So far, most of you may have probably spent most of your life in school. The long arduous hours of studying, the stress of submission periods and exam week and the constant academic monitoring. On top of all that, waking up at the crack of dawn to face the day. You probably do not want to go to work yet either because you technically just came off ‘working’ on your studies. So, what happens when you are done with school?
Unhampered by the irksome thought of upcoming exams, submissions at the back of your head, the first thing that comes to mind will probably be to travel. But, how are after checking your bank account and realising that you can barely fund the trip yourself, you might choose to scrap the idea.
Before you do, just hold that thought for a second. How cool would it be to live like a local overseas for a very small price or even for free? Contrary to popular belief, it is possible!
Spending a large sum of money and your free time to contribute to a good cause outside of Singapore may not appeal to many people. However, there are heaps of volunteering opportunities overseas that are extremely affordable and sometimes offer freebies in return for your hard work. Volunteering overseas is also a great way to immerse yourself in another culture and experience the local lifestyle.
That said, it is important to consider all your expenses before selecting a programme. If you are trying to be thrifty, it is highly recommended to select an all-inclusive programme. Though you are still paying to volunteer, these programmes may be more cost efficient and better organised in some cases. These programmes usually comprise lodging, food, cultural programmes and airport transfers—you may not want to write off the idea of paying to volunteer just yet!
If you cannot afford to pay for the experience but are still more than willing to put in time and effort for a good cause, there are many other volunteer programmes for you. The voluntary work organisations in-charge of these programmes will provide food and lodging in return for your hard work.
It is not a holiday
A point to remember – when you’re on a volunteer programme, understand that you are not on holiday. Your main purpose should be to offer assistance and learn about people’s lives and culture in other parts of the world. You should not be expecting to have lavish rooms and amazing food, sometimes you may even need to rough-it-out sometimes, ie. go without a shower for a few days. But not to worry, bearing in mind your purpose and having a selfless attitude on this adventure will definitely enrich your volunteering experience — it is a win-win situation!
Searching for volunteer work online
If you’re interested to find out more, there are many websites that provide volunteer listings online. However, it is important to verify that these websites are legitimate. How? Before you pick a programme, make sure to do your research on the organisations and what they do, read the fine print and terms and conditions on the ‘free’ programmes as well. Reviews and ratings on the website are also a good gauge on what to expect from the programmes.
Below are a few websites with great reviews and a plethora of programmes for you to take up. The websites allow you to have a better understanding of what you are in for. However, they do not usually give out the names of the organisations as they do not want you to contact the host directly. This means that you will need to create a login account on the website. Most of these websites will require you to pay a small membership fee for their services — they have got to pay the nice people running the website somehow!
Just to give you an idea of what you can find on these sites, below is a short list of volunteer programmes in the Emerging Markets.
1. Volunteer at Surf Camp in Agadir, Morocco
Desert Surf Morocco is a surf camp based right in the heart of vast lands of Souss-Massa National Park, which is famous for having the largest populations of endangered animal species. Here you may be helping out with their social media platform, which will be a great opportunity to hone your writing and photography/videography skills!
- Maintenance of dive equipment
- Helping with Tourists
- Help with Computers / internet
Living: Single private room in a family home, breakfast is provided.
What else?: Aside from working in the surf camp, you will be able to pick up a new skill or two. Ismai, the Founder of Desert Surf Morocco, is more than willing to take guests out for surf and yoga lessons—including volunteers!
Check them out here!
2. Beekeeping in El Tarf, Algeria
Amar and Youcef are owners of their beekeeping business near Tunisian borders. They specialise in swarming and honey bees. You will be surrounded by greenery, fresh air and the company of friendly hosts, you will definitely be in for a tranquil time while experiencing fulfilling outdoor work.
- General Maintenance
- Animal care
Living: Single private room in a family home, breakfast is provided.
Fun Fact: Honeybees communicate within the hive by what is known as the waggle dance, yes honeybees are dancers!
Check Amar and Youcef out here!
3. Help on an Organic Permaculture Farm in Ometepe, Nicaragua
An Austrian family living in Nicaragua needs help around their organic permaculture farm on the slopes of the Maderas volcano, Ometepe in Nicaragua. Though they are not from Nicaragua, they are living a local lifestyle hence, you will be exposed to not one but two different cultures upon taking up this volunteer programme. Living conditions are very unique here on the property, you will be housed in tents and hammocks — if you are the type who loves to rough it out, this is the the programme for you!
- Help with animals
- Mud and wood work/construction
- Arts and crafts with children
Living: Tents/hammocks in the property, two meals and drinking water is provided.
What else?: Here you will wake up to the picturesque view of lake Nicaragua and the Maderas volcano unlike the concrete jungle we see everyday outside our bedroom window. You will also get to eat fresh produce from the family’s very own fruit, vegetable and herbal garden.
