Work as a volunteer – why should you pay for it? In this post I will tell you about why it costs and where you can volunteer for free.
When my sister and I traveled to South America, we were always thinking doing a stop somewhere to work as volunteers. We didn’t want to go on any organized volunteer trip by a company, we thought something would turn up on our trip. We tried to google a bit before we were off, but found it very hard to find something. We found “Volunteer South America”, but it it was not easy to get inspired because of all the lined up text links.
Start searching before you head off
We didn’t want to not pay a company to do work for free. We wanted to find an unknown place somewhere we knew we wanted to stay longer. Such an opportunity never turned up, and we didn’t have time to do any research. We were busy planning where we were going the next day, looking for hostels and buses. The few volunteer projects that we came across was when we had already booked our travels elsewhere.
Why pay to work as a volunteer?
There are different ways on how you can do your volunteering. It all depends on what you want to get out of it. Now, after my trip, I got better understanding on why to pay a company to do volunteer work.
Getting paid at such poor places is not possible. There are no resources for expenses such as food, accommodation and transportation. If there had been resources for this they would have hired local staff and they wouldn’t need any volunteers. Therefore, most of the costs of a volunteer trip goes to your own living. You pay for a holiday where you – instead of lying on the beach – choose to be involved in something great for the world and you get an unforgettable experience. In addition, a part of the money goes to the project you work on and you can help them develop and grow. There are a lot of people who send money every month to charity organisations. If you go on a volunteer trip, you can think that you’re putting all those money that you haven’t donated yet, on this volunteer trip instead. Or do both, even better!
Many organizations already receive enough help in physical form, but what they really need is financial support. Schools are struggling with the costs of their daily meals. Most organizations often don’t have the time or resources to handle and place the volunteers themselves. That’s why there are companies doing this for them – and therefore a part of your money will go to them so that they can do their business.
Do you steal the job from the locals when you work as a volunteer?
There’re some people who believe that you outcompete local people when you do your volunteering. Others argue that it will bring new jobs to the locals. They need staff that takes care of you and your living expenses, so a part of what you pay also goes to salaries for staff who otherwise might not have had a job.
3 different ways of how you can work as a volunteer
Go with a company that organizes the entire trip.
+ You will get help with your entire trip
+ It is easy to find a project you’re passionate about
+ You don’t have to think of the flights or any other expenses
– It’s expensive
Find your own project and travel there yourself
+ You can get a completely unique experience where not as many volunteers have already been
+ It’s almost for free
– It can be difficult to find a good place
Work during your backpacking journey
+ You can stay for free and make your travel budget last longer
+ Quite easily accessible
– It is not as exotic and you won’t help the world to be a better place
Go with a company that organizes the entire trip.
I went on an inspirational night with GoXplore the other evening and they made me very tempted to go on a trip. Check out their different programs, you might get ideas on what you want to do on your time as a volunteer. They have a variety of interesting and great projects to choose from, even in places other than those I list below. See all of their programs here.
Work as a volunteer for free – find your own project
If you don’t want to provide the financial support and feel that you can do your voluntary trip on your own, there are various places where it is possible to volunteer for free. You usually have to pay for your living expenses anyway, and the travels of course.
We met a guy from Uruguay during our trip. He worked at Inti Wara Yassi in the jungle of Bolivia near Rurrenabaque where we went on an Amazon tour. He recommends it a lot and he said it was the best experience he had in his life. There was a lot of work, but he liked that. It cost 3 300 Bolivianos a month (when we were there, about 3300 SEK) which included accommodation and food. He worked with cats – most cougars and jaguars.
A workday could look like this:
You get up at 6:45 am and do various chores like cleaning the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and make breakfast until 7 am. Then it’s breakfast at 8 am. Some days you have a machete-morning, where you do chopping, and after that you visit the cats. You walk with the cats, sometimes in the morning, but sometimes all day, depending on which cat you take care of. If your out all day, you will bring lunch and walks until the cat is finished. That is ususally around 5 pm, but sometimes even at 6 pm but not later because of the dark.
- If you are between 17 and 30 years old you can apply for Erasmus and get a contribution to a volunteer trip. Apply here at mucf.se
- SIDA lists organizations with a Swedish connection that you can contact.
- True Travellers Society tips on various projects for free but you must contact the organization on your own.
- Volunteer South America – as I mentioned earlier – lists a lot of different organizations.
- A guy I met in Ecuador has given me some insider information about volunteer organizations in Ecuador. Check out Local Dreamers in Quito, Volunteer Base Camp in Sierra Flor the Norwegian organisation Misjonsalliansen.
Work as a volunteer during your backpacking travel
If you don’t want to stay longer for your volunteer work with children and animals – it usually requires at least two weeks or a month in order to have time to create a bond with the children and the animals – there are other options. With these options, you may not get such an exotic experience, neither you will make the world a better place. However, you can work for free to be able to afford to travel longer.
- Work at the hostel – almost any hostel you end up on need help in the bar, the reception and housekeeping. In exchange you get to stay for free.
- Wwoofing – Willing working on organic farms. You will help different organic farms and receive accommodation and food in return.
- Workaway – here’s a lot of different places that needs assistance in their hostel, cafe etc – in exchange for living expenses. Learn more about how Miss Adventures Abroad spent a month almost for free in Greece by helping paddle SUP here.
One thing is for sure – one day, it will be my turn to do voluntary work.
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The creative optimist. Working as a retouch artist with a passion for photography.