How to put something back into the places you visit by volunteering or conservation work
Volunteering comes in many guises: it could be developmental volunteering, where you work with local communities – maybe teaching, building schools, running clinics or generally using your time and skills to benefit the people of a particular region.
Conservation volunteering is another option, helping to protect a species or environment. This could range from studying meerkats in the Kalahari to recording the coral growth on a Thai reef or counting tiger pugmarks in the forests of India. You may need biology or research skills, or you could just offer your enthusiasm to help with data collection or trail maintenance.
No matter what type of volunteering project you choose, our experts are on hand to ensure that it is as fulfilling and rewarding as it can be.
Fancy a stint volunteering on your career break? Or are you keen to help out on a conservation project? Perhaps you want to take the whole family? There are so many worthwhile projects you can contribute to – and in so many different parts of the world – that the most difficult decision is where to start. May we suggest our Complete Guide to Volunteering?
Whatever you choose to do, Thidara Udomoritkul guarantees one thing: volunteering is a sure-fire way to fast-track a truly cultural experience.
The complete guide to volunteering – Wanderlust Team
Volunteer on your career break – Charlotte Hindle
Conservation holidays – William Gray
Family travel: volunteering travel – William Gray
How to fast track a truly cultural experience – Thidara Udomritkul
Sun Bear (Shutterstock.com)
Still not sure what kind of volunteer or conservation project you want to get involved in? Fear not. Here’s a selection of first-hand accounts about real-life projects that will give you a real sense of what is involved and what you can reasonably hope to achieve.
Ed Stocker taught English on the Book Bus in Ecuador, a British-run project operating a mobile library that travels around the country getting kids excited about reading through drama, games and drawing. Suzie March was inspired to help after visiting a Moon Bear rescue centre in Chengdu. And Mark Sowden ended up sore but satisfied after volunteering on an ActionAid project in Nepal, building houses for former bonded labourers.
Feeling a little more audacious? Then you’ll want to read how Rosie Ponting helped to organise a music festival in Malawi!
How you can rescue a Moon Bear – Suzie March
How I helped organise an African music festival – Rosie Ponting
Ideally, volunteering while you travel is as rewarding for those helped as for the one helping. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some projects, however well-intentioned, end up doing more harm than good. And then there are the unscrupulous companies that have sprung up to take advantage of the altruism of travellers to line their own pockets.
Voluntourism: Help or hindrance? – Dan Linstead
Is voluntourism doing any good? Yes! – Adrian Yalland
Is volunteerism doing any good? No! – Dr Kate Simpson
How to be an ethical volunteer – Joe Bindloss
OK. You’ve decided where you want to go and the kind of project you want to help. It’s time to tackle some of the more practical aspects of your big volunteering trip.
Increasingly, many volunteers are expected to raise money – either to pay for their trip or to contribute to a related charity. Fundraising doesn’t come naturally to many, and with that in mind The Adventurists offer 6 gold-plated tips for raising money for worthy causes.
Then there is the question of what to pack. Francesa Camporeale reveals the 7 things you must stow in your pack.
As with anything, forewarned is forearmed. Diane Priestly shares the things they don’t tell you about volunteering. And Dan Linstead gives sage advice on how to best deal with the culture shock of pitching up somewhere and offering to help.
Volunteering advice – Wanderlust Team
6 tips for raising money for your charity adventure – The Adventurists
7 things to pack a volunteering trip – Francesca Camporeale
What they don't tell you about volunteering – Diane Priestly
Volunteering: dealing with culture shock – Dan Linstead
Ready to start planning your trip? Our Volunteer and Conservation Guide is the place to start. Our list of Volunteer and Conservation Recommendations is also worth checking out if you're still having trouble deciding where to go.
If you have a particular question about volunteering, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about volunteering. The answer to yours might already be there.
Volunteer and Conservation travel guide – Wanderlust Team
Volunteer and Conservation travel recommendations – Wanderlust Team
Conservation volunteering: Know before you go – Alex Kendall
Here's a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. You may also want to check out our article on 6 volunteering trips in the UK and Laura Hartstone’s about the trips offered by the Peak Foundation.