We live in an ambiguous world. We have the technology to reach almost every corner of the world, but sometimes we lack the desire to help the people on our doorstep. Charlie Chaplin once said, “more than machinery we need humanity”. Well, what if we could combine the two? With a little bit of motivation and bravery, we most certainly can. There are areas all over the globe that are crying out for assistance - children who need love and protection, animals who don’t have the means to escape their daily cruelty, and the environment, which supports our life on Earth, but is being destroyed. You can help. And while you’re helping, you can travel, explore, meet people, experience life and do things you’ve never thought of attempting.
You may have been put off by the fees you’re required to pay to volunteer abroad - that’s why this month we set out with the specific purpose to find organisations where you don’t have to fork out half your savings for a four week volunteering experience. And if just one person is inspired enough to contact an organisation and volunteer, then Charlie Chaplin is right; the cause behind the invention of the aeroplane, of the radio and the internet, cries out for universal brotherhood - for the unity of us all.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela
Our education is one of the most important gifts we receive in life. Getting the opportunity to go abroad and give back to a community or population in need is not only a way of spreading this gift, but it also enriches your own educated mind. When you travel and interact with people in a classroom environment, you end up learning just as much yourself.
Wahoe Education Inc. - India
"Our joint vision with Wahoe Sewa Sangathan is to provide each child who attends the school and each woman involved in the empowerment project, with the life skills and education necessary to develop their potential." - Wahoe Education Inc.
Wahoe Education Inc. is a labour of love shared between a small and passionate team. This New Delhi based nonprofit focuses its efforts on empowering women and children through education. The ultimate goal is to attack poverty by giving communities the tools they need to regain control of their financial and social well-being. With over 400 million people estimated to be living below the breadline in India, it’s no small undertaking, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
It will cost you less than £10 per day, and this includes all your food and lodging
The organisation was founded by Sonu Kaur, a teacher and social worker originally from Nepal, who has done a momentous job of expanding her vision across a number of platforms and areas in the northern reaches of India. She heads up the main school at the Wahoe Commune in Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi, where over a hundred children attend classes daily. Over the last few years the school has extended its grounds and now offers classes in all major subjects, including English, Mathematics, Art and Computer Science (thanks to a generous donation). Volunteers are welcome to assist with teaching or general maintenance and this will cost you less than a tenner a day. It’s projects like this that put so many unnecessarily expensive ‘voluntourism’ packages to shame.
In addition to the main school, there’s a school in the slum area of Baljeet Nagar, which caters to around thirty children, as well as a Women’s Empowerment program in Jaipur. Further afield, there is a village school, another women’s empowerment program and several conservation initiatives just outside of beautiful Shimla, on the foothills of the Himalayas. Again, voluteering at any of these will cost you less than ten Great British Pounds per day, and this includes all your food and lodging.
For more details about volunteering or university internship opportunities, how to donate or get involved, and a long list of heart-warming testimonials, log on to www.wahoeeducation.org
Soft Power Education - Uganda
Soft Power Education, or SPE, is a British charity/Ugandan NGO based in Jinja, that supports the Ugandan government’s efforts to achieve UNICEF’s Millennium Development Goal for the Primary Education Sector - which is to ensure that all children are enrolled in primary education by 2015. The organisation was established in 1999 and has accomplished some amazing things in fourteen short years. At the top of this list is the foundation of the Amagezi Education Center, AEC, an educational facility that functions as a gathering place for different schools, adults and learners who want to use the resources and facilities available there - including a library, ICT Centre and the Edowoza Arts Centre. In this way, the organisation acts as a support structure for existing schools in Uganda that face a number of problems, which are common to countries with an excess of children wanting to learn and limited funds. The goal of the centre, as stated by SPE is "to enhance the knowledge of life skills through fun, creative, innovative and hands-on education". Today the AEC partners with 26 different schools and hosts a variety of learning and community development programs.
There are two things that really stand out about the work of SPE. The first being that it isn’t limiting its efforts to children in need of an education. The doors of the Amagezi Education Centre are open to adults, and people with special needs and mental or learning disabilities. People who have high-functioning conditions, like those on the autism spectrum or Cerebral Palsy for example, struggle for adequate learning support in the most developed countries in the world, so to be making a start in Uganda is progressive step in right direction.
