The topic we are asked at GeoVisions most is "Why do I have to pay to volunteer?" We have a page on the GeoVisions website dealing with paying to volunteer. You can click here to read that page if you like. I thought I might take some time over the next couple of weeks and get into the subject of paying to volunteer in more depth. Gregory Hubbs, Transitions Abroad editor, answers the question on why volunteers have to pay this way: "Primarily because most volunteers are more of a liability until they are trained to help the local community. Often the money spent volunteering is best spent on the local volunteers/people, particularly if the outside volunteer does not have medical, teaching, technical or other useful skills which would allow them to “hit the ground running.” In addition, it is usually very important for there to be continuity in a volunteer project for it to truly succeed in helping those who need it." I think the best way to understand another person or point of view is to stand in their shoes a bit. So, as you read this Blog entry, see if any of my comments strike a chord. You can always comment, and I'll try to address your issues. We have a few Red Fox in the area of Guilford, Connecticut, where I live. I've done a lot of research on the Red Fox and let's say I want to make sure our local Red Fox families can survive here in Guilford and can exist safely with humans and our pets. So I establish my Protecting The Red Fox Association (including several local volunteers) and I quickly find I need to get someone from the Long Island Sound Study to give me some advice (they did a study on the Red Fox and received a $40,000 grant). These people are now my "experts." A few months go by and now and we have rasied a lot of local interest in the Red Fox and our new project and our new Association sounds pretty cool. I log on to my Association email account and low and behold I have people contacting me from other countries who would like to come to the U.S., live for a while in the Northeast, and who have some kind of interest in the Red Fox. And they want to volunteer with our Association. I really do need more volunteers! But these potential volunteers need a place to stay, they need to be fed, I'm going to have to pick them up at JFK airport when they arrive in New York and get them here to Connecticut. I have to make sure they don't bring with them some kind of negative police record. I don't speak German, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Thai nor Korean. And they tell me they do not speak (or write) English all that well. They all want to come at different times and they all want to go back at different times and they all want to study some English while they are here. And 95% of them have never seen a Red Fox, so they are going to need an orientation and that means bringing my friend from Long Island out here again to do a proper orientation. Many times. Now I see a lot of dollar signs in my mind. $$$$$ But I really have no funds (except a few local donations) and I can't afford all this. What am I going to do? I need more volunteers. It would bring a new dimension to our Association to have some global links...that's always a good thing. All of these wonderful volunteers are going to have to get their own visa, their plane tickets, their background checks and then either I have to find host families for them or they have to do that when they arrive because no one in my volunteer Association has time to look for host families. What if our global volunteers are not successful in finding a family? What will they have to pay for room and board? Local transportation? Getting to the Shoreline of Connecticut from New York City? And back? And will they help pay the costs of my friend from The Long Island Study to come out for orientation? And how will they get to and from the English lessons? WHERE will they take English lessons? How will we communicate with them? This is but the tip of the iceberg. GeoVisions' job in all of this is to find sustainable projects around the globe who are open to foreign volunteers. Then, we need to find volunteers to help them. And to help the agency abroad we do as much of the coordination as possible to make our volunteers' arrival and stay at the project rewarding to all, safe, and as unobtrusive as possible. That means providing insurance so volunteers are not a burdon to the community. Finding host families or housing. Making sure the volunteers received safe accommodation and healthy meals. Taking care of the transportation. But we will get into more of that in Part 2.