THERE ARE MANY reasons to engage in volunteer travel, and there are literally thousands of charities and organizations that provide volunteer opportunities for passing travelers.
Many ask for donations or fees to cover costs and others operate as for-profit businesses, but the list below includes only those that cost little or nothing to get involved with and help out:
1. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)
www.wwoof.org – Board and lodging is offered in exchange for a day’s work on the farm. Stays available from one week to many years, and with thousands of hosts available in 53 countries there are volunteer opportunities suitable for everyone.
For more information, check out A first-timer’s guide to WWOOF-ing.
2. Turtle Teams, Worldwide
A generic name for the thousands of small groups that help threatened sea turtles. Most groups are based at one or two nesting beaches — which are typically at risk from over-exploitation — and appreciate help for even just one night.
All-inclusive, week-long volunteer travel tours range in cost from a few hundred dollars to the thousands, their style of accommodations reflecting the pricetag. However, if you can cover room and board on your own, nearly all sea turtle organizations accept volunteers. A few even offer extremely low-cost housing (though typically very basic) for those willing to volunteer long-term, including Playa Las Tortugas in Mexico.
Search for groups at the local tourist office close to any tropical beach and help a species come off the endangered list. More information can be found at these larger organizations: www.seaturtles.org and www.cccturtle.org.
3. Conservation Volunteers, Australia and New Zealand
www.conservationvolunteers.com.au – Through various short-term projects in Australia, New Zealand, and a few international locations, you’ll work in teams to protect habitats and promote ecotourism.
Volunteer opportunities that include overnight stays, meals, and lodging are typically provided at approximately AUS$40 per night for shorter stays, and starting from AUS$208 for week-long projects. The type of accommodations can vary widely from campsites to bunkhouses. UK-based TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) offers programs for EU residents ranging from no-cost day trips to pricier week-long International Conservation Holidays.
4. Sudan Volunteer Programme, Sudan
www.svp-uk.com – Teach English in one of the world’s most impoverished countries. Placements are at schools or universities, but many volunteers help with community projects in addition to their teaching.
Volunteers must pay for their airfare but all other costs are covered, and a small monthly stipend is provided.
5. Appalachian Trail Conservancy, USA
www.appalachiantrail.org – At over 2,000 miles long, the Appalachian Trail is the classic long trail in the Eastern US and home to almost 2,000 endangered or threatened species.
Volunteers help with trail building and maintenance in return for food and (usually very basic) accommodation.
6. Trip Leader for HF Holidays, Europe
www.hfholidays.co.uk – One of Europe’s most popular walking holiday operators is searching for volunteers to guide their treks. Leaders are provided with accommodation, meals, and the chance to explore Europe in return for sharing their passion and knowledge with