When talking about volunteer tourism and responsible tourism, a lot can and must be said. It is important that all parts involved continually seek improvement and to inform oneself is the best way we know to keep asking the right questions. So don’t stop here, find more information online and if you think it’s pertinent, share with us what you find ;)

But here is a good way to start:

What is responsible tourism?

Responsible Tourism was defined in Cape Town in 2002 alongside the World Summit on Sustainable Development and is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.”


What is volunteer tourism (voluntourism)?

When a person travels to volunteer at an organization project or community. Frequently it involves trying to aid or alleviate the material poverty, the restoration of certain environments or research into aspects of society or environment.


Why travel to do volunteer work?

We believe that any kind of volunteer work is valid if made in a conscious manner, either at your city or abroad. The difference from volunteering at a foreign country is the opportunity to immerse yourself and fully dedicate to a cause and a community and to experience a cultural exchange that enriches the process.

What cannot happen, is to believe that volunteering abroad is a cheaper way to travel. The volunteer’s focus must always be to make all the difference that he can.


Can voluntourism be harmful?

It can! You must be attentive when choosing a program, because many times volunteering abroad can cause more harm than good. That happens for a lot of different reasons, all of which we are aware and avoid at all costs! This is why none of our partner NGOs is dependant of voluntourism money, they are verified and trustworthy projects who wish for more cultural exchange and specialized help; we co-create all our experiences, seeking to involve local community as much as we can; the positions we offer are based on specific abilities; we are completely open about the destination of the money you pay for your trip, just ask our staff. For more information on the subject, we highly recommend that you read a few articles about the subject. Here is a place to start your research: “Volunteering and Voluntourism: The Good, The Bad, and The Questions You Should Ask”

Does it works? Voluntourism I mean.

No easy answer to that, but as we see it, the best way to put it is: it can!

You must choose a serious organization to volunteer at, one that will put yours skills to good use and will direct the resources you might bring with you with purpose. Now, finding out an organization like that at a foreign country is the bottom line to the question. At Iris Social all organizations are verified and worthy of our trust!

Why Iris Social does not pay NGOs to receive travellers?

For lots of reasons, the first of which is: we believe in actual volunteering. Your presence should be helpful to the NGO already and their willingness to receive you should be related to the work you're going to do and not about money. This kind of thinking is exactly what is creating such a dubious market around volunteer tourism.

One of the reasons our programs are way cheaper than those from other agencies is that we do not disguise profit as money directed to the projects. We charge you what is fair and necessary to the survival of the company and assist you on giving your direct contribution to the project once you are here to see where it’s going to be applied, using means like crowdfunding to promote the action and the cause through your entire network.


Is voluntourism a cheaper way to travel?

Not at all! If you came to this point with that in mind, turn back my friend, this is not the place for you.


Why do I need to pay to do volunteer work?

You don’t need to pay anything to volunteer, the investment on the trip is to cover expenses with accommodation, food, insurance, transportation and, eventually, to contribute with social projects. We keep expenses at a minimum to give more people a chance to experience our programs and we are completely open about it, just ask our staff for information on the matter.


Do I need a specific ability to do voluntourism?

Since our programmes are build to attend to the needs brought up in partnership with social projects, in some cases a specific ability, such as speaking portuguese or dancing, might be necessary. But if you check-out our programmes, you’ll probably find a place suited for you and our team is always available to assist you into finding the perfect spot, just send an email to oi.hola.hello@iris.social.  


Is volunteering in Brazil safe?

Brazil is a country of great social inequality, which has serious implications towards security. However, it is possible to live safely, specially in certain cities. We’ll give you orientation on how to behave, where to transit or not and at what hours so that you can be as safe as possible. In general, if these precautions are observed, you’ll be able to enjoy you time here with safety and tranquility.


What is the ideal duration of my trip?

We work with two different products designed for publics with specific time availability.

The Expeditions provide concrete results in a short period of time (7-10 days), while the Volunteer Programs at NGOs last at least 1 month. Both of them produce good results, so it’s really up to you.


Do I need to speak portuguese to travel?

Speaking the local language is always a differential, but our programs were designed with the language barrier in mind, so speaking portuguese is not always essential.

In the Expeditions case, you’ll be accompanied by the members of our team the entire time and they will translate what you need to english (maybe to spanish and french).

For the Volunteer Programs at NGOs we strongly recommend that you take some portuguese classes prior to your arrival and continue on taking the lessons while here in order to further interact with the locals at the social projects.


Is iris Social an NGO?

No, Iris is what we call a social business, since we are a for-profit business that acts in order to cause positive impact in the world. Our business model is simply a choice to make our sustainability easier.

Our main focus is to be a company that contributes to society’s improvement by valuing positive social results above financial gain.


Do I need an agency to volunteer abroad?

You don’t need it, but you can use the services of an agency to make the whole process easier. If you can find a trustworthy project in the country you wanna go and they are well structured to welcome you, that’s great! On the other way, a GOOD agency, such as Iris Social, is a way to get all that plus our orientation, training, 24/7 assistance - thus having more safety to enjoy the experience - besides being a way to find out organizations that are not skilled to access a public such as yourself. The payment we require for this service guarantees the sustainability of Iris Social and the continuity of our social endeavors.


Why choose Iris Social instead of other companies in the segment?

Choose Iris if your main concern is to do something that matters to the project where you’re going. Opposed to other business acting in social tourism, we focus our experiences on social projects and communities, planning in partnership and allocating resources whenever possible, which also means we are going to demand more commitment from you than any other agency.