The second is the price of volunteering. They’re not asking for much: £75 per week or once-off donation if you come along for the day. This really gives travellers an opportunity to do some personal fund raising of their own before departure. For some fundraising ideas and contact details for potential volunteers, please check out: www.softpowereducation.com/
The Arajuno Road Project - Ecuador
The Arajuno Road Project (pronounced aara-hu-no) offers a low-cost opportunity to experience life in the Amazon Jungle while teaching local children and working on community development projects. Laura Hepting, the Director of the Arajuno Road Project, says that the project aims at “striking a balance between assisting with education and sustainable development - which is an oxymoron, I know," she jokes about the latter.
"The project has been around since 2008, and it relies heavily on outside funding, so it’s a good sign that it’s been able to go for that long. With the school program we offer English classes to the kids as well as volunteer interactions, art exchanges and correspondence. Sometimes we’ll include the kids on a Skype call with the video - they love that. But this is also countered with sustainable development projects in the rural parts of the community, where we’re aiming not just to help out, but to help the local communities create their own opportunities."
Experience life in the Amazon Jungle
The main house where volunteers stay is in Puyo, a chilled jungle town with a lively atmosphere. While there might be electricity, internet access and a few pubs to crawl on nights off, it’s not overly built up and you’ll certainly be working in rustic areas nearby. There’s a wide mix of people from all around the world, so while you’re all involved with teaching the children you’ll be learning from your peers, too. There is only room for eight volunteers at a time, so it’s quite competitive . There is also a two week minimum stay, but the rates are very, very reasonable. If you look on www.amazonvolunteerecuador.com/ you’ll full contact details for volunteers.
Calabash Tours - South Africa
Calabash Tours is based in Nelson Mandela Bay (formerly Port Elizabeth), the largest city in the Eastern Cape. This is a locally-owned, locally-run organisation that operates a number of tours, activities and volunteer programs along the famously picturesque Garden Route. While I’ve mentioned that utilising tour companies can be problematic, Calabash Tours certainly do put the communities they serve first and ensure that your money goes into the right hands. The organisation offers three volunteer projects, based on local and national needs.
The first project is the HIV Community Support: Emmanuel Advice and Care Centre. HIV/AIDS is a very difficult reality that too many people around South Africa face, without the right resources and support structures. This incredible community project provides health care, nutritional advice, counselling and support networks to people with HIV and their families. There’s a big demand for social workers as well as volunteers with medical training, life skills and development, and administrative experience, but really anybody with the right mindset and attitude is welcome.
The School Support and Advancement Program caters to seven township schools where kids between ages four and thirteen are in need of teachers, supplies and support staff. You’ll be involved with giving lessons, running after-school programs, providing nutritional lessons and just spending time with the kids. In some areas the teacher/student ratio is as bad as 50:1, which makes it as difficult for the children as it does the teachers. There is a four week minimum commitment to assisting with schools, but the rate is very reasonable and you’ll be staying in the best part of the country - although this is my hometown, so I’ll admit to be biased.
The Pre-School Support And Advancement Program involves working with kids younger than seven who are from extremely poor homes or orphanages. Volunteers are invited to help teachers and assistant with primary learning strategies, after-school care and nutritional programs with the parents. For full details about Calabash Tours and how to get involved, check out www.calabashtours.co.za
By Clayton TruscottBack to top
I remember when I was seven years old, my mom was really busy with a project. “It will help the community”, she said. I never understood how adults coming to our house every Saturday morning sitting on the grass outside could help the community, but I dutifully kept my brother occupied and out of the way whenever they were there. It was after one of these Saturday morning lessons that my mother explained that she was teaching them. We sat there stunned, two children unable to fathom why people older than us couldn’t read or write. Whenever I hear about community development, that’s the memory that comes up.
These days, there are so many more organisations dedicated to this cause and so many more people willing to give up their time to help it along. Community development touches on all areas of volunteering - from education to conservation - and in some way we can all play a part.
Le Puy Batard - France
Puy Batard is volunteering with a difference. Set in the tranquil countryside of Creuse in France, this organisation is a place of comfort for physically and mentally handicapped people. The nonprofit organisation has a specially adapted French holiday home that has been moulded to the needs of handicapped people, making it easier for them to get around. They have been operating since 1977 and have a history of providing both volunteers and handicapped people with an insightful experience.
Their holidays run from mid-June to the end of July and over the Christmas Holidays. The work is relatively simple and all volunteers share the cooking, care of the guests, leisure outings and excursions. You are required to stay for at least one week, but many people choose to stay longer as the experience is mutually beneficial. Not only is it a good opportunity to improve your French language skills, but you’re also able to meet other volunteers from all over the world. The volunteer opportunity is free as food and accommodation are paid for by the organisation, the only thing that you need to worry about is getting there.
