Looking for cheap volunteer/internship opprotunities for the summer.
April 6, 2007 3:23 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are seeking low-cost/no cost volunteer/internship opprotunities in the US or abroad (WWOOF etc.). Problems, concerns and criteria inside.


Understanding the instinct behind this question requires a little bit of history: Starting in early June, we had hoped to visit some friends in Germany and Spain, live on the cheap and chill out. However, the skyrocketing cost of flying in the summer put that idea to bed.

We looked at volunteering abroad, but, again, it proved to be monstrously expensive, well beyond what little we've managed to pocket. We're practical people, we don't need a soft bed or 20 hour work weeks, we're better busy than bored and mostly we're looking for an opportunity to do some good, accrue some experience and spend our summer doing something worthwhile. We both have college degrees and a fair amount of know-how (And plenty of willingness) between the two of us.

I've been eyeballing the Willing Workers on Organic Farms program. Have any MeFi-ites done this? I'm also definitely willing to consider other volunteer ops. in the states or abroad that aren't going to break my bank.

Again, we're not trying to make money and we don't even want to break even, we're just trying to not empty out our savings accounts doing a good thing.
posted by GilloD to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
You did see this question, right?
posted by veggieboy at 4:25 PM on April 6, 2007

Also check out this question for free/low-cost volunteer things.
posted by logic vs love at 4:43 PM on April 6, 2007

The reason that most of these volunteer programs cost a lot is that essentially the money is what makes the programs worthwhile. The fundraising is what's needed, more than the volunteers. The organization has to train you and deal with whatever logistics come from having a few random westerners show up who want to participate, but not for that long. The soft beds and shorter hour work weeks are there to make it more appealing to those who really are volunteer tourists, but that's not why they're more expensive.

If helping others really is your thing, it's not glamorous but you can contact your local United Way and find out what kind of help you can offer in your local area. You'd be surprised how much is needed right in your area. When I was rejected by the Peace Corps (Apparently it was not wise wear a tie-dye tee-shirt to a interview, among other mistakes I made) they suggested I look into how I could help locally. I did that, volunteering at a local ESL center. I found it incredibly rewarding. But ultimately, I was honest with myself -- the reason I wanted to go on Peace Corps was because I wanted to go to other places not just because I wanted to help people. This is totally cool, by the way. That's why I went to get my TEFL Certificate in Egypt.

If teaching sounds interesting to you, you might want to look into getting a TEFL certificate. I got mind through TEFL International and enjoyed it very much. They have locations all around the globe, and It may be possible that one of the locations (Thailand, for example) is cheaper to get to on a plane during the summer months. It's not cheap -- tuition and board run around $1500 per person -- but you can also think of it as an investment, as you're getting trained in a skill that can be very useful when looking for a job abroad. I thought that the class was excellent, but wouldn't recommend the longer duration "cultural immersion". The nice thing about the program is that it is technically a non-profit, so the money you send for the program is tax-deductible (although I myself did not do this and am not at all sure how one goes about deducting it, just that the program says you can).

There are thousands of perfectly smart and willing college graduates out there who want to help -- so many that now the competition for just volunteer positions at most organizations can be extremely fierce. What this means is that if you try to apply to an honest-to-goodness internship, you'd better already have loads of professional experience or another language or two (not just French or Spanish) under your belt. It's weird, but usually these days you can't even get an internship without having already *had* a job or internship. (Yes, this last paragraph is a little bitter. What do you think me and all of my postgraduate classmates have been trying to do for the last 6 months or so?)

I appreciate that you want to help and you want to travel. Both are admirable goals. Just keep in mind that in many cases volunteers are not in short supply -- volunteering opportunities are.

posted by Deathalicious at 6:23 AM on April 7, 2007

Though they don't generally include international opportunities, VolunteerMatch has a huge searchable database of volunteer opps across the US. (You can use the search tool in the upper left corner of the home page to find opps in a geographic area.)

Idealist.org has a list, albeit smaller, of US opps but also a db of international volunteer opps.
posted by jurczyk at 3:01 PM on April 7, 2007

I once WWOOFed for a summer with a boyfriend. I can assure you that you will regret nothing, so long as you are prepared. We lasted about two and a half months on ~$300. Obviously, if you can afford to be more comfortable, by all means! It is possible to get by on a shoestring though! I guarantee you will come back a different person, with new perspectives on life/work/everything. It will also be a tremendous bonding experience for you and your girlfriend.
Good luck.
posted by sunshinesky at 9:15 AM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

I should add that you are likely to find paid work through your new WWOOFing contacts!
posted by sunshinesky at 9:16 AM on April 8, 2007

« Older Finding an agent for my sci-fi/fantasy novel   |   How does mlb.tv know how to screw you? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.