There are volunteer projects in many countries all around the world. Some ask for a participation fee but others are paid, which means that you'll be provided with free accommodation and food and you'll only have to pay for your airplane ticket to get there. Let me share with you: my experience in three volunteer projects (each with a different level of sponsorship), how can you find the volunteer projects and what do you need to consider to choose a project.
1) My experience
I have participated in three projects:
Renovation project in the United States (paid)
An international team renovated the First Colored Wesley Methodist Church and Community Education Center Headquarters Building.
You can read the post How to participate in a volunteer project in the United States for a detailed description.
Sport event in The Netherlands (partially paid)
I participated in the European Youth Olympic Festival helping in the organization and creation of the event.
You can read the post How to participate in the European Youth Olympic Festival for a detailed description.
Renovation project in India (unpaid)
An international team renovated a public school in Dharamkot while playing and speaking in English with children.
You can read the post How to participate in the volunteer project "The Himalayan Beauty" in India for a detailed description.
2) How can you find the volunteer projects
First, you have to know that there are 2 kind of projects, the ones offered by stablished organizations as NGOs that at the end will also give you a certificate of participation, and the ones offered by locals around the globe who are seeking for help.
2.1. Projects with NGOs
There are mainly two ways in which you can apply for these volunteer projects:
a. Independently: find them and do the application process by yourself.
- E-vet database: in this webpage you will find one of the most extensive volunteer databases from all over the world and make a refined search by country, type of work and duration. When you find the project of your interest, look for the organization that is offering it and google it; in its webpage you'll usually be able to find more information about the project, their application process and email/telephone contact for further questions.
b. Placement companies: if you are new to volunteer projects you can contact a placement company in your country and it will guide you through all the process, although they are going to charge you a fee. You have to consider that sometimes even if you want to do the process independently, some organizations that offer the volunteer projects have agreements with these placement companies so in some cases you'll have to apply through them. But also sometimes it's better to apply through them because they could have better deals than contacting the NGO directly. The following are the majority of placement companies around the world.
- Argentina SES www.fundses.org.ar
- Armenia HUJ www.huj.am
- Austria Grenzenlos www.grenzenlos.or.at
- Belarus LYVS www.lyvs.bn.by
- Belgium CBB www.compagnonbatisseurs.org
- Belgium JAVVA www.javva.org
- Canada CJ www.cj.qc.ca
- Czech Republic INEX SDA www.inexsda.cz
- Denmark MS www.globalcontact.dk
- Estonia ESTYES www.estyes.ee
- Finland Allianssi www.nuorisovaihto.fi
- France CBF www.compagnonsbatisseurs.org
- France Concordia www.concordia-association.org
- France JR www.volontariat.org
- France UNAREC www.unarec.org
- France SJ www.solidaritesjeunesses.org
- Georgia LYVG www.lyvg-georgia.org
- Germany IBG www.ibg-workcamps.org
- Germany ICJA www.icja.de
- Germany IJGD www.ijgd.de
- Germany NIG www.campline.de
- Germany Offne Haeuser www.openhouses.de
- Germany PRO-INT www.pro-international.org
- Germany VJF www.vjf.de
- Greece CIA www.citizensinaction.gr
- Greece ELIX www.elix.org.gr
- Hong Kong VolTra www.voltra.org
- Hungary Egyesek www.egyesek.hu
- Iceland SEEDS www.seeds.is
- Iceland Worldwide Friends www.wf.is
- India FSL www.fsl-india.org
- Indonesia PKBI (IIWC) www.iiwcindonesia.org
- Italy Informagiovani www.informa-giovani.org
- Italy LEG www.legambiente.it
- Italy Lunaria www.lunaria.org
- Italy YAP IT www.yap.it
- Japan CIEEJ www.cieej.or.jp
- Japan NICE www.nice1.gr.jp
- Kenya KVDA www.kvda.org.ke
- Kyrgyzistan Leaders www.leadership.kg
- Lithuania Deineta www.deineta.lt
- Mexico Nataté www.natate.org
- Mexico VIVE MEXICO www.vivemexico.org
- Mexico VIMEX www.vimex.org.mx
- Mongolia MCE www.mce-mn.org
- MontenegroADP-ZID www.zid.org.me
- Morocco CSM www.moroccocamps.e-monsite.com
- Morocco CJM www.cjmfes.wordpress.com
- Netherlands SIW www.siw.nl
- Poland FIYE www.fiye.pl
- Portugal IPJ www.juventude.gov.pt/portal/ipj