For more information you can visit www.puy-batard.org
Smile Society - India
Smile is an international volunteering organisation set in Kolkata and other parts of India. Their volunteering opportunities extend to a range of activities including construction help, field assistance, office work, food preparation and distribution and community development. It also includes soccer, yoga and dance training so it seems you’ll sooner see this as a fun adventure than doing actual work.
One of the Community Development Projects that Smile is involved with and which urgently needs volunteers is the Tea Estate Workers Project in the mountain area near Darjeeling. There are about 200 children who have no access to basic education, food and shelter. At times, families depend on the meat from snakes and rats as a source of nutrition. Smile aims to start non-formal schools, housing projects and gardening projects designed to educate, shelter and feed the families living in the beautifully tranquil area surrounding the mountains. The tea estate workers spend long hours away from home and don’t have enough time to spend teaching their children.
You’ll be given the chance to immerse yourself in a totally different environment
This is where the volunteer work comes in. Instead of simply teaching subjects, volunteers will help with vocational training and help with specific skills. As a volunteer you will also help to create ways for the community to be self-sustainable through vegetation projects. And lastly, for those people with a little knowledge of construction and a lot of enthusiasm, you’ll be able to help build basic shelter for the families so that they will at least have a roof over their head.
Accommodation and food is paid for, you only have to sort out your flight. Smile will help with a visa or any other paperwork that you may need to get there. The Tea Workers Project won’t be an easy task, you’ll be helping with the community development from scratch and you’ll be given the chance to immerse yourself in a totally different environment. The rewards, however, will be well worth it.
Fundacion Coagro Ecuador - Ecuador
Fundacion Coagro Ecuador’s volunteering experience allows you to get the unique opportunity to work closely with locals, even living and eating with a host family. The people of San Pablito de Agualongo and other nearby communities open their doors to welcome volunteers each year. Volunteers work in the provinces of Pichincha and Imbabura and activities involve improving the organisation and management of various projects that Coagro is currently undertaking, helping to remove alien vegetation and plant fruit and vegetable gardens aiding the community to develop methods of self-sustainability. In addition, assistance with the supporting and monitoring of community micro-finance is needed as part of the Development of Local Economy Project.
One of the requirements for the Development of Local Economy Project is that volunteers have to be 21 years old when they start volunteering, have a basic level of Spanish and make a commitment of at least one month. Other projects include the Agricultural Project where volunteers live and work on a traditional Andean Ecuadorian farm, helping with different chores in the field, and the Community Tourism Project where volunteers work in the community to organise a viable tourism proposal for the community and its environment.
CARD - India
CARD (Community Action for Rural Development) was founded in 1982 in a bid to improve the living conditions of citizens in India. One of their biggest projects is the treatment and rehabilitation centre for drug addicts in Samathuvapuram, Pudukkottai District. Addicts are given counselling, yoga and medical treatment for three weeks to a month at no cost. To date, over 2000 patients have been treated and an additional section was added to the treatment centre. There are also separate cottages for patients and their families who wish to receive counselling, as well as re-educative cottages for patients to re-adjust to society, although patients are required to pay for this. CARD is looking for volunteers from a range of backgrounds - from medical to social work, education and even people with no experience, but a willingness to help.
Their other projects include the Women’s Hostel Project where they host a hostel for homeless and abused women. Through fundraising they are able to provide a warm bed and food to those women while helping them search for jobs and a more permanent place to live. And to assist children specifically, the Poor Children’s Project provides children with school uniforms, books and hygiene products bought with the help of fundraising initiatives set up by volunteers.
For more information visit www.cardtn.org.in
Rainbow Dreams Trust - South Africa
Rainbow Dreams Trust is more than just a volunteer organisation - it’s an extended family. When founder Dannie Kagan emigrated to South Africa from the UK, she was struck by the poor living conditions of underprivileged children throughout Cape Town. Believing that every child deserves to have their dreams come true, she established the Rainbow Dreams Trust - dedicated to supporting and protecting disadvantaged youth living in Cape Town's poorest communities.
Their work involves hosting and operating township Youth Clubs and Youth Camps for anyone who lives in a disadvantaged home or is faced with daily struggles of illness or disability. The Dream Catcher Project is especially significant because it brings people’s greatest dreams to life - from staging a wedding for a terminally ill cancer patient, to helping a young, blind learner live their dream of getting an education.
