What is ethical volunteering?

Posted on the 12th February 2018

Every year Lattitude send hundreds of gappies and travellers around the world on volunteering trips. International volunteering is an amazing way to explore another country, meet new people, learn new things and have new adventures.

You may have heard people talking a lot about ethical volunteering…but what exactly is it?! Ethical volunteering is the idea that volunteers need to make sure what they do is of value to themselves and the people they work with. So how can you make sure you are volunteering ‘ethically’? There are several key questions to ask yourself when choosing an ethical, international volunteering placement!

1) Exactly what work will you be doing? Can the organisation provide a brief job description?

Responsible organisations, which offer placements that really enable volunteers to make a difference, will take time to find the right match. The organisation should want to find out about your skills and specialisms and spend time finding an appropriate role for you. It should feel more like applying for a job than booking a holiday!

At Lattitude we firstly build a good relationship with our host organisations and discuss their needs to arrange placements. We then take the time to talk to you in depth about your interest, hobbies and previous work experience. This way we can match volunteers to the host needs!

We will always tell you exactly what you will be doing, including how many hours a day, how many days a week and what sort of work it will be once you are matched to a placement!

2) Does the organisation work with a local partner organisation?

If a volunteer programme is to be of value to a local community it should work with, rather than be imposed on, that community. You came to help, so think about the beneficiaries of your stay first: are they really benefiting?

Our programmes, especially in developing communities, have been built in collaboration with a local partner organisation. The project partners from the local organisation are involved in the day to day management of the project, and our consulted into the building of the project to make sure the project is of value. A working relationship with those in the local community demonstrates that the company’s presence is welcomed and impactfull.

3) Sustainability is key

This point links in with the above, and the two very much go hand in hand, because community involvement will encourage and support project sustainability. The key word here is “partnership.” It surely goes without saying that the local community should be consulted regarding matters affecting them.

For example, on our Ghana Action Project a few people from the local community will be trained up in teaching skills. This means the work of the project will continue to operate and be successful if volunteers were no longer needed.

5) Ensure there is support of the local economy

You should choose to volunteer with an organization that does not take jobs away from local people, but rather creates employment and other opportunities for local community members. Voluntourism is often deemed as negative because there is the assumption that jobs are being taken away from local people by volunteer travelers, but this is not always the case. Instead, it is often the case that volunteers assist local tradesmen and professionals, rather than replacing them; even, in some cases, providing additional training and tools which will support them in their job into the future.

6) What support & training will you receive?

Lattitude offers not only pre-departure training, but also in-country training and support. As a volunteer you want to be as much use as possible, learn as much as possible and have as good a time as possible. Training in both the practicalities of your volunteer job and the culture of where you are travelling will help you get and give the most. Local support is also important. We have local representatives in all the regions Lattiude work in so there is always someone close to go to for support!


Once you have asked yourself these questions and found an organisation that fits these aspects (*cough* Lattitude) then you are all set to travel and volunteer internationally! Make sure to check out our programmes to see what we can offer you! 

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