Frequently Asked Questions
Here is a list of the most of our frequently asked questions. This information will answer a lot of questions that you may have.
Volunteer FAQs (31)
Group discounts on program fees are available for those going under the supervision of one team leader. Please contact us for specific details and let us know the size of your group and when you plan to go. Your discount will depend on the number of people on your team, the season, and the available projects. We really want to help you go, but we want to make sure you will pay enough to have a great experience. Remember that all program fees are sent to the host country to take care of volunteers and help support the host partners a little bit.
When you volunteer, you give up your valuable time and take the risk to travel abroad to go and help out. That in and of itself is a tremendous sacrifice. On top of that, they ask you to PAY to work for free? That can sound absurd until one looks at it closely.
With Change Volunteers, you actually don’t pay to work for free. You pay absolutely nothing for the privilege of volunteering. We think the privilege to volunteer anywhere is priceless. We can’t put a price on it. We also believe no one should ever pay to work for free. It is not like a school where you pay tuition for the experience and knowledge you gain. All the fees you pay go to support you (your food, housing, supervision etc). Our programs are just as free as volunteering in your own home town. In your hometown, you provide your own food, housing, transportation etc when you volunteer. You need minimal orientation because you know the culture and the area. When you go abroad, the orphanage program, for example, doesn’t provide you any preferential treatment that it cannot afford to provide local citizens who volunteer to do the same work. Just like most people volunteer in their home towns for free, local citizens of the host country also volunteer for free because they don’t need housing, pickup from the airport, food etc. They live in their homes and just show up to volunteer and do so completely free. The orphanages or communities treat volunteers from abroad just as though they were their local citizens since they can’t afford to spend money on volunteers. They are too poor to do that.
“If a community or orphanage were really in need of volunteers, then where would the money come from to pay for the volunteers’ accommodation, food, transportation and supervision?” The orphanages or communities that critically need help have no funds to cover volunteer associated costs. So frequently, volunteers help raise the funds needed for their own support while they volunteer. But high quality, safe, flexible volunteer opportunities don’t have to cost too much! We have brought it down to $14/day
In the U.S where Change Volunteers is based, if a volunteer wanted to come from anywhere (abroad or within the U.S) to volunteer and asked a U.S based nonprofit to pay for their flight, food, housing, transportation etc, the majority of them will say they don’t have the funding to provide that kind of service. Granted, a few may rarely do that. They may actually need volunteer help but just don’t have the funding. Now, one can argue that U.S. nonprofits may not be as impoverished as the orphanages and communities our volunteers go to. In such a case, a person can ask, is it fair to expect these communities to pay volunteer related expenses? Probably not.
Having said that, in a perfect world, It will make tremendous sense if the communities you are volunteering at could show their appreciation to the volunteer by picking up the associated costs–yes, even though many much wealthier nonprofits in the U.S can’t do that. But the truth is that these communities are extremely poverty-stricken and may people don’t even have money to feed their families properly or to provide healthcare and education. You may be volunteering at an orphanage or another area in a poor community. Neither the orphanage nor the poor community area you work in is able to provide support to you. Take orphanages as an example. They are in need of both your volunteer help and financial help from other sources to survive. Volunteer associated costs are just something they cannot afford even though they desperately need volunteers.
Now, that means that if volunteers are to go without paying for their cost of living, some else must pay and not these orphanages or poor communities–they just can’t afford it.
It will be nice to have organizations like the U.N or some other grant giving organizations provide funds to pay for volunteer expenses. But we know that option is not available.
What we have learned is that we can make things affordable by planning well and cutting all wastage. In the past, we have offered a few free volunteer experiences (no program fees). The truth is that for every volunteer who got it free, somebody was paying for their expenses. It can’t just be free. Because of that, instead of focusing on trying to beg money from donors that are hard to find so that we can pay for volunteers to go and help out, we do everything possible to make sure that the volunteer costs are as cheap as can be so that many volunteers can afford it. Then we help the volunteers show them how to raise those funds. In fact we encourage volunteers not to pay program fees completely out of pocket but to fundraiser and get others involved. That way, we make sure everyone who wants to volunteer has a good chance to do so.
How do I know that Change Volunteers is a legitimate international volunteer placement organization?