You don’t need any special skills to be a volunteer, just compassion and enthusiasm. From Homework Helpers and Camp Buddies to Barbecue Masters and Inspirational Speakers, there is place for anyone to get involved. Volunteers organise their own board and lodging (although Dannie can always steer you in the right direction) and since the head office is in the central area of Hout Bay, you’ll be spending your time in one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa, and playing a very real role in these children’s futures.
Amanecer English - Bolivia
When unemployed miners started moving to the city in an attempt to find work, their basic living conditions on the edge of the city affected their children the most. With high rates of alcoholism and domestic abuse, children were subjected to atrocious treatment. At a loss for what to do, many of these children decided to run away, despite having nowhere to go. In an attempt to provide a safe haven for these children, the Sisters of Charity of St.Vincent de Paul started Amanecer, meaning dawn. The core aim of the initiative is to advocate the protection and defense of the basic rights of children who live on the streets.
Volunteers help with academic education as many of the children in the programme lack basic education and fundamental learning steps. They are often unprepared to deal with the pace of a normal class due to their circumstances so Amanecer creates dedicated classrooms focussing on the specific needs of the children. In addition, free medical and dental services are offered.
Anyone who loves children will be an asset to the organisation
Perhaps the most difficult, but rewarding work is the Street Work Project. Twice a week volunteers go to the worst parts of the city with food and hot milk to feed the street children. Even though Amanecer does its best to feed all the children, at times there is not enough food and perhaps the hardest part is leaving the young children behind. It is because of the nature of this work that volunteers are required to be over the age of 21 and willing to work in the programme for at least six months. A basic knowledge of Spanish is quite important, but the language can be picked up and learnt during your time as a volunteer. Although experience in education, childcare, psychology and health care are preferred, Amanecer believes that anyone who loves children will be an asset to the organisation, as the programme is quite diverse and most skill types can be accommodated. Unfortunately, Amanecer cannot help with travel expenses, but volunteers who stay for the six months will receive board and lodging.
Sports For Development - Colombia
Sports for Development is an organisation that goes a little further than handing out food and providing shelter for the homeless. Many of the children in Santa Marta see crime as the only way out of their poor living conditions, and this is where the organisation steps in. At the beginning of the volunteering year, the organisations starts coaching volleyball, hockey, football, rugby and cricket to street children. They hold matches every Saturday and towards the end of the season, the organisation hosts a sports tournament. During this time the benefits of their weekly practice sessions become more apparent - the children are able to work better in a team, they recognise the value of hard work and develop a far more positive outlook on life.
Volunteers are responsible for running weekly sports and physical education programmes which involves coaching and games. All of this is preparation for the monthly sporting tournament. The actual hours are very reasonable with volunteers only having to work three to four days per week for about two to four hours. However, if you’ve travelled all the way to Santa Marta for this, then you’ll probably want to spend some more time getting involved. Sports for Development has local partner organisations that are always in need of assistance so there is plenty to do.
Volunteers need to be at least 18 and because you work so closely with the children, you are required to commit yourself to the programme for a minimum of three months. Sports for Development makes use of every penny donated so there is unfortunately no accommodation or food offered within the programme. However, you will be assisted with looking for cheap accommodation and once you meet the other volunteers, you’re sure to work out affordable ways to eat in groups.
Sun Shade Foundation - Ghana
Sun Shade Foundation is an organisation that works slightly differently to your average volunteer agency. By providing small loans to citizens in and around Kumasi, Ghana, Sun Shade Foundation has aided in raising the standards of living and providing locals with the means to support themselves. Sun Shade Foundation’s core project is helping hard-working, but poor families and individuals - especially women - to start and grow their own business. These businesses are based in the informal sector of the Ghanaian economy and include small enterprises, such as baking, small garden farming, shoe making, hairdressing and many more other unique initiatives.
Helping business owners gain confidence in their ideas and expand their prospects
Sun Shade not only provides financial support, but also business training, helping business owners to gain confidence in their ideas and expand their prospects. With this expansion comes an increase in profit, the opportunity to reinvest into their business and being able to afford better nutritional foods and quality health care and education.
The volunteer opportunities cover every avenue - from planning, presenting and executing new projects to helping the executive director with strategic and operational initiatives put in place to expand the foundation. If you prefer more hands on volunteering and starting your work at the grassroots level then you should consider getting involved with their projects on education, working with children, protecting the environment and even helping with life coaching if you have experience in the counselling field. The cost of travelling, food and accommodation is up to the volunteer, but Sun Shade will put you in contact with a guesthouse that offers deals to volunteers. They also offer assistance with visa applications to Ghana.
