Best Places to WWOOF and How to Select a WWOOF Host

best places to WWOOF

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Best places to WWOOF – WWOOFing has grown a lot since the movement began in the 1970s in the UK.

The organization is now spread worldwide and anyone can do volunteer work on farms for days or weeks at a time.

If you’re looking for the best places to WWOOF, this guide can help you. We will also offer tips for first-time WWOOFers, how to select a host, WWOOF reviews and more.

There are over 88 WWOOFing locations around the world with more than 6,000 hosts so you won’t be lacking in choices.

Each country has great hosts and offers a unique experience. Indeed, your experience with WWOOF hosts in the same country can vary considerably. Some countries do provide more exciting opportunities for various reasons.

Here are the best places to WWOOF. Great Travel Guide to Portugal for First Timers

best places to WWOOF
best places to WWOOF

Best Places to WWOOF ~ Top Countries for WWOOFing

WWOOF in New Zealand

This is a popular choice for a lot of volunteers because of the stunning locations and the number of different opportunities available.

While WWOOFing is volunteer work, the New Zealand immigration authorities consider it a work exchange, so have your visa ready.

Aside from the beautiful locations, it is fun to volunteer in the country because demand is usually high during the growing season.

You can still do volunteer work during the winter season.

WWOOFing is a popular way to travel the world for free accommodation and food.

If you haven’t heard about this before, I highly recommend checking out the website – WWOOFing = Willing Working On Organic Farms and sounds like a great idea, but we wanted to know about this thing from someone who had actually experienced it. How to stay safe while volunteering abroad

Eleanor, a twenty-one year old WWOOFer in New Zealand and a close friend of mine from Sweden, shares her experience of WWOOFing around New Zealand for a few months and how it really works. – So how does WWOOFing work?

Eleanor: It’s an organization that is dependent on cooperation.

WWOOF stands for “Willing Workers On Organic Farms” and that is the attitude you should have if you’re planning to do some WWOOFing while you are traveling.

What you do is that you sign up on their web page and pay the fee for a year’s membership (about 50 NZ Dollars).

After you’ve done that you get your own account where you add your personal details and can start to look for hosts all around the country

(Sofia’s Note: every country has it’s own website and organization, so when you sign up you can only work in that country.

And you do the same for every country you wish to work in.) Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

Is every place the same?

E: Not at all, you get to experience so many different traditions and see how it’s like on a farm or in an ordinary city home.

You can spend one week walking around picking some weed in a garden eating exclusively vegan food and the next week you’re off to a cattle farm where they celebrate your arrival with a big meat dinner.

Are the working hours the same everywhere?

E: Usually they are, you’re supposed to do about four hours a day for food and accommodation and then have time off to explore the area.

But you should be prepared to work eight hour days sometimes, there are some who do not follow the (4hr a day) WWOOFing code.

So all hosts don’t follow the rules?

E: No, unfortunately there are those who abuse the system, but it’s not very often you meet them and when you do you are free to leave whenever you want.

Have you been exposed to any danger when WWOOFing or had to do something that would normally require a professional specialist to do?

E: Not really, there has been some ladder-climbing on windy days that’s always a bit scary but apart from that they generally give you secure jobs.

Sometimes you can find that it’s handy to have some sort of professional skill at some places, it’s always appreciated when a builder comes to your home.

What should you expect to experience with WWOOFing?

E: Hard work, a lot of outdoor activities, some cooking and household work.

A lot of weeding.

Some people call WWOOFing – Willing Weeders on Organic Farms. haha.

Is WWOOFing safe?

E: Yes, it’s all a voluntary work and the hosts pay money to the organization to get WWOOFers so they are usually very serious about the work and everything.

Has it been easy finding hosts/farms?

E: It depends a lot on the time of year and where you are going, some places are more popular than others so they can be harder to get a place to stay.

But as long as you keep trying there will always be someone who can take care of you.

Has it been worth it?

E: I’d say so! You meet some really nice people and make a lot of friends.

Is WWOOFing something you would recommend to others?

E: Oh yes, I’m already doing it! It’s something everyone should try! I love WWOOFing in New Zealand.

What will you remember from this experience?

E: All the people I’ve met and the relaxed lifestyle the New Zealanders have. 

Travel Interview WWOOFing in New Zealand
Travel Interview WWOOFing in New Zealand

WWOOF in Costa Rica

If you’re looking for something more than the typical farm, the rain forests of Costa Rica may suit your style.

The reviews and feedback from volunteers is positive, and the Environmental Performance Index placed Costa Rica at the top, indicating how important farming and the environment are to them.

Among all the countries in South America, Costa Rica has some of the highest ratings when it comes to organic farming.

You have the chance to work with tropical species you won’t find anywhere else.

WWOOF in Portugal

There are more than 100 hosts in Portugal and many of these farms have people who can speak and understand English, making communication easier.

The people here are friendly and you get the chance to learn about sustainable farming practices, composting, permaculture design and other facets of farming.

Why Choose to WWOOF?
Why Choose to WWOOF?

WWOOF in Australia

A lot of volunteers love Australia, and that is hardly a surprise as it is one of the best in terms of showing you how to farm.

More than 20% of the hosts are permaculture buffs and commercial producers, and many of the farmers are involved in biodynamic techniques.

The average working hours are 4 to 6 per day with a wide range of tasks that you can perform.

WWOOF in Nepal

If you’re looking for a country that truly offers something different, try Nepal.

When people mention Nepal the first thing that comes to mind is the Himalayas, but there are a lot of farming opportunities here, plus permaculture has really taken off here.

Other great WWOOF destinations

great WWOOF destinations
great WWOOF destinations

WWOOF in Europe

There are a lot of exciting locations for WWOOFing in Europe, but when it comes to biologic agriculture and living the alternative lifestyle, France is the best option.

Italy meanwhile, is the top destination for biodynamic farming and if you’re interested in volunteering for commercial hosts.

If you are more interested in traditional farming and caring for sheep, tending pig pens, fruit farms and other tasks, consider going to Ireland as the country has much to offer in this regard.

If your goal is to be as organized as possible in your volunteer work, head out to Spain as the country is well-known for this.

WWOOF in North America

North America offers plenty for the budding volunteer as well. Both the USA and Canada offer several hosts, guidelines, support and information for first timers.

There are literally thousands of hosts all around these countries who are looking for volunteers eager to learn about organic farming and perform different types of work.

Volunteer in Africa: What to Know Before You Go
Volunteer in Uganda ~ My Life-Changing Trip with Shanti Uganda
Volunteering in SE Asia: Getting Your Foot on the NGO Ladder

WWOOF in a vineyard

So far we have talked about farming in general, but if you’re looking to do volunteer work and WWOOF at a vineyard, there are specific places you need to check out.

all about WWOOF compost bin earth day
all about WWOOF compost bin

WWOOF at a vineyard in Europe

WWOOF in France

France has some of the best vineyard WWOOFing in the world, and the best region is the Bordeaux.

The harvest season is from August to October so that is the ideal time to go there as demand for volunteer work is high.

The Bordeaux is separated in smaller regions with their own types of soil and climate, and this determines the type of grapes that grow there.

Competition for spots here is tough, but if you land a volunteer job, it’s the experience of a lifetime.

WWOOF in Italy

The vineyards are in Tuscany and like France, the harvest time is in October.

While wine is grown all over Italy, it is here in Tuscany where you’ll find the best WWOOFing experience.

There are guidelines on how grapes are taken care of here, but one of the nice things about volunteering here is you get to work with vineyards and see how they experiment with different wines.

WWOOF at a vineyard in South America

The demand for South American wine continues to grow every year, and now is the perfect time to experience all of these firsthand.

If you’ve been to the vineyards in Europe and Australia and looking for something very different, Chile and Argentina should be on your itinerary.

WWOOF in Chile & Argentina
WWOOF in Chile & Argentina

The volunteer work you do here varies and is as engaging as those in Europe, but the difference is the environment, plus you will be planting and nurturing other types of grapes.

While there are already a lot of volunteers in European vineyards, the demand in South American countries is still high so there’s a good chance you will find a host quickly.

WWOOF in Chile and Argentina

The best vineyards in Chile are in the Colchagua Valley while in Argentina it is in Mendoza.

Whichever of the two you choose, the harvest time is from February to May, and with both 3,000 feet above sea level, the vineyard experience is completely different from the typical ones you see in the Mediterranean.

WWOOFing at a vineyard in Africa

Where is the best place to WWOOF in Africa if you want to work at a vineyard?

South Africa should be the top of your list.

WWOOF in South Africa

The top vineyard region here is West Cape and the harvest season is from February to April.

When people think of South Africa the first thing that comes to mind are the wildlife, but this is actually a good place to go WWOOFing, and there are some good vineyards here too.

The winelands in South Africa is just one of the attractions here, as you also get to meet and work with people that are genuinely interested in winemaking and farming.

Expectations when WWOOFing
Expectations when WWOOFing

How to Select a WWOOF Host

First you need to decide where you want to go WWOOFing.

Once you have made up your mind, contact that country’s WWOOF organization, and they will guide you through the membership process.

If there is a specific farm you want to volunteer at, contact the farm (contact details will be provided by your country’s WWOOF).

You can then send an email or call the host and see if you can work out a schedule.

If you plan on applying to different countries, you need to join each country’s WWOOF.

What to email a potential WWOOF host

Popular WWOOF hosts get a lot of applications, so yours needs to stand out from the rest.

Your email needs to be well written and contain the following:

You are looking at the possibility of volunteering on their farm for X days from X date to X date. If you are more flexible, even better, tell them.

Include some information about who you are and why you are interested in WWOOFing. State why you are interested in the host’s farm and what tasks you are looking forward to.

Write a short paragraph explaining what types of skills you possess. Make sure to mention any building, gardening or planting skills.

If you are hard-working, take direction well and like to do a good job, mention that too.

Other things to know

Send your email at least two months early. It’s likely you will need to send emails earlier so you can make flight arrangements. The earlier the better!

Send emails by the order of the host farm you are interested in, and if you’re accepted, send a note to the other hosts that you are thankful for their acceptance but you are now committed to a host.

Once you have found a host, you need to get in touch with them and make certain you both have a clear understanding of what will take place.

What to ask a potential WWOOF host

Your WWOOF host may not spend a lot of time online, so it’s smart to list your questions in one email, in your order of importance.

Here are some things to consider asking.

How WWOOFing Works
How WWOOFing Works

Working Arrangements

Talk with your host regarding the working arrangements such as how many hours per day you will work, the time of day you will start, when your day off is and the flexibility of the schedule.

While the average is 4 to 6 hours a day, this can vary.

Type of Work

Ask what kind of tasks you will be doing. The tasks can range from caring for animals to weeding, cooking, harvesting, collecting fruits, building fences and so on.

Hosts usually expect the volunteer to prepare dinner even for just one occasion, so be prepared to do so.

Sleeping Arrangements

Ask your host where you will be sleeping so you can prepare beforehand. You might get your own room, sleep in a camper van, etc.