Click here to check out their humble family farm!
4. Teach English to children in Honduras
Cofradia Bilingual School welcomes volunteers above 16 years of age to assist in teaching the English language, Science, Physical Education and grade one Math classes from Preparatoria (ages 5-6) to Grade 11 (ages 16-17). This programme allows you to interact with children of a different culture everyday, so if you like working with kids, this is just the right job for you!
- Teaching various subjects
- Helping with art projects
Living: Private twin bed in a volunteer house, breakfast and lunch is provided on school days. Basic groceries are bought for cooking outside of school hours.
What else?: Volunteers gain life skills after working in Honduras as it can be challenging working here. However, they form meaningful bonds with their students, each other and members of the community they serve, hence having better understanding of the country and its culture.
Find out more about Cofradia Bilingual School and it’s programmes here!
5. Volunteer in an Eco Project in South India
We rely on Mother Earth to keep us alive everyday and it is very important to educate young people about conserving the environment. You will be doing so in Eco projects organised by Srishti India, a non-profit organisation. The projects based on the ‘three R’s’, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Programmes are delivered to children of different levels, they include preparations of projects, finding materials, building of models and testing them, keeping in mind the environmental aspect that the organisation is promoting.
- Help with Eco projects
- Art projects
Living: Single private room in a family home, full board of food is provided.
What else?: The compound is near the peaceful and serene Western Ghat Forest range. There is never-ending opportunity for adventure here with the mountains, hills, jungle, wildlife, waterfalls and plantation. The tranquility makes it a great place to practice yoga and meditation.
Check out Srishti India’s volunteer programme here!
6. Help out at a Dive Centre in Dahab, Egypt
When you think of Egypt you would probably be thinking of the great desert pyramids, not clear blue water full of exotic marine life. In Dahab, Egypt you will likely see the latter. At this Padi certified dive centre your tasks would be helping out at the reception, accounting, cleaning/housekeeping in studios, managing the dive center’s online network and preparing customers for their dives. This job is perfect for those who love the ocean, since you will be spending a lot of time by the water!
- Cooking / shopping
- Attending to guests
- Online/computer work
Living: Air conditioned private room in a studio apartment, food is not provided but there is a kitchen for cooking your own meals.
What else?: If you have never been diving, do feel free to opt for a diving course at the centre! Though they cannot give it to you for free, you can take a course at a discounted price.
Click here for more information about volunteering at the Diving Center!
7. Get Artsy at a Hostel in Colombo, Sri Lanka
The first of its kind in Sri Lanka, this backpacker hostel in the capital of the country has volunteer opportunities for anyone looking to meet new people in a totally different environment.
- Attend to guests
Living: Air-conditioned shared dorm, breakfast is provided. Allowance is given for lunch and dinner, this serves as a great opening for you to try some local food!
What else?: The hostel is always looking to add some funk to the common rooms. Volunteers who have a flair for art are encouraged to unleash their talent to help paint some murals on the walls in the property.
Check them out here!
8. Promote the Running Scene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
It is important that we all lead a healthy lifestyle not just here at home, but also all over the world. The company you will be volunteering with is small Ethiopian running club that organises different types of training from regular running trails to altitude training. Besides working on their physicality, they also help athletes broaden their expertise by training them in English communication, handicrafts and introducing them to the tourism industry. Here you will be helping them to develop their web presence and market their programmes to both locals and tourists. If keeping fit plays a big role in your life and are a firm believer that everyone should live a healthy lifestyle, this is a great opportunity to promote something you are passionate about!
- Updating of social media
- Preparing brochures/leaflets/event materials
- Help in the house
- Charity work
- Help with Eco project
Living: Single private room, full board of food is provided.
What else?: The accommodation is a 20 minute walk from the eucalyptus forests and Entoto Hills of Addis Ababa, perfect for a morning/evening hike without having to travel too far like we do in Singapore since we pretty much live in a concrete jungle. However, if you are missing the city, it is just a 45 minute bus ride from the property. Spending time at the running club presents an excellent opportunity to develop your marketing, promotion and web skills with a small business. If you like running, you can gain first-hand experience of living and training at altitude alongside the best. You will also be mixing with elite athletes, experiencing Ethiopia’s rich cultural and social life, and eating fresh healthy Ethiopian food. It is definitely an all-rounded experience here that you definitely do not want to miss out on!
Run your cursor over here to check them out!
Be Mentally Prepared
Before you agree to go volunteer anywhere, being able to socialise is vital as you will be working with many people of different backgrounds. (if you are the quiet type, it’s okay! Over time, you will learn to come out of your shell!) Sometimes you may be exposed to situations that you may not be comfortable with too, but do not freak out! Try to face every volunteer job with an open mind and be eager to learn new things, you will be just fine. Most importantly, have fun!