If you’ve run out of exciting vacation ideas and want to try something you’ve never done before, you might want to consider a vacation in the “new experience” category. And, a working volunteer vacation may be just the opportunity to fill the bill.
Many volunteer vacation opportunities offer free travel, free room and board (albeit very basic), the chance to be the guest of some unique foundations and further their cause around the world. You also get the satisfaction of knowing you helped people in need while you’re at it.
According to a recent CNN report, there are thousands of foundations and organizations who can use the help of people who are looking for a unique way to spend vacation time. You can do farming, help build homes and schools, teach English and other skills to natives, assist in healthcare programs, protect wildlife habitats, and much, much more. Some of these organizations charge you a fee to cover operating costs while others operate as a non-profit business. The following 5 organizations have minimal fees (or are free!) in return for your help.
1. Worldwide Opportunities in Organic Farming (WWOOF). As the name implies, you spend 4-6 hours a day assisting in the activities involved with running organic farms. You might help sow seeds, do planting and gardening, cut wood, help with wine, bread, and cheese making. Basically, there’s an opportunity for just about everyone. You’ll work/stay in organic farm set ups around the world where WWOOF has national groups, currently in 53 countries. You can stay a week to years. In return, you’re given food, lodging, and a lot of opportunity to learn about organic lifestyles. Learn more here: http://www.wwoof.net/
2. Turtle Teams Worldwide. There are thousands of these small group organizations that try and keep threatened sea turtles from becoming endangered species. Groups work at 1-2 turtle nesting beaches. You can help for 1 night or as long as you can. These groups can be found around tropical beaches – they’re usually listed on the local tourist office. Find out more: www.seaturtles.org or www.cccturtle.org.
3. Trip Leader, Europe. HF Holidays, a popular walking tour travel group of Europe is always looking for volunteers to help facilitate their walking tours. In return for your help, you’ll be given accommodations and all meals, in addition to the chance to meet people and explore Europe in a fun way. Learn more here: http://www.hfholidays.co.uk/
4. Teach English in the Sudan. One of Africa’s largest and poorest countries, the Sudan Volunteer Program (SVP) welcomes travelers who want to come to the Sudan and teach English to the locals in schools and/or universities. If you’re already a teacher, this is a plus, but you don’t need to be a trained teacher, only a native speaker of English. Age is not a barrier, however, you must be physically fit and healthy. Because organizing classes requires preparation, the SVP would like you to commit to 6 to 9 months. Volunteers also often help with community projects in addition to teaching. You must pay for your airfare, but your food and lodging while there are covered. For more information and considerations: http://www.svp-uk.com/faq
5. United Nations Volunteers Worldwide. As a UN volunteer, you’ll help in implementing healthcare systems around the world, assisting in natural disasters, and a variety of other activities. Usually, volunteers are chosen from experienced professionals in certain areas, but the UN also links to hundreds of international organizations that are also looking for volunteers of a less formal nature. Find out more here http://www.unv.org/
Tips: Always find out as much as possible about an organization you’re interested in volunteering for. The fees that some of these organizations charge also go into further helping their cause and may be deductible as donations on taxes.