Why Pay To Volunteer? The Costs of Volunteering Abroad

Happy Children in Bhutan

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Why Pay to Volunteer?

It’s a rare and unique person who is willing to travel to an unfamiliar part of the world, leaving behind family, friends, and just about everything familiar.  For someone who’s already willing and committed to give up so much for the purpose of helping out, it’s natural to ask: “Why should I pay to volunteer?”

Most reputable volunteer programs, whether they offer volunteer positions of a few weeks or a full year, charge some sort of program service fee.

Luckily for you, Reach To Teach is not one of them. We are proud to say that in 2013, our services for our volunteer programs are absolutely free. That’s right. We don’t charge a fee for our volunteer programs, but we do want our volunteers to know that the cost of volunteering abroad can sometimes be higher than what you might expect, and we also want our volunteers to know why you might be seeing high program fees elsewhere.

Ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, these fees might seem extreme at first glance.  But the reality is that these fees reflect the real world costs and expenses that go into making your volunteer adventure possible and worthwhile.

You might be excited to hit the ground running and start helping out right away—but it takes a lot of training to get new volunteers up to speed.  Even experienced teachers, or volunteers with strong technical skills need a lot of initial training, and assistance.  You have to learn to navigate the local culture, language, and environment.  In addition, you have to learn the specifics of the volunteer program’s goals and day-to-day operations so as not to disrupt well-established patterns.

It takes a lot of time, effort—and yes, money—to take good care of volunteers, and to get you to the point where you can make a real contribution without being a burden.

A Few Notes on Fundraising

Also, keep in mind that, although the costs might seem high, volunteers who are seriously committed to their cause find it easy and rewarding to fundraise for their programs.  Donations, sponsorship, organized events, and well-planned fundraising can cover a large portion of your program costs.  Some people manage to pay for their entire program fees through fundraising.

Should You Go It Alone?  A Brief Comparison of Expenses

As world-travelers, we’re independent-minded.  It’s that “Can-do” attitude that inspires us to jet off to new corners of the world and seek out new challenges; it also makes it tempting to fore-go program fees and to plan your volunteer trip on your own.

Our goal is to make volunteering as affordable for you as possible.

Here is a brief comparison of your costs for a four-month volunteer program.

Reach To Teach Services: Free

Accommodation:  Included

Meals:  Included

Transportation: Included

Health Insurance: Approximately $70 for your first couple of weeks abroad. After the first 2 weeks, health insurance is provided for the duration of your volunteer stay.

Visa and Documentation Fees: ~$100 (can vary greatly depending on your nationality and what documents you already possess).

Personal Expenses: ~$100 per month  (Depending on your needs and lifestyle, this might be a lot less, or a lot more). We ask that our volunteers have enough money in savings to cover personal expenditures for each month.

Reimbursement: ~$120USD per month, paid in a lump sum after completion of your contract or on a bi-monthly basis.

Approximate Total for 4 Months: ~$1,600USD, plus the cost of your flights.  After completion of your contract, you will be reimbursed approximately $500USD.


On Your Own:

Accommodation: $300-$500 per month.  Depending on where you stay, and whether you find an inexpensive apartment or stay in hostels/hotels, you can expect to pay slightly more or slightly less, but this is a general average

Meals: $100-$150 per month.  If you cook for yourself using local ingredients, you may spend less, but consider $100 the minimum, especially for your first month as you are getting set up.

Transportation: ~$25-$75 for transport from Santiago airport, within Santiago, and to your volunteer placement site.

Flights: International round trip airfare from home country

Health Insurance: $200-$300 for a 4-month policy

Visa and Documentation Fees: ~$100 (can vary greatly depending on your nationality and what documents you already possess)

Personal Expenses: ~$100 per month (Depending on your needs and lifestyle, this might be a lot less, or a lot more)

One week of tours, language classes, and excursions led by local experts: $200US minimum.

Reimbursement: N/A

Approximate total for 4 months:  $4,000 to $4,5000USD, plus the cost of your flights.