Forget Helpx or Workaway : Volunteer differently

Most people volunteering abroad are usually using the same two main websites : Helpx and Workaway. The fee to join these sites is around 50$ each for a year.

We don’t like the concept of having to pay to volunteer, therefore we found various solutions that we used in the past when we wanted to volunteer and stay in the same place for longer or have a different experience of slow travel.

Hostels are the most common places to find a volunteering position if you’re in a city, while a farm is more common outside of cities.

There are various reasons why one would like to volunteer, maybe you want to travel longer on a low budget, or maybe you want to learn something new, or you could also just wish to use your time to help something meaningful. We are not here to judge, only to help you with our past volunteering experiences.

This article will focus on alternative ways to find volunteering positions.

Find a position face-to-face

The good ol’ communication without the Internet. Just asking around to find something. Ok, it might be time-consuming, but I believe that depending on the way you are traveling you might have all the time of the world on your hands. Spending an afternoon to ask any relevant place for a position might lead to some impromptu but interesting and memorable situations.

I tried this technique in multiple places, and this is how we ended up volunteering in a small resort in Koh Lipe, an idyllic island in Thailand, after we had managed to hitch a ride on a ferry. By going around and asking every touristic related place is also how I could find a proper short-term job while traveling in Iran.

If you decide to try this, you could aim for information by asking in hostels, alternative bars and restaurants, and pretty much any shop seeming to be alternative and open-minded.

Volunteering in Thailand
Working a few hours a day, enjoying the beach and the sea the rest of the time.

On the Internet

Send a message to every hostel in the city you’re going to

This is how I wound up volunteering for 3 months in a hostel in Hong Kong. I slept a few nights rough, then emailed different hostels and organizations to find a place to sleep in exchange for some help. Luckily, I quickly found one, then I realized this hostel was also on Helpx.

I did the same thing with my wife some months later, one day before arriving in Singapore I sent multiple messages to various hostels to offer our help, and one of them hosted us for a week in exchange of some maintenance work, such as painting and repairing a few things.

Spend time writing a good message explaining about yourself and copy/paste it to hostels. Surely one of them won’t refuse a free extra help. They might ask to meet you before accepting you as a volunteer.

Volunteering in Hong Kong
Busy working in Hong Kong

Use Facebook groups

Facebook might have many flaws, but it’s also a place that helps similar-minded people around the world to connect easier than ever in History.

There are quite a bunch of groups related to volunteering, I’d suggest a few :

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is a great website for travelers. Thanks to their group feature, it can also be a place to find volunteering positions.

This is the most active volunteering group on Couchsurfing with over 60.000 members.

Create your volunteering position

Find what you want, and send relevant messages

Volunteering in a place that doesn’t know anything about this concept might lead you to a unique and genuine situation. My favorite volunteering experience happened in this setting and this is how it went down.

Our experience in a farm that had never received volunteers before

I love durian, a South-East Asian fruit, but it can be expensive, and since I was traveling on an extreme budget I couldn’t buy any. Therefore my wife and I just spent time finding various durian farms around Malaysia, and we contacted them all while explaining our situation, how we could help them, and made clear we weren’t expecting money in return for our work.

We got a positive answer and just hitchhiked to the place. We got well-treated by the owners and I was ecstatic to learn a lot about my favorite fruit. The farm was organic and produced various varieties of exotic fruits. An amazing place if you don’t mind mosquitos!

Volunteering in durian farm
Maxime picking up durians

How you can do the same

It requires a bit of thinking beforehand because you need to know what you want to do. But let’s say if you want to learn about sailing, it could be a good idea to introduce yourself to the closest marina and offer sailors some help and company.

As above, you could directly go to a related location, or you could also do like us: Find various addresses and give them a phone call or send an email to see if they could be interested in your offer.

Don’t accept unfair deals

These days you have to be aware that there are quite a bunch of companies looking to exploit volunteers and making an indecent amount of money out of them. I can’t understand companies asking you to pay a fee to volunteer, be careful, there are usually the ones treating volunteers the worst.

The usual “limit” accepted for volunteering is about 5 hours a day, 5 hours a week in exchange for food and decent accommodation. Remember that you are only volunteering, and you shouldn’t feel any guilt about leaving if you don’t feel good there.

Did this article help you to find a volunteering position ? Feel free to comment !

Maxime

A young father following his dream of travelling the world, now joined by HiuYing, his wife, and Darian, their first son.

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