For more information visit www.sunshadefoundation.org
By Caelyn WoolwardBack to top
The origins of the Conservation Movement are relatively unknown. While some say it dates back to the 16th century, research suggests that the cause really gained momentum in the 1920s. By the 1960s it was a fully-fledged environmental, social and political awareness movement. The Conservation Movement is more than just protecting and preserving our natural resources - the core aim is to ensure that these resources are able to adequately provide for various communities. By combining humanitarianism and environmental protection, the movement implements strategies to make communities self-sustainable in a way that will be beneficial to both the environment and the people who occupy it. Today, there are hundreds of volunteer organisations across the world whose dedication and hard-work have helped build entire communities and preserve animal and plant species.
Eco Trancoso - Brazil
EcoTrancoso aims to promote sustainable development through eco-tourism, eco-training, eco-camping, eco-studies and eco-volunteering. There are three branches under their eco-volunteering drive: organic agriculture, eco-construction and theoretical knowledge. Volunteers will help with land rehabilitation, permaculture (the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable) and eco-construction projects in Bahia on the east coast of Brazil.
As a volunteer you will be helping to set up an organic vegetable production to make the eco-centre self-sufficient and ensure a low carbon footprint in lodging houses. You will also be assisting with strategic landscape design and earth shaping, infrastructure setup and building hedges, swells, mounds and pits in a bid to ensure that the area is suitable for using multiple crops in the same space in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems. You will be working closely with the community to make sure that they are able to become self-sufficient and this means that you will also participate in the life of the community - from vegetarian cooking to cultural events.
Explore the beautiful coast of Brazil
Volunteers don’t need specific agricultural and permaculture knowledge, but it would be helpful. You have to be 18 years or older and be proactive and responsible. You are required to stay for at least two to three months. For under £2 you are given lodging (which could range from individual bedrooms to camping tents) and vegetarian meals. There is electricity, showers, bathrooms and internet connection on site. Other travel expenses have to be handled by the volunteer. Oh, did we mention that you are only required to work for four hours per day? That means you get the rest of the day and the weekends to explore the beautiful coast of Brazil.
Lost and Found Lodge - Panama
With more than 30 acres of rainforests at their feet, the Lost and Found Lodge is responsible for the conservation and preservation of the land. To help aid the community in being self-sufficient and making the land suitable for tourists, they look for volunteers throughout the year.
Volunteers contribute both their creative energy and interests in agriculture. You will be required to help out with expanding trails by removing alien or harmful vegetation to make way for walking paths and as well as space for the indigenous trees that you’ll help plant. Panama is ranked fourth in Latin America in the Human Development Index, so while it is on it’s way to becoming a thriving nation, there is still a lot that can be done to push the country forward. The answer lies in their ample vegetation and rainforests. By ensuring that these areas are protected, we can reduce further environmental harm and this will lead to a community that relies on their own natural resources rather than having to buy from external sources. The aim is to make sure that these resources are extracted in a way that helps the environment instead of contributing to the damage. The first three days are filled with volunteer training and for that you pay about £10 per night. Once the volunteering work starts, the Lost and Found Lodge provides you with a dorm bed. You will need to sort out your own food, but if you buy this locally it shouldn’t cost more than £1 or £2 per day. The work in the rainforests won’t be easy, but you’ll have plenty of time to rest and explore.
For more information visit www.lostandfoundlodge.com
WWOOF - Bangladesh
WWOOFing has become a popular way to engage in volunteer travel with almost every country participating in some way. Our focus this time is on Bangladesh, mainly because unlike other WWOOFing initiatives WWOOF Bangladesh focuses on conservation and development rather than simply agriculture.
WWOOFing centres around the sharing of knowledge through volunteer work. Organic farmers share information and techniques with volunteers, who in turn share their knowledge about parts of their world. The aim is to establish organic farming worldwide to enable sustainable agriculture - providing for communities in a way that won’t deplete resources for future generations.
Sadly, Bangladesh is far too often dismissed as a nation with no hope. With the help of its determined citizens however, the country has slowly started climbing up the ladder to join the global community in the fight against poverty and environmental harm. In addition to banning plastic bags, they’ve also established national parks and they are attempting to do what many other countries deem impossible - banning petrol and diesel vehicles from all major transportation routes. Most of the population in Bangladesh is involved with agricultural farming so there is more than enough opportunity for volunteers. In return for your help on organic farms, gardens and homesteads, you receive meals and accommodation.
