Sunday, March 7, 2010

Why pay to vounteer???

Lately I have been asked about why the cost is so high for my internship. This is a completely legitimate question considering the average volunteer position costs only time, energy, and, of course, passion! Let me explain.

The most obvious reason that my internship is so expensive is it is international. The cost associated with an international internship include:
-visa fees
-travel insurance

I have studied international sustainable development for several years now and have a concrete understanding of how to provide sustainable, lasting, effective development strategies in different parts of the world. For me, it is easy to understand why the cost is high to do such an internship. I hope that you will understand as well.

Many nonprofits around the globe receive funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), CARE International, United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), etc. However, the community-based organizations (CBO's) that FSD works with are grassroots and do not receive such funding. They are working very hard to impact the lives of the people in their communities and often don't have fundraising or outreach branches within the organization. When FSD identifies an appropriate host organization, they then seeks volunteers to help the CBO achieve its mission, just as any US-based nonprofit does (think Red Cross, Mercy Corps, etc.). The CBO cannot afford to take the time away from their mission to find talented, passionate, and available volunteers. Therefore, FSD steps in to aid them. The CBO definitely cannot spend the money to support volunteers either. Once again, FSD steps in to find voluneers that can absorb the cost of international volunteerism. FSD does a lot of fundraising themselves, but this fundraised money does not go to reduce the cost of sending volunteers but directly into the programs they support. FSD is truly a sustainable organization.
In order for development to be effective and efficient, long-term solutions must be found to problems. Time and money must be invested into teaching new ways of living, experimenting with a variety of programs/projects, and implimenting new strategies. I believe that FSD does an outstanding job of creating oppurtunities for sustainable development to be carried out.

A breakdown of the program fees:
-homestay (complete room and board)
-limited health insurance
-training and orientation
-retreats to discuss progress with other participants
-a seed grant to my CBO to aid in accomlishing the project I will work on
-airport pick-up/drop-off

*In order for FSD to do the work that it does, they must employ a staff able to identify and work with internationally-based nonprofits. Therefore, some of the funds I will pay will go to overhead. The way I think of this is that I will have a staff of people to contact if I am ever in trouble. I am basically "hiring" a staff to choose a CBO they feel is safe, a host family that will care for me, and 24-hours assistance. Otherwise I would be going over blindly, which can be quite unsafe. I am taking precautions by traveling under the wing of FSD.

There are also the daily living expenses, including:
-local transportation
-necessities (soap, toilet paper, etc.)
-the cost of preparing for the trip. The things I will take with are not free!

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