Explore the unfamiliar. Embrace a different culture. Escape from the everyday routine.
Traveling creates an invaluable opportunity to traverse this vast world. Capitalizing on these opportunities, travelers can partner with various volunteer organizations to deepen their experiences abroad. Most organizations cover the costs of food and lodging for their volunteers at little to no cost. Offered all-year round, these programs can last from as short as a week to as long as a year. With charities around the world actively seeking individuals to help further their missions, travelers can give back to those in need while simultaneously uncovering the beauty of these lands.
1. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
Since 1971, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) has been pairing passionate volunteers with organic farms and growers. This unique experience based purely on trust and non-monetary exchange aims to cultivate a more sustainable global community.
© Peretz Partensky
The first step for volunteers, or WWOOFers, is to determine which host country to visit. With more than 60 countries, including Mongolia, Ukraine and India, WWOOFers will have plenty of options. Individuals can negotiate various terms, such as duration of stay and whether or not children are allowed to come along, with their hosts. Once on the farm, volunteers adopt the lifestyle of their hosts and participate in the daily tasks of managing the crops.
Although costs do vary per trip, WWOOFers can budget for a subscription fee to the organization that can range from $0 to $72. Individuals should also factor in travel and personal expenses.
2. United Nations Volunteers
Formed after World War II, the United Nations (UN) functions as an intergovernmental organization that promotes international cooperation. Its many divisions include the United Nations Volunteers (UNV), an organizational structure that fosters peace and development worldwide through volunteerism.
© USAID U.S. Agency for International Development
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, reduce inequality and transition to clean energy by 2030 were agreed upon by world leaders in 2015. Representing a commitment to humanity and the entire planet, the SDGs have become the primary focus of UNV.
After submitting the necessary forms online, applicants can expect to be deployed within four to six weeks of initial contact with a UNV representative. While they do specify countries and projects of interest, they are assigned stations based on their skills and requirements of projects. Based on six to twelve month renewable contracts, volunteer deployments do receive a monthly allowance, annual leave and medical insurance.
3. Sudan Volunteer Program
While Sudanese youth have more than eight years of English training, they lack the necessary oral communication skills needed for job opportunities that could improve their standards of living. The Sudan Volunteer Program (SVP), a United Kingdom based charity, seeks to bridge this gap by employing individuals to teach English at institutions of higher education.
© Sudan Volunteer Program
Partnered with at least one other volunteer, SVP participants can teach either in open discussions or more structured English classes. Labeled as extracurricular at the institutions, volunteers are instructed to craft their own lesson plans and utilize any available resources. Contracted to work anywhere from 20 to 25 hours per week, volunteers divide their time between the classroom and interacting with students and colleagues.
Committing to a minimum of six months in Sudan, volunteers must arrange their own transportation and complete background checks prior arriving at their placement sites. While there is no application fee for SVP, individuals are asked to pay $85 for an insurance plan that will cover them throughout their time in Sudan. SVP provides accommodation, as well as a stipend equivalent to the local salary of a teaching assistant.
4. HF Holidays
For more than 100 years, HF Holidays (HFH) has been instrumental in creating memories for its guests on their guided walking and activity tours throughout Europe. On average, HFH welcomes more than 60,000 guests per year across 60 destinations. The team at HFH is always looking to expand, recruiting enthusiastic volunteers willing to sharing their passion for traveling with others.
© Christine McIntosh
As an HFH leader, volunteers would be responsible for leading guests on full day walks and collaborating with team members to plan evening activities. HFH leaders must make a minimum commitment of three weeks within a two-year rolling period. In return, the volunteers are provided cozy accommodations. In addition to weekly allowances, HFH also covers travel expenses and offers different types of training opportunities.
Once their application is approved by HFH, individuals will be invited to a residential guidelines assessment. During the four-day trial period, potential leaders must demonstrate their navigation and group leadership skills on small walking tours. Experienced HFH leaders will also be on-site, assessing applicants’ skills and gauging whether they can effectively manage a group.
5. International Volunteer HQ
It’s one of the leading volunteer travel companies in the world, deploying more than 60,000 individuals across 30 countries since 2007. International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) is committed to providing affordable, safe and quality travel experiences to its volunteers. IVHQ is a cultural exchange wherein volunteers introduce a set of skills to their host communities, and return home with life lessons.
Priding itself on its affordable travel opportunities, IVHQ requires volunteers to pay a registration and program fee. The duration of the volunteer program determines the program fee, which covers 24/7 support in the host country, airport transfer, accommodation and meals. The $299 registration fee encompasses support from experts, online training and IVHQ alumni membership. Other costs excluded from these fees include visas, flight, vaccinations and personal expenses.
With more than 150 projects worldwide, including opportunities to teach music and the arts, lead after-school sports programs and work with local NGOs, volunteers are certain to find something that aligns with their interests. Projects options do vary per country yet the rewarding experience is the same everywhere, whether that is in Fiji, Sri Lanka or Vietnam.
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Cover photo © IVHQ