- Russia Dige Vu Samara www.digevu.ru
- Russia Mir Tesen www.mirtesen.org.ru
- Russia Passage Zebra www.interaction-club.ru
- Russia SFERA www.dobrovolets.ru
- Russia Sodrujevstvo www.sodvo.ru
- Russia World 4U www.world4u.ru
- Serbia YRS-VSS www.mis.org.rs
- Slovakia INEX www.inex.sk
- South Korea IWO www.1.or.kr
- South Korea KNCU www.youth.unesco.or.kr
- Spain COCAT www.cocat.org
- SpainDe Amicitia www.deamicitia.org
- Spain SVI www.injuve.es
- Switzerland WS www.workcamp.ch
- Taiwan VYA www.volunteermatch.org.tw
- Thailand VSA www.volunteerspirit.or.th
- Thailand GREENWAY www.greenwaythailand.org
- Turkey GENCTUR www.genctur.com
- Turkey GSM www.gsm.org.tr
- Uganda UPA www.ugandapa.worldpress.com
- UK Concordia UK www.concordiavolunteers.org.uk
- UK UNA Exchange www.unaexchange.org
- UK VAP www.vap.org.uk
- UK Xchange Scotland www.xchangescotland.org
- Ukraine Alternative-V www.alternative-v.com.ua
- Ukraine UF www.union-forum.org
- USA VFP www.vfp.org
- Vietnam SJ www.sjvietnam.org
Or apply through international placement companies:
- GO Overseas: gooverseas.com
- GO Abroad: goabroad.com
- Volunteer HQ: volunteerhq.org
- Pro World: proworldsc.org
2.1. Projects with locals around the globe
These projects usually offer you accommodation and food in exchange of your help. There are webpages in which you can find these volunteer projects:
- Help Exchange: in this webpage you will find an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.
- Workaway: connect travelers with locals around the globe looking for volunteer help. You will help for a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation, with visits lasting anywhere from a few days to a few months.
3) What do you need to consider to choose a project with and NGO
In order for you to find the best opportunity I recommend you to consider the following points: type of work, location, dates, requirements, and participation fee.
a. Type of work: there is a broad range of types of work so choose something in which you are truly interested; this is an opportunity to help and at the same time learn new skills. This projects are an important contribution to your development and you can mention them on your CV so you can either reinforce one of your qualities or develop some area. These are the types of work with the codes you are going to see in the E-vet database:
- RENO: renovation
- ENVI: environmental
- CONS: construction
- ARCH: archeology
- SOCI: social project
- KIDS: work with kids
- STUDY: theme project
- DISA: work with people with disabilities
- MANU: manual work
- EDU: educational
- ELDE: work with elderly
- FEST: festival
- CULT: cultural
- AGRI: agricultural
- Art: art type
- SPORT: sports
- LANG: language project
- TRANS: translation project
- ANI: animals care
- LEAD: project leader
b. Location: you have to consider the location of the project because in any project because even if its sponsored, you'll have to pay for the airplane ticket to go there. I recommend you to use the "EXPLORE" KAYAK feature in which you select your country of residency and it shows you the prices of flights to all other countries around the world. You can access it here: kayak.com/explore/
Also, if you currently don't want to spend a lot of money on airplane tickets you can also try to find volunteer projects inside your country.
c. Dates: the projects duration can vary:
- Short term: from 2 to 4 weeks
- Long term: up to a year
- Permanent projects: available all year (they charge a fee for each week the participant participates to cover accommodation and food expenses).
If you study or work you can apply for a short term project during the summer or take two weeks of vacation. Preferably apply with three months of anticipation so you secure your place as well as arrange your visa and travel itinerary.
d. Requirements: usually there are no many restrictions in this projects, although most of them ask for a good level of English because you will have to communicate with a team conformed by people from all over the world. I have participated in projects with people from 18 to 50 years from different gender, profession, religion and race; one of the best features of these projects is that you'll gain knowledge from people of different cultures and backgrounds.
e. Participation Fee: check if the project has a participation fee or not, then you can make a list with different projects and calculate the total price of the airplane ticket plus the participation fee to make the most affordable decision.
If you are also interested in studying abroad you can read the post How to find scholarships to study abroad.