'Voluntourism' – not just for rich people anymore

A project in the Philippines sends Filipinos abroad as volunteers. The benefit: They come back and want to fight poverty at home.

A volunteer with Cross Cultural Solutions, a nonprofit group that operates volunteer programs around the world, helps a villager in Ghana.

Helping alleviate poverty while having an adventure in a developing country?

Often, life-changing and highly educational experiences like these are luxuries for the wealthy. But they don’t have to be.

In the United States and Europe, it’s increasingly common for students and even families to spend a semester or a summer vacation volunteering in the villages, orphanages, or clinics of a developing country.

However, the associated expenses drastically narrow the volunteer pool. At a cost of about $3,000, plus airfare for a single month, volunteerism is usually regarded as a luxury for people in developed countries.

Voluntary Services Overseas, a UK-based charity, is working in the Philippines to change this.

According to an article from, VSO has sent more than 600 Filipino volunteers to other developing countries such as Nepal and Thailand.

"When it first started, people were saying, 'Why are we sending Filipinos out of the country? This is brain drain,'" VSO chief executive Marg Mayne told the Makati City-based newspaper. "But what happens is because they come back, they are making a difference in the Philippines because they become committed to the whole idea of fighting poverty."

The United Nations recognizes volunteerism as a powerful tool for turning people into global citizens. Programs like VSO make volunteerism attainable for ambitious citizens – no matter what their income may be.

This article originally appeared at Global Envision, a blog produced by Mercy Corps.

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