.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Is it safe to volunteer in country “X”?
Safety is a top priority when volunteering abroad. Regardless of where you are in the world, there’s always the potential to fall victim to crime or violence. Being alert and aware of your surroundings is necessary whether you’re in your hometown or halfway across the world. If you have specific questions or concerns, send me a message through the Contact Us page.
What documentation do I need to provide to volunteer?
For most projects, you’ll simply need to fill out an application, a pre-departure packet (with flight info, insurance policy, etc.) and provide a scanned copy (or photograph) of your passport. Projects that involve working with children require a criminal background check.
Why do some projects require a Skype call or criminal background check?
Some of the NGOs prefer to have a brief interview with prospective volunteers via Skype or WhatsApp before their placement. This ensures that the volunteer understands the needs of the project and gives the NGO a chance to see how the volunteer can best contribute.
GOAT Volunteers highly values the safety and welfare of the children on projects we support. Therefore, to ensure there are no red flags in an individual’s background we require a background check for anyone applying to work on a project involving children.
Do I need a visa to volunteer in developing countries?
Visa requirements vary by country and your citizenship.
Check out the Resources page for more information on visas.
LIFE OF A VOLUNTEER
Can we volunteer as a couple, group, or family?
Absolutely! All of our partners accept groups of volunteers. The number of people in a group varies by project, so check with us to see if the project you want to volunteer on can handle a group of your size.
Children and teenagers are able to participate in some of our projects if accompanied by a parent or guardian. This is at the discretion of the NGO and the project team and is usually based on the child’s age. Please send us an email to inquire about family volunteering.
What are the living conditions like?
Living conditions vary by project and location. You could be staying in a brand new apartment with your own room or in shared room (same-sex volunteers only) in a host family’s home. All projects provide a bed, showers (not always hot water), and toilets (not always the flush kind). The more developed the country, the more cushy the accommodations will likely be.
Are there additional in-country activities available while volunteering?
There are TONS of activities available in each country! Beach days, road trips, cultural immersions, sporting events, cooking classes, and so much more. Activities vary by location and often incur additional costs to the volunteer. The local team will be able to provide you with more information when you arrive.
Will there be other volunteers?
Possibly. In many cases, there will be additional volunteers on your projects. Most NGOs utilize multiple agencies to recruit volunteers, so you may meet other volunteers when you arrive (though they probably paid more than you did!). If there are multiple volunteers from GOAT Volunteers working on the same project at the same time, they will be given the opportunity to be introduced prior to arrival; i.e. I’ll ask you both if you want to share contact information with each other.
Will I have access to WiFi at my accommodation?
Many of the volunteer accommodations do have WiFi access. However, this is not standard for all locations. Projects in developing nations may have limited WiFi or none at all. WiFi availability will be noted in your pre-departure information. Please keep in mind that in developing countries, WiFi and electricity may experience blackouts either occasionally or regularly due to poor infrastructure. I recommend buying a SIM card (if you’re from the US, you’ll need an unlocked phone) whenever you arrive at your project if the NGO doesn’t already provide one.