Ethical International Volunteering

Ethical international volunteering

If you decide that the opportunities in this booklet are not for you, you'll find that there are lots of organisations that can offer you opportunities to travel and volunteer abroad. With so many organisations offering international volunteering opportunities, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate through all the information they provide. Also, each individual will have a different set of expectations for their experience, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Below are some questions to start you thinking. The list isn't exhaustive, but hopefully it will help you choose the right organisation for you.


  • Be sure that you're happy with the fact you'll be volunteering. The word can mean very different things in the sector, and can be at odds with with your expectations. It's wise to look into this in more detail.
  • Make sure you know the organisation you'll be travelling with and working with in-country (if different).
  • Find out about the organisation you're interested in. Is it a UK-based charity that does overseas work, a non-governmental organisation based abroad, or a profit-making company?
  • Do some research into the organisation. Do they have appropriate travel or government endorsements? What about links to reputable companies? Are there reviews or mentions in places other than their websites? Can you find an opportunity to talk to previous volunteers?
  • What relationship does the organisation have to the local community, and could the work of volunteers be replacing paid employment for local people?
  • What ethical policies or considerations does the organisation have?
  • How long has the organisation been running, and how long have they been sending volunteers abroad? What is the scale of the work? You might be more inclined to go with a small locally based charity, or you might prefer a company that works with large numbers of volunteers.

Practical questions to ask

  • Where does the money go? It could include accommodation, food, transport, insurance, and project costs. Different organisations will allocate it differently, and most will charge a fee. You need to be satisfied that the money is being used appropriately.
  • Who benefits from the activity – what benefits do the local community gain? Do they get a proportion of the money to pay for the project you are involved in, and if so, how much?
  • Has the local community been involved in identifying what their needs are, or have they been imposed upon? How has this consultation been carried out?
  • What training and support is provided prior to, and during, the volunteering?
  • What happens if something goes wrong, like a volunteer being taken ill? What are the organisation's repatriation policies, insurance arrangements and contingency plans?
  • What accommodation is provided, and how close to the project is it? Is it included in the cost? If it's with host families, what do they receive?
  • Have you checked the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) for specific information about this country?
  • Will personal travel insurance be required? Does the organisation's insurance cover you for what you'll be doing?

Nottingham Trent University

The Volunteering team works within NTU's Schools, Colleges and Community Outreach (SCCO) department, which raises the awareness of higher education amongst local young people and encourages their aspirations to attend. Much emphasis is placed on enabling students from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their goals, regardless of where they've come from.

We're particularly interested in students from low-income households (as defined by Student Finance England), who could be put off applying for these international opportunities by the cost. There'll be some financial assistance available to support students in taking up these opportunities, and we'd therefore encourage you to apply.