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In general, volunteering is an act that involves:

    • Unpaid work
    • Providing a service for the benefit of others
    • Contributing towards something that helps a community thrive

In addition to “free” volunteering, there are also many volunteer projects across the world that cost a price to be a part of.

Afterall, volunteer projects need to be able to survive and keep running.

But even outside of free or paid volunteer projects, there are many ways you can contribute within your community or whilst travelling overseas.

For example, you can provide:

    • A professional skill/ service (eg. freelancing, marketing, plumbing, electrical, carpentry etc)
    • Gardening, cooking or cleaning services
    • Social and/or child care
    • English teaching services

The opportunities with volunteer work are truly endless and they can give you such a better understanding of the places / cultures you visit as well as incredible joy. Giving back feels good.

This is why I try to participate in volunteering projects as much as I can when I travel.

If you’d like to learn more about some of the different volunteer projects on offer around the world, click the link below.

Some Volunteer Projects I’ve Done

Marine Conservation in Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Located in the East Indonesia/West Papua region of the coral triangle, the archipelago of Raja Ampat is made up of over 1500 small islands and cays, with only 35 of them are inhabited.

It has the highest known concentration and diversity of marine life on earth making it a top global priority for marine conservation. 🐠

Barefoot Conservation is a small not-for-profit organisation that takes a fresh look at marine conservation and community awareness.

Their aim is to engage, educate and empower the local community to make sustainable conservation a way of life, not just a project.

So what did the project entail?

While I was there, the project involved scuba diving and marine research activities including:

    • Working with marine scientists and the local community to help preserve and clean the three man-made coral nurseries (so that hopefully one day, these corals can be replanted into the ocean to support the growth of even more healthy reefs🤞🏼🤞🏼)
    • A “Reef Check” course, where we learned about basic coral reef biology and how to identify different fish and substrate species. The intention behind this is to contribute accurately to scientific and marine conservation research. 📝 Following a sequence of classroom-style lessons, volunteers are then able to start doing reef surveys to provide data to the government 🐠🐟🐡
    • Helping to spot and ID Manta rays to contribute to ongoing manta research in the area
    • The information gathered by the volunteers and staff through this program is used by the local government, local stakeholders, the community and other NGO’s to implement measures to prevent and mitigate ecosystem degradation – whether from change in climate, pollution and/or overfishing.

In addition to marine research, we also:

    • Got involved with the local community, especially by playing with the kids – whether it be a soccer game, ⚽️ snorkelling, drawing pictures, or even hair braiding! (Apparently one of the girls’ many favourites 🥰)
    • Helped contribute to waste/rubbish research and data by cleaning, collecting and categorising rubbish that had accumulated throughout the island – especially on the beaches. 🗑️

What I loved most about the project is that I now have such a greater understanding of reefs and the different species of coral and animals that inhabit them. This will make my future dives so much more insightful. 🤿

I also got to swim with Mantas which was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience!

The friendliness of the other volunteers and the community also enriched the experience, witnessing the pure joy that the kids and people have, even despite having so little on the island – not even fresh running water. 💧

Now don’t get me wrong, the living conditions we had were basic ya’ll – we didn’t even have running water or electricity throughout the day! But, getting back to basics was actually great and is the perfect opportunity to be grateful of the small luxuries you have back home.

Teaching English in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar is a tropical island paradise just off the coast of Tanzania, Africa.

Known for its warm turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, it is a hotspot for water sports and activities.

It is also rich in culture, history and is home to some of the most beautiful coastlines in Eastern Africa.

With many tourists flocking to Zanzibar each year, the local people tend to rely on jobs in the tourism sector to make a living.

However, Tanzania’s national level of English proficiency is very low and many adults struggle to access these types of jobs due to their poor literacy rate and inability to interact with tourists.

So what did the project entail?

During this volunteer project, I was based in small fishing village of Jambiani on the South-East coast of the island, around 1.5 hours from Stone Town and the airport.

My role was to help local people find employment by teaching English at the local schools, women’s groups, and at the African Impact Education Centre.

While I was there, we focused mostly on:

    • Teaching English to children, young adults, and women within the local community
    • Creating interactive educational games and sports activities to help promote positive early childhood development
    • Assist in the community and with developing educational facilities to help improve the learning environment for children in the community
    • Helping make and provide porridge to the local children
    • Teaching kids about the importance of basic hygiene and the benefits of cleaning their teeth and washing their hands

During my stay, I also got to learn about the people and culture of Zanzibar (including learning some Swahili, the local language) and enjoyed free time on the island during the weekends, whether it be:

    • Enjoying a sunset cruise on a traditional Dhow – a man-made boat
    • Swimming
    • Vising Stone Town and enjoying a day tour to the local spice farm

Zanzibar is the perfect location to ‘get off the grid’, while making long-lasting and sustainable change.

But do note, some of the local towns are Muslim, so it’s important to remain conservative and respect their local values and traditions (not walking around in a bikini).

The living conditions were also very basic, with only a unreliable floor fan to help deal with the intense humidity and heat we experienced during the month I was there. 

Volunteer in Africa

Teaching English in Krakow, Poland

Another volunteer project that I’ve participated in is the Angloville immersion programme in Krakow, Poland. 

The aim of the program is to pair international English speakers with local professionals wanting to practice and improve their English in a casual and relaxed setting. 

So what did the project entail?

In return for free meals and accommodation, the project involved:

  •  Participating in English conversations and activities with local participants
  • Creating a laidback, real-life environment for practicing English
  • Scheduled and structured days featuring a balance of educational and fun activities

We also got the opportunity to learn about the local culture, explore Krakow and meet other like-minded travellers.

You also get to develop interpersonal skills, and improve your ability to teach English.

Au-Pair in Florence, Italy

While travelling through Italy, I decided to base myself with a beautiful family in Florence for a couple of weeks as their au-pair.

I would help look after their kids, play with them and practice English with them in exchange for food and a place to stay.

I found this to to be such a great way to immerse myself within the local culture and see Florence from the perspective of someone who lives there.

It was such an enriching experience.

And, I finally learned how to cut a pomegranate.

Become an au pair in Italy

Animal Conservation, South Africa

While backpacking my way through Africa, I participated in a volunteer project at the Shamwari Private Game Reserve.

The Shamwari Conservation Experience gave me the opportunity to contribute to a project focused on helping and protecting animals – especially the Big 5 – lions, leopards, rhino, elephants, hippos, African buffalo – and many more.

For over 25 years, the team and volunteers at Shamwari, have worked to return the land (which was once derelict farmland) back to its former glory.

They now have a dedicated wildlife department, Animal Rehabilitation Centre, Animal Hospital and Rhino Awareness Centre on site.

So what did the project entail?

During the project we got to:

  • Track and monitor rare and endangered animal species, including the illusive leopard
  • Lend a hand at the acclaimed Born Free Foundation Big Cat Sanctuary
  • Plant trees and clear vegetation
  • Help rebuild the rock tracks
  • Support and observe any vet work conducted on the reserve during our stay
  • Assist local community initiatives

Elephant Conservation and Rehabilitation, Thailand

Save Elephant Foundation is a Thai non–profit organization dedicated to providing care and assistance to Thailand’s captive elephant population.

This foundation runs:

  • Animal rescue and rehabilitation programs
  • Educational ecotourism
  • Local community outreach
  • and environmental conservation programs

This was one of the most wholesome and insightful projects I’ve ever done.

Learning about the history of elephant tourism was extremely confronting, but it was reassuring to witness and be involved in the great work that this foundation is doing.

And to try and right the wrongs and past mistreatment of elephants in Asia – especially within the tourism sector.

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