Volunteering is an incredibly rewarding experience. You learn a lot about other people and cultures, about the world and about yourself. People always say that with volunteering you get back so much more than you give. And it’s true. You get that satisfactory feeling, you have done something very valuable with your time because you have helped others. There are studies which prove that people who volunteer feel more socially connected. They are thus less likely to experience loneliness and depression. Working as a volunteer is great. In this post, I’ll tell you how to volunteer without all the costs that many people use as an excuse not to get involved.
How to volunteer without paying thousands of pounds, dollars or euros!
When we think of volunteering, we often think of expensive trips to developing countries. A couple thousand quid for a few weeks… something not all of us can afford. I certainly couldn’t but I’ve volunteered in Guatemala for three months a few years ago and it cost me 250€ admin fee for the organisation and another 200€/month which I paid my host family for accommodation and three meals a day. You couldn’t afford to live with that little money in Europe – what a deal!!!
So here are three tips for you so you can also go on a little volunteering adventure.
Your local community
You may not necessarily want to go overseas to volunteer so this is a good first step: Volunteering in your local community. There are plenty of charities or social enterprises that always look for help. If you’re a sportsperson, you could teach kids in your local sports club. Now that winter is approaching, more help is needed in soup kitchens for the homeless. You could mentor young children. Skills-based volunteering is becoming increasingly popular. You may have two hours a week to spare to help a charity with accounting or marketing.
Here are some sites you could use to find volunteer roles (catered to the UK but you will find these databases in other countries too of course):
International Citizen Service (ICS)
Okay, this only works if you have been a UK resident for at least 12 months but you should contact your country’s government to see if they run a similar scheme. What is International Citizen Service (ICS) you ask?
“ICS is an overseas volunteering programme for 18-25 year olds, funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development. To volunteer you don’t need cash, skills or qualifications – just the ambition to make a difference.”
Are you older than 25 years? Not to worry, so am I! If you’re between the age of 25-35, you can apply to be a team leader.
Also check out my 1-second-each-day video!
What’s included? ICS volunteers receive their visas, flights, travel and medical insurance, medication, vaccines, food and accommodation and a small allowance during their placement. Yes, that’s right – ten weeks of volunteering without having to spend a single cent. Take that opportunity while you can!
Smaller volunteer organisations/local contacts
If you do a bit of research, you may come across some smaller volunteer organisations who charge comparatively little. The one I went with to Guatemala was Proyecto Mosaico. They are active in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama and charge 250€ per placement.
Have a look at what a typical day of volunteering with Asociacion Lema’ in San Juan La Laguna (Lake Atitlan, Guatemala) may look like.
Another good approach is to reach out directly to non-profits in the country of your choice. You can do this from home and secure a place before you book your travels. However, not all organisations are well connected online so it may be hard to find organisations you could volunteer with.
Easier but potentially scarier for inexperienced travellers: Start your trip and while you are travelling around, ask locals about organisations, schools, orphanages, farms, etc. that may need volunteers. There’s a benefit to that approach as you can check out the village or town before committing to live and volunteer there for a few weeks or months. I did this on my second trip through Central America where my friend Sandy and I visited several schools and orphanages with previously fundraised donations.
You certainly have to be more proactive, outgoing and independent to organise your volunteering from A to Z but it is possible and you can definitely save a lot of money.
So now, no more excuses. Get out and do good! The benefits you’ll reap are invaluable. Happy volunteering 🙂