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The Impact of Projects Abroad

Staff member in Ghana shows off the demonstration farm created by volunteers on the Farming & Agriculture project

We believe the impact of Projects Abroad is important and beneficial for both our volunteers and the host countries they visit. We promote cultural exchange to make projects work that would otherwise not exist or would be under funded and understaffed. We provide new benefits and services for poor people living in the countries where we work by improving the social and physical environment around the developing world. We also provide new opportunities and perhaps a greater vision for volunteers. In the long run, we sincerely hope that we bring more cross-cultural understanding into the world.

Projects Abroad is committed to responsible travel in all its forms. From simple recycling systems in our offices, to providing volunteers with advice on ecotourism, to encouraging reforestation work on many of our Conservation projects, we strive to always make sure the impact of Projects Abroad, our volunteers, and our projects is a positive one. 

Here we have tried to analyze our human and environmental impact in a little more detail:

Projects Abroad -The Human Impact

Our Volunteers

Without volunteers, there would be no Projects Abroad. It is thanks to these ten thousand volunteers who work in a developing country every year that we are able to continue functioning. Our prime responsibility is to them and we take this very seriously. We employ staff in each country where we work that are dedicated to providing the services, guidance and support to ensure our volunteers' experience is as hassle-free as possible. We are usually successful, which you can read about in our Volunteers Stories. You can also see where our alumni have attended school.

Host Families

We normally place our volunteers with local families. This provides the hosts with a regular income - we always pay above the market rate – and enables them to afford additional benefits (such as extended education for their children or better access to healthcare). It also develops a deeper cultural understanding on both sides. But, perhaps most importantly for our younger volunteers, the experiences they have today will help shape their attitudes when they become the opinion formers of tomorrow.

Partner Organizations

Two principles govern our relationship with partner organizations in developing countries where our volunteers work. The first is that we never replace local employment with volunteering; volunteering organizations that send people to developing countries for long periods run the risk of taking over local jobs; we never do this. Our second principle is that we always ensure that there is no financial cost - or any other outlay - by local partner organizations.

Projects Abroad makes a number of donations to our partner organizations, but does not make regular payments as this could compromise their longevity. It is vital that they remain financially independent. Donations can take many forms: from basic materials such as schoolbooks and pens or on a much grander scale like the ambulance we bought for a hospital in India or the classroom block we built for a school in Peru. In the end, our relationship with our partners is not primarily financial, although we recognize the importance of finance. We are there to help with volunteers.

We also have our own charitable foundation, the Projects Abroad Foundation, which supports a variety of projects and also provides assistance for volunteers from challenging backgrounds in developed countries.

Our Staff

Projects Abroad employs nearly 700 people around the world. Because Projects Abroad directly employs our overseas colleagues, rather than by an intermediary or agency, we accept direct responsibility for their training and development within our global organization.

The vast majority of in-country staff are local staff, who know their countries, our projects, and partners inside and out. We also provide extra training to our staff overseas when needed, whether it be further English lessons for an Information Manager in Cambodia, or Dive Training to a Conservation Field Coordinator in Thailand.

Cultural Exchange

Volunteers on all of our projects are encouraged to learn some of the local language. To support this we offer a wide range of Language Courses, from Spanish in our Latin American destinations to Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Speaking even a little of the local tongue goes a long way to integrating further with the people and communities with which volunteers are working.

As part of the comprehensive induction volunteers go through on their first day in country, volunteers receive detailed information about cultural norms and ways to behave in their adopted country. We also run workshops on our Care and Teaching projects, so volunteers understand the local educational system and how children are likely to behave in a classroom in that country.

Living with a host family is one of the most important avenues of cultural exchange and allows our volunteers to experience real life in the destination they have chosen, far removed from the “tourist bubble” that is often how travelers experience countries like India or Fiji. With modern methods of communication, many volunteers now stay in touch with their host mothers, fathers, or siblings through Skype and Facebook after leaving, and some volunteers end up hosting members of their host family back in their home country.

Supporting Local Businesses

Wherever we have volunteer projects, Projects Abroad and our volunteers are spending money every week supporting local businesses. This may be in the form of volunteers traveling to work using local public transportation where it is safe and sensible to do so, or using local drivers on projects like Conservation. It includes our cooks from the volunteer accommodations in Cambodia or Vietnam buying food at the local markets, paying local language teachers to teach Wolof lessons to volunteers in Senegal, or paying Jamaican dance teachers to run a dance and culture workshop. We contribute to the local economies in these kinds of ways in all the destinations where we work.

Projects Abroad - The Environmental Impact

If you are an organization that offers volunteering projects in the developing world, the inescapable fact is that you are going to have to rely on flying, which we recognize contributes to climate change. But this has to be put into context. Our volunteers travel across the world to do an average of 1.6 months of free work in some of the countries that need help most. Once they have finished this work, the majority will spend a period traveling, bringing even more money into the local economies. This cannot be viewed in the same way as flying thousands of miles to spend a week at a luxury resort.

As a global organization, Projects Abroad also has to fly its own staff around the world on a regular basis. We take responsibility for this by working to offset our own carbon emissions. Every year Projects Abroad puts additional funds, in excess of any sum we have been quoted by any carbon offsetting organization, into planting trees and supporting other ways the important work our volunteers do on our Conservation & Environment Projects.

These projects are involved with animal protection, sustainable agriculture, reforestation and conservation work around the world on land and at sea. They tend to run as partnerships with local branches of environmental organizations and government departments, such as SEMARNAT (Department of Environmental Affairs and Natural Resources) in Mexico and the Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE), in Krabi, Thailand. All projects have recognized scientific and developmental merit and our volunteers work alongside professional experts.

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