Conservation Volunteers - Australia
To be a conservation volunteer, it’s quite important for you to love the outdoors. Especially if you choose to volunteer in Australia. An interest in the environment is also really important, after all, you’ll be spending most of your day surrounded by nature. Conservation Volunteers accepts students, professionals and retirees - basically anyone who is relatively healthy and fit.
You can volunteer for just a few days or, if you’re an international volunteer, you can stay for a longer period. Most people choose to stay for about four weeks. Volunteers can choose to stay in Australia or New Zealand (25 locations in Australia and 2 in New Zealand). For about £30 per day you are provided with meals - everyone helps to cook and clean - as well as accommodation, which can range from hostels to caravans and tents. Project-related travel, an Australian wildlife guide and a membership to CVA are also included. You’ll be helping with tree planting, walking trail constructions, wildlife surveys, seed collection and heritage restoration.
For more information, visit www.conservationvolunteers.com.au
Appalachian Trail - USA
The Appalachian Trail extends from the Springer Mountain in Georgia all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trails runs through multiple states and the majority of it is wilderness - although some portions cross roads, rivers and towns. Because of this, volunteers can work with the organisation in virtually any state of the USA.
Volunteers help with all aspects - from basic maintenance to building shelters and new sections of the trail. Volunteers ensure that the trail and surrounding area is protected, monitor and remove invasive species and participate in local, regional and trail-wide management efforts. Volunteers are required to source their own accommodation and food, but once you get involved with the organisation they’ll be able to arrange accommodation at a reduced price. As for food, if you band together with other volunteers, purchasing food in bulk will help save a lot of money.
By volunteering you also get access to all the walking, hiking and cycling routes and for about £20 you can become a member, getting you access to all the latest trail news. Most volunteers come from the area so their volunteering period is indefinite. International volunteers usually stay for about one or two months and spend a lot of their time exploring hidden treasures of the trail. The volunteer work on the Appalachian Trail isn’t as hard as the other volunteering opportunities on our list, but it does require commitment and dedication.
For more information, visit www.appalachiantrail.org
Kibbutz Volunteering - Israel
Similar to WOOFFing, volunteering on a kibbutz has become a bit of a phenomenon. For an insider view of volunteering on a kibbutz, we spoke to someone who has experienced it all. John Carson was working for a stockbroking firm when he realised that he wanted to leave the corporate life behind and leap into the world of travel.
John describes the process as quite simple. He went to an agency, handed over a small fee (which covered his placement) and a letter stating that he was in good health. He arranged his flight to Tel Aviv and went to the agency there who then placed him in a kibbutz, based on space and availability. His accommodation was covered by his daily work on the kibbutz.
He had his own tractor and scooter to drive around, and really, who wouldn’t want that?
Volunteering in this field is no child’s play - it requires really hard work. While some people work in factories, others work out in the fields - planting, picking and harvesting. You work about six to eight hours a day and sometimes overtime or at night during the harvesting period. John’s favourite job was maintaining the kibbutz gardens because he had his own time and he could actually see the fruits of his labour. Also, he had his own tractor and scooter to drive around, and really, who wouldn’t want that?
Some kibbutzim take volunteers on a trip every three months. John’s group visited Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Eilat and he even took a few days off to explore Egypt and Sinai. Working on a kibbutz involves more than just giving your time. It requires dedication and perseverance. The living conditions won’t be the most ideal, the weather won’t always be what you want, but as John says, “you will make memories of people, places and experiences [that] last forever”. John's blog Kibbutz Volunteer provides a wealth of information regarding his experiences and how to get started on making your own Kibbutz memories.
For more information visit www.kibbutz.org.il
Cambodian Conservation Centre - Cambodia
The rise in tourism on the stunning Cambodian coastline, and especially the island of Koh Rong, has had both positive and negative effects. When the tourism industry booms, more funds come in to support the local communities. Unfortunately, the environment bears the weight of this increase in visitors. In a bid to preserve the natural resources of Cambodia’s tropical islands, the Cambodian Conservation Centre “promotes environmental awareness and education through sustainable economic development”. With excessive pollution of their beaches, exploitation of natural marine, animal and forestry resources and poor waste management, Cambodia is in desperate need of volunteers to help curb the conservation crises.
Once you see how much you can help, you’ll never want to leave
While their primary focus is on conservation, the organisation does not limit itself or its volunteers to simply protecting nature. They also branch out into health care, waste management, agriculture, education and cultural awareness. Koh Rong in particular is hit by the lack of infrastructure and the Cambodian Conservation Centre is in the process of implementing a number of projects designed to make the island self-sustainable.
