Volunteering is a great break from the “rigors” of long-term travel, or a nice way to make a commitment while traveling. Sometimes people plan trips specifically for the purpose of volunteering because it presents the opportunity to stay in one place for much longer than you do while backpacking. You’ll learn a lot more about the people, customs, and life cycle of the area you are visiting, and you’ll make stronger social connections than you ever likely would while backpacking.
There are endless voluntourism possibilities out there, and some are much better than others. This is a preliminary and basic list of volunteer abroad programs, but it will be periodically updated and expanded over time.
My Favorite Sites
WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms)
WWOOF-ing is a chance to work abroad on farms in exchange for room and board. You can learn a lot about organic farming and make some great friends while WWOOF-ing. With hosts available in over 53 countries, there’s an opportunity for everyone. For more info check out A First-Timer’s Guide to WWOOF-ing.
For only 22 Euros, you can have 2 year access to Work Away’s impressive list of host contacts throughout the world. The idea is similar to WWOOF-ing, but isn’t limited to agricultural work exchange. You can contact people all around the world looking for help in the tourism business, construction, animal care, sailing, language teaching, and the list really does go on. Work Away’s strength is in its community of good people.
You can browse and contact Ecoteer’s volunteer placements for £15 per year, or get lifetime access for a one-time fee of £25. It’s the same idea as Workaway except you’ll generally be contacting relief and aid organizations rather than private citizens. There are wide number of arenas to work in, including Ecotourism, Conservation, Teaching, Humanitarian, Research, and Organic Farming. They’ve listed many placements, however you won’t find as many opportunities here as Work Away.
Escape the City
With the same kind of volunteer opportunities as Ecoteer, Escape the City makes a cut above the rest by catering to young professionals looking for a break from corporate offices for real travel adventures. It’s even possible to land good-paying jobs on this site. With the same format as LinkedIn, you can create a browse-able profile to advertise yourself to employers looking for people with a certain set of skills. Escape the City is “on a mission to liberate talented people from corporate jobs that don’t excite them.” How couldn’t you get excited for this one?
Other Volunteering Opportunities
Sea Turtle Restoration Project
This is just one organization amongst countless others where you can bide your time to help protect one of the ocean’s coolest creatures, the sea turtle. Most of these organizations are based at nesting beaches and sometimes even look for help for just one night.
Volunteer to help with HF Holidays, whose mission is to help people enjoy the great outdoors. They encourage people to take a break from the rat race, and you too can become a part of it by volunteering as a trip leader.
Appalaichan Trail Conservancy, USA
Help protect and promote the health and vitality of the diverse ecosystems of the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail in east coast region of the United States. Help with trail building and maintenance in return for very basic accommodation and food.
Volunteer at a Kibbutz in Israel
Become a part of a highly social community living off the land in Israel. Experience a different kind of life in Israel and use the time outside of work to explore this controversial country. The site linked to is about an English backpacker’s personal experience at a Kibbutz. He offers a lot of information about going to Israel and what it’s like to live there.
Engineers Without Borders
EWB is an organization interested in promoting development projects all around the world. Their principle goal is to fund and build sustainable projects that help people achieve basic human needs. They collaborate with a number of professionals from a variety of fields including engineering, public health, anthropology and business. If you aren’t a student, it’s possible to become involved as a corporate partner in fundraising and other activities.
I volunteered with EWB while attending university, and traveled to the Ecuadorian Andes to build a water system to bring fresh water to a village for the first time. Read and see more about my experience there in my photo essay from Ecuador.