Volunteer work has become big business. Hundreds of gap year companies are there to guide timid gappers into a voluntary project, but if you are willing to be brave and do it all yourself it can be much, much cheaper.
Of course, this isn't for everybody. Many young (and older) travellers would prefer the security and benefits of a structured volunteer programme to provide assistance should things go wrong.
There is nothing wrong with that but those that have been around the block - and the world - will feel perfectly able to pitch up at a small grassroots NGO and offer their services without the need for 24 hour telephone support or assuming volunteering is a holiday.
Starting with a small number of countries and projects we intend to grow this site into a resource for grassroots NGOs and volunteer projects to find a helping hand and for travellers to locate inexpensive options to offer their skills and muscle without suffering a financial penalty for doing so.
Of the organisations listed on this website few require skills. Most just need a helping hand by those that are enthusiastic and willing to pitch in.
Truly free opportunities for unskilled volunteers though are rare. Where they are not free, we’ve only listed organisations that charge reasonable (for their location) fees for food and accommodation. Generally, we have excluded organisations when it would cost less to arrange our own living expenses were we to stay in the same area without volunteering.
We have made some exceptions, including particularly remote projects or something glamorous, like working with wild animals, where the fees are still not unreasonably high. But for digging a hole in the ground or cleaning up dog poo we list only worthy grassroots organisations where a reasonable fee covers the costs incurred in taking on a volunteer and keeping the project going. Along with non profits we list some businesses, but here we expect volunteers to have to pay no fees and be rewarded with a bed and board.
Where a project is fee free with few exceptions we should expect to have pay for our own travel costs and insurance, find our own accommodation or pay a reasonable amount to stay in a volunteer house where available. Most projects are open to most nationals that can get a tourist visa.
The projects and programmes listed in this site are either known or found by us from various sources or submitted by the organisations themselves. Though we believe the information provided in this site to be genuine and up to date at the time of writing we recommend that you check facts and statements for yourselves. We also recommend that you read the Warnings, Safety and Spotting Scams page on our group website.
The travellers behind this site are Deirdre Higgins, a Northern Irish veteran of the working week in France, Belgium, Peru and Britain, and Shane Donovan, from London, who has successfully evaded a real job for many years. Highlights from our travels include getting bitten by a (small) lion in Thailand and standing on a baby in Peru (it was dark and, seriously, why put your baby on the floor by the bus door?). We pat every dog we see, even the scabby ones.
We are soon to head off on our fifth extended bout of travelling and now mostly live in Turkey. We first went around the world in 2002 and maintained our website and (as it was then) email newsletter, the Jobs Abroad Bulletin, in Cusco, Buenos Aires, Auckland, Bangkok, and Malacca, among other places.
This site is just a part of what we do. For more information on volunteering, or on finding paid work, please visit PAYAway.
If you have a project that does or could make use of international volunteers please send us your details via our form and we will list you on our next update. This site is best suited to ongoing projects but if you have specific one off volunteer needs, or are in a hurry, then please feel free to send us a free job advertisement to our Jobs Abroad Bulletin site. The organisations already listed (or want to be) on this site are very welcome to do this too.
We can also be hired as volunteers or invited to check out your organisation in person. How much use we will be depends on what you want us to do but if we like what you are doing we will still be banging on about you and using our spare ad space to help out long after we have left.