Three Free (Short-Term) Volunteer Travel Opportunities
Volunteer travel often comes with a big price tag and a long-term requirement. Annoying, yes, but volunteers are a liability, and unless someone has particular skills already, the programs need to train the individual, pay for insurance and so forth. However, if you're willing to work a little harder to coordinate your trip, there are some free volunteer travel options for short-term stays.
WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, has grown substantially since it began in the UK in 1971. In exchange for work, WWOOF hosts offer accommodation and food, as well as a unique volunteer travelÂ experience. WWOOF hosts are available around the world, and most countries have their own branch. Unfortunately, this means that a volunteer has to pay the subscriber fee for each country, and that makes the Europe or Asia tour a bit more expensive. Most sites charge about 25 euros for access. It can also be rather difficult to coordinate a stay through WWOOF. Not all farm owners are very tech-oriented, and they might only check their email every month or so, and they don't always respond. Volunteers are also to blame, of course: sometimes they don't show up or work hard. Still, if a traveller can connect with the hosts, WWOOF is an excellent opportunity for free, short-term volunteer travel, a cultural exchange and also a way to learn about organic farming.
Grow Food is like WWOOF's little cousin. Very little cousin. Most of the farms are in the United States or South America with only a handful in other countries. Still, there are a number of farms listed with available posts, and volunteers can put a profile up saying that they're looking for a position. A few of the farms ask for a small fee, but many offer free accommodation for work. Some, like the goat dairy Ardith Mae Farm, offer a stipend and free eggs, cheese, meat and veggies. The site appears to have some technical glitches, but it does offer an interactive set-up for volunteer travel. It's certainly a site to watch for long-term growth.
Help Exchange (HelpX) is like WWOOF, too, but with more flexibility (and sometimes less sustainability). HelpX lists farms (organic and non-organic), homesteads, ranches, backpackers, sailboats and other hosts who invite volunteers to work in exchange for accommodation. Most volunteers work between 2-4 hours per day, or more in exchange for horseback riding, yoga, or sightseeing. Like WWOOF, this is ideal volunteer travel if you want to have a quality, cultural experience, and you don't mind mixing labor with vacation. You do have to pay a subscription fee, too (20 Euros for 2 years).
Photo Credit: Ralf Roletschek