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Volunteer

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Why not do more than just visit a bunch of old temples and ruins when you travel? It is possible for travellers to improve the lives of people during our trips.

Give

A few ideas are:

  • Take books to drop off at schools in villages you pass through.
  • Rather than bringing back all your clothes, medical supplies and equipment, leave what you can with locals - this also frees up space in your luggage for bringing back other stuff!
  • Support local enterprise.

Consider whether supporting beggars is the best directed form of assistance, or if there is a better organisation to support. If you decide to give something to beggars, consider giving them food.

See also Teaching English.

Volunteer

Volunteering whilst travelling is a great way to 'make a difference' but it's not just about giving. Living and volunteering in a foreign country is a great way to get to know a different culture, meet new people, learn about yourself, get a sense of perspective and even gain new skills.

If you're only on a short trip, take time to visit an orphanage, hospital, etc. Those with more time can contact local NGOs, tourist offices, embassies, etc to inquire about longer term possibilities.

There are several ways to combine travelling and voluntary work:

  • In Europe, young European citizens (legal inhabitants, you need at least a residence permit) can participate in the EVS program ("European Voluntary Service") [1], which allows you to work abroad for 3 months up to a year, funded by the European Union at some kind of charitable organization.
  • If you would like to combine travelling and working on an organic farm, the WWOOF-ing - Willing Workers on Organic Farms [2] - might be something for you. You can be sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, making mud-bricks, harvesting, fencing, building, packing, milking and feeding livestock any of 80 countries.
  • Another organization with opportunities beyond the scope of just organics is HelpX [3].
  • If you want to experience new cultures and ways of life by doing volunteer work exchanges with hosts in different countries, check out Volunteerstays [4].
  • Workaway [5] has a large database of options for those wishing to travel and volunteer in exchange for lodging and food. They have a worldwide selection of hosts from over 100 countries with a wide variety of opportunities including gardening, babysitting, art projects, language learning and animal care.
  • If you would like to work in an international work camp for two weeks as an alternative holiday, contact your national branch of SCI [6].


If you pay US or Canadian income taxes, you may be able to take a charitable deduction for some or all of your trip expenses. The IRS is very strict on which organizations' trips qualify, and if you combine volunteer work with vacation, you will have to prorate the deduction on your airfare.

Various agencies of Western governments send volunteers abroad: the US Peace Corps [7], British VSO [8], Canadian CUSO [9] and so on. These are among the best volunteer jobs. All expenses — immunizations, travel, lodging, etc. — are normally covered and there is support — training, medical insurance, emergency evacuation if needed — and some sort of small salary. When you come back, these organizations look good on a resume. On the other hand, these positions are harder to get and usually require a heavier commitment, typically two years.

As an alternative, or to complement the working holiday, many people have chosen to embark on a volunteering experience. These meaningful experiences allow individuals the chance to give back to the international community, whether this be teaching in underprivileged schools, working with animals in Africa, or helping with community development project. Typically there will be a fee to participate in these programs, and participants are not paid. Most famously, Prince Harry embarked on a volunteering Gap Year in 2004 when he went to South Africa.

There are many organisations offering gap year placements. A few of these are:

  • Frontier Conservation [10] specialises in scientific and conservation projects in locations such as Tanzania, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Fiji and Madagascar.
  • Global Vision International[11] is an award winning volunteer abroad organization running projects all over the world.
  • Gap Year Diver [12], specialists in gap year and career break scuba diving trips. Marine Conservation initiatives, learn to dive, become a Divemaster, teach in local schools, community work, Instructor training, language learning and much more.
  • The Great Projects [13]. Beginning life as the multi award winning 'The Great Orangutan Project', the Great Projects now offers a wide collection of projects, used to showcase working models of animal conservation tourism around the world and promotes the importance of setting standards in endangered animal welfare and conservation in the tourism sector.
  • Yomps[14], Gap year, career break and adventure specialist, from volunteering in Africa to learning to surf in Ecuador, Yomps has it all.
  • Shumba Experience [15] Specialists in conservation and veterinary projects in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.
  • Xtreme Gap [16] The adventure travel and extreme sports gap year company
  • Global Vision International [17], Specialists in gap year expeditions such as marine expeditions in the Indian Ocean and exploration in Patagonia. GVI also has over 150 volunteering projects around the world.
  • Gap Medics [18], Specifically aimed at students looking to go to medical or nursing school - Work experience and volunteer opportunities in The Caribbean, India and Tanzania.
  • Africa & Asia Venture (AV) [19] - a founding member of the Year Out Group [20], offering 5 week to 5 month group volunteer projects in the developing world with 24/7 support throughout.
  • RealGap UK [21] RealGap DE [22], Specialists in gap years, career breaks & adventure travel holidays. RealGap are experts in providing unique & exciting volunteer projects, working holiday programmes & backpacking packages across the world.
  • VentureCo Worldwide [23], specialists in South America Gap Years. Combining language courses, volunteer projects and adventure travel.
  • The Leap [24], a family run British organisation that offers gap year placements in Africa, Asia, South America and Australia.
  • Gap Year Ghana [25], small organisation specializing in volunteer placements in Ghana, West Africa.
  • Raleigh [26] Youth and education charity offering challenging enviromental, community and adventure programmes for 17-75 year olds in Borneo, Costa Rica & Nicaragua and India
  • Projects Abroad [27], Global organiser of overseas voluntary work placements. Projects Abroad runs placements like Teaching, Care, Conservation & Environment, Medicine & Healthcare, Sports, Culture & Community projects and Journalism.
  • EDGE of AFRICA [28], Small organization that offers volunteer and internship placements in Southern Africa. Conservation, community and sports volunteer placements available as well as family and tailor made positions.
  • VAE Kenya [29], a small UK organisation that organises challenging teaching placements in rural Kenyan schools.
  • Skills Venture [30], a new company that runs short sabbaticals for US and UK business professionals, spent providing mentoring and consultancy support to entrepreneurs in Kenya.
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions(CCS) is a non-profit organization that offers 1-12 week volunteer abroad programs in 12 countries, where you work side-by-side with local people, stay in a CCS Home-Base, and learn first-hand about local customs by participating in Cultural & Learning Activities.
  • Praktikawelten [31] offers more than 300 volunteer projects in 17 countries as well as work and travel programs in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.


There are also various organizations that recruit volunteers. These may not cover the major expenses such as airfares and travel insurance. Some charge a fee for placement. A few of these are:

  • Action Volunteer Alliance (AVA)offers affordable volunteer opportunities abroad. [32]
  • AFECT offers volunteering opportunities to assist Burmese refugees in north Thailand [33]
  • Akha Asia has volunteer placements with Tribes and Indiginous Peoples [34]
  • Center for Children in Need (Thailand) offers short and long-term volunteering in a grassroot orphanage for abandoned Burmese children. (http://www.volunteeringthailand.blogspot.com)
  • Ikando Volunteer & Intern in Africa [35]
  • Global Vision International (GVI) has worldwide volunteering opportunities [36]
  • Volunteers and Interns for Balinese Education [37]
  • Year Out Group [38], a British organization promoting gap year volunteering
  • Overseas Working Holidays [39], an Australian organization that offers guaranteed placements in regions such as Africa and India.
  • Thai-Experience [40] specialized in placements in Thailand.
  • Travel to Teach [41] with jobs in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
  • Volunteer Abroad [42] offers volunteer programs in Latin America, Asia, and Africa
  • Mundo Exchange [43] non-profit organization for volunteering in Guatemala and Thailand.
  • Earthwatch [44] lets volunteers work on scientific field research projects all over the world for 1 - 3 weeks.
  • Projects Abroad offers a diverse range of volunteer placements in 26 different developing countries - for students, gap years, grads and qualified professionals from 2 weeks and up. [45]
  • The International Humanity Foundation [[46]] works in Indonesia, Thailand and Kenya and is always looking for volunteers.
  • Intiwawa [47] offers free volunteering in Peru. Opportunities mainly include social and educational projects as well as nutrition and water.
  • Mozvoluteers [48] offers affordable volunteer projects and medical elective placements in South Africa and Mozambique.
  • Mijn Bestemming Peru [49] Dutch organization focusing in volunteering free, internships, work and support to communities all over Peru.
  • Himalayan Park in Panauti, 32 kms from Kathmandu Check this out for more information on out-of-box , flexible & non-conditional volunteering experience.

Germany and Switzerland

  • Go with the Bergwaldprojekt (Mountain Forest Project) (http://www.bergwaldprojekt.ch/) to work in forests in German and Swiss mountains or in Austria, Catalunya or the Ukraine.
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