Gap-year volunteers fulfil a vital role abroad

A report accusing gap year volunteering projects of harming local economies an insult to hundreds of thousands of volunteers.

The report, from the South Africa-based Human Sciences Research Council, suggested that volunteers risked undermining local workers and exploiting the victims of poverty. It argued that because volunteers stayed a short time, they often ended up doing low-skilled work that would otherwise keep local people occupied.

Projects Abroad, Britain’s largest gap-year organisation, is entirely at odds with the report findings. Who say: “We hear hundreds of success stories every year about the work our volunteers have done in teaching, conservation and care projects in South Africa as well as many other countries.

“Gap-year volunteers do not take away other people’s jobs. In most cases they are supporting causes where staff are already stretched and need help. Sometimes we help to create jobs: on our Amazon reserve project we created 30 for local people. Our volunteers are intelligent, sensitive people who would not be willing to waste their time on something that wasn’t doing some real good. We are commercially obliged to do useful work that makes a real difference to the quality of people’s lives in developing countries.

“With more than 6,500 volunteers so far in 2010, our spending in developing countries has been around £16 million. Volunteers themselves then spend another £8 million, making the total from our volunteers alone some £24 million. This spending is not on traditional tourism but mainly on local staff and local services.

“We should be encouraging young people in this country to volunteer abroad. Not only does it give them a chance to learn more about different cultures and play a crucial role in development projects overseas, but it is also a chance for people in developing countries to learn more about the West.”

Source – The Telegraph

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