Taking care of kangaroos in Australia, being a maid at a medieval castle in Ireland or working in an organic garden in Greenland? The more ads, the more opportunities there are waiting for you on the WWOOFing, WorkAway and HelpX websites. And the best news is that the principle that connects all of these networks is that volunteering through them is not only completely free of charge, but you are provided with accommodation and food as well in return for your efforts. All you have to pay is a small registration fee (around 5-8000 HUF) to be able to create your profile on the sites and you can start searching for your dream activity right away!
But first of all, let’s have a look at what these sites have to offer!
WWOOFing: The group of websites that offer volunteering opportunities according to countries puts you in contact with people looking for an extra hand on their organic farms. Besides the free accommodation and food that volunteers get in return for their work, a lot of people decide to go for WWOOFing because of the learning potential that the organic farms can offer in the sphere of agriculture or natural sciences.
HelpX: Basically, it does not differ much from WWOOFing as the destination is mainly organic farms here as well, but here it is normally the smaller, family-run farms that are registered. Its benefit is that for one registration fee, you can browse and contact projects all over the world for an entire year.
WorkAway: Although the basic concept is not much different from the previous two websites, WorkAway offers volunteering opportunities on a much broader spectrum. On the one hand, there are often opportunities to help out at hostels, cafés as well as at yoga and meditation centres, but several unique and creative initiatives can be found here as well just like working at a circus or reconstructing a medieval castle.
It sounds good, doesn’t it? But if you still have some doubts, why don’t you read how some experienced volunteers answer the most frequently asked questions.
How long can I work as a volunteer and how many hours will I be required to work? Normally, 2 weeks is the minimum that projects require, mostly because in a lot of cases, it takes a few days to learn a certain job. However, at most projects, there is no maximum, which means that there are some volunteers who stay for months or even a year at the same site.
Usually, 4-6 hours of work a day are the average required, but it is important to make an agreement about this with your host before you set off to avoid misunderstandings. However, in reality, sometimes there is not even work to give to everybody, which can mean that after 2-3 hours of work a day, you are already free to do whatever you like.
For example, the Canadian Stepgen Kempa found a project in Budapest through the WorkAway website where after only 2 hours of work, he could already go sightseeing: “We were responsible for cleaning a hostel with the other volunteers. In the morning, we cleaned up in the kitchen, we changed the bedsheets, washed up in the bathroom and we were already free to do what we pleased.”
What kind of activities can I choose from? Although normally, you should expect to do household chores and work in the garden, on the WorkAway website, you can find different activities as well.
For example, the American Anayza Stewart spent a few weeks in Ireland thanks to WWOOFing. As she grew up in New York, she did not know much about farming and had no clue what criteria she should base her choice upon when looking at the projects on the website. She ended up on a farm where she could try a wide variety of things from building greenhouses to breeding animals. “I normally fed the chickens, cleaned the stalls of the horses, I got rid of all the weed in the garden, picked vegetables, spread manure, but on some other days, I just helped out in the kitchen and as it was the season before Christmas, we spent an entire day just decorating the house.
What is a good volunteer like? “Enthusiastic, diligent and can do without the gadgets of modern technology.” – says 66-year-old Jo Scott, who is waiting for volunteers through HelpX in France. As she has also used the website a lot to volunteer in different corners of the world from Equador to New Zealand, she knows what she can realistically expect from her volunteers. “It is good if somebody is flexible and can get used to tasks that they are doing for the first time in their lives. Through these projects, everybody gets out of their comfort zone a bit, either because they are in a new culture and experiences new customs through the host family or because they have to do a task which might seem disgusting or unusual at first, for example, spreading manure on the ground. But it is good and if the volunteers have a positive attitude towards these new experiences, then they will be enriched with a lot of new experience!”
What are the advantages of the projects besides the free accommodation and food? There are so many that it would be impossible to list them all! For example, the Lithuanian Aukse Podolskyte was volunteering in Turkey for 4 weeks through the WWOOFing website and this is what she says about her experience: “I am really proud of myself because I decided to go for it all on my own. Like this, I could have some adventures that I would have never even dreamt about. As I was all on my own, I was a lot more open to meeting other people and I made some friends for life. I had a lot of time to think during the everyday activities and I had the chance to try some activities that I realised would interest me as a job in the future. An experience like this is invaluable, I can only recommend it to everybody!”
Written and translated by Judit Molnár.