With words like WWOOFING and WWOOFers, you would be forgiven for thinking that you have suddenly entered into the canine world. WWOOF is actually World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organisation that links organic farm managers and volunteers .
In a world of easy travel and attainable freedom, many students, and even adults, are looking for ways to trek across the globe without having to fork out a ton of cash. Combining environmental sustainability and the desire for adventure, WWOOFING seems to be the new it thing.
The WWOOF website publishes a list of organic farms and smallholdings, which allows potential volunteers (WWOOFers) to go through the farms and select the place that interests them most. WWOOFers contact the farmers directly and before you know it, you’ll be jetting off to places like Africa, Latin America or the Middle East.Volunteers don’t get paid but they do get food, accommodation and the opportunity to learn how to live an organic lifestyle. Of course, no amount of money can trump the experiences and memories you’ll make by immersing yourself in a completely different culture. Volunteers usually live with the farming family and are welcomed into their homes. They help the family with tasks and duties for a certain amount of hours that has been agreed upon by both the adventure-seeker and the teacher of organic living.
Mies Heerma is a seasoned traveller having been everywhere from New Zealand to Japan. It was on a Peaceboat in Japan that she first decided to try WWOOFing. At the first port the boat stopped, she registered online as a WWOOFing member. Shortly after the journey on the Peaceboat ended, Mies searched for places that interested her. “I found this place (Asaba Art Square) that sounded perfect to me. I sent Mrs Asaba (the manager) a message and the same day she called and asked if I could come the next day. I did and I loved it."
Mies has had the WWOOFing experience more than once. In New Zealand, she recalls having to cook for more than 25 people, “The place in New Zealand was very dynamic and it was quite an adventure. Everyone really made an effort, so it was great”. Her second WWOOFing adventure was in Japan where she went to more than one farm. “There was a place near Nikko where I felt like I had landed in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. It was remote, but very self-sufficient”, said Heerma when relating her most memorable experiences.
And as for the amount of work she did? Mies says that at some places she worked from 6am until 12pm so she had the whole afternoon off and in other places she was on-call from 8am until 8pm. “I feel like I’ve met the most wonderful people”, she says, “I have made very good friends and I would love to return to every place I visited”.For a peak into the WWOOFing experience, have a look at Mies' video. more blog posts