There exist a lot of volunteer projects all around the world. Some of them ask for a participation fee, others are free and you’ll be provided with accommodation and food so you’ll only have to pay for your airplane ticket, but others will pay for your transport expenses and will give you some extra help for your expenses!
Let me share with several experiences in various volunteer projects (each with a different level of sponsorship), how can you find volunteer projects and what do you need to consider to choose one.
- Real Experiences
- Projects with locals
- Projects with organizations
- Paid jobs with NGOs
- How to choose a volunteer project?
1. Real Experiences
The following are success cases of people who volunteered abroad.
a. Workaway: Five volunteer projects in Africa and Europe
- Type of project: Project with a local.
- Summary: I participated in 5 volunteer projects in Germany, Italy, Egypt and South Africa through Workaway website.
- Details: You can read the post Workaway: my experience in 5 volunteer projects abroad for a detailed description.
b. Workaway: volunteer in a hostal in Argentina
- Type of project: Project with a local.
- Summary: My Brazilian friend Lili worked as a volunteer at a hostel in Cordoba, Argentina getting free accommodation and food while studying a Spanish course.
- Details: You can read the post Workaway: my experience as a volunteer at a hostal in Argentina for a detailed description.
c. Workaway: volunteer in a hostal in South Africa
- Type of project: Project with a local.
- Summary: My Dutch friend Carla worked as a volunteer at a hostel in Cape Town, South Africa, getting free accommodation.
- Details: You can read the post Workaway: my experience as a volunteer at a hostel in Cape Town, South Africa for a detailed description.
d. Volunteers for Peace: Renovation project in the United States
- Type of project: Project with an organization.
- Summary: An international team renovated the First Colored Wesley Methodist Church and the Community Education Center Headquarters Building.
- Details: You can read the post How to participate in a volunteer project in the United States for a detailed description.
e. European Youth Olympic Festival: Sport event in The Netherlands
- Type of project: project with an organization.
- Summary: I participated in the European Youth Olympic Festival helping in the organization and creation of the event.
- Details: You can read the post How to participate in the European Youth Olympic Festival for a detailed description.
f. FSL-India: Renovation project in India
- Type of project: project with an organization.
- Summary: An international team renovated a public school in Dharamkot while playing and speaking in English with children.
- Details: You can read the post How to participate in the volunteer project “The Himalayan Beauty” in India for a detailed description.
g. TechnoServe: Agricultural consultancy project in Zimbabwe
- Type of project: paid job with an NGO.
- Summary: I spent five months working with TechnoServe on an agricultural distribution project in Zimbabwe and another month traveling around the country.
- Details: You can read the post My experience working with TechnoServe in Zimbabwe for a detailed description.
2. Volunteer projects with locals
These projects usually offer free accommodation and food in exchange for your skills. They are perfect for travelers moving continuously as the agreements are informal and last around two weeks to one month allowing you to explore a city and move quickly to the next one.
- Level of English required: if you don’t speak English you can start by selecting projects in your home country or in countries where the mother language is the same as yours. Depending on the type of project maybe you will need to know the basics to communicate with other international volunteers.
- Visa: usually you only need a tourist visa as projects are informal and for a short period of time.
a. Skills Exchange
Worldpackers connects travelers looking to exchange their skills for accommodation with incredible hosts from all around the world. It has a community of 1,000,000+ travelers and hosts worldwide.
By helping a few hours per day, you get accommodation for free on Hostels, Surf Camps, Ecovillages, NGOs, Schools, Startups, Farms, and more.
Read more information about Worldpackers here.
Workaway connects travelers with locals around the globe looking for volunteer help. Promotes Family Exchanges, Homestays, Farmstays, Working Holidays, Travel Buddies, Language Learning and Cultural Exchange.
Read more information and the experiences of some friends in Workaway here.
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.
Read more information about Helpex here.
Volunteer Latin America
If you are interested in volunteering as a teacher, taking care of animals, doing medical work, protecting the environment or doing other similar volunteer work; you can find a wide range of opportunities (some of them with all expenses paid and free flights), in Volunteer Latin America.
Read more information about Volunteer Latin America here.
b. Organic Farms
Want to live and learn on organic farms worldwide? as a volunteer (or WWOOFer) you will live alongside your host helping with daily tasks and experiencing life as a farmer.
Read more information about WWOOF here.
c. House sitting
House Carers is a worldwide house sitting directory that provides a secure environment where homeowners can locate a reliable house sitter and sitters can achieve their financial and housing objectives.
Read more information about House Carers here.
d. Au Pair
Au Pair Care
Live with an American family while you care for their children, improve your English, and have the experience of a lifetime. This is possible wit the J-1 Visa program.
Read more information about Au Pair Care here.
e. Volunteer on a boat
Find a Crew
Find a Crew is a website that connects boat owners with crew members. If you are traveling and you volunteer as a crew member besides accommodation costs you will also save transportation costs.
Read more information about Find a Crew here.
3. Volunteer projects with organizations
These organizations usually charge a fee to cover your living expenses during the project. But the advantage is that these projects are not with locals but with established organizations so, in the end, you will receive a certificate of participation with curricular value.
- Level of English required: if you don’t speak English you can start by selecting projects in your home country or in countries which mother language is the same as yours. Depending on the type of project maybe you will need to know the basics to communicate with other international volunteers.
- Visa: usually you only need a tourist visa as projects are informal.
a. E-vet Database
In the E-vet database 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.
Find all the details of the database and the application process in the post How to find volunteer projects with NGOs
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
4. Paid jobs with NGOs
You can also get a paid job abroad with NGOs that sometimes can even cover your flight expenses. They can be full-time positions or contracts that will last several months. But in the majority of cases, they will require some specific previous work experience or education.
- Level of English required: if you don’t speak English you can start by selecting projects in your home country or in countries which mother language is the same as yours.
- Visa: usually you only need a work visa but the company will help you issue it.
a. Economically remunerated projects
If you want to participate with an NGO in projects that will be paid for but will generally require some experience, there are several websites such as Reliefweb and UN Jobs in which you can search for projects .
Find all the details of the database and the application process in the post How to work abroad with an NGO
5. How to choose a volunteer project?
In order for you to find the best opportunity I recommend you to consider the following points: objetive, type of work, location, dates, requirements, and participation fee.
There are many personal and professional goals you can have, so here are some of them and my recommendations:
- Help and improve your CV at the same time: I recommend that you use the E-vet database or a placement company to find a formal project in which you will receive a certificate of participation, so that you can also mention this experience abroad.
- Help and travel with expenses paid: I recommend that you use one of the sites that connect you with people, small businesses and organizations. This way you will be able to make flexible time arrangements and travel to different countries according to your plans.
- Help and earn some extra money: I recommend you to use the Au Pair sites. There is no application fee for Au Pair World and by helping a family you will receive not only accommodation and food, but also a small amount of financial support.
b. 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.
You should consider the location of the project because in any project most probably you’ll have to pay for the airplane ticket to get there.
To learn the best tips to buy your airplane tickets you should check the post How to find cheap flights and travel the world.
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.
Depending if you are a student, a professional, a housewife, a retiree, or any kind of person (there is usually no age to participate in volunteer projects), organize your time to go.
Projects may have the following durations:
- Short term: 2 to 4 weeks.
- Medium Term: from 1 to 6 months.
- Long term: 1 year or more.
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 1 to 3 months of anticipation so you secure your place as well as arrange your visa and travel itinerary.
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.
Want to travel even more?…
In the Volunteer Abroad section, you can find more experiences of volunteer projects abroad! If you had a similar experience and want to inspire others to apply please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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