There are many ways to immerse yourself in other cultures but for me, the most effective thus far, has been volunteering. My first solo trip was a volunteer experience and I think volunteering around the world is one of the best ways to begin a solo traveling journey.
When you find the right organization to volunteer with, I believe the experience will change your life for the better.
It can be overwhelming trying to find an ethically, non- “voluntourism” company to be of service for. When I first looked for a company, I couldn’t believe just how many out there wanted me to pay thousands of dollars, flight not included, to volunteer.
It can be confusing trying to understand the fees and the true ethics behind certain companies. That is why I comprised this list to help get you started.
As I mentioned earlier my first solo trip was a volunteering experience. I traveled to Puerto Rico to help with Hurricane Maria disaster relief efforts. The company I worked with was All Hands and Hearts. They focus on the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. You’ll be confidant to know that 96 cents of every dollar collected goes directly to the programming.
I loved my experience so much that I decided to participate in the St. John, US Virgin Islands disaster relief efforts, where I ended up staying for over a month!
They have many different programs established around the world that are always changing and evolving based on the needs of the global community.
If you don’t have any skills in construction or disaster relief don’t worry, because you will gain the knowledge from the program leaders when you arrive.
Submit the application and the only thing you will have to pay for is the flight ticket. Room and meals are free. I would just suggest bringing extra spending money for the weekends.
They are a wonderful organization that provides individuals with the opportunity to connect with organic farms around the world. They have been connecting volunteers with organic farming families for 50 years, in 132 countries around the globe.
The first step is to join a WWOOF organization in your country of origin and apply for the yearly membership- $40 for an individual and $65 for a couple. The membership allows you to gain full access to the directory of host farms, read reviews and make an online profile.
I think the price is a bargain considering other organizations want to charge you thousands for just one volunteer trip. With WWOOF you can spend an entire year helping with agriculture on different farms around the world for much less.
All host families have different requirements and expectations but accommodation and food can be given in exchange for a set number of hours of working on the farm.
A concept similar to WWOOF, Work A Way connects volunteers with host families. They pride themselves in being a cultural trad-off- you offer a few hours of help in exchange for a place to stay and food to eat.
A yearly membership is $44 (single) or $56 (couple). This allows you to connect with over 44,000 host families in over 170 countries you’ll receive 24hr support, as well as an online group to connect with other travelers.
The work you will find can range from farming, to construction, teaching, or even odd jobs like beekeeping.
Remember that at the end of the day it’s important to do research and support organizations that ethically develop communities and ecosystems. You can find the truly honest non-profits by learning more about the core problems facing the communities and how they are impacted once western ideas and volunteers impact the area.
After you find an organization you should ask questions before you commit.
· If there are fees figure out what percentage is going back into the community or projects.
· What is the exact job that you will be doing once in the country and what is the level of support you will be given when serving?
· Find out if the organization sticks around till the end or if they leave when development is halfway done.
I am a big advocate for giving service to others, whether it be abroad or in your home country, giving back to a community hands on, is worth more than any about of money. Yes, money makes the world go around and is necessary for supplies, but actually building relationships and being present with other souls, is something money can never buy.
I’ve shown you three examples of ethical companies to volunteer with but now it’s up to you to do your research, ask questions then book the flight!
Whichever project you choose to participate in I am confidant you will gain a new found appreciation for others and new found love for life.
Serving others has helped me find a clearer direction for my life and I will continue to spread love by giving back to communities whenever I can.