This special issue aims to validate the voices of southern partners in communities where international volunteering takes place. The collection deals with nine countries from the Global South: Peru, Guatemala, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa and India. Its individual chapters embody a distinctive approach that aims to decentre critical perspective by representing subaltern voices. The study’s data is drawn from 212 individual interviews and 21 focus groups, and its findings are couched within critical and normative theories, which offer alternative views to the often dominant critical constructions that frame dialogue on international volunteering. This approach presents these stories and interpretations in a way that better situates the voices of the host organisation and community staff within historical, political, social and economic reality.