One of the most common reactions I get when I tell people about my volunteering placement is ‘Wait, you have to pay to volunteer?!’ To them it seems unjust and unfair, with the assumption that I’ve somehow been sucked into a profit-driven commercialised system that thrives on the exploitation of good-natured volunteers and host communities.

The reality is that many volunteering organisations are charities, including ICYE-UK, and therefore there is no profit! The money I raise goes directly to ICYE-UK to cover the cost of my trip, as well as supporting international volunteers who come from developing countries or less-privileged backgrounds. And if you’re wondering what exactly is covered in my fee, you can take a look here:

The second main problem is that the word ‘fundraising’ is often seen as some kind of dirty word, or something to apologise for or feel guilty about. This only makes the gargantuan task of fundraising even harder as the next question that springs to mind is why someone else should help pay for my trip when it’s clearly going to benefit me, no matter how altruistic my motivations?

Truth be told, I don’t have a complete answer to that question, other than the fact that fundraising is great publicity for volunteering organisations, and without it there would certainly be less volunteers in the world (a very sad thing in my opinion!) Furthermore, if the stigma around fundraising was such that it became the norm for volunteers to cover their own costs, then this would surely make all overseas volunteering elitist (if it’s not becoming so already – ahem ‘gap yah’ ahem).

So that’s why I’m proud to say that I’m fundraising for ICYE-UK, to allow them to continue the great work that they do in supporting volunteers from this country and all over the world.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have generously donated to my fund so far, including the individuals that sponsored my 2-mile open water swim in the River Thames and the organisations and foundations listed below:

– GIFT: The Reg Gilbert International Youth Friendship Trust

GIFT supports outgoing young UK citizens to establish friendships and direct cultural contacts through ‘homestay’ visits with indigenous communities in developing countries.

Jack Petchey Foundation

The Jack Petchey Foundation supports young people who volunteer their free time to help others in need.

The purpose of this fund is to give you the opportunity to achieve more out of life and we want to encourage you to take on new challenges and develop your personal and social skills through volunteering.

– Ruislip Lions Club

Lions are men and women (over age 18), who are volunteers and have made a personal commitment to help those persons who are less fortunate. Ruislip Lions are part of an international federation, Lions Clubs International, a network of 1.3 million members in 202 countries and geographic areas.  

With less than two months to go before I leave for Uganda, I just need one final push to see me to my fundraising target. Please chip in if you can, or if you have any ideas (however absurd!) to help me get there, I am all ears!

See my progress and make a donation here:

JustGiving Page


Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange

International volunteering has become so widespread that there are literally thousands of organisations offering placements in almost all countries of the world (see my previous post on this here: But how many of these organisations provide support for volunteers from developing countries  who wish to use and build their skills and capacity in the UK or other Western countries? Very few, and that was one of the biggest factors for me in choosing to volunteer with ICYE-UK.

The ICYE Federation was founded in 1949 as a reconciliation programme between the USA and Germany after WW2, designed to restore and develop trust from both sides. Today ICYE has over 40 National Committees and partners in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe, with its headquarters in Berlin, Germany. This has allowed the focus to shift from simple cultural exchange to an international education for justice and peace.

ICYE-UK was established in 1993 and is run by volunteers, for volunteers through a democratically elected committee of trustees. ICYE-UK believes strongly in the idea of reciprocal exchange and inter-cultural learning, so hosts a number of volunteers each year from other ICYE offices worldwide. Here comes the clever part: All volunteers fundraise towards the cost of their placement, however the money remains in the volunteer’s own country, so for example a UK volunteer supports the living costs of an Ugandan volunteer in London, and a Ugandan volunteer supports the costs of a UK volunteer’s placement in Kampala! It also means that volunteers get to meet each other at preliminary, mid-term or final training camps organised by ICYE, like the one we had in the summer…

Photo: ICYE-UK

ICYE Volunteers Weekend Photo: ICYE-UK

It was great to meet all the ICYE international volunteers, but especially the volunteers from Uganda, who will be returning back home roughly the same time as I’m leaving in January. Their thoughts on the UK? “Cold but very nice!”

That’s all from me for now, but to read more about ICYE or to get in touch, please visit their website: or find them on facebook or twitter.