September 1, 2014

Voluntourism on a Budget

After a typhoon on Guam, I struck up a conversation with a fellow world traveler on the beach. Her†itinerary? Disaster recovery as a volunteer with the Red Cross.† Retired and liberated †from traditional employment, she was able to respond to international disasters quickly. In exchange for assisting locals with relief paperwork every morning, her transportation and accommodations were provided. That left her afternoons free to explore local culture. The lesson? Skip past tour agencies that charge thousands of dollars for volunteer opportunities.

Get Dirty: Lisa Chavis and Cheryl MacDonald of whatboundaries.com recently returned to the states after three years of full-time travel. Through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms †(WOOF), they found free accommodations.† WOOF pairs farmers needing a few daily hours of labor with travelers needing free meals and a place to stay. Likewise, Selva Viva, a rainforest protection project in Misahualli, Ecuador, runs a program called Amazoonica, which rescues injured, endangered animals from the area. Volunteers feed the animals, clean enclosures, schedule necessary veterinary care and coordinate their release back into the wild when possible. Less than $200 per month covers meals and housing.

Passports with Purpose: Budget travelers with related blogs can leverage their readership into a good deed at no cost. Passports with Purpose coordinates an online fundraiser with prize drawings every year. Participating travel bloggers write about the event to help spread the word. One year, enough money was raised to build a new school in Cambodia, hire a school nurse and provide one daily hot meal for every child enrolled.

Teaching: While itís true some educators teach in areas where it is extremely lucrative to do so, the truth is there are many areas of the world that can barely afford to pay their teachers, yet desperately need them. Iíve seen postings for classroom jobs in Ethiopia for example, that paid only hundreds of dollars per month, along with living accommodations that required staff to live with a local family. If you really want to serve in an area of great need, consider taking a similar position for a year or two. This works particularly well if you are a new teacher with no experience and need a couple of years under your belt anyway before successfully applying to higher-paying schools.

Do you have a favorite voluntourism opportunity that youíve participated in? Please share in the comment section below.