Budgets are a traveler’s necessary enemy. So helpful, yet so limiting! As much as I appreciate a budget’s ability to keep me on the road longer, I abhor sitting down and actually creating one. Volunteering for free can be an ideal way to extend your stay in one location, delve into local culture, learn about the world around you – and save money at the same time.
And while so many admirable organizations provide unique experiences for a fee, these aren’t your only options. When considering a volunteer placement, always double-check how your fees are being spent. Are those $100s helping the local families you’ll live with, or covering overhead costs in an organization office? Are you paying a middle-man agency to make all the arrangements, or handing your cash directly to folks in need?
If you don’t know, or dislike, the answers to these questions, use the following sites and non-profit organizations to find free and low-cost volunteer options around the globe.
- Volunteer Alliance – Noticing a lack of information about free volunteer opportunities, the founders of VA designed a database that aims to help other like-minded travelers explore their options. You can contact community-based organizations directly, but also ask questions/express concerns with other volunteers, to form an honest opinion about your placement. Unique to VA: ambassadors, or “super volunteers”, represent different regions around the world and offer personal help in their specific locations.
- Se7en – The Social and Environmental Volunteer Exchange Network is a growing online community that links volunteers with organizations, and organizations with volunteers. Search for placements in a particular location or advertise your skills through Se7en’s site. Hosts and volunteers can communicate directly and speak freely about what each is looking for. Emphasis is placed on projects that promote environmental and/or social development.
- The Ethical Volunteer – Utilizing video media, The Ethical Volunteer has “mountains” of footage to draw in volunteers and educate them about the best, most ethical, options for international placements. After watching a film about each opportunity (currently limited to those in Africa), you can organize further details with the intended organization. Unique to TEV: accommodation listings with locally-owned hotels and hostels, further ensuring your money stays within the communities who need it.
- Free Volunteering – This database was also created by an eager volunteer who found the lack of online information disheartening. Now sharing loads of opportunities around the globe, the site allows both volunteers and organizations to add placement listings, so the total number of opportunities is always growing.
- Workaway – A different sort of volunteer opportunity, Workaway promotes an exchange between travelers and over 8,000 registered local hosts. For a few hours work per day – everything from gardening or babysitting to helping build a school – volunteer efforts are rewarded by meals and accommodation. This type of arrangement is especially ideal for people wanting a more flexible experience.
- WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms functions like Workaway, with physical help exchanged for food and accommodation. Since 1971, this organization has placed volunteers with certified organic farmers around the globe. Volunteers are limited to several hours’ work per day, and arrange the duration of their volunteering with each farmer. WWOOF advocates local and organic agricultural, and has had a recognized influence on international consumer policies.
~ Until the next adventure! ~ Kelli