Change Volunteers goes back to July 2005 when founder Dr. Ken Acha founded his first nonprofit organization called Shaping Destiny. SD is a U.S based nonprofit corporation that is a 501 c 3 tax-exempt organization that was founded to provide much needed help to orphans in Cameroon. Ken who now lives in the United States grew up in Cameroon and suffered tremendously being unable to get medical care, education and other basic necessities. He dropped out of grade school twice for lack of tuition, which was about $10. Cameroon schools charge such tuition. When he came to the United States, he felt he had to do something to help children who are suffering like he was. Because of that, he founded Shaping Destiny the same year he started his medical education. Shaping Destiny quickly grew and gained media exposure.
Today, Shaping Destiny serves 600 orphans in Cameroon and Haiti. From 2005 to early 2012, Dr. Ken through SD sent several volunteers to go and help orphans in Cameroon. But in January 2012, he decided it was best to have a separate entity responsible for helping provide low cost volunteer opportunities to volunteers all over the world. To respond to that, he founded Change Volunteers as a nonprofit partnership to provide highly affordable volunteer experiences to volunteers all over the world both at Shaping Destiny facilities and at other trustworthy community organizations worldwide that need the help of volunteers.
Shaping Destiny is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
Change Volunteers currently sends volunteers to Cameroon. But we are working to extend opportunities to other countries as well.
Shaping Destiny is incorporated in the U.S (in the State of Texas) and Shaping Destiny is a tax-exempt organization.
Yes; when you have paid your registration fee, we will send you our program guide that is over 20 pages in length. There is a section on fundraising. We encourage our volunteers not to pay all of the program fees out of pocket but to fundraise. There are many people in the community who would help you go. In addition to that, it’s more fulfilling to the volunteers who have done that. They prove that they are able to volunteer not because they are rich and have thousands of dollars saved up but because they have a heart that moves them to work hard to fundraise. In that case, people who don’t have money couldn’t say they didn’t volunteer because they weren’t rich.
No. In order to keep our costs low as possible, we don’t include travel insurance in our fees. We’ve discovered that volunteers can usually find it cheaply by getting their own. Because insurances prices change frequently, we encourage our volunteers to contact their volunteer consultant to recommend a good and reputable company that is giving the best rates at the time of their volunteer.
Most likely, yes. We recommend that you talk to you primary care doctor about your travel and he will administer any needed vaccinations. Even though our founder and Director (Dr. Ken) is a U.S trained physician, it is unethical or even against the law to offer certain types medical advise/care to people who are not doctor’s patients. However, Dr. Ken recommends that you visit the Center for Disease Control, CDC website to see what types of vaccinations you’ll probably need for Cameroon. But the final decision of which you will take rests with your doctor. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/vaccinations.htm
Thanks for asking that question. Change Volunteers was formed to provide a trusted, affordable, flexible, safe, and life-changing alternative to the numerous volunteer placement organizations that charge thousands of dollars in fees to volunteer abroad. Please visit our page, Why Choose Change Volunteers?
Why are Change Volunteers fees so much cheaper and more affordable than other volunteer placement organizations?
We take this question as a complement. And thank you for asking. Change Volunteers was formed to provide affordable and life-transforming volunteer experiences as an alternative to high cost volunteer opportunities that are widely available. Our strategy to keep costs down comes from our minimalist view of volunteer experience. We believe that a truly life changing volunteer experience doesn’t come from spending too much money and providing them with spa treatment and luxury accommodations. No, true life change and meaning to life comes from the relationships that we provide, the environment that we create for our volunteers to flourish and affect local communities. Because we have focused on that life change, we have eliminated any wasteful expenditure and kept only the basics that are essential. No, our volunteers don’t starve. They don’t suffer. They live as close to the local citizens as possible and so costs are low. We promise that dollar for dollar, experience for experience, we provide the best volunteer opportunities in the world! I think it has to do with why we do it too… If the founder of an organization leaves the opportunity to practice full-time medicine in the U.S and make hundreds of thousands of dollars to pursue his passion of helping volunteers help poor communities, it tells you how seriously that organization takes volunteering. When you choose Change Volunteers that also tells you the kind of partner you are choosing to change the world!
Change Volunteers doesn’t handle donations. Our parent organization Shaping Destiny does through its orphans ministry website www.orphans360.org. If you want to donate, please go directly to that website.
We don’t have deadlines. However we recommend that you apply as son as you know for two reasons. It may take several months for you to get a visa, get immunizations and fundraise. Also when you apply and pay your registration fee, we match you with a volunteer consultant who would help you all the way.
Yes! We believe that it is important to complement volunteering with opportunities for sightseeing and tourism in the country that you go to volunteer. During the weekends, volunteers will be able to go sightseeing. Our in country partners are well equipped to help you get to the best tourist attraction sites in their local regions.