Also inquire about the weather conditions so you’ll know what type of apparel to bring during the night when you sleep.

Living Conditions

Your host may have WWOOFers on a regular basis or every once in a while. Also keep in mind that hosts work in different ways.

Some like to spend time with their volunteers, eat meals together and work with them in the field.

Other hosts expect you to work independently, make your own meals and just get together after the day’s work is done.

Communications

Since these farms are far from populated cities, don’t expect reliable Internet connections or even phone coverage.

Before you volunteer, inquire about the communications situation and where you can go in case you need to make a call.

If the farm doesn’t have reliable communication, ask the host for alternative options.

Length of Stay

We mentioned earlier that two weeks is ideal, but talk to the host so there’s no misunderstanding later.

If your task involves creating fences or renovation, it might take more than just a couple of weeks, so work it out beforehand.

Food

Some farmers eat only vegetables while others have no limitations.

It’s all right to ask these questions and let them know if you have allergies.

Household

Last but not the least, it’s okay to ask some information about the household. How many are there?

Will there be other volunteers with you?

Get to know your host, and it will be a more rewarding experience for the both of you.

WWOOF tips
WWOOF tips

Tips for First Time WWOOFers

It is your first time to WWOOF and you are excited.

It’s going to be an adventure, but it’s going to be a lot more fun if you prepare.

Some people are disappointed simply due to lack of preparation and not knowing what to expect when WWOOFing.

WWOOF tips

Decide What Type of WWOOFing You Want

What type of experience are you looking forward to?

  • Do you want to take care of animals?
  • Plant vegetables and fruits?
  • Work in a vineyard?

Some farms will teach you how to make products that you can sell like produce, meat from pigs, fruit jams and so forth.

Other farms focus on the activities while others center on the business side. In some farms you will work alone while in others you will be with several volunteers.

Get an idea of the type of WWOOF experience you want and the easier it will be to narrow your search.

Be Aware of Your Limitations

Do you have allergic reaction to certain types of farm animals?

Do you have diet restrictions (i.e. vegetarian, gluten free, low sugar, etc.)?

Answer these questions first so you can work out an appropriate arrangement with your host.

Don’t Expect Hotel Level Amenities

You won’t be staying in a resort, so don’t expect to be pampered. Electricity maybe sparse or nonexistent. You may have to share a bathroom. And you might want to bring your own travel hair dryer.

Sleeping quarters will vary from farm to farm. In some cases, you may be given your own room, in others there may be several beds.

Be prepared on some farms you may have to set up a tent in which to sleep.

Know Your Skills

Having some basic farming skills will help, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t know anything about farming.

If your skills involve photography, business planning, marketing, writing guidelines for future WWOOFers or drafting contracts, let your host know.

Farming is not just about planting and caring for animals. It is also a business, and the skills you learned in the city can be a big help.

Talk to your host and let them know what you can do for them. If they are interested in help, it will be a win for both of you.

Choose the Season Wisely

The seasons dictate how high demand will be in a farm so you need to factor this in. You are most likely to get volunteer work during spring and fall as that is when they are most busy and need a helping hand.

The situations vary per farm, but springtime usually involves a lot of planting and caring for animals that have given birth.

The fall or autumn is harvest time, while summer is also busy in most farms especially if they’ve got dry fruits.

Dry weather also means it’s the perfect time to build pig pens and other structures around the farm.

The wintertime is quiet in most farms.

The seasons determine what type of activities will be done in the farm, so before you join, decide what types of activities you want to do.

Please keep in mind that while the seasons do dictate a lot of what you’re going to do, other tasks could come up.

Decide on the Duration

If it’s your first time, two weeks is ideal, though if you’re pressed for time, a week will suffice.

The reason two weeks is ideal is because seven days is just too short for a lot of work. Second, your host will probably spend much of the first week preparing you for the tasks.

If you’re staying for two weeks, you can use the second week to really get down to work and help.

At the same time, don’t overextend yourself. The idea of WWOOFing is fun all right, but it’s best to start with two weeks to how it works out.

You can always volunteer again next time and for a longer period if you enjoyed your stay.

Choose a Location

The best places to WWOOF include somewhere you are at least interested in visiting and experiencing.

You won’t be spending all your time WWOOFing (4 to 6 hours a day usually), so the rest of the day you will be free to explore.

In that case, use your time to see the place and experience the local culture.

Be Organized

Find out in advance if there is certain gear and clothing, especially footwear, you should bring.

In addition, you should get in touch with your country’s WWOOF, check their host database and look for reviews of the farms you have selected.

Remember to read reviews and feedback of the host you’ve chosen so you can get an idea of the working conditions.

Pack Only the Things You Need

Remember farming is hard work and will have you sweating and muddy.

Make sure to pack old trousers and t-shirts, comfortable socks and waterproof boots.

A cap or hat is essential if you’re volunteering during the summer, and don’t forget sunscreen and mosquito spray.

A pair of gardening gloves could be handy too.

WWOOF Reviews

Spend time reading WWOOF reviews and testimonials from people who have actually volunteered and spent time in an organic farm.

It will help narrow down your choices of where to WWOOF.

WWOOF in France review

Let’s start with Carl Adams who became enamored with the idea of volunteering on a farm and decided to WWOOF in France.

One of the first things he and his friends learned was the unpredictability.

One of the tasks they had to do was find a busted pipe, and this was followed by other tasks that included mixing concrete for the barbecue, renovating and more.

Adams enjoyed his cheerful hosts and the evening meals together.

While there was a lot of work for their week stay, Adams and his friends gained a new appreciation for life on an organic farm.

WWOOF in Italy review

Our friend Shelby Ventra shared with us her experiences WWOOFing in Italy. She had been to Italy several times before as a tourist and again as a part-time journalist.

Curious about WWOOF, Ventra decided to give it a try. She chose three farms, one at San Casciano, the other at Nibbiaia and one at Castagneto Carducci.

She arrived in Tuscany with thermals, plasters and gardening gloves.

Her WWOOFing at Nibbiaia involved mustering sheep.

Her other tasks included stripping fruits from trees and more, and work began at 8 in the morning.

At the Castagneto Carducci farm, Ventra worked 5 to 6 days a week which involved helping to build stone walls and barns; caring for animals; clearing scrub; weeding and pruning; and gathering hazelnuts and eggs.

WWOOF in Mexico review

Tina Colaro, who with her husband, wanted to learn Spanish and to experience WWOOFing simultaneously.

The couple chose to stay at General Cepeda, a small town on the outskirts of Saltillo, and they volunteered to do ranch work for two weeks.

The owner’s ranch was fairly new and had several fruit trees, cactus, chickens, pigs, a windmill and a solar panel.

As volunteers, their work included planting cactus; helping expand the pig pen; feeding the animals each day; and constructing the irrigation system.

During their stay, the couple also enjoyed the countryside, savored the views, and experienced the local culture as well.

Read WWOOF reviews

These are just three testimonials from people who have tried WWOOFing.

Each volunteer work is unique and provides the individuals with unique experiences, and that is part of the reason why WWOOFing appeals to many.

Living and working in a farm can mean different tasks every day. It’s best if you just come in with an open mind and enjoy your stay. The more you research, plan and can learn in advance the better. Then it will be up to you to enjoy the experience, no matter what comes your way.

These best places to WWOOF are great places to consider for your next WWOOFing adventure.

Do your research to learn how to pick a great WWOOF host and have a life-changing experience especially for vegans.

Consequences of Global Warming

How to Stay Safe While Volunteering Abroad

The advantages of getting away from the UK and volunteering abroad as part of a gap year are plentiful.

As well as gaining a unique and enlightening experience of another country and culture, volunteers also make a real difference by offering up their time for a given cause.

Volunteering Abroad
Volunteering Abroad

The reason why I became interested in volunteering was to get a closer insight into the local culture, become more of a part of the community rather than a watcher, and really get to know a different way of life.

I also thought this would be a good experience that I could benefit from in my future career.

It turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life, but if I could do it all again, I wish that I would have read up a bit more about it before I threw myself out there in the unknown, because it’s not always as safe as your own backyard.

But you live, you volunteer, and you learn.

Stay Safe While Volunteering Abroad
Stay Safe While Volunteering Abroad

It wasn’t usually the actual volunteer work that I messed up with, but everything around it.

Prepare

Volunteering is not a vacation, it’s so much more than that, and if you want to make the most of your time and make it easy on yourself, study and read about it.

There is a time and a place for “going with the flow and see what happens”, and volunteering is not the right place to do that.

Read all the information you can lay your hands on before choosing your destination and the work you will be doing – and make sure that you learn about the area before you get there.

Travel Together
Travel Together

Once you have a thorough plan, ensure that friends and family know your itinerary. Inform them of where you’re going, when you’re traveling and who you will be with during your time away.

Travel Together

When it comes to moving around within the country you’re visiting, avoid travelling at night where possible and always try to steer clear of travelling alone if you have an alternative. I’ve ended up in some truly sticky situations because of this in Rwanda!

Even just having one other person with you is a significant advantage, although if you can mange to move around with a bigger group then all the better. And it hurts to say it, but I noticed a big difference having a guy in the group.

There are reasons to travel alone, and it can be great. Just stay safe.

Be Aware While WWOOFING

It may sound obvious, but it’s incredibly important to be aware of your surroundings at all times – especially seeing as though you’ll be in a completely unfamiliar environment.

It’s even more important to be vigilant at all times; In the beginning of my volunteer work I was the naïve traveler who assumed that everyone who speaks to you is there to make friends – bit of a mistake, and soon I found myself duped.

Rwanda
Rwanda

In Congo, I spent an hour running between bus companies trying to get a bus ticket to Rwanda, and every single person was lying about how they had a ticket for us.

If I wouldn’t have been so naive I could have done things differently and been on that bus way earlier.

By the same token, though, don’t get to a stage where you assume that anybody who approaches you wants to do you harm or steal your valuables.

Try to be level headed and assess each situation on its own merits and you won’t go too far wrong – human instinct is a valuable tool, so trust your feelings.

Balance all these three, and you’ll be safe volunteering anywhere!

Are You a Voluntourist?

A new way of traveling is starting to emerge – some call it ”the rise of the voluntourist.”

So what does being a Voluntourist mean?

A voluntourist, also known as a chadventurer, is simply a tourist/traveler who combines travelling / backpacking around the world with volunteer work or fund raising for charity to help the country he or she is visiting.

Today’s travelers seem more and more to really want to give something back to the countries they visit.

I remember how shocked and disgusted I was when they started having guided tours in the favelas in Rio (a barrio where the poorest people live in abundance of violence and corruption) a few years back.

How can people pay for a tour to watch other’s misery? As if they were going to the movies, and soon would head back to their ”reality” in their four star hotels.

Giving back

Now tourists are willing to take a step forward. Instead of only feeling sorry for the people in the country they’re visiting, and leaving, they are now starting to to help them.

Are you willing to take that step?

