The chance to give something back, an opportunity to share your skills and knowledge, to meet other travelers or simply to meet the locals…
There are many reasons to volunteer while you’re travelling and there are literally thousands of charities and organizations that look for help from passing travelers.
Many ask for donations or fees to cover costs, others operate as profitable businesses but the list below is just a few that cost little or nothing to become involved and help out:
WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), Worldwide
Board and lodging is offered in exchange for a days’ work on the farm. Stays available from one week to many years, and with thousands of hosts available in 53 countries there is an opportunity suitable for everyone. Contact: WWOOF.
For more information, check out A First-Timer’s Guide to WWOOF-ing.
Turtle Teams, Worldwide
A generic name for the thousands of small groups that help threatened sea turtles. Most groups are based on one or two nesting beaches–which are typically at risk from over exploitation-and appreciate help for even just one night.
Search for groups at the local tourist office close to any tropical beach and help a species come off the endangered list. More information can be found at these larger organizations: www.seaturtles.org and www.cccturtle.org.
Conservation Volunteers, Australia and New Zealand
– www.conservationvolunteers.com.au – Short-term project in Australia, New Zealand and a few international locations. Working in teams to protect habitats and promote eco tourism.
A small fee (usually around AUS$100 for a week) is usually required to participate, but covers all food and lodging. British based BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) also has similar opportunities. www.btcv.org.uk
Sudan Volunteer Programme, Sudan
– www.svp-uk.com – Teach English in one of the world’s most impoverished countries. Placements are at schools or universities but many volunteers help with community projects in additional to their teaching.
Volunteers must pay for their airfare but all other costs are covered, including a small monthly stipend.
Appalachian Trail Conference, USA
– www.appalachiantrail.org – At over 2,000 miles long the Appalachian Trail is the classic long trail in the Eastern US an home to almost 2,000 endangered or threatened species.
Volunteers help with trail building and maintenance in return for food and (usually very basic) accommodation
Trip Leader for HF Holidays, Europe
– www.hfholidays.co.uk – One of Europe’s most popular walking holiday operators is searching for volunteers to lead their hiking and coach holidays. Leaders are provided with accommodation, meals and the chance to explore Europe in return for sharing their passion and knowledge with groups they accompany.
Help Exchange, Worldwide
– www.helpx.net – A website that lists worldwide hosts that are looking for an extra pair of hands; whether it be in their farm or garden, working in schools or on religious projects, building houses or community centers to simply helping a family take the kids to school.
A small memberships fee is required to access the details of hosts but board and lodging is provided in exchange for your work.
Peace Corps, Worldwide
– www.peacecorps.gov – A unique chance to live and work in another country; working on a variety of projects from healthcare and the environment to business development.
A real commitment to 27 months on placement is required, but for those that are willing, this is a life-changing position. Open only to US residents but similar projects are available for other nationals with VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) www.vso.org.uk
United Nations Volunteers, Worldwide
– www.unv.org – From health care and economic development to assisting after natural disasters, the UN offers positions for those that are dedicated to making a difference abroad.
While many positions are open only to experienced professions, the UN has links to hundreds of international NGOs and QANGOS that are looking for help in similar fields on a less formal basis.
Kibbutz Volunteer, Israel – www.kibbutzvolunteer.com – An area that is rarely out of the news, Israel offers superb community but complicated politics.
Being a volunteer gives you the opportunity to experience this region first hand while living as part of a socialist community where everything is provided. The region also serves as a good base from which to explore the Middle East and North Africa
This is just a small sample of what’s on offer; be sure to thoroughly research any options before undertaking a project. And remember, while it’s always nice to get something for free, if a project is requesting money, it is usually going to a good cause.