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Volunteer in a refugee camp for a few days?

June 24, 2016

Q. Hello there!

I am delighted with your blog! Awesome work!!! Congrats. I am having trouble to find an answer and maybe you can help me. I would like to volunteer some days in October in a refugee camp but I am having trouble finding an ngo that takes volunteers for some days. Most of them only take donations. And the only one I found is charging a lot of money for me to go there. Do you know any ngos that I could get in touch with? Thanks!!!


A. Hi Antonella,

First off, thanks for the kind words about the blog! Please do consider buying my ebook on Amazon – it’s a great way to help offset the costs of running the site.

Secondly – I want to salute your good intentions – its a noble thing to want to help, so please don’t take what I have to say about this personally!

OK – third – let’s get down to the question. You want to volunteer for a couple of days in a refugee camp, but can’t find an organization that will take you. The fact is that no one wants volunteers in camps for several reasons.

a) There is plenty of labor, skilled and unskilled in refugee camps. There’s no shortage of people to do the work that needs to be done to keep things moving along, and no reason to bring people in for a few days to help out. Even highly skilled staff like engineers and medical staff aren’t wanted for a few days at a time. By the time they get oriented and understand the situation it’s time to leave.

b) Refugee camps are not always safe or comfortable places to be. People are usually pretty unhappy to be there, and at a low point in their lives. They’re often not particularly satisfied with the level of assistance they are receiving, and it’s easy to become a lightening rod for that dissatisfaction if you don’t know what you’re doing. Having people come in for a few days at a time would be a major liability for an organization.

c) There are some groups that charge money for what are essentially tourist trips. This can be an enriching experience for everyone if it’s done right, but it can be a disaster. I would be very careful of any group offering this.

So – sorry to be a downer, but there just aren’t opportunities to go help out in this way. If you want to help, money is a great way to do it, and I would suggest that there are a lot of ways to get involved practically closer to home. Homeless shelters, food banks, Big Brothers / Big Sisters etc all need practical help.

Good luck!


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