If you’re interested in spending a week or two of your vacation volunteering here are a few websites that can be helpful:

http://www.voluntourism.org/

http://www.crossculturalsolutions.org/

http://www.unitedplanet.org/

http://www.gviusa.com/

Imagine…

Luxury Family Volunteering Vacations

Have you included a few weeks volunteer work while in a country you were visiting?

If so how was it?

I am so keen to travel to South America and help out communities there as well as backpack around for 6-8 months.

Family Volunteer Vacations ~ Your Complete Guide for a Great Trip

Family Volunteer Vacations – Many travelers, myself included, attest to the fact that any sort of travel is eye-opening, fostering global understanding and reducing prejudices.

Taking your kids out of their home environment, no matter how far, will undoubtedly broaden their minds.

This said, should you consider turning your family vacation into one of the many family volunteer vacations?

Best Places to WWOOF and How to Select a WWOOF Host
family volunteer vacations

What are family volunteer vacations?

Volunteer travel means precisely that: you and your family are traveling for the purpose of lending aid or volunteer effort in the country of your destination like to help wildlife in Belize.

It can be arranged during domestic or international trips, and can be arranged by you, of course, once you touch ground in the country you’re visiting, but is most often planned well ahead of time through a volunteerism travel organization.

Is volunteer travel right for you?

To decide, consider the following questions:

Do you have the means to volunteer abroad?

Ironically, volunteer travel is not cheap. Of course, if you’re planning to travel internationally, especially traveling with kids, few trips will be truly economical.

Consider whether you have the means to join a volunteer travel organization.

Are your kids old enough?

Again, this is a question only you can decide, but most tour companies recommend volunteerism travel for tweens and teens.

Kids under age 12 may not have the emotional strength to handle the extremes of poverty, sickness, or plain sadness they may encounter.

On a practical side, kids must be old enough to be of use from a volunteer work standpoint as well.

Is volunteer travel the best way we can help?

For some families, the answer to this question will be yes.

If you have limited time but less-than-limited funds and a desire to help, a volunteer trip may be the best way to do your part.

If you have a skill set that would be of particular use, such as building or medical expertise, a volunteer trip may be the best use of your abilities.

However, if your own resources are limited, there are other ways to show you care (more on this below).
Family Volunteer Vacations

21 Resources for Volunteering Abroad Why You Should Do It
10 Things to Know Volunteering Abroad Before You Sign Up
11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF

Volunteer vacation organizations:

If you’ve decided a volunteer vacation is right for your family, the three organizations below offer a good place to start.

Each with a different emphasis and at a different price-point, they showcase the range you can expect to find in volunteer travel.

Me to We:

Me to We is one of the most expensive volunteer travel organizations (a trip to Kenya starts at over $4000 per person), and it combines volunteerism with pleasure, adding in safari game drives, for instance, and some upscale lodging.

At first glance, the idea of offering such perks may sound insensitive or incongruous with the purpose of the trip, but bear in mind the need to take breaks, disconnect from your efforts, and regroup…all valid coping measures while volunteering abroad.

Global Volunteers

Global Volunteers offers programs both domestic and international, with trips as low as $995 per person to the Blackfeet reservation of Montana, for instance.

Through community development partnerships, Global Volunteers (a non-profit) pairs volunteers with longer term projects all focused on serving at-risk youth.

Kids traveling on these programs can easily relate to the peers they’re helping.

GlobeAware

GlobeAware offers week-long programs for a middle-of-the-range price.

A trip to Laos, for example, starts at $1,400.

Like the other programs listed, GlobeAware does not include international airfare in the cost of their trips, but once there, nearly everything is covered, from lodging to food, so families can focus on the reason for their visit.

If you can’t leave home

For many parents, the best way to teach kids about global need and injustice is through local travel.

Volunteer at a city homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or food pantry for the day, or better yet, sign up for one day per month.

Do you have an interest in reading to children? Volunteer at a school with high needs. There are programs to help homeless teens. You can answer phones, help with mailings, and more. Religious organizations are also a good place to find volunteer opportunities.

Support global relief organizations that are travel-based, such as Passports with Purpose.

This year, Passports with Purpose is serving underprivileged families in Haiti with sponsor Expedia.com.

Families can assist their efforts every holiday season by bidding on fun travel adventures.

Help other children broaden their minds through travel with the Passport Project

This organization helps teen girls obtain their first passport, allowing them to travel and gain perspective on their world.

Families don’t have to travel far to help those less fortunate, nor do they need to spend thousands on volunteerism organizations abroad.

All travel opens the mind, and need can be found in every corner of the world.

How to Find a Great Farm Vacation to Get Back to Nature

Farm vacations – Long popular in Europe, farm stay vacations have only recently become part of the mainstay U.S. travel market.

Once you try a farm vacation, however, you’ll be sold.

Whether experiencing a farm as a vacation destination in itself or as a lodging alternative including other activities, staying at a farm is a way to get back to nature, take the slower path, and have an eco-friendly travel experience called Agritourism.

We now seek out family-friendly farm vacation whenever we travel, as the price of farm vacation lodging is usually compatible to that of a mid-priced hotel.

For the money, families get a property to explore, farm experiences to enjoy, and usually some meals included.

Find fully-vetted farm in the U.S. at Farm Stay U.S., where you can search for the perfect farm for your vacation by region, state, type (farm, ranch, or vineyard), or price.

The site is maintained by a farm vacation professional and updated continually.

Great Farm Vacations in the U.S.

Every farm property is different, so the picks below range from a coastal mountain lamb farm to a tropical papaya farm and everything in-between!

Leaping Lamb Farm, Alsea Oregon:

Those looking to get away from the stresses of everyday life and lose themselves in pristine surroundings, the sound of bird calls, and the bleat of lambs will love Leaping Lamb Farm.

Ideal for guests with kids, proprietor Scottie Jones welcomes children to partake in daily farm chores, help care for sheep, and generally run loose on the property of coastal rain forest and rolling pasture.

Kids and adults alike learn firsthand how food gets to the table, whether in the form of the farm-fresh eggs guests collect daily to the produce from the garden.

Only one family stays at Leaping Lamb at a time in the farm’s single luxury guest cottage (breakfasts provided).

North Country Farms, Kauai, Hawaii:

Travelers looking to spend less on Hawaiian accommodations should skip the beach resort properties and book at North Country Farms instead.

Tucked into the lush Kauai countryside, North Country is a working produce farm where families, solos, and couples can relax in relative solitude.

The farm is adjacent to excellent coastal hikes, beaches, and nature centers and gardens, so rest assured: you’ll still get the Hawaii vacation you imagined.

Kids and adults can pick fruit off the trees to eat on the spot or compliment their meals, and the hammocks outside the two guest cottages always beckon.

Liberty Hill Farm Inn, Rochester, Vermont:

At Liberty Hill Farm, the hosts care for up to 270 Robeth Holstein cows.

Guests can give a hand with milking for help plant fields should they like to, or can explore the surrounding Vermont countryside, sampling local cheeses and other dairy foods at creameries nearby.

Guestrooms are in the 1825 homestead farmhouse, where breakfasts and dinners are prepared.

The emphasis here is on seasonal, local foods, so locavores will be happy, as well as anyone interested in agri-tourism.

Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, New York:

For travelers who want to support efforts to end animal cruelty, a stay at Farm Sanctuary’s New York property will educate guests as well as support the farm’s mission.

Here guests will make friends with rescued farm animals ranging from pigs to cows, assist with feedings if desired, and eat vegan meals.

Day visits are also available – we toured the Orland California Farm Sanctuary location with young kids and were given a full tour and opportunity to pet, play with, and feed the livestock.

Wilson Ranches Retreat, Fossil, Oregon:

For travelers seeking an authentic ranch experience in the high desert of West, Wilson Ranches Retreat offers cattle drives, horseback riding, and home cooked ranch meals as well as several accommodation choices.

Guests can explore nearby Fossil Oregon, known for fossil discoveries, or experience the contemporary cowboy lifestyle.

Remote and rustic, Wilson Ranches Retreat is the real deal: guests come away with a true understanding of earning a living from the land.

Farm stays are available in nearly every state of the US, and are a great alternative to traditional hotels.

Families will appreciate the educational nature of a farm stay, as well as the space for children to be children, and couples and solo travelers will welcome the seclusion and chance to unwind.

Travel Green On Your Next Vacation to Reduce Impact
Best Nature Inspired Vacation Activities

Consider one of the many family volunteer vacations available it could be a fit for your family.

(photo credit: Julien HarneisÄngsbacka – Visions Service AdventuresEDV Media Director)

11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF

great WWOOF destinations

Updated:

WWOOF – After volunteering for five days on an Argentine chacra (small farm) — complete with ultra fresh meals and a bit of farming work in a picture perfect setting.

I’ve learned a good bit about WWOOF and WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).

In retrospect, there are a few things I wish I would have known before going.

Overall, the number one thing to ask yourself before you choose a volunteer program is “why do I want to do this?”

Your answer, be it “I spent all my money and need to live for free until my plane ticket home” or “I want to know how to garden” or “I want a different experience,” should help you figure out what type of farm you want and how long you want to stay.

If you’re considering volunteering on a farm, read this first.

Chacra Millalen: Volunteering on an Argentina Organic Farm

How do I get Internet While Traveling?
How do I get Internet While Traveling?

11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF

It’s Not All Farm Work

While we spent most of our time weeding the garden, preparing meals, and cleaning up, there was more to do at our farm than just garden and clean.

Several people taught English lessons and the week after we left volunteers started making herbal remedies and building adobe bricks.

Volunteering on a Farm Doesn’t Always Mean Free Rent

A lot of people assume that if you volunteer on a farm you will get room and board.

This isn’t always the case.

Because we only stayed five days and worked 4 hour days, we contributed for meals and our room.

Another couple on the farm was staying for several weeks, but didn’t want to work 8 hour days so they paid for food.

Farming isn’t always lucrative, so even if you work for months with long hours you may still be asked to pay.

In Argentina this could be $2-$10/day if you work full time; we paid about $20/day for room and board.

You Don’t Have to Work Long Hours

Because some farms don’t need all the volunteers they have at one time, or if you are paying for part of your stay, you don’t necessarily have to work long 8+ hour farming days.

If you want to spend part of your time on the farm relaxing or hiking around the area, look for a WWOOF experience that will allow you to pay a bit.

And as Kimberly mentioned in her post, at our chacra everyone got weekends off.

You Can Stay for Weeks or Months

Because of timing with the rest of our trip in Argentina, we were only able to stay 5 days.

I wish we could have stayed longer.

Some people on our farm had been there a month and had no plans to leave anytime soon.

The Longer You Stay the More You’ll See

It may seem obvious that if you stay for a longer period of time you will get to see how the farm changes throughout the seasons.

For some reason I thought this would only happen if you stayed months, but people who had been on our farm only a week were excited to see how much the basil grew.

And even in our time there the newborn kittens opened their eyes.

Before You WWOOF
Before You WWOOF

The Accommodations Vary

We stayed in a private room on the farm, while others slept in tents.

