A Partner West Africa News Story
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Ethical volunteering and work placements in Ghana, West Africa

Voluntourism and the Problem With Commercializing Charity

Date Posted: 05/05/2017

It’s easy to commercialise charity. It makes money to commercialise charity. But what is the problem with commercialising charity?

It’s easy to commercialise charity. It makes money to commercialise charity. But what is the problem with commercialising charity? This question is discussed in detail here. The article addresses a few problems with international volunteering, here we show how Partner West Africa (PWA) works to avoid these pitfalls to give our volunteers and the communities we work alongside the best possible outcomes without commercialising or exploiting either party.


Lack of Regulation

Whilst it is true that there is surprisingly little regulation over a multi billion dollar industry, there are a growing number of networks and think tanks who are leading the way in international volunteering ethics. PWA are members of the Better Care Network which promotes ethical volunteering. We never place volunteers in orphanages and campaign against such volunteering, joining our voice with other charities such as UNICEF and Save the Children. By making this clear on our website we already start to attract the ‘right’ sort of volunteers and also provide an alternate voice for volunteers who may not have fully considered the wider effects of volunteering and the ethical considerations entwined with that choice.


Ineffective Volunteering

Volunteer placements can be ineffective for any number of reasons. PWA are clear about expectations – both from the volunteer’s and organisation’s perspectives –  selecting volunteers based on their skills and knowledge and most of all focussing on the long-term, bigger picture. Development work isn’t about quick fixes, it’s about small pieces that fit together to achieve sustainable change. While all our volunteers are here for a set amount of time – whether that be weeks or months – their work is always part of a wider aim.

For example, we know that malaria is one of the most significant health concerns in the local community: the community themselves tell us this, the local nurses tell us this and the statistics tell us this. A volunteer coming for a month to work on our Malaria Prevention Programme may complete a series of screening, testing and treatment events (providing immediate benefits) but the education that runs alongside provides the long-term change. It improves the communities understanding of all aspects of prevention as well as treatment, allowing each family to make informed choices. Preventing infection with malaria is the key to reducing the number of lost working days, the amount of income spent on medical bills and the number of days off school, that when repeated time and time again have a detrimental long term knock on effect on individuals and families; this is one important aspect in breaking the cycle of poverty many of our families find themselves trapped in.


Flawed Ambitions of the Volunteers

Through the careful explanation and promotion of our placements on our website we already attract volunteers with good ambitions. Volunteers who come to PWA are rigorously assessed, interviewed, criminal background checked and are invited if their skills can add to the pool of knowledge of our staff or the community. This assessment includes determining their reasons for volunteering: ‘for a holiday’ and ‘to get some cute selfies with poor African kids’ are not good reasons to volunteer!


Take a look at PWA’s volunteer programmes to see how your knowledge and skills can fit into the bigger picture.

Volunteer in Africa to improve early-years education

Volunteer in Africa to prevent malaria

Volunteer in Africa to improve women’s health

Volunteer in Africa to assist vulnerable children

Volunteer in Africa to improve children’s health

Volunteer in Africa to promote cultural exchange between school students

Volunteer in Africa to monitor and evaluate projects and programmes and work on development policy

Volunteer in Africa in fundraising and journalism

If you think you have a skill that isn’t included here take a look at our multidisciplinary volunteer programme – if you’ve got a skill we need we’ll welcome you with open arms.

Author: Affinity Magazine

Donation Payment Methods


Charity Checkout accepts all major debit and credit cards and allows you to make one-off or monthly donations that will be used to support our charity in general, so if you would like to donate to a specific appeal, or become a sponsor of our Daycare & Nursery Centre, please follow the donation information provided within those specific appeals. All donations to PWA are regulated by the UK Charities Commission and in line with our Terms & Conditions. Thank you.


JustGiving is a great fundraising site for friends of our charity who would like to set up their own fundraising pages, alllowing your friends and family to donate towards your specific project, aims or objectives with PWA. If you set up a JustGiving fundraising page, you describe your story and reasons for supporting PWA & your donors can link through to PWA's JustGiving page to learn about our charity & its work. All donations are regulated by the UK Charities Commission and made in line with our Terms & Conditions. Thank you.

Direct Bank-to-Bank Transfers

PWA banks with the Co-operative Bank, UK, the leading bank for charitable organisations. If you are a UK or international bank account holder, donations can be made quickly & simply online. You can also use this method to make one-off donations or to set up monthly donations to our charity. Please contact us to request our bank account details to set up a bank transfer. All donations made to PWA are regulated by the UK Charities Commission & made in-line with our Terms & Conditions. Thank you.

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