With so many big projects under their belt, the organisation always needs volunteers to help out. Volunteers are encouraged to stay for at least a month in order to make a valuable contribution to the work. Although you don’t pay the organisation for your placement, you are required to give about £10 per day, which will cover your meals and accommodation. The work on Koh Rong won’t be easy - you’ll be helping to develop the community while protecting their natural environment - building the island from the ground up. But once you see how much you can help, you’ll never want to leave.
By Caelyn WoolwardBack to top
Working at a wildlife-based organisation is an opportunity to get close to the friends you only make watching Animal Planet. You don’t need to feel intimidated about wanting to work at an animal or wildlife facility if you’re not in veterinary school or you’ve never worked with animals before - there’s a greater need for people with the right attitude than there is for specialised professionals. That said, if you are a trained professional or you’re thinking about starting a career in animal care, you’ll be helping your own career as much as you will be assisting the organisation abroad.
Save The Wild Chinchillas - Chile
Chinchilla's look like stuffed toys running across the rugged Chilean Andes - unfortunately it’s their soft exterior that has landed them on the endangered species list. Since 1996, Save The Wild Chinchillas has been working to preserve their natural habitat (they are an indigenous species to South America) and rejuvenate their numbers.
The fur industry was brutal at the turn of the century, when it came to making clothing out of these cute animals - you only get a tiny pelt per chinchilla, so you can imagine how many of them are killed to make a fashionable beanie or a pair of boots. Unfortunately this has carried on in more recent times, despite an embargo placed on the act of trapping.
Voluteers are invited to join Save The Wild Chinchillas in Quebrada Cuyano, a dry and beautiful part of the Chilean Andes, to assist with its various projects. This nonprofit organisation focuses its efforts on making sure that chinchillas do not become extinct. "In order to meet this goal we have three objectives: educate people of all ages, collect funds to protect land and create sustainable preserves, and promote awareness and foster research", they explain. As a volunteer you’ll be called upon to map out protected plots, plant trees that have been depleted, feed the chinchillas, and record their behaviour. It’s not glamorous and your accommodation doesn’t involve a pool or any special drinks, but you’ll be doing something really meaningful.
Soi Dog Foundation - Thailand
It’s hard not to get emotional about a place like the Soi Dog Foundation, which tackles a side of Thailand that isn’t as popular as the beautiful beaches, massage parlours and temples. The treatment and prominence of stray dogs and cats is an ugly reality that an organisation like this faces on a daily basis, as it carries out the tasks required of a shelter that houses hundreds of lost, abandoned, unwanted and abused animals.
Volunteers are invited to lend a hand with feeding, washing, walking and interacting with the dogs and cats who need love and support as much as they need your Pounds, which go towards the ever mounting cost of food and medical supplies.
Greg Tully, who represents the foundation, says "Volunteers play a really important role here because the staff are generally busy feeding, cleaning, and giving medical treatment and don’t have much time to socialise the dogs and cats. We want as many animals in the shelter to be adopted as possible, and for them to live happily in homes, we depend on volunteers to socialise them".
Just call a few days in advance and let them know you’re coming
The Soi Dog Foundation is based in Phuket and welcomes volunteers, so you don’t need to pay a large application or processing fee to lend a hand - if you’re in Thailand and want to do something good for the island, just call a few days in advance and let them know you’re coming - there is leeway for casual volunteers, but veterinary specialists need to call in advance.
Visitors and volunteers at Soi Dog’s shelter usually tell me they’re impressed with how well organised everything is and with the dedication of the staff to the cats and dogs they care for. Some even say it’s the nicest animal shelter they’ve ever seen, in developed or developing countries."
Another good thing about donating your time here is that you don’t need to stay at the Foundation or eat their food - there is no overhead charges to your act of goodwill. The doors are open from 9am to 5pm and volunteers are asked not to arrive during the noon to 1pm lunch break. You don’t need any medical training, but if you are a veterinarian and want to use your skills to help out, there’s always a need. As of May 2013, the foundation has spayed and neutered over 50,000 dogs and cats.
For more information about how to volunteer, donate or get directions there, go to Soi Dog Foundation or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Para La Tierra - Paraguay
Karina Atkinson, a genetics graduate from Glasgow University, is the poster woman for voluntourism being a life-changing experience. In 2009, at the tender age of 23, she set to work co-founding Para La Tierra, an environmental initiative that aims to promote sustainable, eco-friendly tourism in Paraguay, by working with the local population to preserve and protect its unique natural habitats.