Another WWOOF from a nearby chacra told us his farm didn’t have electricity.

But we did bring our own Best Travel Hair Dryers.

Fresh Food is Incredible

Kimberly and I participate in CSA farm shares and shop at farmers markets, and when I was little I managed to grow a few ears of corn and a couple of potatoes one summer.

But there’s something different when you’re helping grow the food you eat. It tastes so much better.

The Area Around the Farm Matters

We were lucky to be within hiking distance of a national park, lake, and waterfall.

The nearest town was also within walking distance and there was a larger town (El Bolson) reachable via bus, taxi, or hitchhiking.

If you’re thinking about WWOOF, I would definitely recommend considering what else is in the area.

The People (and Animals) Made Our Experience

If we had just been on a farm by ourselves, the experience would have been completely different.

Getting to know the other volunteers and the family who owned the farm made our time so much better.

If you’re thinking about WWOOF find out who else might be there.

Also, our farm had three adorable (but slightly mischievous) dogs, two cats (and three newborn kittens), and three horses.

It was so much fun to see these animals interact with each other and with us.

Things to Know Before You WWOOF
Bob the dog

We Spoke in English

Because they other volunteers were from English speaking countries the farm owner spoke English, we spent the majority of our time communicating in English.

Start with the WWOOF Website

I visited the Argentina WWOOF site when considering volunteer and farming options, but I wasn’t sure how helpful it would be and I didn’t want to pay the membership fee to find out.

Instead I spent hours reading blogs and Googling “volunteer Argentina”.

That’s how I eventually came across Chacra Millalen.

Turns out, everyone else we volunteered with had found the chacra through the WWOOF site.

I would have saved a lot of time had I used the WWOOF site in the first place.

How do I get Internet While Traveling?
How do I get Internet While Traveling?

Want to learn more about WWOOFing?

Check out these books: The Practical Guide to WWOOFing, Volunteer Vacations, and Work Your Way Around the World: The Globetrotter’s Bible.

WWOOFing in New Zealand ~ (Travel Interview)

Great Resources for Volunteer Traveling and WWOOF ‘ing:

21 Resources for Volunteering Abroad Why You Should Do It
10 Things to Know Volunteering Abroad Before You Sign Up

We are currently planning on our next WWOOF adventure and are excited to see another part of the world from this unique vantage point.

All about WWOOF: How it Works and What You Need to Know

How WWOOFing Works

Updated:

All about WWOOF – Organic farming has grown by leaps and bounds, and the need for farmers to communicate and interact grows more each day.

This is where WWOOF comes in as a movement that aims to join organic farmers and growers with volunteers in an effort to increase cultural understanding.

It’s all about constructing a global community.

Here’s all about WWOOF

all about WWOOF Compost bin earth day

Learn all about WWOOF

WWOOFing stands for ‘World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.’

The volunteer or ‘WWOOFer,’ gets the opportunity to spend time in an organic farm, learn what it’s like, how it works and what sustainable agriculture is all about.

During your stay in the farm, you don’t have to pay for board or lodging.

It is not a monetary exchange program.

WWOOF is an educational program and it offers the visitors / WWOOFers the chance to learn what WWOOFing is about.

It is all about learning how to farm, taking part in the organic agriculture program and learning the culture.

WWOOFing is a worldwide movement, and WWOOF-USA® Host Farm Directory has more than 2,000 organic farms all over the nation. Agritourism is rising in popularity.

Who can WWOOF?

Any garden project, community or farm can participate in the program.

Anyone can be WWOOFer as long as they are at least 18 years old regardless whether you have experience or not.

In some countries, those under 18 can participate when accompanied by any adult parent or legal guardian.

The membership for WWOOF USA is good for one year after buying, but you should check the regulations from the country where you are going to be a member.

WWOOFing gives you the chance to learn all about organic farming and do real, physical work.

Among the things you will discover while WWOOFing are making wine, beekeeping, creating straw houses, growing vegetables and more.

You can read about these things in school and online, but there is nothing quite like getting down and dirty and being in a real farm, and that is what you get here.

11 Things to know before you WWOOF

WWOOFing began in 1971 in the UK.

It was the brainchild of Sue Coppard, who together with a couple of friends, wanted to spend some time in a farm.

In return for their stay, Sue and her friends performed various tasks around the farm.

Following their successful stay, other people soon followed and the WWOOF movement was on its way.

Today the WWOOFing organization is available in more than 50 countries and is available as independents in over 40 more.

In the beginning, WWOOFing was confined to the weekends, but now volunteers can stay for longer periods of time.

Aside from those mentioned earlier, WWOOFers will have the opportunity to assist with animal care, weeding and help with harvesting.

While a certain level of fitness is required for these tasks, you don’t need to be exceptionally fit.

Please keep in mind that tasks in farms change on a daily basis, so while you may be given an idea of what duties to perform, these can change.

Best Places to WWOOF and How to Select a WWOOF Host

How WWOOFing Works

The first step is to join a WWOOF organization.

Just go online and look for the WWOOF organization in your country and apply for membership.

Earlier we mentioned that only those 18 years and above are allowed, but in some counties like the US, those below 18 can join if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Once you have applied for membership, you gain access to that country’s list of smallholdings, gardens and organic farms.

Here the visitor / WWOOFer can contact a host farm and arrange for their stay and the type of volunteer work the will do.

In exchange for the farm work you do, your host will take care of your lodging and food.
How WWOOFing Works
As a visitor / volunteer, you will stay with your host in their farm and participate in the daily activities and tasks.

There are two types of jobs in this world, those you receive a paycheck for your work and those who’s compensation is other than monetary.

But in both cases they are a job and that work requires the same dedication and commitment.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the number of hours you have to work, but usually it is 4 to 6 hours a day helping around the farm, and in exchange you will get a full day’s worth of accommodation and food.

As a volunteer you will be asked to perform any number of tasks.

In addition to those, you will learn and take part in the fundamentals of farming such as bread making, cheese making, how to create mud bricks, milk cows and feed different types of animals.

Volunteers may also learn how to sow seed, prepare compost, cut wood, harvest, pack, garden, prune and so on.

The time you stay in the farm will have been negotiated prior to your arrival and will be between you and your host.

The average stay length is 2 to 3 weeks, but it can be as short as 2 days or as long as 6 months; it all depends on your negotiations with your host.

How to be a WWOOF Host

If you’ve got a woodland, vineyard, allotment, garden or farm and adhere to the principles of organic farming sustainability, you are eligible to be a WWOOF host and take in volunteers.

Volunteers can provide assistance with your day-to-day tasks and lessen your workload.

Another advantage is many volunteers are familiar with bio-dynamic growing and permaculture growing techniques.
How to be a WWOOF Host
There are different types of hosts: some use their land for self-sufficiency, others make a living from it.

Some hosts are individuals while others are comprised of families with children.

Some hosts are independent while others are part of eco-villages, communities or cooperatives.

If you’ve got a farm, being a WWOOF host gives you the opportunity to learn the latest techniques for growing organics, and it is also a chance to show people another lifestyle they may not be familiar with.

In other words, WWOOF benefits both host and volunteer, and a lot of volunteers enjoy their experience so much they end up becoming farmers.

As a host, this is the right time to spread word about organic farming and its benefits.

If you’re interested in becoming one, simply get in touch with the WWOOF in your country and they will help with the procedure.

Expectations when WWOOFing

WWOOFing has become very popular.

It has become something a lot of young people want to try out.

Aside from college graduates and adventurers, there are those who are just plain curious want to give it a try.

If you’re interested in organic farming and want to be a volunteer, here are some do’s and don’ts.
Expectations when WWOOFing

Do the following when WWOOFing

Set criteria:

Before you apply as a volunteer, ask yourself why you’re joining and what type of experience you want to gain.

Do you want to work with animals?

Do you want to plant vegetables?

Or would you prefer to learn how to create stone walls and prepare local food?

Define your goals and you will have an easier time figuring out what to do.

Be honest with your time:

How long do you want to work in a farm?

Is it just for a few days or several weeks?

Ask yourself if you’d rather spend time traveling than being on the farm or how flexible you can be.

While the typical workday is around 4 to 6 hours, it can vary from farm to farm.

In some cases you may have to work all day and have the following day off.

Take your time choosing a host:

There is no need to rush.

Online research makes it easy to explore many opportunities and to read reviews.

Don’t make your decision after just a couple of emails, as you need to spend a little time getting to know your host –and vice versa – so you can try to ensure a good rapport.

During this point, get to know each other’s expectations so there are no misunderstandings later.

Location matters:

You won’t be spending all your time in the farm so choose a location that you will enjoy.

For instance, you could choose a farm that is close to camping trails.

Or you could go to farm that is adjacent to important locations in the area or near public transport.

Consider the language:

Language is another matter to consider.

Are you willing to stay in a farm where they don’t speak much English or your native language?

Others may not want to, but this also gives you the chance to learn and use a foreign language.

You should also consider the general atmosphere and situation such as the weather, climate, etc.

Be prepared:

Your host will provide for most of your needs, but it won’t hurt to be prepared.

Your host is going to have the tools and boots, but you should bring a bandanna, reusable stainless steel water bottle, pocketknife, hat, work gloves (also recommend some gardening gloves as well), rain gear and work clothes.

Make sure the clothes you bring in are proper for farm work and that your pocketknife is properly stored so it doesn’t get confiscated if you’re visiting a farm abroad, or just buy one on your way there.

What not to do while WWOOFing

Keep the following in mind so you and your host don’t encounter any problems when it comes to expectations.

Do not slack off:

If you’re interested in WWOOFing, look for a host farm as soon as possible.

It’s not just you who is going to make plans but your host as well, so plan ahead by 4 to 6 months.

Keep in mind that farmers have a lot of work, plus many of them won’t have the time to be online and need time to respond.

Be polite, patient and keep looking for a farm that you like.

Do not be shy:

You’ll be staying at their farm so let them know a bit about you.

You’re not the only one volunteering for that farm so it won’t hurt to “sell yourself” by pointing out your strong points.

Can you sow seeds?

Do you have some experience planting vegetables?

Provide some details of your skills.

If you don’t have any direct related experience, emphasize other attributes.

Are you hard working?

Do you take directions well?

Will you take ownership of the work assigned to you?

Going to go far in helping you land that volunteer spot in the farm.

Don’t take risks:

While you are a guest at their farm, you alone are responsible for your safety.

Members of WWOOF have insurance but if you’re careful you won’t ever have to use it.

Be careful when spraying on plants, when feeding animals and doing other tasks.

Use common sense as well.

If you’re asked to drive the tractor and you don’t feel capable of doing so, let your host know and politely decline.

Do not be rigid:

One of the things you will quickly learn in a farm is that plans for the day changes.

This isn’t like your regular 9 to 5 job.

When you emailed the farm back in January, they might have said you’ll be feeding the chickens and cows, and doing cleaning and maintenance, but that could change drastically when you arrive.

