Question: Why should I pay your organization to volunteer or intern in India? I am devoting my time, energy, and skills to help the people of India. I don’t feel right about paying to do this and would like housing and other expenses paid for.
Leave UR Mark gets this question a lot regarding the ethics of having to pay in order to volunteer or intern to work for free in another country. Many students and travelers feel that they can be paid for their work or should get housing/food in exchange for their volunteering efforts. In an effort to help people understand why they are paying an organization like us versus doing a volunteer/internship program for free, we have come up with a few explanations and tips for everyone! Volunteering abroad can be done in several different ways. Here are some of the ways to do it.
1) Highly Skilled Professionals: If you have extremely tangible skills that are highly needed in developing countries (doctors, surgeons, engineers, pharmaceuticals, farming, or water management) you can go through free programs such as Doctors Without Borders, Peace Corps, or other government funded programs that take professionals. These types of programs require commitments of up to 6 months to 2 years and you have less flexibility for doing what you want to do. You must volunteer for the cause they have chosen. So if you want to go into microfinance but there is a dire need in waste water management, you will be placed accordingly. If a government funded program is paying for you, they need to make sure they are recruiting volunteers who are not there for holiday.
- Think locally. If you were to volunteer at your local nursing home or child care center, the organization would not be paying for your housing, food, and transportation expenses. The same goes for NGOs or Non-Profits in other countries, they cannot pay for you. If an organization needed short term volunteers, they would hire locals who don’t need as much support, training, or have a cultural understanding gap.
- Be realistic about your own skills: Although you may have great skills in teaching English, psychotherapy, marketing, management, etc. you may not necessarily have skills that are highly needed in a developing country like India. This means that if an organization chooses to let you on as a volunteer or intern, it will be more of a two way experiential education for both you and them, rather than a regular job. Therefore, people who feel they should be paid for their skills are recommended to research what skills are really needed for the country they are going into. If you have soft skills that you wish to perfect, volunteering and interning abroad can be a great way to develop them.
- Do it again and again: If you have your heart set on volunteering or interning in India for a long period of time, come through a paid program such as Leave UR Marks for the first 3-4 months. Absorb and understand the local knowledge. Then fly back to your own country, work and save, and come back to India on your own with the expertise you gained from the previous trip.
- Recruit your friends: If you ask a friend or family member to come along with you on your volunteering or interning abroad experience, then Leave UR Mark will be able to provide you with a discounted price. This is a good way to share the expenses.