Why should I pay to volunteer?
If you have never done volunteer work abroad before, then paying to volunteer might seem a strange concept to you. Why should someone charge you to work for free? This is a common question about volunteering.
Short term volunteers
Every year a large percentage of volunteers in Africa are short term (less than 3 months) volunteers. Short term volunteers do not have the time necessary to help the community as a individual: not staying long enough to learn of the community's problems, culture, and sometimes even language. The result is that short term volunteers need to have guidance and leadership in order to best direct their energy. This guidance comes in the form of special organizations which host and support volunteers from abroad.
An organization acts as a middleman for volunteers and communities/causes, providing the former with arranged food and board, emotional support, orientations, flight information, and sometimes entertainment, all the while providing the later with able and willing bodies and brains. These organizations are funded by the fees they charge volunteers. Without these middle men, volunteers have to independently find projects, housing, and local transportation before even buying a plane ticket. This can and has been done by independent volunteers, but is takes more time, energy and in some cases money than using a middle-man organization.
Most organisations you will find on this website have few financial resources, and are not in a position to cover the costs of hosting you. Costs such as meals, housing and transporttation of volunteers can add up quickly. If projects had sufficient funds they could better spend this on employment for local workers, who speak the language and tend to stay for a longer period. So where does your money go? You mainly pay for the cost of your housing, food and transport, as well as your training, preparation, insurance and supervision. It also goes toward activities and facilities which contribute to achieving the project goals, like for example research equipement or medical supplies.
Not to say that paying to volunteer is for everyone. There are still projects where it is very cheap or even free to volunteer. But you have to consider that you will probably not have the luxury of a full program with training, preparation and supervision. Also, in the case where you bring in a lot of expertise which the local organisation lacks, you still require the same expenses to the community as unskilled volunteers.
Volunteering in Africa and volunteering at home are very different. The costs involved in volunteering in Africa can be quite high, but if you find the right project it will defintly be worth every cent and you will have a very rewarding experience, that you will remember the rest of your life.