green holidays made easier
Working holidays and volunteer projects in world wide destinations.Who provides volunteering holidays, where they go and what they do
VOLUNTEERING HOLIDAYS GUIDE
A non-profit making youth organisation and registered charity. Its International Volunteer Programme for people aged 16-30 includes a wide range of projects in over 60 countries in Europe, North America, North Africa, and the Far East. Its “North South” programme offers short-term volunteer projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These do not involve humanitarian or aid work. Instead, they promote understanding and co-operation between North and South and give participants the opportunity to learn from living a completely different way of life. If you haven't travelled independently before, they advise not to apply for a project in a country where the cultural differences are very great or where it may be more difficult to travel to and from the project.
A small tour operator which combines charity challenges and active adventure holidays with assisting at community development projects and animal welfare projects in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. Projects might include refurbishment of a school, sharing job skills with isolated communities, rehabilitating endangered animals into the wild, or planting an organic vegetable garden. The adventure challenges element includes trekking (e.g. Inca Trail, Kilimanjaro), canoeing (e.g. Zambezi), cycling (e.g. Romania) and more.
An international environmental charity. It offers over 130 expeditions - from monitoring the fearsome Nile crocodile in Botswana to determining the impact of climate change on grey whale populations in Mexico and Canada. Since 1971 it has sent over 80,000 volunteers to work with 1000 scientists around the world. No special skills are required as training is provided on site. Earthwatch says this is not a holiday – volunteers work under close supervision as field assistants on real scientific projects. It has offices in the USA, Australia, Japan and the UK where it runs free lectures, volunteer days and debates.
A non-profit conservation organization (also known as The Society for Environmental Exploration) and says it’s the only one where your involvement can be funded by a Career Development Loan if you take a BTEC qualification. Projects run from four to twenty weeks and are based in Cambodia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Tanzania, and Fiji. They require “rigorous” “hands-on” fieldwork and benefit endangered tropical wildlife and their ecosystems and directly assist developing countries. Prices vary. For instance four weeks on a marine expedition in Madagascar costs £1400 including dive training, visas, accommodation, food and transfers - but not travel from the UK. It holds regular open days at its London HQ.
Aimed at the 40 plus age group and with the slogan "why should kids have all the fun?" this firm, founded in 2006, is part of Madventure Travel Ltd. It runs 2 and 5 week projects in the rural areas of five different countries - Ghana, Tanzania, Peru, Kenya and Fiji. Depending on location these may involve helping with building projects or in schools and orphanages, and sports coaching – none requiring qualifications. These can be combined with a wide range of holidays in the same countries.
Adventure travel company offering sports volunteering programmes in Africa and Latin America for various age groups. The 5 week programmes cost £1295 excluding travel while for 12 weeks the price is £1895 and include coaching and playing football or cricket in Costa Rica, as well as rugby, netball, hockey and swimming in South Africa, or tennis, basketball, golf and boxing in Ghana. You can also opt for or combine non-sports projects.
Global Vision International provides over 60 projects including marine conservation and wildlife research expeditions in Africa and Latin America and volunteer teaching and wildlife projects in over 30 countries worldwide. It works alongside some of the most leading and prominent conservation and community development organizations in the world including, The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Rainforest Concern, The Jane Goodall Institute and South African National Parks. It has a commitment to responsible travel and boasts an international team of over 100 field staff and 24 hour support and also holds Open Days in the UK.
With a commitment to sustainability and the motto “Enjoy, Enrich, Experience” this firm offers holidays including travel and accommodation spent relaxing, exploring and sightseeing in one of 23 countries worldwide combined with volunteering. About a third of the time – maybe a few days - is spent lending a hand on community development projects, maybe teaching or helping to build a house.
This firm, part of the First Choice Holidays group, offers a combination of volunteering with holidaymaking among trips in four continents. Typically each trip lasts 14 days of which four or five are spent with a local project. This might be construction, community or wildlife. There are travellers’ forums on its website.
i-to-i offer meaningful travel experiences around the world with a variety of projects for all age groups, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) courses and paid teaching opportunities. They also have student internships, language courses and ‘life skills’ courses in the Malaysian jungle. Over a recent 12 month period they helped 5,000 people volunteer in 23 countries, trained 15,000 TEFL teachers and sent business groups such as HSBC, HBOS and First Direct abroad on exciting team building challenges. They hold regular information events and have received numerous awards.