The important thing to keep in mind is that WWOOFing is about learning life in a farm.

You will need to get your hands dirty.

If you’re prepared for that, you hopefully won’t be disappointed.

Don’t expect fancy lodging:

This isn’t a five star hotel, it is farm, so you could end up sleeping in a barn loft, basement bunkhouse or tepee.

In some farms you could be staying in a comfortable room with amenities, while in another you may have to set up your own tent.

Remember why you’re there:

Being in a new place, it’s tempting to go out sightseeing.

It’s allowed provided you’re done with your duties for the day.

All the good food, meeting new people, the beautiful vistas and local sights and sounds are secondary as you are there to do volunteer work.

To gain the respect of your hosts, don’t hesitate to get your hands dirty, be responsible and respectful of your work.

Why Choose to WWOOF?

You’re probably wondering why a lot of people are into WWOOFing, and there is no single answer.

WWOOFing is popular right now because it offers you the chance to experience something new, and work in exchange for food and lodging, making it more affordable.

You may have read about it and seen videos, but it’s a totally different matter to actually live on a farm and live like a farmer.

It is quite literally an experience unlike any other.

Family Volunteer Travel Guide
Why Choose to WWOOF?

Reasons to WWOOF

Gain practical experience.

Sure, you can read about biodynamic and organic farming.

However, it’s totally different when you’re out there harvesting, growing and farming.

Animal husbandry and other aspects of farming have a sort of therapeutic effect.

The feeling of planting and mixing soil is something you’ll not likely to forget.

Get to know like-minded folks.

If you’re eager to know how organic farming works, then there’s no better place to find the answers than in a farm with farmers and others there WWOOFing as well.

Aside from meeting farmers, you also have the chance to meet and engage other WWOOFers and learn from each other.

This is one of the most exciting parts of WWOOFing and what a lot of people look forward to.

Learn the intricacies of farming.

Organic farming is not just about planting and feeding animals.

When you take in WWOOF, you will learn firsthand the relationship between the community and food production.

Eat organic food.

Another reason why people WWOOF is the opportunity to eat organic food.

It’s your chance to get away from processed food and enjoy fresh healthy produce.

Be fit and healthy.

If you haven’t had the time or inclination to exercise, going to WWOOF is an alternative.

The work you do will help get you in shape.

Tasks vary on a farm, and you will never get bored or run out of things to do.

Breathe fresh air.

There are some things we take for granted and that includes fresh air.

If you’ve been filling your lungs with smoke and pollution while living in the city, being able to breathe the fresh air will be a welcome change.

Learn something new.

WWOOF gives you the chance to learn a new skill at low cost, and at the same time you get to visit different places and meet new people.

Try something different.

If you’ve been doing the same thing over and over during your vacation, then it’s time for a change.

It’s not exactly your typical vacation, but one where you can learn new things and do something adventurous.

Fight stress.

This might seem odd at first.

After all you’ll be doing some farm work, but a lot of volunteers say the experience actually reduces their stress level.

While you’ll be doing some work, it’s more about learning.

Throw in the fresh air, meeting new people and being able to visit new locales, and your stress may fade away.

Affordable means of traveling.

WWOOFing is one of the most affordable means of traveling.

Your food and lodging are taken care of, plus a lot of these farms are far away from populated centers, giving you the chance to explore without spending a lot of money.

No farming experience required.

Earlier we mentioned that having farm skills is a plus.

That’s true but it’s not a requirement.

Even if you know next to nothing about farming, you can still apply as a lot of farms take in volunteers who have little or no experience.

The only thing that’s important is you arrive at the farm with a positive outlook and willing to keep up with the daily tasks required.

Being self-reliant.

Becoming a volunteer means learning how to grow food and get hands-on training on what it’s like being a farmer.

The knowledge you gain WWOOFing can be put to good use and in your own garden.

People choose to go WWOOFing to learn a new way of living as well as how to be resilient.

Pros of WWOOFing

Travel to different places.

WWOOF is all over the world.

It offers you the chance to go globetrotting while learning how to farm and help others.

Usually don’t have to pay for food and lodging.

Meet different people and experience an alternative lifestyle.

Gain new knowledge about organic farming.

Learn how to plant and cultivate.

Doing farm work is not just emotionally rewarding but physically good as well.

Building walls, hauling rocks and making garden beds is good exercise and good for your body.

You’ll be one with nature again.

If you’ve been living in the city for a while, being on farm gives you the chance to get away from it all.

Depending on where you chose to go WWOOFing, beaches, the mountains and ocean shores could be near by.

A chance to enjoy different kinds of weather.

Is it winter where you live and want to get away from it?

Go WWOOFing and enjoy the sun.

It’s an experience to remember.

By the time your stay is over, you’ll have some interesting stories to tell your friends and memories for a lifetime.

Gives you a new perspective on life:

some people become so enamored with life on the farm they decide to be farmers full time.

This is your chance to see if this lifestyle is for you.

Cons of WWOOFing

Hard work:

Life on the farm isn’t easy.

You have to get up early and do real work.

Aside from feeding and planting, you may end up doing physically demanding tasks.

You will be outside, so apply sunscreen to avoid sunburns.

You need to be careful; If you’re WWOOFing for the first time, watch out for insect bites as they’re prevalent in some countries.

The amenities vary.

In some farms you will have your own room while in others you may have to share it and bathrooms with several people.

The weather might be too hot or too cold.

This is something you need to get used to especially if you’re used to living in a particular climate.

Internet and TV connections could be sporadic.

Maybe this could be a good thing!

More information about WWOOFing

There are many excellent books on what to know about WWOOFing.

Resources and About GoGreenTravelGreen.com

As you can see, there’s much to learn about WWOOF.

Now that you know all about WWOOF, you can tell the pros outweigh the cons.

WWOOFing is for many an unforgettable experience and well worth trying.

Top Spots for Agritourism: From Pizza Farms to Cheese Trails

Top Spots for Agritourism – Autumn has arrived, and with it, a prime season for agritourism.

Take advantage of beautiful fall weather, the outdoors, and the opportunity to eat, can, and bake with whole food ingredients this autumn by traveling to your nearest organic u-pick farms and orchards.

In the mood for something different?

Read on to learn where you can find pizza farms, cheese trails, and organic wineries.

What is agritourism?

Agricultural tourism, or agritourism, encompasses working farms, ranches, wineries, and orchards that include an element of commercial enterprise for guests.

Agritourism includes the usual suspects — roadside fruit stands, u-pick orchards, farmers’ markets, and pumpkin patches — as well as more unique travel experiences ranging from farm stays and organic winery tours to guest ranches and pizza farms.

While agritourism exists in most parts of the US and Canada, the sure fire way to find the freshest and most abundant harvest selection is to follow the foodie: regions and communities with the most farm-to-table restaurants, organic food trucks, and organic wineries or breweries most likely have the best produce to pick from… literally!

If you’re ready for a unique, local dining experience, check out these top spots for agritourism in the US.

Top Spots for Agritourism

Charlottesville, VA

With a greater restaurant-to-visitor ratio than any other city in the country, Charlottesville takes the cake when it comes to organic produce and fruit.

While strolling Charlottesville’s City Market or Farmers in the Park, agricultural tourists rub elbows with local chefs and restaurant managers.

Personally, I’d just trail them and ask them what’s for dinner.

If you’d rather pick your own produce, spend a day at Carter Mountain Orchard, where over 30 varieties of apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, and pumpkins are available seasonally (19 of apples alone).

Buy jams, jellies, and apple butter at the on-site store, and get pie recipes from the staff.

Northampton, MA

You may not think of Western Massachusetts as farm country, but the outlying communities of Northampton at the edge of the Berkshires would disagree.

Starting in June, local organic u-pick farms burst with berry fields, lending to a rich apple-picking season through October.

Any time of year, enjoy the handfuls of local breweries.

My favorite is The People’s Pint, located in nearby Greenfield.

What sets it apart?

The People’s Pint won’t take credit cards, and reuses resources like napkins, to cut down on garbage.

In fact, even on their busiest nights, they claim to produce only one bag of trash.

Best of all, The People’s Pint uses only local ingredients in their pub food and beer-making.

Yes, this means they sometime run out of popular items, but knowing you’re eating what was grown or raised right down the road more than makes up for it.

Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley, OR

Situated in the fastest growing winery region of the US, the Rogue and Applegate valleys of Southern Oregon enjoy a Mediterranean climate rare in this part of the US.

Visitors can follow the Applegate Wine Trail (once the route of the famed pioneer trail) for organic wines, farm-to-table food, and beautiful views.

My favorite stop: Troon Vineyard, where guests might catch a glimpse of local hang gliders landing.

Medford, OR, in the heart of the Rogue Valley, is also home to Harry and David, famous for pears, produce, and gourmet holiday baskets.

Harry and David offers an extensive tour of their kitchens and operations, including time on the soil in their pear orchards and on the concrete of their production floors.

Checkout of posts of our time in this area of Oregon Oregon’s Warm Springs Reservation Land of Big Sky and Rafting the Rogue River Oregon with O.A.R.S.

Niagara, NY

Niagara is not just about falls. With over 80 u-pick farms and orchards (many of which use organic farming methods) in Niagara County, travelers can be kept busy bringing in their own harvest.

End your labors at Becker Farms, where you can tuck into one of their 100 Radius Meals, with ingredients grown within 100 miles or less of the farm.

The Niagara Wine Trail will keep adults busy, while pumpkin festivals abound for families in October.

Throughout the season, take in the fabulous fall foliage.

Finger Lakes Region, NY

Travelers needing to get away from it all have been coming to New York’s Finger Lakes region for decades, but with dozens of u-pick farms, farmers’ markets, and even a cheese trail, it’s the place to be productive (and with an appetite) too.

Finger Lake u-pick farms, with an emphasis on apples and pumpkins, may be the biggest draw, but the region’s unique lavender production comes in a close second.

Known to be ‘spa quality,’ the lavender harvested at Lavender Crest Farm competes in charm with its Icelandic horses grazing on the rolling hillsides.

If you still need a reason to go, the New York Wine and Culinary Center sits in nearby Canandaigua, NY, offering events and classes for groups as well as individuals.

Northfield, MN

If you’re craving a homegrown pizza (yes, pizza!), the greater Saint Paul and Minneapolis area, as well as several parts of Wisconsin, have cornered the market on pizza farms.

What is a pizza farm? It’s any working farm that makes pizza in (usually in wood-fired ovens) on-site, using ingredients grown on the farm.

Local enthusiasts recommend the Red Barn Farm of Northfield, where guests bring their own blankets, refreshments, and salads to compliment their outdoor pizza-dining experience.

11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF
Chacra Millalen: Volunteering on an Argentina Organic Farm
Environmental Consequences of Forest Fires

North Coast of Oregon

Last weekend I went to visit a college friend in Eugene, Oregon.

She picked me up in Portland and we saw some of the finest sights The Beaver State (yes, that really is Oregon’s state nickname) has to offer on our way down the North Coast.