Based in the Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca (a biodiversity hotspot in the San Pedro Department), the organisation is ideally located to monitor rare and indigenous birds, reptiles and amphibians. Essentially it’s an endeavour that combines research with practical conservation work via a number of platforms, and so far the organisation has yielded impressive results. Since its inception in 2012, Para la Tierra has identified over 50 previously undiscovered species in Paraguay, adding to the country’s growing archive of reptiles, birds and amphibians.
Para la Tierra has identified over 50 previously undiscovered species in Paraguay
Volunteers at Para La Tierra can participate in a number of projects that focus on different species and aspects of the reserve. The Tufted Capuchin Monkey Study aims to "establish long term research into the behaviour, ecology, and genetics of this species". Volunteer work includes marking and mapping out new trails, and recording data seen during the six to eight hour ‘work day’ in this beautiful reserve.
The Reptile and Amphibian Survey continues the ongoing work of recording the region’s reptiles and amphibians - many of which are endemic to the area and not found anywhere else in the world. There’s teaching projects and research internships that involve comparing the stomach contents of various piranhas and the otherworldly Rococo Toads.
There’s room for everyone to get involved and help, as Karina explains. "Volunteers need no specialist training or experience. Everything you need to know we will tell you during orientation when you arrive. Just bring your enthusiasm to explore. Of course you could always do some research on some of the species you'd expect to see before you leave home - www.faunaparaguay.com is a great place to start."
An initiative like Para La Tierra is not just about setting up a Western homestead in South America, where feel-good volunteers can spend two weeks in Wellies and swimming trunks and go back home with uni credit or appeased consciences. The organisation works alongside local communities and aims to create a climate of awareness that values the natural habitats of Paraguay, in order to benefit the country, its people and all the animals that call it home. Even though her work at Para la Tierra has earned Karina a Rolex Young Laureate Award and been praised by publications across the UK, her goals for the project are bigger than her accomplishments.
"One of the major problems we face is that destruction is everywhere. We are able to conserve our relatively small reserve, but in the meantime, vast stretches of forest are being destroyed all around us for large-scale agriculture. We need to create more reserves, or at least change the legislation, preventing people from destroying biodiversity corridors, so that we don't end up with isolated pockets of animals and plants with no connection to other areas. If this happens, eventually the reserve won't be able to support them and they may disappear forever… Relationships with the local community are vital for our work because you can't conserve anything without involving people. They need support to understand changes to land-use and to find alternatives to previous practices such as hunting and logging. Para La Tierra helps them to do that through environmental education and sustainable income projects."
To make inquiries and find out more, go to www.paralatierra.org.
Big Game Volunteering
In case you were wondering why there weren’t any volunteer opportunities with lions, tigers and gorillas on this list, I thought I’d explain. When it comes to volunteering with Big Game it’s always difficult to find a basic volunteer program that offers you the same level of intimacy as, say, an organisation trying to save the Chinchilla. There are a number of really good reasons for this.
Firstly, it’s potentially very dangerous for inexperienced volunteers to work with these animals - wildlife conservation groups are strapped enough without any disasters to ride out. Secondly, there are scores of high-end volunteer opportunities out there that offer "up close and personal work" with Big Game, but you need to be wary of signing up for a feel-good safari - you might as well go to a national game park and make a donation. If you know of a big game volunteer opportunity, please drop us a comment on Facebook or in the comments section below.
Local Voluntourism: The Donkey Sanctuary - Devon
It’s summertime and the opportunity to visit Devon is more realistic for many of us than Paraguay, Thailand or Chile. If you are in the area and want to treat yourself - or the kids - to something special, take a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth.
The heartwarming story of the sanctuary starts with Doctor Elisabeth Svendsen MBE, a longtime member of the Donkey Breed Society, who used the anger and sadness she felt at a market, where seven small, mistreated donkeys were crammed into a small pen. From that point on she decided to change her course from breeding donkeys to rescuing them, and Slade House Farm has since become home to thousands and thousands of unwanted, abused and old donkeys.
Today the sanctuary conducts research, offers medical care and training, and most importantly continues to home the bulk of the United Kingdom’s abandoned donkeys - at one of the prettiest venues in the nation. Volunteer opportunities need to be pre-arranged, but visits and donations are always welcome.
For more information, go to www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk
By Clayton TruscottBack to top
Last Updated: July 2013