Volunteering abroad can be a great way to support developing countries while gaining invaluable experience. However, as the Guardian recently reported, scepticism about the value of voluntourism to local communities is growing.

Much of this scepticism stems from the fact that the industry is largely unregulated, with volunteers often being deployed to local communities having neither undergone a rigorous selection process nor received sufficient training. Responsible tourism and child protection experts have warned that sending untrained volunteers to work in local communities, and often with vulnerable people, is unlikely to be useful. While in some cases voluntourism can be merely ineffective, in others it can put both volunteers and local communities at risk.

As reported in a previous article, Volonteurope has teamed up with its Spanish member Alianza por la Solidaridad as well as Hungarian Baptist Aid and GVC to support the implementation of the European Commission’s EU Aid Volunteers programme, which aims to send 4,000 EU citizens to volunteer abroad.

To maximise positive impact and ensure the safety of both volunteers and local communities, sending and receiving organisations are subject to rigorous standards set by the European Commission. Currently, 12 organisations are accredited to send volunteers through the EU Aid Volunteers initiative. Volonteurope and its partners have set themselves the goal of increasing this number to 28.

Within the Volonteurope network, there is wealth of expertise in both humanitarian aid and volunteer management. Indeed two of our members, Volunteering Matters and Comhlámh, were cited as best practice examples in the same Guardian article.

Over the coming months, Volonteurope and its partners will be identifying voluntary organisations, and Volonteurope members in particular, who are interested in becoming sending organisations. These organisations will receive capacity building in preparation for accreditation under the EU Aid Volunteers programme.

For further information, please contact Katarzyna Tusiewicz: ktusiewicz@aporsolidaridad.org.