It’s probably not a surprise that I have some mixed feelings about paying to volunteer abroad.
On the one hand, most organizations abroad who really, desperately need volunteers simply can’t afford to pay for things like airline tickets and room and board. Paying to volunteer in these situations is simply a part of the reality of working with small non-profit organizations.
Alternatively, there are volunteer placement organizations, which charge fees above and beyond the travel and room and board that you would have to pay for on your own anyway. But in return for these fees, you have access to support staff on the ground, which offers piece of mind, especially if your volunteer abroad job is your first time traveling.
If you have access to airline tickets, or are willing to pay for them, there are a number of options for low-cost and free volunteer opportunities abroad. The most important thing is to not only know where to look, but to know the signs to look for that indicate whether or not certain work abroad opportunities are legitimate.
To save you a little bit of trouble, here are just a few low-to-no cost volunteer opportunities abroad to get you started on your search. Today we will focus on Latin America, but subsequent posts will reach out to other regions:
AMA Torres del Paine (Chile): For the rustic and outdoorsy types, AMA Torres del Paine is a completely no cost volunteer opportunity in one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the world. Torres del Paine, nestle in Chile’s Patagonia region, features kilometers of trails and wildlife that are visited by tens of thousands of tourists each year. AMA environmental conservation volunteers typically work for 11 days to 2 months, and can do anything from fundraising and marketing to maintaining trails and working on education programs. The program has no fee, and room and board (i.e. camping) are included.
New Era Galapagos (Ecuador): The Galapagos Islands are some of the most interesting and mysterious communities in the world. New Era Galapagos depends on it’s environmental volunteers to engage the local community in efforts to preserve this area. Volunteers might teach English as a foreign language, or educate local community members about the importance of environmental preservation. There is no fee to volunteer with New Era Galapagos, but volunteers typically stay with local families who charge a modest rent (~$400/month).
Madidi Travel (Peru): The ever-popular eco-tourism movement is especially active in Madidi, one of the more bio-diverse areas on the planet. Volunteers with Madidi travel can participate in virtually any aspect of Madidi’s work, from marketing, to cooking, to actively protecting the delicate flora and fauna in the area. Volunteers must stay for a minimum of one month, and the average cost of room and board is about $300.
These are just a few low-cost environmental volunteer opportunities in Latin America. Keep checking the blog for more ways to volunteer overseas for free in Africa, Asia, Europe and beyond!
**All web pages have both Spanish and English versions, so if you are taken to the Spanish language page, just look for the American or UK flag icon to switch to English.