Volunteering during a travel adventure is one of the best ways to make the experience richer, more memorable and more personally meaningful to you. After an abroad volunteer stint, you’ll feel like you’ve contributed something to the people of that particular country and you’ll feel like you learned a lot more about the people and culture than if you were simply wandering about with a backpack.
Figuring out where and how to volunteer can be daunting. Work at an orphanage? Help out at a hospital? Stay for over a year and teach English? Work in your own field to further your career opportunities? There are so many possibilities. All the options can be whittled down to suit your exact needs.
After figuring out what you want to do in your country of choice, you need to figure out the financial aspect of your volunteer experience. Volunteering abroad can be very expensive. There are several pros and cons about volunteering abroad with a company. Going through a program can feel safer, especially for the first time traveler. A volunteer program will usually set up housing, meals, transportation on other things that will make the transition from home to living abroad smoother. The negative about going with a program is that they often charge a lot of money. So much so that you may wonder: “Why am I paying them to give them my time?” Sometimes it doesn’t seem to make sense. Just remember that you are paying for security, possibly a more comfortable living situation, a security net and verified credentials for your resume later on. If a security net and planned living doesn’t sound so great to you, there are a number of other, more relaxed, volunteer options that are better suited for the independent traveler abroawho is on a budget. The following are some of the best options out there for volunteering.
For anyone looking for a unique volunteer experience in Nepal, CGNN is for you. CGNN is actually run by one of my good Nepali friends, Bijay Prajapati, who is connected with and knows just about everyone in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city. CGNN’s mission is to make Nepal’s environment a greener, cleaner and safer place utilizing the voice and power of Nepal’s youth. When you volunteer with CGNN you’ll see a side of Nepal that most people working with international organizations never see – you’ll truly get a peek into real Nepali urban life, what it’s like to live in a village (that no tourists visit), festivals, bureaucracy and much more. You’ll meet interesting Nepalis and interesting foreigners who are working at CGNN. More than most NGOs that I’ve come across during my time in Nepal, CGNN truly makes a difference and is invested in the future of the country. Because the NGO is headed by a Nepal rather than a foreigner, you’ll understand how things work in Nepal to a much higher degree than you would otherwise. Highly recommended.
Experiential Learning International (ELI for short) is a registered non-profit based in the Colorado. They’ve been in operation for almost a decade and they work hard to make your experience abroad the best it can be. ELI offers a number of different options for their abroad volunteers from working with special needs children in India, to teaching English in Vietnam to working with conservation and environmental education in Uganda. ELI offers volunteer and internship programs in about 20 countries around the world, a number of which are in Asia.
Their are two great things about ELI: their hands-off approach and their relatively low cost of volunteer programs. Many volunteer programs abroad exercise a good deal of control over the volunteer’s daily activities, leaving very little time for the volunteer to do their own thing while abroad. ELI expects volunteers to work hard at their placement position, but also encourages volunteers to explore countries on their own (when it is safe to do so).
ELI’s pricing plan for volunteering abroad is very reasonable compared to many other volunteer programs. Prices vary on what country you go to and length of stay. For example, an 8-week volunteer stint in Nepal costs $935. A 4-week volunteer trip in Tanzania costs $995. Check out ELI’s prices for each country to see which option works best for your budget.
ELI gets two thumbs up for their prices, range of opportunities and friendliness.
WWOOF is one of the most amazing volunteer programs whose reach spans to almost every corner of the globe, including a number of Asian countries. WWOOF, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a network that connects organic and sustainable farm owners around the world with willing workers looking to learn about agriculture and animals.
While many volunteer programs abroad charge sometimes exorbitant amounts of money for you to donate your time, WWOOF charges nothing. There is a small fee for WWOOF membership (around $20 USD) which gives you access to every farm on the WWOOF network, in countries on almost every continent of the world.
Those interested in working on a farm can take the email address from the farmer’s WWOOF profile, send them a message about possible dates and times of arrival, and make arrangements from there. WWOOF prohibits farmers from charging anything of people who travel to work: it is purely a work exchange. You put in the work and you’ll get free room and board. Don’t expect your time on a WWOOF farm to be easy, but expect great rewards and a sense of accomplishment for all your hard work. You’ll leave the farm with a fine understanding of the local way of life and local agriculture, and without a down, you’ll leave having made some incredible friends and with many incredible experiences.
WWOOF has farm all over the world and all over Asia including places like Japan, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Check out their website for more in depth descriptions of particular farms.