The world isn’t as tiny and homogenous as our everyday lives may lead us to believe. People live in vastly different conditions around the world, and volunteering while traveling can not only make it cheap to see the world, but also allow you to help out in places you may never have imagined having an influence.
Now, volunteering around the world is easier and cheaper than ever, and it can really help you gather a global perspective on what it means to be human.
Aside from volunteering, you can also offer your experiences to help others. Be sure to take advantage of all of the incredible opportunities afforded to someone privileged enough to have access to the Internet and reading this article.
The first stop on this volunteering list is the World Wide Organic Opportunities on Organic Farms, which they love to use as a verb, e.g. WWOOfing in a country of your choice. Here, you have the opportunity to work on an organic farm for anywhere from a few days to a few months.
It’s not completely free, since you’ll still have to pay for airfare to the location and other traveling expenses as you see fit (like traveler’s insurance), but you get free accommodation and food in exchange for 4-6 hours of work per day on a farm. You strike out individual deals with farm owners, so it’s hard to make generalizations about the type of places you’ll be staying in or for how long, but that’s why you should get started looking through the WWOOF website.
For those who don’t mind a bit of manual labor, WWOOFing is a fantastic option to help out small, local farmers and really get to know the world.
HelpX takes the philosophy of WWOOF but opens it up to any kind of help, not just farming. On the site, you’re either a Host or a Helper. Hosts will create a listing, detailing exactly what they’re asking for and what the Helper would get in return. It’s usually something along the lines of, “If you help me get some work done around the house/farm for 6 hours a day, I’ll give you accommodation and food and show you around my local area.”
As a Helper, you have the opportunity to visit far away places you might not otherwise see, you integrate directly into the community by living with and working for a local person, and you get free food and accommodation. What could be a better way to travel the world?
Of course, you’ll most likely have to pay your airfare to the location and pay for anything extra. Since every listing is highly individual, your length of stay or type of work could vary wildly from one place to the next.
Volunteer Service Overseas is a government-funded project run by the UK government and only open to UK citizens, but they do have branches in a few other countries such as India, China, and Ireland, although each branch is funded separately and is essentially its own organization. And while VSO UK is only for those older than 25, they do run a special program called the International Citizen Service for 18-25 year olds.
If you’re in the UK and in that age range, definitely check out ICS. You can volunteer in another country for three months with all your expenses paid. That’s an opportunity you really shouldn’t pass up.
Service for the regular VSO, which requires you to be 25-75 years old, lasts two years, but all of the expenses are paid for, including travel to and from the country, and you’re even paid a small stipend. Don’t expect to be rolling in cash, but you’ll have enough to get by. It’s an amazing organization that sends people all over the world and can change lives, both for those you’re helping, and for yourself.
This name is well-known throughout the United States as being the government organization that allows US citizens to volunteer across the world. Entry requirements are strict, however, with 90% of Peace Corps members having at least a bachelor’s degree, and deployments are two years long.
If you qualify, though, you’ll be well taken care of: all your expenses will be paid, you’ll get a decent salary, full health insurance, Federal Perkins loans can be partially cancelled, and you’ll get a $7,425 (before tax) allowance upon returning to readjust. Not to mention all the experience you will gain from working in the Peace Corps for two years.
This organization requires a fair level of expertise in a given field, usually agriculture or business, although they do need volunteers with many different skill sets. Much like how you can volunteer your tech skills to Open Source projects, Winrock allows you to volunteer your other skills to helping those in developing countries.
Assignments for Winrock are shorter, lasting two to six weeks. Funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Winrock is mainly for US citizens and says that opportunities for non-US citizens is limited.
The good news is that everything is paid for: flights, visas, passports, immunizations, housing, and food. If you’ve got years of experience in a particular field and want to use that to help others in developing nations, Winrock is the place to start.
Much like VolunteerMatch, a service for finding volunteer opportunities, Grassroots Volunteering is like a search engine for volunteering. While nearly all the offerings are free (no fees), not all of them supply housing or food, so be sure to check with each specific listing to see how you are compensated.
However, you will find a wide range of opportunities here from official charity organizations that you might not find elsewhere, and you can enter into the volunteering niche that suits you. This is much more orientated towards charitable organizations than farms or individuals, like WWOOF or HelpX.
What you actually do can vary widely. If you have expertise in a certain field, you can help a local business, charity, or non-profit for months or years at a time, like the All Women’s Action Society in Malaysia, or you can just volunteer manual labor for a couple weeks, like with the All Hands Volunteers.
With so many options to choose from, you should really scroll through and see if anything sticks out for you.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does offer up some great opportunities for exploring the world cheaply and making a positive impact as you go.
Have you used any of these services before? Or do you have another favorite volunteer organization? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: Flickr/Sam Howzit