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ZackGive

ZackGive is a longer term project I am considering. The name is also temporary.

ZackGive would be a database of “Do-Good” opportunities around the world focusing on opportunities suitable for the budget traveler.

The vast majority of budget travelers would love the chance to help out in the communities they travel through, but in their cursory search for volunteer opportunities they quickly discover that most of the programs they can find online require you to pay a prohibitively expensive “program fee”. Now, of course these organizations do great work, and of course the money is going to a good cause (typically 85% of the fee goes directly to project cost, and 15% goes to administrative expenses), but that doesn’t change the fact that travelers with able bodies and minds, and sometimes valuable skills, simply cannot afford to help.

So ZackGive would be a niche database of volunteer opportunities suited to the budget traveler and/or world nomad. For the budget traveler it would list opportunities that have no program fee, organisations that can be contacted directly by the traveler, even in person if need be, opportunities that can arranged with relatively short notice, and short-term opportunities for traveler’s with a limited amount of time to travel. For the world nomad the database will also include long term opportunities, skills-specific opportunities, and paid-allowance opportunities.

My belief is that everyone who wants to give back to the world should be able to find an opportunity to do so, no matter what skills the have or how big their bank account is.

There are already some databases out there, that cater to the program fee wary traveler such as www.idealist.org and http://www.truetravellers.org/, so you don’t have to wait for ZackGive to get started on your search

For people unfamiliar with overseas volunteer programs and their fees here is a typical example:

A highly reputed US-based organisation  offers the opportunity to volunteer teaching english in South East China.  The program fee to teach english for a single week is $2300.  This tax-deductible fee does NOT include: Airfare or other travel to the site, visas, free-time expenses, medical and trip cancellation insurance.   Now, 85% of this fee goes to program associated costs, and I believe them when they tell me this, but by no means does it cover only personal expenses.  Personal expenses I would expect to be on the order of about $60 to $150 per week.  In that region of China, $2000 could: pay for at least 4 months of a Chinese english teacher’s salary, or 2 months of a Native speaking english teacher’s salary.  For $2000 a budget traveler could travel around China for 4 months, or they could get a paid english teaching job in SE China and earn $1000 a month.

I therefore come to the conclusion, that a person who wishes to volunteer, has two roles.  1)Volunteering their time and skills, 2)Fund-raising for the organisation.  Now, while this certainly simplifies the situation and effectively delegates the task of fundraising, it is also asking a lot more from people who wish to volunteer, and in many cases dissuades them from even trying to.

I argue, that it would be far more effective to separate the two roles.  First, this would instantly make it easier for people to give their time and energy to a good cause.  With more people volunteering, awareness is spread more quickly, and more friends and families of more volunteers could be asked to donate monetary support to the cause.  Because at the moment, this type of international volunteer program is only accessible for rich university students, and well-off retirees.

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