The Goonies House

My brother and I spent far too many hours of our childhood watching Mikey, Brandon, and their Goonie friends search for buried treasure and outwit the Fratellis, so I was pretty psyched to see the house from The Goonies movie.

If you somehow missed this 1985 classic, it’s time to check it out.

Sea Lions

As we climbed up the road to the Goonies house, we heard a cacophony of distinctly animal noises in the distance.

Intrigued by the noise, we set out to find out what it was and discovered dozens of sea lions barking.

It turns out the house is just a hop, skip, and jump from the ocean.

Haystack Rock

According to the City of Cannon Beach’s website, this awesome monolith is 235 feet tall, which makes it the 3rd largest monolith in the world.

It’s also a seabird nesting refuge. The winds picked up as we looked on so we didn’t stay long, but Haystack Rock is magnificent.

Tillamook Cheese Factory

In addition to tasty cheese samples, the factory offers free self-guided tours, 38 flavors of ice cream, and the chance to peer down at Tillamook cheese workers on the job.

The last was a little too reminiscent of a zoo for my comfort, but the excursion was fun nonetheless.

Where else do you get to sample Marionberry Pie ice cream?

Next time you’re in Oregon, I would definitely recommend a leisurely trip down the coast.

It has it all: pop culture, wildlife, natural beauty, and cheese.

What more could you ask for?

Best Farmers Markets and Why I Shop at Farmers Markets

Best Farmers Markets in the United States – Here are my choices for the best farmers’ markets in the United States.

As summer approaches, seasonal farmers’ markets are opening up all over the country.

Whether you are looking for fresh produce or ready-made jams and artisan breads, local farmers’ markets are a great place to start.

They are also a fun, green way to experience local culture if you are traveling.

Best Farmers Markets in the United States

Most of these farmers’ markets are open from May until October but check before you venture out.

Also, be sure to verify the weekends and weekdays they will be open as well.

Union Square Greenmarket – New York, NY

Union Square Greenmarket is one of New York City’s most famous farmers’ markets.

Started in 1976, this market now features over 140 local farmers, bakers, and fishermen who sell their goods to city dwellers.

Open year-round, whether you are looking for award-winning farmstead cheese or cut flowers and plants.

You can find it all at Union Square Greenmarket.

Visitors can even watch cooking demonstrations by some of the City’s hottest chefs.

North and west sides of Union Square Park

Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market – San Francisco

Widely acclaimed as being one of the top farmers’ markets in the country, the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market is where the chefs shop.

Some of San Francisco’s most acclaimed chefs can be seen at this market.

With nearly 25,000 shoppers at the market each week, finding artisan specialties like breads, cheeses and jams is a breeze.

On Thursdays, you can find a variety of street food: wood-fired pizza, tacos, and gourmet sandwiches.

Locals love stopping by on Saturdays to find restaurants serving a variety of tasty treats at the market.

Making this one of the best farmers’ markets to visit on summer vacation.

Located along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street

Open Tuesday and Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Green City Market – Chicago

The Green City Market opened for their outdoor season just last week.

Every Wednesday and Saturday Chicagoland residents’ head to the south end of Lincoln Park to find things like organic micro-greens and artisanal cheese.

With a mission to improve the availability of high quality sustainable grown food in the greater Chicago area, The Green City Market is a great place to time as a family.

Visiting Chicago in the winter?

You can still visit the Green City Market, from November to April the market moves indoors.

Located at the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive

Open mid-May – October, every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 am – 1 pm

Crescent City Farmers’ Market – New Orleans

New Orleans is home to one of the country’s favorite farmers’ markets.

Some of New Orleans most popular chefs hit up the Crescent City Farmers’ Market for ingredients on Saturday mornings.

With over 30 vendors you can find local favorites like wild catfish, creole tomatoes and other locally grown treats.

Open three days a week with three different locations.

You can find what you want regardless of where you are staying in the city.

Tuesday Market: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., located at the northeast corner of the Tulane Square parking lot, 200 Broadway.

Thursday Market: 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., located at Orleans Avenue and Bayou St. John, in the parking lot of the American Can Co.

Saturday Market: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., located at the corner of Girod Street and Magazine Street in New Orleans’ historic Warehouse District.

Santa Fe Farmers’ Market – New Mexico

You will find southwestern produce at its best at this northern New Mexico farmers’ market.

Located in Santa Fe’s rail yard, over 150 vendors sell locally grown favorites.

The market began in the 1960’s with a handful of farmers, and in 2002 it started operating year round.

The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is unique because they do not allow reselling.

The people who sell you the products are also the farmers.

So, they will be able to answer any questions you have about anything you are buying at this popular farmers’ market.

Located in the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in the Rail yard.

Tuesdays and Saturdays: 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Visiting the best farmers’ markets in the United States is a wonderful way to embrace the local culture and support local growers.

It’s a way to eat healthier on vacation and every day and get a real sense and feel of the area you are visiting.

Why Shop at Farmers Markets?

Shopping at farmers markets has a certain appeal because based on aesthetics alone, it’s much better than going to large supermarkets.

But as any shopper will tell you, there’s a lot more to it, as there are simply more options available here that you cannot get anywhere else.

First of all, buying at farmers market provides support for local agricultural products, and that’s always a good thing.

Not only that, but it helps the environment too since the food doesn’t have to be transported halfway across the planet, saving on energy and fuel.

Second, you’re eating food in its natural environment, with all the nutrients suited for your region and climate.

Another reason why I love shopping here is there’s plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, and at prices that are more affordable than what you’d find in the supermarket.

Furthermore, you’re likely to find lots of foods that are pesticide free, and there’s also the fact that you can actually speak to the farmer about the methods they use, what they sell and so on.

Shopping at farmers market also means you’re doing your part in supporting the local folks, so it’s your community that will benefit, not some multinational company that operates halfway around the country or the world.

In other words, it all comes back to you eventually.
Farmers Markets

Reusable Bags

My love for these markets are only matched by my desire for reusable bags.

These have been around for a long time, but it’s only now that people have come to realize their full benefits, and if you haven’t gotten one, well it’s time you did for the following reasons.

Plastics cause heavy damage to the environment and they take almost 100 years to decompose.

Less than one percent of plastics in the US are recycled, as the rest end up in landfills, the trash or just thrown in the ocean.

By simply purchasing a bag that’s reusable, you’ll be doing your part in reducing the amount of trash in the environment.

More and more animals die every year because the ingest plastic bags discarded in the ocean.

More than 10% of the debris that wash up and pollute the United States coastline is comprised of plastic bags.

More than 12 million barrels of oil are used to produce the 100 billion plastic bags the US uses yearly.

But aside from helping the environment, these bags are perfectly usable and can be used the same way as regular plastic bags.

The biggest difference is they are reusable and aren’t going to contribute to pollution, and they’re available in different sizes as well so if you’re thinking of bringing one while in a farmers market, you can do so easily.

As you can see, buying stuff at farmers markets can be a very satisfying experience, and just like buying reusable bags, offers great value for your money.

Any way you look at it, it’s an experience you’re going to savor and look forward to again and again.

Free range eggs, fresh bread, homemade cheese and yogurt, and organic local produce abound at Washington, DC farmers markets.

I went to two this weekend and you just can’t trade the experience of chatting with the people who grow your food.

Especially when the alternative is the bored teenage checker at the local Safeway.

My favorite part of my weekend farmers market excursions was at the H Street Farmers Market when, upon seeing my reusable bag, a lettuce vendor told me how happy she is that everyone is bringing their own bags these days.

Since last year, she’s seen a 50% decrease in the number of plastic bags her customers need.

I looked around the Dupont Farmers Market and noticed that she’s right.

Just about everyone was carrying at least one reusable shopping bag. Yay!

But I also saw a distinct lack of reusable produce bags like my lovely organic cotton produce bag by Ecobags.

My guess is that people don’t know they exist; I didn’t until six months ago.

Maybe reusable produce bags are the next step in the anti-plastic bag revolution.

No matter where in the world you are, local markets and reusable bags are the way to go.

11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF
Chacra Millalen: Volunteering on an Argentina Organic Farm
Holidays That Promote Wellness

Why do you love your local farmers market?

Who would you vote for the best farmers’ markets in the United States?

photo credits: Wahooo, asmythie, flickr4jazz, LizMarie_AK, BFS Man, kthread, Todd Emerson and jdtornow

Volunteering on an Argentina Organic Farm – Chacra Millalen

Argentina Organic Farm

Updated:

Argentina Organic Farm – We had the experience of a lifetime volunteering at Chacra Millalen, an organic chacra (farm) just outside of El Bolson.

It was spring when we went so there was plenty of farming work to do.

We also helped cook and clean and participated in other daily activities.

We were on an extended stay in Argentina, and stayed in Buenos Aires a week before traveling to other parts of the country.

We had no idea what to expect so we went there with open hearts and adventurous spirits.

We scheduled to be on the farm for 5 days. Here’s our story….

Argentina Organic Farm

Going to Chacra Millalen

We took a public bus from nearby El Bolson to the tiny town of El Hoyo, then taxied out to Chacra Millalen, the small organic farm in the Patagonia region of Argentina where we’d spend the next 4 days volunteering.

Neither of us had WWOOF or worked on a farm before or participated in any type of agritourism.

However, we are green travelers so we were excited to help, give back, and experience a healthier way of life.

Would there be other volunteers?

What would a typical day be like?

What would we eat?

We were hoping for lots of fresh produce.

Digging in at Chacra Millalen, an Argentina Organic Farm

We walked up the winding path past horses and two tents then spotted six other volunteers in a huge garden.

They looked like they were having fun — a good sign.

We were greeted by two happy dogs as we approached the building where lunch would be served.

Before dining on delicious vegetarian lasagna and fresh salad, we met Josephine, the owner of the farm, who was lovely.

The other volunteers took a break from working in the garden, and we chatted with them over lunch.

We were surprised that everyone was from an English speaking country — Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia.

It was strange but comfortable to have conversations in English again.

Everyone was very friendly and around our age.

Some were staying for a week, others had been there a month and weren’t sure when they’d leave.

Ours was the shortest visit scheduled.

After we ate, we had a tour of the farm.

We put our bags in our quaint and comfortable room above the kitchen.

It’s also possible to bring a tent and camp on the land, but we didn’t have a tent with us.

Then Josephine showed us the three showers and encouraged us to use one of the two that was heated by wood-burning stoves (instead of gas).

We also noticed four recycling bins and a compost can in the kitchen.

Between that and the organic produce the farm grows, Chacra Millalen was definitely scoring green points.

Josephine told us there was a break from working in the afternoons, and farming would resume at 4 pm.

We picked up books and sat outside reading and appreciating the fresh air.

We snacked on bread cooked on the property and homemade jam from the previous summer.

At 4 pm, we got to work weeding the rosemary bushes in the garden.

We were glad we were assigned an easy task, as it’s difficult to mistake a rosemary bush for a weed.

