What is Charity Tourism and is it worth it?

Some people call it charity tourism.  Others call it volunteer tourism.

“Charity or aid tourism refers to trips taken to destinations for the purpose of assisting host communities by providing services that help in everyday life, or aid to disaster areas.”


“Volunteer tourism is a type of tourism where an individual will travel  broad to a destination that is predominantly considered ‘undeveloped’ or ‘developing’ to offer their support to those in need. And when we use the phrase ‘those in need’, which is expressed a lot in volunteering, we refer to those who are surrounded by extreme poverty, do not have adequate education and healthcare facilities and frequently have little building infrastructure.”

Maybe you took advantage of the FairGo casino login, played some casinio games, won a huge amount of money, and decided that you want to “give back” to others who were in need.

But usually charity tourism and volunteer tourism is done by “gap year students” and “people who are just starting to retire”.

Around 60% of charity tourism is done by “gap year” students.  These are students who are just starting college and just finishing college, so they take a year to travel (volunteering) for a year.  Most colleges accept this, and will defer a student’s acceptance into college.

That means that the student can do this volunteer work without worrying about the whole college application process.  Some college will hold the application for free. While others may charge around $300 to hold a student’s spot the next year.

The second largest group is the post 55 group, who want to share their professional expertise with others who are in need.

How much does volunteer tourism cost in dollars?

This I am confused about.  When I did a first search “how much does it cost to volunteer for a year”, I kept getting return links that talked about volunteering for 2 weeks and it costing $549 for two weeks (not including the price of the flight ticket).  Adding everything together (passport, visa, plane ticket, lodging, etc., the estimated cost is $749 – $2440.

That is the cost of the regular vacation, so something did not seem right.

I decided to check “Volunteers for Israel”, since I know that is a true volunteer program.

For Voluteers for Israel, a person still needs to pay for their plane ticket, visa, and passport (expected).  On top of that is the $125 for an adult and $55 for a student.  Plus, you have to pay for your “weekend expenses”.  There is no charge for room, board, uniform, and evening programs (tourism the IDF provides).

A person can also sign up for the “plus program”, which includes guided tours before the program, on weekends, and after the program.  To add the Plus part will increase the cost to $2,994, but it includes a double occupancy hotel room.  So in other words, the program combines tourism with volunteering for a total trip of 17 days.

So with this information, I relooked at the other programs from Go Overseas.  If the program is just a volunteer program (and nothing else), the cost is around $500.  If the program includes tourism or language classes or other things to help you learn about the country you are visiting, the cost can increase to around $2500.

Does it cost anything to volunteer with Unicef?

If you volunteer directly with Unicef, you are not getting the tourism stuff.  It is strictly volunteering.  With the programs listed above, you volunteer for 2 weeks.  With Unicef, you volunteer for 1 to 2 years.  But there are also short term volunteers (less than 1 year), when people are need for emergencies.

With Unicef, you are paid for your volunteer work based on United Nations Salary rates.  The figures are quoted in local currencies:

The UN also provides benefits: Income tax exemption, family allowances, rental subsidy, relocation support, hardship benefits, holidays and leave time, maternity-parternity-adoption leave, health insurance, retirement pension, and career support.

In other words, it is a “real job” (paid for your volunteer work), as opposed to the other programs which is more of tourism than volunteering.

Does it cost anything to volunteer with the Red Cross?

I could not find information about this.  Generally, it seems as if the volunteering is more local focused, so it is true volunteering.  Since you are not relocating to another country, you do not need to worry about housing, food, what do I do on the weekends, etc.  Sometimes Red Cross visits other areas in need, but I am not sure how they handle housing and food in those cases.

Does it cost anything to volunteer with the Salvation Army?

Again, there is no mention of costs to the volunteer.

Which program should I do?

If you are looking for a true volunteer program for a 10 months to a year, it is probably best to contact Unicef or the Red Cross or the Salvation army directly.  They will be able to help you on where and how to volunteer.

If the volunteer program is a two week volunteer program (plus tourism), the volunteering is probably more tourism than volunteering.  But if that is all the time you have, then that might be the right option for you.

My experience on the receiving end of these organizations

Although I have always lived in the United States, I did have personal experience with both the Red Cross and the Salvation army when my community was flooded.  I am talking my neighbor’s house flooded to their first floor.  Our house was flooded to the top of our basement.  Our car decided to “go for a swim” unsuccessfully.  People literally rowing down the street.  Boiling water.  Workers (aka my brother) could not physically get to the grocery store, so the stores were short staffed.

Anyway, within an hour of the rain stopping, the salvation army was going door to door giving every single home (small or large, it did not matter), a bucket, a container of bleach, spongers, garbage bags, cleaning gloves, and other basic cleaning supplies.

The Red Cross came as well … 3 days later … with a food truck.  All of us working to clean up our homes were thinking, “better late than never”.  By day 3, getting access to food and water was handled.  But we did take advantage of eating the food from the food cart.

I was in High School when this happened, but both organizations had a huge impact on my adult me.  My parents always had a positive feeling for the Salvation Army, and we always put coins in their collection tins.  The fact that within a hour the Salavation Army was there, with much needed supplies, was impressive.  They did not missionize.  Christian, Jew, religious, secular … it did not matter.  The only thing the Salvation Army people saw was people in need of help they could help provide.

The Red Cross was also helpful.  They traveled from Kentucky to help us in Illinois, and they stayed for two weeks.  That is dedication.  There was also no missionizing.  It was just helping people in need.

But even the fact that they took 3 days to get there, helped me in my adult life.  Because I knew from first hand experience that in any emergency, it will take 3 days for help to come from other parts of the United States.  So I always knew that during any emergency, for at least 3 days, our family was on our own and we had to take responsibility for our safety and well being.  As they say:  be prepared.


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