Volunteering in Laos for free (or low cost)
Replies: 47 - Last Post: Feb 19, 2013 2:30 PM Last Post By: Bushwaker
Mar 27, 2012 9:16 PM
I have a friend who runs a very small school program outside of Siem Reap, and he was accepting volunteers for anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Turned out, he eventually found out that the volunteers were paying up to thousands of dollars to volunteer at his school, and he wasn't seeing any of it! The BBC even turned up and interviewed him for a program about this scam.
Mar 29, 2012 4:01 AM
31Henning, yes, here it is-
"Children Are Not Tourist Attractions", EVERYONE should read this
Mar 29, 2012 4:15 AM
32Cocodrilo, excellent resource! A sample message:
Children residing in orphanages should in no way be used to promote or secure funds for the orphanage. Children should never be used as a promotional tool, be required to dance, sing, to make or sell products as a way of increasing revenue for the orphanage. This is child exploitation, child labor and violates children's rights and personal safety. By forcing children to engage in revenue rising they are being groomed to participate in the methods used for begging and street work that renders children even more vulnerable to exploitation.
Mar 30, 2012 5:32 AM
33What is your friend's organization in Cambodia, perhaps I can apply to volunteer with him directly.
Mar 30, 2012 5:49 AM
Apr 1, 2012 6:03 AM
Apr 3, 2012 4:34 PM
Apr 3, 2012 5:54 PM
Apr 3, 2012 11:10 PM
Apr 4, 2012 1:39 AM
40@Vboy- #1 there are plenty of people teaching English in Asia, professionally, in many cases for years, without any TEFL certification at all, or a very rudimentary one. #2 have you actually met local English teachers in rural Laos? I get the impression you are trying to foist Western educational standards on a system that is a long way below that.
Apr 4, 2012 5:04 PM
41"without any TEFL certification at all, or a very rudimentary one".Not in Lao, and not in most Asian countries any more. At the very least you need a TEFL to get a job. I am very well aware that there are some poorly qualified teachers and on a regular basis need to work with students to correct poor teaching. If you are going to teach English, teach it properly..
May 16, 2012 2:34 AM
42If you pay significant money to volunteer, then it is a specialized tour. If they sincerely need you to help with something that local people cannot do, then they would not ask for so much money. This is my opinion only, YMMV.
There are free volunteering opportunities- you just have to go to the place and look around for a bit. Here are a couple I'd highly recommend in Vientiane:
Volunteer in Laos
May 16, 2012 2:41 AM
43I agree. The one we found in Laos however worked out great and was very affordable. Basically you were paying just for your food and some extra to cover the costs of your elec and water usage.
Since I'd been traveling on a tight budget all over the world the past 9 months, I was looking at what it would cost me per day to stay there and volunteer and it was almost 50% less than what my normal daily budget was so I was still saving money while there than what I'd spend while traveling around.
If anyone has any interest on it, I wrote a lot about our experience there in my posts above in this thread.
Jun 7, 2012 5:05 AM
44Very interesting thread. I agree with many points on here and can also see why people are against 'paying to volunteer'. I used to be, but have since realised it's not such a bad thing. Hands up, I work for a voluntourism organisation so my opinion isn't biased but rather based on some insider knowledge.
Having volunteers is EXPENSIVE! Especially the types that don't actually have any skills or experience. But yeah there are food and accomodation costs, transportation to schools, covering the costs of resources (what are you gonna teach with?) including renewables like paper and pens and laminating things for future use.
Then there's the fact that decent organisations (as opposed to ones that give a feelgood vibe to the volunteers) need to have good staff. Now in most cases that will mean filling a void left by locals. If there was no void you wouldn't be needed. And let's face it, the education system in Laos is so detrimentally poor it needs a LOT of help. So, you're left with foreign staff. You need to pay these people because very few people will give up their time LONG term (and long term is best for all) without some kind of remuneration.
On a quality volunteer program you'll have training (so you can actualy contribute in a meaningful way), your health and sfaety will be cared for (we take people to hospital on average once every 2 weeks and in a country where you need family and freinds to feed and wash you, volunteers need a staff member to take care of them). These staff need visas.
Most volunteers expect standards to be similar to home - their living standards, food, safety, training and the whole experience. This costs money and time.
Volunteers often wish to organise things in advance and have queries answered. This requires booking offices. Our program requires police checks so we don't have sex offenders etc with access to kids. So administration costs.
Projects which actually do good work in the community need structure and support and need to upskill locals. Unless you're a qualified TEFL teacher trainer for example you have nothing to offer an English teacher in Laos...sorry, you just don't! So who does that work? Trained, skilled foreign staff - who again cost money to have on staff.
Support needs to be made available to the community, not only in terms on manpower and manual resources, but also the availability of books, stationery, photocopying etc. More costs.
And lastly, from my experience, most volunteers want the bells and whistles. They may say they don't but should they not get what it says on the tin they'll be PISSED. Having quality assurance costs money.
So before you go slagging off paid programs, perhaps consider the drain on resources you create with your lack os skills but all the good intention sin the world. There is little place for volunteers anymore (of this kind) and paid voluntourism gives you an opportunity to get in and do something with the most impact and the least harm through a comprehensive support structure for botht he volunteer and the interests of the community.
Some VERY dodgy, yeah just show up and we'll find something for you to do operations exists that often expolit local communities (see examples above). Big Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang IS an excellent volunteer organisation BUT some of what I have seen there makes me cringe. People teaching who don't know an adverb from a noun...and speak as if they have all the knowledge in the world. People who groom local studnets for sexual exploitation - because after all, anyone can just rock up, unvetted.
So is it just the money you're loathe to pay, or you despise that you actually cost more money and are generally more trouble than what you contribute???
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