1. Save money on room and board
The most common assistance offered through social projects around the world is the guarantee of a warm bed, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food for free, plus a booming economy provides true contact with the local cuisine. Many restaurants end up serving adaptations of meals that are not the same as a home cooked meal within the daily community.
Other comforts you might find:
- Someone to pick you up at the airport;
- Bikes at your disposal;
- Dance parties and workshops;
- Classes in the local language;
- Free trails and tours;
- Holistic therapies, meditation and yoga groups;
All this and I still thought that doing volunteer work abroad was not for me. After all, the airfare is up to us. I changed my opinion after finding a really cheap flight to Argentina and realized that I could begin my dream with neighboring countries.
My advice is: Activate the alert on Google Flights to receive promotional excerpts in your email. You may be surprised with opportunities in Latin America, like working on a plastic recycling program in paradise on the seaside of Panama.
2. Volunteer work schedules
The shifts proposed by the NGOs registered with Worldpackers are on average 4.5 hours per day and offer a minimum of one free day to explore the city. However, for the majority of options of social impact projects, the volunteers can get the whole weekend off. This makes it possible to plan small trips by hitchhiking or bus to other cities or villages like with these opportunities:
- Help plant some trees with an organization in Nairobi and climb Mount Kenya over the weekend, no biggie, just the second tallest point in all of Africa.
3. Planning your volunteer trip
The trip always starts before takeoff. My first piece of advice is to wait for confirmation from the NGO before buying your tickets. The second is to confirm your position in advance so that your host can answer your questions and easily help you.
4 Months Before:
Why not start watching movies and documentaries about the area you are going, listening to music in the native language and inviting someone that has been to the country before, or has already volunteered, to check out a typical restaurant if there is one in your own city?
This is also the time to browse the Worldpackers site and keep your eyes on organizations that need a lot of help, like the Possible Nepal Orphanage, that needs to rebuild their school destroyed by an earthquake in April of 2015 in Kathmandu.
3 Months Before:
- Research what you want to do in the area around the NGO and what fairs and typical holidays will happen during your stay.
- Access the country’s embassy website to know what customs in your own culture might not be acceptable there.
- Think of how to save money in order to travel worry free. I bring lunch to work, call my friends to drink at home and exchange going to the movies for Netflix. See what’s possible in your own situation, don’t fix what isn’t broken.
2 Months Before:
Buy your plane tickets. It’s not a rule, but 60 days before the flight is when the deals start heating up and the variety of options is still wide. Think too about the tasks that you’ll have to perform. If your idea is to teach soccer to children in Togo, start training now as those little ones have lots of energy.
1 Month Before:
Your stomach drops! The time to pack has come. “Start early so you don’t forget anything” is a good tip, but I have to confess I don’t follow it. For me, the most important thing is to do a final check, always thinking of how to travel lighter.
4. Why do volunteer social work
The reason for your trip exchanging work for accommodation, food and other assistance is very personal. I travel to rebuild my ideas from another experience. Today I listen more to my heart and ask for more help.
When I write about people I’ve met, I try to pass along a little of what I’ve learned through observing and listening. Volunteer work transforms the status of employer and employee into a relationship of exchange. When one part needs the other and help is given, magical things happen.
What’s more, these opportunities for volunteering are going to bring you to places outside the traditional tourist route that you probably never thought of going. By helping different projects I ended up getting to know natives, fishermen, teachers, dancers, refugees and dive into rivers and seas of mind-boggling colors and sensations.
5. Anyone Can
Regardless of your volunteer tasks, the most important thing is to have a willingness to help and be proactive and motivated. To do this, find an NGO that moves you. There is no one better than another.
Do you fight for animal rights?
- Go to Italy. The Agripunk shelter has the perfect opportunity for you. It was founded in 2005 and seeks to rescue animals from large farms. They are vegan and fight for the rights of their friends.
Do you fight for women’s rights?
- Visit the Maasai villages in Tanzania bringing food and teaching workforce skills to teens who have gone through the most different difficulties. Orphans, sexual abuse victims, pregnant women, possible victims of early marriage and female genital mutilation.
6. Develop new skills
The tasks each organization requires can also be the reason for your trip. Regardless of your paid profession or current area of study, you can take advantage of the trip to develop other hobbies and passions.
Who knows how to access their artistic side while helping decorate an ancient Buddhist Zen Monastery more than 1400 years old in China? Jho, an Ecuadorian volunteer that was there in March of 2018, said he was invited to attend a special meditation event that came through during his stay there.
7. Make a difference in the world
Children are the future. Helping them in their development can really make a difference in the adults they will become. You can take care of infants at an Angolan care center that offers dance classes or support students with learning difficulties in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Preserving the traditional culture of a place is also a fight for the rights of the people living there. Dance, music, folklore and other artforms give back to people that live in extreme situations of humanity. The Ghobet Lagee Organization of Belém, is an association created by Palestinian refugees. You can spend some time there giving classes and organizing artistic presentations that aim to give value to the culture.
8. Checklist for your future volunteering
Among the countries mentioned above, Angola, China, Cabo Verde, Guinea, Mozambique, Nepal, Togo, Vietnam, India, Kenya and Tanzania require visas. On some occasions, you might need to ask your host for a “letter of invitation”. Something simple that doesn’t need to give you a headache.
Have you looked at yours? It’s always a good precaution.
It is important. Find the one that best fits your needs and the needs of your wallet.
Many countries require proof of the yellow fever vaccine.
To read more stories of people I’ve met and to know what I’ve learned so far, go to: www.solanomundo.com.br and follow @solanomundo on facebook and instagram!