In my experience, I find that volunteering has always been an incredibly rewarding gift of one’s time. Unfailingly, an adventure with unexpected rewards far greater than ever imagined. Such was the case of my weekend on ‘plate recycling’ duty at the Calgary Folk Festival. Although I tweaked my back in lifting and counting the mountain of buckets thrown our way both mornings, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend of musical delight and celebration on downtown Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park.
So many wonderful musicians were heard, a few of my favourites being: Rufus Wainwright; Neko Case; City And Colour; Crooked Jades; John Boutte; Ollabelle; Oh Susanna; The Sadies; Good Brothers; Jamaica to Toronto (and these were only the artists that I experienced … many more were not heard, unfortunately!).
PS The food was AMAZING!!!!
Volunteering locally is always a pleasure, but sometimes when one is looking for more adventure in distant lands, the opportunities abound, and finding the right organization can be a bit of a challenge. However, having worked, lived and volunteered abroad, I can tell you that with all of the trials and difficulties encountered along my journey came life-changing experiences and memories that will last several lifetimes!
Here’s an article with organizations and volunteer listings from the Green Guide to help get you started in an unforgettable journey of volunteer work beyond the borders of your current reality:
crossculturalsolutions.org: Offers volunteer programs in 12 countries, including Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand.
i-to-i.com: Work to conserve Madagascar’s lemurs, care for endangered wallabies in Australia or help maintain biodiversity with indigenous peoples in Costa Rica.
idealist.org: An extensive volunteer database with environmental listings, connections to local nonprofits, financial aid information, internships and a kids and teens page. Current opportunities include teaching environmental awareness to Nepalese villagers and developing a fruit-drying program for Ghanan villagers, among many others.
maasaicentre.org: The Maasai Centre for Field Studies still takes volunteers as well as school and university groups. For details, contact Dr. Chris Southgate or Dr. Mark Toogood via the Web site.
volunteerabroad.com: Listings include opportunities to protect Australia’s environment and conservation projects in Costa Rica.
volunteerinternational.org: Conservation programs in Thailand, creating a Holocaust Memorial Park in Poland and making eco-friendly soap with disabled persons in Japan are just three of the unique opportunities you’ll find on this site.
Tip of the day for volunteering overseas:
Handling the Expenses
Costs can be a major drawback to volunteering overseas. Travelers with specific experience or academic expertise may be able to find an organization willing to pay their expenses and even provide a stipend. In most cases, however, volunteers will be responsible for air fare, in-country travel and living expenses. And some popular organizations charge added fees.
Yet there are options for the dedicated. If the main purpose of your visit is to volunteer, airlines may provide free or heavily discounted flights—albeit often on standby. Call the carrier and let them know you’re interested in a sponsorship for volunteer work. They may ask to see your volunteer visa or a letter from your volunteer organization.