Volunteering abroad in my opinion is one of the best experiences you can have while travelling – and not only. Volunteering in Russia with AIESEC, WWOOF in the USA and Workaway in Thailand are some of my best memories – I got to know life in these countries well and they taught me a lot.
But do others have equally positive impressions from volunteering abroad or is it my impression only? In order to check it, I approached Polish travel bloggers and I asked them – do they think it’s worth volunteering abroad?
Is it worth volunteering abroad?
Volunteering in Iceland – Workaway.info – Hania and Michał, Mała i duży w podróży
Thanks to workaway.info we spent 2 amazing months on Hrisey island in Iceland. It is a tiny island of 7 km2 out of which 80% is a nature reserve. It’s located in the north, in the middle of the longest Icelandic fiord. Only 80 people live there permanently.
We came there to help and Icelandic family to take care of their children and a little guesthouse located on the island. We cleaned up the rooms, cooked dinners and took care of the children when our hosts were out.
Was it worth it? Sure! We got to know the real life in this amazing country and we became a part of Icelandic family. We took a rest from a big city and we felt pumped with positive energy. Workaway is a perfect way to find an unforgettable adventure – almost for free!
Act locally, discover globally – AFS Poland – Karolina Kania, Ethnopassion
Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Spain, Latvia, and even Malaysia – if not for volunteering for AFS – the world’s largest intercultural exchange organization – I would probably never visit these countries!
My adventure with AFS started in high school, when I went for a two months intercultural exchange to France. During my exchange when I attended the seminars prepared for us – foreigners, I was happy (and jealous!) watching the volunteers working with us.
I thought I would also like to, like them, share my experience gained abroad. Back home, when I moved to Cracow during my studies, I managed to follow my dream! I became an AFS volunteer by joining AFS Poland.
Being active in AFS, I had the opportunity to take part in many international trainings, seminars and meetings, which were a great opportunity to visit new places. The great plus of this organization is that you can continue to be involved in local AFS chapters when you are abroad.
That’s what I did during my Erasmus year in Prague (thanks to the AFS Czech Republic I met wonderful people and also learned Czech language!), as well as during my masters in Paris. Involvement in AFS shows that it is worthwhile to work locally to gain global experience. Learn, get to know each other, travel, share with others intercultural experiences, making small steps changing the world.
Those interested in our activities and willing to engage in intercultural (and international!) activities, please visit AFS Poland website
Volunteering in Peru – EVS – Paulina Lewandowska, Z Pamiętnika Podróżoholika
I took part in European Voluntary Service and I volunteered in Peru. I worked in Lima in a small non-governmental organization dealing with Afro-Peruvian youth. The main idea of the organization are human rights. It fights for no discrimination for people with African roots. It tries to prove that having slaves as ancestors doesn’t mean being worse.
I was told before that as a volunteer I will deal with advertising, promotion and organizing events (i.e. workshops with children and youth). I counted on working with children the most. It turned out though, that reality didn’t meet my expectations.
There wasn’t a lot of workshops but a lot of politics instead – conferences and meetings with political parties. And I had to deal with administration – making calls, sorting documents, translations… Also I spent most of the time in their “office” alone and I felt excluded on organizational meetings. It wasn’t easy for me, as I was dealing with boring tasks and I found it difficult to socialize with the group.
I wouldn’t say that I regret this experience though. I liked living in Lima and I had a lot of time for travelling. And for few, but very nice and touching events, like Christmas when we were giving out toys to kids from poor families – it was worth to drop everything and leave 🙂
Volunteering in Malaysia – Workaway.info – Kinga Bielejec, Gadulec.me
During our half-year trip around Asia with my boyfriend Damian we volunteered for two weeks in Malaysia. A few months before we registered on Workaway.info, paid for annual access, filled in our profile and started looking for a perfect “employer”.
That’s how we found captain Eva who owns two big, wooden yachts on Langkawi island. Eva organizes exclusive cruises for a couple of hours. She was looking for people to help her.
For a few hours of our work she offered us accommodation, full board and a scooter (we lived over a dozen kilometers from the harbor).
At first we cleaned and renovated the yachts, then we helped in the kitchen, worked as waiters and bartenders. It was an amazing time because we met a lot of interesting people (even Eva’s story of how she ended up on Langkawi is fascinating!), we learned new skills and… we rested! We worked 6-7 hours 3-4 days a week and between meals we could swim in the sea or have fun with a motorboat.
It wasn’t really work, it was just pleasure. We will soon pass 2 months on Tenerife the same way (we also found the offer on workaway.info) – we will work in a hostel by the ocean. You can read more about volunteering in Malaysia here. (Polish only)
Volunteering in Portugal, Greece and Brasil – EVS and AIESEC – Wiola Starczewska, starczewska.com
In my life I participated in most of the volunteering opportunities: from European Voluntary Service, through AIESEC, to working in hostels and picking olives in Greece. All of them were a great experience and, I won’t hide it, a way of travelling and experiencing something different.
I liked EVS the most (check video). EVS lets young people gain experience abroad and work for local community – it is a perfect connection of self-development and making a change. Also accommodation, flights and insurance are covered so the minimum is granted and you can focus on your work.
I liked AIESEC less because it is commercial. You actually have to buy your volunteering opportunity with them. I can’t complain much though because with AIESEC I was in Rio de Janeiro so it was an amazing adventure.
When I was in Rio de Janeiro I also worked in hostels at reception desks for accommodation and food. I can’t really call it volunteering because volunteering for me is doing something for others while learning new skills, like teamwork or languages. Working in a hostel was rather a smart way to travel cheaper. But anyway, I learned a lot there.
You don’t have to go abroad to volunteer. After coming back to Poland I joined a foundation which organizes a Brazilian festival in Warsaw – Bom dia Brasil. I organize concerts, events, I work on promotion. It’s my hobby, I do it after work. And I meet a lot of people who love to travel and do interesting things in their lives.
All in all – is it worth volunteering abroad?
The answer is – yes! Volunteering abroad will enable you to gain unforgettable experience and new skills, get to know the country and new, interesting people, make friends.
Remember that every volunteering opportunity is different. It can turn out that your job, accommodation or the team’s approach doesn’t meet your expectations. Volunteering can be a more difficult experience than you expect. But let me assure you it’s worth taking the risk anyway. It’s worth going and giving yourself a chance for an adventure of your life. Check the below guide and start planning!
There are also other ways to gain valuable experience apart from volunteering, like pro bono consulting. You can learn what is pro bono consulting here 🙂
Now check my opinions and hints regarding Global Volunteering program with AIESEC, how WWOOF works – how I found my volunteering opportunity in the USA there. Check also what it’s like to teach English in Thailand 🙂
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