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Author: Sean Keener

Guide to Volunteering on the Road

If you want part of your RTW trip to involve volunteer opportunities, then you have a bit of work to do. Unfortunately volunteering isn’t as easy as turning up to a developing country and offering your services. It’s much more involved than that, with some organizations wanting volunteers to sign up, pay, and get everything squared away before even leaving home.
But if you are on a RTW and have an open-ended itinerary, you may not want to set it up before leaving. That’s okay because it is possible to turn up and find something.
This guide will take you through all your volunteer options and give you links to articles and resources to help you find the volunteer job of your dreams. It can be a frustrating undertaking, but stick with it, as volunteering in a country you’re traveling in can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your entire trip and a major life highlight.

NGO’s and Volunteer Service Organizations

Local NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) are usually non-profits that are working towards something specific. It could be building a new school building or several houses for a village. Many of these NGO’s have very little funding, which is why they partner with volunteer service organizations. The volunteer service organizations then recruit, manage, and support the volunteers. This is why many volunteer organizations have to charge their volunteers.

Do You Have to go Through an NGO and/or a Volunteer Service Organization?

No. It’s easier if you want to set something up before you leave, but it does cost money, and you will be surprised at how much some organizations charge you to work for free. But you can just turn up in a country and find places to volunteer at. It will just take more time and work. If you’ve traveled internationally before, then this process should be easier. If this is your first trip abroad, it might get a little overwhelming, but you can still do it if you have your heart set on it.
Asking around is your best bet. Start with hostels and hostel owners and managers. Ask around at bars and restaurants. Look in your guidebook. Ask bloggers and the travel community. The beauty of social media is that you can ask a question and receive a bunch of responses within minutes. When you volunteer in this manner, though, you will be responsible for accommodation and food, whereas if you go through an NGO, that stuff is usually provided for you (which helps offset the sometimes high cost).
Read How to Find Volunteer Programs That Suit the Financially Challenged and Global Voluntourism: You Want Me to Pay to do That?

Look For Short-term Opportunities

If you are interested in helping out but don’t want to spend the time and money to do a big project, that’s okay. There are plenty of short-term opportunities out there. When we were in Luang Prabang, Laos, we read about an organization called Big Brother Mouse, which welcomes any English speaking tourist 6 days a week to come into the office to help out with informal English instruction. It’s a great place to volunteer, and you can help out as much or as little as you want. There are countless organizations like this in cities all over the world, you just need to keep your ears and eyes open for them.
For more information on volunteering while on your RTW trip, make sure to read the following articles and check out the following resources:

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