Avoid a Travel Mistake in 2019

Avoid a Travel Mistake in 2019

Australians love travel. We also love helping out. Hitting two birds with one stone with a volunteer travel opportunity may seem like a great idea. However, it may be one of the biggest travel mistakes you can make.

Here at Palms we have long-term assignments for those wanting to make a lasting impact and two-week Encounters for those looking for an ethical travel alternative. Unfortunately, we know that not everyone has two years to give and that your annual leave doesn’t always align with our tours.

Whether you’re planning to travel solely for volunteering purposes, or want to join the other 1.6 million people who donate their time while on vacation, be sure to keep some things in mind. Below is a list of four red flags that anyone thinking of volunteering on their next holiday should look out for.

1. “Work with children”

Many amazing organisations make a significant impact on improving the lives of children. However, if an advertisement promotes ‘working with kids’ as a selling point, run, don’t walk, away. The big business of orphanage tourism is prime grounds for exploitation and trafficking. Save the Children estimates up to 90% of children in orphanages are not orphans.

Organisations that work with orphanages and do not require a Working with Children’s check should be reported, especially if they are an Australian group! It’s important that anyone spending time with children is deemed to be safe for the community.

2. “No experience required”

Legitimate volunteering organisations have extensive training sessions to prepare you for the work you will do abroad. If the group you’re considering doesn’t, and if you don’t have experience or qualifications, how can you help? Ask yourself: what would I be doing, and would it actually provide long-term benefits to the community? Groups that require no experience can often disrupt the community with a lack of order and direction. Do your research and be sure you’re choosing an organisation that is committed to the real needs of a community, not just the ideas of outsiders. If the community only requires certain skills that you don’t have, share the opportunity with friends or colleagues that do have those skills. Consider finding a unique way to fundraise instead to spread the word and draw attention to the community’s needs.

3. “$$$”

Never pay to volunteer. If a company is making money, they have a financial incentive to place unskilled, unqualified people in organisations abroad. Some genuine opportunities may ask volunteers to pay for a part of their program, like air fares or airport transfers to a pre-departure briefing, but you should be critical of where these payments are going. If you’re asked to pay, be sure to ask where the money is going and how donations are spent.

4. Do you choose them, or do they choose you?

Think about the process of applying for a job. Applying to work overseas should be the same process. Most legitimate opportunities include an application, an extensive interview with staff members, references, medical clearances and a work visa. If the organisation you’re applying to has a fast application process, it may be cutting corners and should be avoided.

Keep these tips in mind when looking for volunteer opportunities abroad to make sure you find the perfect fit. Volunteering with Palms Australia may be just what you’re looking for to help people and communities in need in 2019.