I was thrilled to discover that I enjoy the mundane task of weeding since I have been planning on having an organic garden when we’re back in the States.

We finished up after two hours then wandered up the dirt road to explore before dinner at 9:00 (typical Argentine dinner time).

The views of the mountains were breathtaking.

Everyone took turns cooking meals that we all ate together, which created a good sense of community.

For dinner we enjoyed another meal full of fresh organic veggies and homemade bread.

Overall, day one at Chacra Millalen was great and better than we’d ever imagined it could be.

Argentina Organic Farm Chacra Millalen
Mountain view from Chacra Millalen

Hiking to Lago Epuyen

When we learned volunteers get the weekends off we were a bit disappointed.

After all, we were planning to leave Tuesday morning, and we wanted to contribute before then.

So be sure if you are planning a volunteering trip to Chacra Millalen that you take this into consideration.

It makes sense that everyone gets a break, especially since so many of the volunteers stay for a month or longer; we just hadn’t thought about it.

We quickly got over our disappointment when we learned about a gorgeous nearby lake.

We trekked up a winding dirt road for two hours to get there.

It was worth it.

Lago Epuyen was incredibly peaceful and beautiful, surrounded by mountains and free of the houses that typically crowd US lakes.

We sat on the grassy shore for an hour, eating raspberry jam and butter sandwiches and taking in the view.

Then we hiked back to the farm and cooked pasta with veggies for dinner.

I loved that we had free reign of the kitchen, and the abundance of fresh, organic vegetables gave us a much-needed break from the Argentina parrilla we enjoyed thus far.

Chacra Millalen Lago Epuyen near El Hoyo, Argentina
Lago Epuyen near El Hoyo, Argentina

Trekking to the Waterfall

If we weren’t going to be able to work on the farm on the weekends, at least we’d get some exercise in and explore the area.

On Sunday we hiked in the opposite direction of the lake toward a waterfall we’d heard about, creatively named La Catarata (“The Waterfall”).

We didn’t have very clear directions, but fortunately we stumbled upon it within an hour and half.

Once we got off the flat dirt road and onto the trail the hiking got more difficult.

It was fairly steep and I was contemplating whether it was worth it when we crossed paths with four women in their sixties who were coming down.

Seeing them shamed me into powering through.

The waterfall paled in comparison to Iguazu Falls, but was still magnificent.

We admired it and snapped photos before hiking back down and relaxing near the waterfall’s stream.

I was craving ice cream so we took a detour to the gas station (not much else is open on Sundays) on the way back.

For dinner we made polenta with homemade tomato sauce and vegetables from the farm, then pitched in with other volunteers to bake a made-from-scratch carrot cake. It was amazing.

La Catarata near El Hoyo, Argentina
La Catarata near El Hoyo, Argentina

Weeds and More Great Food

More weeding was in store for us on Monday and Tuesday mornings.

This time around it was spring onions and basil.

I enjoyed it slightly less than weeding rosemary since these weeds were tiny and abundant.

But I still liked being able to see how much progress we’d made in just a few hours.

Other volunteers worked on planting peas, picking oregano, thinning the carrot patch, and gathering herbs.

We heard that next week they’ll get started on making herbal remedies as well as packaging the herbs to sell.

As with any farm, the work depends on the season.

On Monday afternoon we read on the lawn accompanied by the dogs and a tiny cat I named Permakitten because it was 2 years old, but looked like it was 4 months old.

Our meals on our last two days consisted of an array of hot and cold salads, lentil patties, tomato stew over rice, other Argentine cuisine such as soy milanesas, lentil stew, and herb garlic toast.

There was never a shortage of delicious food at Chacra Millalen.

We bid farewell to the farm and our fellow volunteers on Tuesday after lunch and headed back to El Bolson to catch our bus to our next destination, Puerto Madryn.

Garden at Chacra Millalen
Garden at Chacra Millalen

Finding and Comparing Volunteer Opportunities in Argentina

Without using the WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) website, it’s not easy to find volunteer opportunities on organic farms in Argentina.

It took us a long time and a lot of internet searched to find this one.

In hindsight, we probably should have paid the membership fee and gone through WWOOF.

See our article for 11 things to know before you WWOOF.

I went to Chacra Millalen not knowing what to expect and hoping that I would learn something about gardening.

I was pleasantly surprised by everything there.

I would definitely recommend Chacra Millalen to anyone wanting to get off the beaten path in Argentina, and give back to the community.

The food was awesome, the people fun, the accommodations comfortable, the hosts gracious, and the work satisfying.

Horse watching us on the way to the waterfall Chacra Millalen
Horse watching us on the way to the waterfall Chacra Millalen
Chacra Millalen Argentina Organic Farm
Chacra Millalen Argentina Organic Farm

Since this was my first experience with WWOOF ‘ing, I’d like to know how it compares to others.

Have you ever volunteered at Chacra Millalen or on a different organic farm?

If so, was your experience similar to ours?

Argentine Breakfast – Typical foods and enjoying Thanksgiving
Argentina Money Tips: Costs, ATMs, Coin Shortage & More
Prepare for Extended Travel – 7 Steps to Mentally Prepare Yourself
Tikal National Park, Guatemala – Hidden Ruins, Animals & More

Help Wildlife in Belize – Since it became an independent nation in 1981, Belize has devoted itself to the conservation of its extensive natural resources.

The country’s rugged interior has meant that, throughout its history of colonization, most human activity has focused on the coastal areas, leaving the inland mountains and forests relatively untouched by logging and agriculture.

Today, 26 percent of Belize’s marine and land territory is under government protection, with a further 17.8 percent under private protection.

More than 540 species of tropical birds, 150 species of mammals, 600 species of marine and freshwater fish, 150 plus species of reptiles and amphibians, and 3,408 species of plants call Belize’s diverse ecosystems home.

Help Wildlife in Belize on a Volunteer Conservation Trip

All this makes Belize an ideal destination for eco-tourists, many of whom come to volunteer with scientific research and conservation efforts focused on the forests, beaches, islands, mountains, and coral reefs of this Mesoamerican nation.

Volunteer conservation travel lets you make a difference to help save endangered species and protect vulnerable ecosystems, while gaining experience on a real research team and learning more about the natural world.

Help Wildlife in Belize
Help Wildlife in Belize

Volunteer Conservation Tourism: What You Need to Know

Volunteer conservation tourism presents a way for students and ordinary people to get involved in conservation efforts in some of the world’s most exotic locales.

While you’ll have to pay a fee to cover travel costs, you’ll get to work with real scientists, observing animals and collecting data, protecting threatened ecosystems from invasive species, performing educational outreach in local communities, and rehabilitating injured or ill wild animals.

You’ll make new friends, gain work experience, and still have plenty of time to explore local attractions on your own.

Conservation Tourism Options in Belize

Thanks to Belize’s commitment to conservation, there are numerous options for volunteer conservation tourism in this small country.

Whether you’re interested in participating in a weeks-long research trip, or just want to spend an afternoon spearing lionfish, Belize offers something for every ecologically-minded tourist.

Wait – did we just say “spearing lionfish?”

Yes, we did!

The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific oceans and the Red Sea, but it’s believed that some specimens accidentally escaped, or were released, into the Caribbean in the 1980s or 1990s.

These fish, which prey on everything and reproduce rapidly, pose a huge threat to the delicate marine ecosystems off the coast of Belize.

Volunteer Conservation Tourism in Belize
Volunteer Conservation Tourism in Belize

Reputable companies such as Blue Ventures lead lionfish expeditions of the coast of Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Through them, you can spend time not just fishing for these invaders, but educating local residents on how to profit from the harvest and sale of lionfish, the only fish in Belizean waters that it’s permissible to kill with impunity.

Fortuitously, lionfish are delicious.

But, perhaps you’re more interested in saving, rather than spearing, marine life.

Earthwatch leads shark conservation trips aimed at monitoring shark populations in Belizean waters and stopping illegal shark fishing.

In this program, you’ll get the chance to participate in catch-tag-release efforts, collecting data on local shark populations while staying in an ocean-side research station and eating delicious, home-cooked food three times a day.

With Ecomar Belize, you can get involved with the Turtle Watch program, patrolling the beaches to collect data on sea turtle nesting, protecting nests from irresponsible individuals, or collecting data on turtles in the water during dive surveys.

With Frontier Gap, you can perform diving surveys to explore, map, and monitor the health of the coral reefs off the coast of Belize and its cayes.

You’ll record reef fish populations, help scientists perform annual reef health assessments, and record baseline biodiversity data on invertebrate species and marine plant life.

You’ll also have the chance to spot manatees and other marine life, take vegetation surveys of mangrove swamps, and work with local organizations to perform community outreach.

The Antillean manatee, subspecies of the West Indian manatee, lives in the shallow waters off Belize – for now.

There are only 800 to 1,000 of these animals left, and their preference for shallow water means they’re the frequent victims of boating accidents.

With Wild Tracks Belize, you can work to rehabilitate manatees injured by boats; the organization also raises and releases orphaned manatee calves.

Volunteer placements last from one to three months.

If you’re looking for a way to give back while enjoying the tropical sun and sandy beaches of Belize, volunteer conservation tourism may be for you.

You’ll get to help study and save endangered animals and their habitats, while making friends and gaining experience that will be useful for years to come.

Resources for Volunteering Abroad and Why You Should Do It

resources for volunteering abroad

Updated:

In Volunteering Abroad: 10 Things to Know Before You Go, we discussed everything you should think about before you sign up. With proper planning, it can be the experience of a lifetime.

Volunteer Travel Programs Local and Abroad – Volunteer travel is an amazing way to see a place, get to know local culture, and leave a positive footprint.

We volunteered while traveling through Argentina.

We learned a ton about WWOOFing — World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms — and had an amazing experience at Chacra Millalen.

It’s been awhile since we’ve written about volunteer travel and since summer is here (or so it feels in Minnesota today) with summer vacation planning underway, I thought I’d revisit the subject focusing specifically on volunteer travel abroad versus volunteer travel locally.

Local vs. Abroad Volunteer Travel

Whether its sandbagging for a flood emergency in Fargo or picking strawberries on an organic farm in California there are plenty of opportunities to take 1 or 2 days and see a place (relatively) near your home and volunteer the same time.

You don’t have to travel far to find a place to volunteer.

The trick is finding a place you want to visit for a vacation that also has a volunteer opportunity.

Generally, there are two ways to search for a volunteer travel program: by place or by opportunity.

For US based volunteer travel I find it more exciting to search for an opportunity and then find out what else there is to do in that city or town.

Some of the top sites for finding U.S. based volunteer travel programs include Idealist, VolunteerMatch, WWOOF and Organic Volunteers.

We offer some resources for volunteering abroad to help find a good program to ensure it is seamless, hassle-free and rewarding.

Perks of volunteering abroad

When we volunteered abroad at Chacra Millalen, an organic farm in Argentina, we learned new skills, met interesting people, ate lots of new foods, and experienced a different way of life.

Help others.

