Voluntourism

The view from my window here in North India is of pine forests, villages clinging to terraced slopes and enormous snow mountains. I worked here as a volunteer in a school about 10 years ago and I’m back to visit. During this time I sent an email to friends about both my time here and in Kolkata (see the previous post), which lead to some discussion about how you actually volunteer when you travel. I touched on this new phenomena of travel, voluntourism, in the last blog, but it might be fun to explore it further now.

The most common response to my email indicated most people had no idea even how to begin arranging a volunteer position. I am fortunate in my travels that I often come across opportunities and contacts I can pursue either then or at a later date. Often I meet the people first and even see the facilities where I could later stay or work. This sort of insight does help but I’ve also arranged for positions via email. Some of the voluntary work I have done includes teaching PE in this Indian school, working as a journalist for an NGO in Mongolia, teaching English in China, documenting a school library in Cambodia and a variety of things in Australian Aboriginal communities. Some I arranged in person, others by email.

Organizations

I’ve also met journalism students working at newspapers in Mongolia, others were teaching in Tibetan schools in India, some were helping run guesthouses in Italy or working on organic farms in Australia. Basically there are so many opportunities available for those that wish to volunteer. Organizations like Projects Abroad (www.projectsabroad.com), Gap (www.igapyear.com) and the Peace Corps (www.peacecorps.gov) arrange positions, accommodation and provide orientation and support at places of your choosing around the world. They are expensive but the places are tried and tested. Another good site to pursue is www.voluntourism.org or Working Abroad (www.workingabroad.org) whose fees include membership to VIP Backpackers.

Free Volunteer Organizations

A more affordable way of volunteering is via Worldwide Opportunites On Organic Farms or WWOOF (www.wwoof.com), a network of people living in sustainable ways that open their farms to volunteer help. There are gardens, farms and small holdings all around the world that you can work at and stay on including many in Australia and New Zealand. WWOOF Korea Farms is a VIP Backpackers affiliate.

VIP Backpackers Volunteer Options

If you stay at places  on the VIP Backpackers network you will also find volunteer projects to join. Some include:

Australia / New Zealand
* Wander Inn Bunbury Backpackers, Bunbury, Western Australia. Stay here if you wish to volunteer at the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre
* Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers or Port Macquarie Backpackers, Port Macquarie, New South Wales
Stay here and volunteer at the Koala Hospital

South Africa
* Gemini Backpackers Lodge, Johannesburg, South Africa
* Kia Ora Backpackers Resort, Pretoria, South Africa
Offers discounts for volunteers.
* Backpackers International, Pretoria, South Africa
A good place to stay with other Peace Corps members while volunteering in Pretoria. They also give a 5% discount to many volunteer groups.
* Zululand Backpackers, Eshowe, South Africa
Offer volunteer projects to those staying here.

You will find more as you browse through our site.

Have you had an experience volunteering abroad? Can you offer advice to other would be voluntourists? Share it with us!

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Hope you’re enjoying the VIP Backpacker’s Travel Blog. There’ll be an update added every other Friday, so keep tuning in to keep your travel dreams alive! If there are any travel topics you want covered feel free to contact me, Jo, at blog@vipbackpackers.com

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2 thoughts on “Voluntourism

    • A few of my friends have. One ran a WOOFing place on Russell Island near Brisbane. Another girl took a campervan and travelled around Australia doing it, she had really great experiences. I was just in New Zealand on a place called Peter’s Farm on the Otago Central Rail Trail and he had WOOFers there, they absolutely loved it. Hope that helps!

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