DIY Volunteering – Do It Yourself Volunteering
Volunteering is an incredible experience, unfortunately it can also be ridiculously expensive to go through an organization or outfitter.
DIY volunteering is a fantastic idea, but can be difficult in practice.
Where do you start your search for volunteer opportunities?
How can you find great volunteer work and avoid spending thousands of dollars with an organization?
You’re not alone in this challenge as many other travelers feel the same way.
Enter Tom…he’s a man with a serious mission.
Tom saw the same issue and wanted to build a new resource to help other travelers looking to volunteer.
VolunteersBase.org is a free directory of worldwide volunteering opportunities.
The directory is still in it’s early stages but growing rapidly. It provides a promising solution to this vexing problem.
In this interview Tom, the founder of VolunteersBase, shares some advice for travelers seeking volunteer opportunities and what his project can do to help you.
Tom, what got you hooked on traveling and how long have you been roaming the planet?
After hosting many travelers with hospitality networks (first Hospitality Club, then CouchSurfing and finally BeWelcome) I found myself bored with routine and very curious about the world. It was then when I decided to take a year off and go backpacking. I found out later that there was too much world to discover and spent 7 years on the road, working whenever I had the chance, paid and volunteering.
Your passionate about volunteering and travel, can you share some of your experiences?
Volunteering happened to me almost by accident, I had the chance to participate in very diverse projects, to name few: Shetland Ponies farm, animal supported therapy, addicts rehab center, farming, eco-building, permaculture projects, llama farm, shelter for refugees.
Volunteering adds a great value to any trip, it brings people together, teaches new skills and builds community in the process. You don’t need to be an expert in any field to “to save the world”, you just need to have the right attitude and look around when traveling, is not difficult to find local projects where to get involved, and with a bit of luck locals will be happy to offer you food and accommodation in return.
It seems that volunteering through programs can actually be too expensive for many people. Why do you think it’s so difficult to find volunteer opportunities as an independent traveler?
If you search for volunteering opportunities online you will find many NGOs looking for skilled professionals (doctors, teachers, engineers, etc) to join their long-term projects and they will cover your traveling expenses and livings costs.
If you don’t have valuable professional skills, you will still find many organizations which will take you in for a monthly fee (from $300 up to $2000). Many people are discouraged by those organizations asking for money and end up thinking that volunteering is just a huge scam. It is not always case, but it is true that exists a big market selling “feel good experiences” to those who are willing to pay.
So what if you are not a doctor and don’t wish to buy a “feel good experience” but you still want to volunteer somewhere? Then consider going smaller scale – it can be equally valuable and you will still make a difference for the people you work with and the surrounding community. There are millions of “little projects” going on all around the world without the NGO status that will be happy to have you.
Here is when the idea of “Volunteers Base” comes very handy for travelers, the website offers a place to bring those “little projects” and volunteers together.
When did you come up with the idea for VolunteersBase.com?
For years I have been using paid volunteering networks already available online, but every time I paid my membership I couldn’t stop thinking that I was just buying a data base of emails and it didn’t seem fare. Now that my trip is over I felt I had to make my small contribution to those who are where I used to be. I really hope in the future more people will join me to run this project together.
What’s it all about?
VB is a directory of worldwide volunteering opportunities completely FREE for everyone. “Hosts” in need of help can post their “projects” and “volunteers” interested in joining them will get in touch. There is no money involved.
What kind of projects can I find in VB?
Projects can be almost anything. In fact, whatever you need help with can be the next project. Some examples: sustainability-related projects, farming, building, home renovations, community projects, hostel work, arts and crafts, language teaching, homeless shelters, event management, baby/house/pet-sitting, etc.
How much does it cost to participate?
Absolutely nothing. VB is the free alternative to the volunteering networks which charge you money to contact projects they advertise.
What is the difference between VB and similar websites?
“Hosts” listing their projects in VB will support volunteers by offering them this service for free as well, both parties will be participating in a moneyless volunteering network.
For “Volunteers” the difference is clear, they won’t pay anything to participate and to apply for projects. That means that if they can’t find a project that fits their interests or schedule they won’t end up with a useless premium membership.
I love the idea, how can I help?
This is a brand-new project, totally not-for-profit and with zero budget. It offers a free service and aims to take no revenue at all. Therefore it relies on you to help the network grow. If you would like to show some love here are 4 ways to help in less than 1 minute.
Do you have any advice for people traveling and looking for volunteer opportunities while on the road?
Everybody has different interests and expectations, and every project is different. That being said, my advice is to be open and honest when communication with the people running the project you want to participate in.
Don’t be afraid of asking questions to clear doubts and get a better picture of the environment you are heading to. Ask for references for past volunteers (offer your own references too).
Negative surprises leave you with a bitter after-taste and that will sure discourage you from trying again, but don’t give up! not everybody gets it right the first time.
Check out VolunteersBase.org to Volunteer, Host or Promote this worthy cause.