Most volunteer opportunities always involve teaching, it’s usually tourists from the west, travelling to ‘exotic’ locations and teaching locals, who don’t have access to schools, resources and teachers. Whether these projects are effective at all, considering they are only short-term stints, depends on the kind of project, the resources, intentions and lastly the teachers.
There are almost none or very few exception of volunteering for ‘free’, even teaching at these locations require some form of ‘donation’ to institutions, however it may be a good deal, as the accommodation and food costs will be far less than staying in a luxury villa.
Research projects that I had seen online, are one of the worst offenders of making people work and charging excess fees. These projects are mostly animal related, it involves statistics, field work, collecting specimens, so a lot of adventure hence they are very popular among tourists. Although there are some good organizations, majority of them are just ‘cash cows’. They want excessive fees from volunteers, by saying they need cash for saving endangered species all the while having dozens of Lexus.
‘Voluntourism’ has become a huge industry, thanks to the appetite of the westerners, eager to travel to exotic locations, putting their moral high ground to others, just to take a selfie with local kids in the background. Organizations which used to provide free food and stay has turned into a tourism industry.