There has been a lot of negative hype floating around lately about volunteering abroad, or voluntourism. It really is a shame that, with any good-intentioned system in place, there is always going to be someone waiting to exploit it. There are many organizations that exploit local communities to take advantage of the ignorance, trust, and loving hearts of others for their own benefit, so absolutely yes you do need to proceed with caution when choosing a non profit to volunteer with! That being said those of us truly fighting for impoverished communities need volunteers to survive and continue helping those in need.
Mundo Exchange believes in the benefit of even short term volunteering for long term development, and we believe this is possible by assisting in locally driven, long term projects and supporting ongoing systems already in place. Let’s take a moment to address some of the most common concerns and criticisms about volunteering abroad. I see Mundo works with children, isn’t that actually causing a negative impact on their development? Yes we do send our volunteers to teach English in schools, but we do NOT work with orphanages (which have proven to be some of the worst exploiters of locals and travelers alike). The children our volunteers interact with live at home with their families and are not being exploited by attending school. Isn’t having a high turnover of teachers bad for the students too? They need consistency and routine, right? Our volunteers are placed in carefully handpicked schools and work alongside the Thai English teachers. These local teachers are educated, trained, and serve not only as teachers but also as long term mentors for these students. There is a set curriculum in place and you are not there to teach the class alone, rather, you are there to assist the local teachers in making English fun! We love singing, playing games, and making each other laugh in the classroom. What you are doing as a volunteer is giving these kids an opportunity to hear English from a native speaker and to gain more experience speaking. By being relaxed and making English fun, you are encouraging these kids to practice speaking more and boosting self confidence. Larger schools have the budget to afford a foreign language teacher and by volunteering in small, village schools you are giving these kids an equal opportunity to their peers to practice their English skills, a skill that can later help them pursue higher education and open the doors for employment later in life. Why should I pay to volunteer? Where is my money going anyway? We promise you 100% of your volunteer fee and donations go back into the communities in which we work! All advertising, administrative and other overhead fees are covered by private donors. Prior to a volunteers arrival a non profit organization will have to coordinate with local staff and hosts, translate documents, set up placements with local hosts and organizations, prepare orientation, and coordinate pick ups and transportation. When you volunteer with Mundo Exchange you get the unique chance to experience life in a homestay in a rural village. Homestays are not free for host families; the family has to pay for increased water and electricity as well as groceries to feed an extra mouth. I can’t speak for other organizations, but we at Mundo like to give a little back to the host families who are generously opening up their homes for you! What part of your fee doesn’t go to securing your placement and the host family goes back into the community to support our many local development projects. Wouldn’t it be better to just donate money? Oof, this is a tough one. Both are incredibly useful and beneficial to organizations, and what it really comes down to is probably time. Mundo Exchange recommends (almost requires, really) that volunteers spend at least two weeks at your placement. That’s two weeks not including transportation to and from your home country, time zone adjustment days, and sightseeing days before or after your placement. Most organizations would probably agree that the more time you have, the more meaningful and beneficial your experience is going to be. Our volunteers tend to stay an average of one to two months at their placements. Can you still make a difference in two weeks time? Absolutely! But volunteering is generally most beneficial if you have the time to really commit. If you are short on time but still have a passion for giving and wish to help, then donating might be the route for you (for now, at least 😉 ). Since a lot of Mundo’s work is with schools here in Thailand, we can’t really reach our full potential without…well…volunteers. Volunteers are the backbone of our organization’s work here in Thailand, and we can’t do it without you! Donations are always needed and very much appreciated for local community development programs, but if you can carve out the time then absolutely volunteering is the best thing you can do.
Mundo Exchange believes in the benefit of even short term volunteering for long term development, and we believe this is possible by assisting in locally driven, long term projects and supporting ongoing systems already in place.