Ethical volunteer recruitment organisation People and Places offers what it describes as “truly accountable, ethical, responsible, volunteer travel”. Launched in 2005 it aims for positive and long-term change whereby all parties are best-served and to be totally open and honest in all its activities, including financial matters. It recruits and matches skilled volunteers for projects in some 20 communities in Africa and Asia. Skills needed range from bicycle repair mechanics and IT experts to health practioners and educators to business people and builders.
This tour operator for the over 50s has launched Saga Volunteer Travel offering extensions to their regular holidays with educational projects initially in South Africa which include preparing children for university and mentoring high school students. These can last from a week to three months. Saga aim for a good match between volunteer and project and to ensure most of the volunteer funds benefit the local economy.
A registered charity offering over 1000 short-term volunteering opportunities of 2-3 weeks in more than 70 countries worldwide, doing anything from working in a bear sanctuary in Croatia to helping to a Fair Trade festival in Denmark or teaching English in a summer school in Japan. No experience or specialist skills are required and with an emphasis on young adults aged 15+. Each project brings together volunteers from many countries to live together as a group. There are still more projects in 20 developing countries lasting from one month to a year. The cost of participation is very low compared with commercial operators but excludes travel which you arrange yourself. UNA Exchange grew out of the United Nations Association in Wales and are based in Cardiff. They are part of two international networks of volunteer organisations: the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organisations and the Coordination Committee for International Voluntary Service. ecofriendlytourist.com has direct and positive first hand experience of UNA Exchange.
This organisation provides information about free and low-cost volunteer work and opportunities to learn Spanish in Central and South America. It offers grassroots experiences including community service projects and conservation work with animals - from helping street children to tracking primates in the jungle. The projects last from a week to several months or more. Volunteer Latin America charges a small fee for putting together a customised project guide and volunteers then apply independently to project providers.
WWOOF is a world wide exchange network where bed, board and practical experience are given in return for help on organic farms. The name stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and participants are nicknamed “Wwoofers” and the activity described as “Wwoofing”. Stays of varied length are possible. WWOOF provides excellent opportunities for organic training, changing to a rural life, cultural exchange and being part of the organic movement. It started in the UK in 1971 and now there are national WWOOF organisations in most developed countries. For instance in Australia there are more than 1000 places listed and over 500 in New Zealand.
About volunteer travel
Volunteering can be a win-win opportunity – for the local people as well as for the volunteer. It’s a great chance to face new challenges, make new friends and “get under the skin” of a place and its culture.
An estimated 200,000 people from the UK volunteer each year. Many are students, while growing numbers, on career breaks and after retirement, are not so young. There are plenty of organisations arranging “voluntourism” as it’s sometimes called, with the chance to work for as long or as short a period as you wish, from a few days to several months.
But there can also be pitfalls. This sector is largely unregulated. There have been horror stories of people who have been charged fat fees and just dropped off without guidance or support. Equally, some organisations have stopped offering projects to unqualified short term volunteers because they question what good they can really do, especially if the volunteers have no relevant skills.
QUESTIONS FOR YOU
Before signing up ask yourself a few straight questions:
Are you sufficiently open to another culture, however different from your own?
Are you willing to put up without modern conveniences like a comfortable bed or plumbing? Or do you insist on your creature comforts? Whatever your answer, various opportunities are available but it’s up to you to make a suitable choice.
Are you patient? Flexible? Tolerant? Willing to learn? If not, this might not be right for you.
QUESTIONS FOR THEM
Volunteering can involve a substantial investment of time and money. So do your homework starting with these questions:
What will you do? Are special skills required (and do you have them)? Does the project have substance? Is there back-up on site?
Is the project run in conjunction with local people? To be meaningful it should be.
How much will it cost? Whether charitable or commercial these organisations charge a fee and this can be large. What does the fee cover? Does it seem value for money?
About this guide
To decide which volunteering organisations to list we rely on our own professional research plus recommendations from other writers.
Reading between the lines you’ll see the opportunities vary in terms of costs, trip durations, destinations, local involvement, and the claims they make for the work you’ll actually do.
Unfortunately there is no universally accepted set of standards for eco-friendly tourism and dozens of bodies provide inspection and certification. Some of these have rigorous vetting procedures while others just require payment of a membership fee.
HOW IT WORKS
There are direct links to each volunteer organisation's own website. Some of these links are to sites with which we are affiliated. If you click through to these sites or make a purchase from them this may result in us receiving a fee or commission. These links are clearly indicated with this symbol: +
There are also links to sites which do not pay us. Any link or other information is only included if we believe it is useful and reliable - not whether we are paid.
To suggest a tour operator for inclusion please contact us