Should I Pay To Be A Volunteer English Teacher? Well, Yes
It depends on what you are ‘getting’ – accommodation or food, formal training or an airport pickup are no-brainers. These things have a clear cost associated with them. It also partly depends on what you have to offer –if you are a highly experienced teacher (or skilled in whatever field you volunteer), you may be “worth more” to the organization and accordingly they may be willing to foot the bill. But I don’t think it’s at all uncommon for a perfectly good organization to ask you to pay for these things. Often they just don’t have the funds.
There are also “hidden expenses” like the time spent informally training or supervising a new volunteer.
If you’ll only be there a short while – really even less than six months in many cases – the benefits the organization reaps are probably not so great when the time invested in the volunteer is taken into account.
There is also just the matter of dealing with the culture shock of a person adjusting to life there – listening to complaints, trying to find suitable accommodation and food and explain things like how to get a mobile phone, fill out forms, etc. People may volunteer at home without paying, but they also don’t generally receive accommodation or other assistance like this.
Another factor to consider is that while you may in fact be contributing something concrete or in some other way “real”…in many many cases there is no reason a local person couldn’t do it with much less hoopla and perhaps even for a small salary. It’s not to say that your contribution is meaningless or that you’re taking a job from a local, but that the contribution is more about your having an experience than anything else – and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it should play a role in determining if you pay or not.
For the other side of this debate, check out Should I Pay..?Not So Much.