Whether you’re cleaning up a polluted river or volunteering in a medical clinic, the work you’re doing is making a difference.

The people you’re helping will be incredibly grateful.

It will make you feel good too.

Get up close and personal with a culture.

There’s no better way to experience a culture than by living in it.

You’ll see parts of the culture and country you’d easily miss living in a hostel, especially if you’re living with a host family.

Plus, you’ll get to try new foods.

Learn a language.

The best way to practice a language is to be immersed in it.

When the people you’re working with are counting on you to communicate, and you’re listening to another language being spoken for hours every day, you’ll become more proficient than you would believe.

And you won’t even have to pay for language classes.

Have fun.

When you’re working 12 hour days with someone, you’re going to bond, even if you might never have otherwise been friends.

And making friends will take your mind off the hard work, sore muscles, or hot weather.

In addition to getting to know other volunteers, you’ll also get to build relationships locals.

Learn a trade.

You may not want to be an organic farmer now, but who knows what your dream will be in 10 or 15 years?

You may decide to start your own garden or even a farm.

Even if you don’t, you’ll learn leadership, teamwork, and communication skills that will impress any prospective employer.

resources for volunteering abroad

Most of these reasons for volunteering abroad also apply to local volunteering.

So, while planning your summer vacation see if you can find a volunteer opportunity as part of your travels to help wildlife in Belize.

Great resources for volunteering abroad, Volunteer Traveling and WWOOF ‘ing:

11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF
21 Resources for Volunteering Abroad Why You Should Do It
10 Things to Know Volunteering Abroad Before You Sign Up
All about WWOOFing

Getting Started & Finding Volunteer Programs

Whether you WWOOF or choose one of these below, there are many options, including:

Crossculturalsolutions.org: Offers volunteer programs in 12 countries, including Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand.

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.

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.

The Nature Conservancy accepts volunteers working to conserve the Boreal Forest and the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada (see nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/canada).

Great Adventures provides links to volunteer and work abroad programs in dozens of countries.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms– Volunteer on organic farms across the world – no previous experience required.

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.

Tim Ferriss’s take on volunteering abroad lists 5 international volunteering organizations under “Volunteering Mini-Retirements” experiences:

Burners Without Borders– Following the 2005 Burning Man event, several participants headed south into the Hurricane Katrina disaster area to help people rebuild their devastated communities.

After several months of working along the Gulf Coast, BWB has set up a project in Pisco, Peru to assist with earthquake relief work.

Project HOPE– Nearly 50 years ago, Project HOPE was founded on the willingness of doctors, nurses and other medical volunteers to travel the globe on a floating hospital ship, the SS HOPE, to provide medical care, health education and humanitarian assistance to people in need.

While we now operate land-based programs in more than 35 countries, Project HOPE has again returned to sending medical volunteers on board ships around the world to provide medical assistance, long reaching health education programs, vaccinations and humanitarian assistance.

International Relief Teams – International Relief Teams mobilizes volunteers and distributes medical supplies to support the organization’s four missions:

Domestic and international disaster relief,

Medical education and training,

Surgical and clinical outreach,

Public health. Since 1988, IRT has provided more than $5.6 million in volunteer services, and more than $112 million in medicines and supplies to families in desperate need in 42 countries worldwide.

Relief International – Relief International is a humanitarian non-profit agency that provides emergency relief, rehabilitation, development assistance, and program services to vulnerable communities worldwide.

RI is solely dedicated to reducing human suffering and is non-political and non-sectarian in its mission.

Hands On Disaster Response – Hands on Disaster Response covers food and housing and does not require a fee.

Habitat for Humanity – Build houses for people who can’t afford them with this well-known U.S.-based organization.

Doctors Without Borders -You don’t have to be an MD to provide medical care to people in developing countries.

They’re currently seeking doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, technicians, logisticians, and others.

Engineers Without Borders USA – Projects “range from the construction of sustainable systems that developing communities can own and operate without external assistance, to empowering such communities by enhancing local, technical, managerial, and entrepreneurial skills.”

Conservation Volunteers in Australia. – Links to various conservation programs and organizations in Australia.

Volunteer Match – A great resource for providing you with volunteer opportunities (including many in the US) that match your interests.

Looking for more resources for volunteering abroad?

Volunteer Traveling and WWOOFing:

11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF
10 Things to Know Volunteering Abroad Before You Sign Up

Volunteering can be a life-changing experience for you and those you help.

Using these resources for volunteering abroad, you will have your choice of opportunities and find the best one for your interests.

Volunteer in Africa: What to Know Before You Go

If you’ve always dreamed of volunteering in Africa, now is a great time to do it.

People in Africa face an array of challenges.

Extreme poverty, lack of clean drinking water, HIV/AIDS, lack of access to healthcare — and there are plenty opportunities to help.

Here’s how to volunteer in Africa.

Volunteering in Africa is a great opportunity to give back, learn new skills, and gain valuable life experiences.

Be sure you do your homework before you go.

Your volunteer experience will be much more meaningful if you’re adequately prepared.

As you’re planning your trip to volunteer in Africa, these tips will tell you what you need to know before you go even if you are WWOOFing

volunteer in Africa

How to volunteer in Africa

I’ve met hundreds of volunteers in Africa over the last few years, and I’ve learned that people often come with misconceptions about what their experience will be like.

Understanding what to expect can help you have a richer volunteer experience.

If you’re thinking about volunteering in Africa, here are a few things to consider:

Not all organizations will have volunteer opportunities.

Some organizations’ missions are incompatible with short-term volunteers.

For example, over the years many children’s homes and orphanages have learned that having people come and go frequently can be harmful for the children in their care.

They’ve learned that consistency is important, and it’s something short-term volunteers can’t offer.

Managing volunteers requires time and effort

Organizations that have a lot of volunteers often need to hire someone to manage the volunteers’ schedules — and in some cases their accommodations and transportation.

I’ve heard from a number of volunteers who wanted to volunteer in Africa for free and are frustrated when they have to pay for a volunteer experience.

But keep in mind that hosting volunteers, and doing it well, can take a lot of time and effort.

For example, if you volunteer on a building project, someone needs to make sure you have the supplies you need.

If you volunteer at a school, someone must coordinate with the teachers and the person in charge of the school.

This is one reason some organizations charge for a volunteer experience and have a limited number of volunteer spots available.

Sometimes locals can do the job better

Whether it’s a building project or teaching in a village, sometimes locals can do the job more effectively than international volunteers.

If you’ve traveled in Africa, you know that foreigners often attract attention, which can be a distraction on a volunteer site.

And with building projects, volunteers often don’t have the skills needed to build with local materials and tools.

Plus, it would be a shame if volunteers were taking away paid work for local residents.

volunteer in Africa

Tips for an amazing volunteer experience in Africa

All of that said, there are many organizations rely heavily on volunteers and feel that their service is invaluable.

Here are some tips for having a memorable and life-changing volunteer experience:

If you’re short on time, plan ahead

I’ve met a handful of people who arrived in Africa hoping to volunteer, but with out having any contacts or plans for what they would be doing.

If you have plenty of time (and patience!) this can work.

But it’s best to plan ahead, especially if you’re on a shorter trip.

Contact a few organizations in areas you’ll be visiting and find out how you might be able to get involved.

It’s okay to pay, just not too much

There are a lot of great organizations that ask volunteers to contribute to overhead costs, or the cost of the specific project they’ll be working on.

In general, I think this is fine.

But ask good questions — make sure the money is staying in the local community and supporting local programs.

There are some organizations that will charge inflated amounts and take advantage of volunteers.

Do your homework and plan ahead ;to make sure you find an excellent volunteer experience with a reputable organization.

Be willing to do anything

It’s great if you have specific skills you think will be helpful, but it may be difficult to find a short-term volunteer opportunity where you’ll be able to use your talents.

Be open to a variety tasks, however menial they may seem, that allow you to take some of the load off of the people working hard in their local communities.

Use the time to build relationships with other volunteers and local non-profit workers; you’ll be able to gain insight into their culture, as well as the significant challenges they may be facing.

Learn about WWOOFing

If you’ve always wanted to volunteer in Africa, there’s no time like the present.

Volunteering in Africa and volunteering abroad can be an amazing, life-changing experience.

Just make sure you have realistic expectations, and use the tips above to set yourself up for success.

Eco-tourism in Africa

Many people may plan to volunteer as well as travel in a new country.

It’s great if you have the time to do both.

When we were in Argentina, we took several days to volunteer on an organic farm.

It was one of the highlights of our trip.

When you go to Africa, or anywhere and are planning travel, more and more tourists and tourism providers are taking responsibility for the environmental impact caused by their activities.

The tide is turning toward eco-friendly, sustainable travel.

Holiday-makers expect ethical dealings, and tourism providers understand the importance of maintaining the environments and communities they operate within.

An example of a company that takes eco-tourism its commitment to ethical tourism practice, a UK-based tourism provider.

Here’s a case study of the different ways this company is working to maintain sustainable tourism:

In Africa

Education

Giving back to the communities who accommodate tourists through the Loldia School Fund, Safari Consultants sponsors students for the entire five years of high school in Kenya.

There is also a commitment to provide two bursaries each year for students at the Koiyaki Guiding School.

Providing local Maasai youth in Kenya the opportunity to learn the tourism industry and skills in eco-friendly land management.

Wildlife Conservation

Safari Consultants demonstrates its commitment to taking care of wildlife through regular contributions to the South Luangwa Conservation Society in Zambia.

Individual projects

Smaller conservation projects and one-off involvement is also key.

Maintaining a level of flexibility in the budget allows a company to make pledges to a variety of different projects as they come up.

eco Tourism to Africa

Safari Consultants has assisted small-scale projects such as providing school equipment in school, and football boots for a local team.

Examples in the UK

Industry standards

It’s necessary to keep up with peak industry bodies such as The Travel Foundation and Ethical Tour Operators Group (ETOG) of Tourism Concern to keep up-to-date with projects and industry news and demonstrate a commitment to ethical tourism.

Local

Taking care of the environment has been extended to onsite practice at Safari Consultants HQ in Suffolk, where low energy light bulbs are used, and electricity runs off 100% renewable resources.

They have an in-house green travel policy for all staff, plus a comprehensive recycling scheme in the office.

As climates change ever more rapidly, it becomes increasingly essential to do as much as possible to mitigate the impact that humans have on the environment.

The onus is on both tourism companies and travelers, who can choose to support ethical tourism providers, especially when travelling in the delicate ecosystems such as while on safari.

Always remember about supporting the local economy and to buy sustainable souvenirs only.

Volunteers and tourists

In Africa and wherever you are going — should also take personal responsibility while abroad – from taking care of the environment while visiting to offsetting carbon emissions, there are many ways to ensure the lightest possible footprints are left.

(photo credit: 1mklipovsky)

Are you planning a trip to Africa?

The chance to volunteer in Africa is sure to be a memorable and life-changing experience.

Do your research in advance for the best time possible.

Volunteer in Uganda ~ My Life-Changing Trip with Shanti Uganda

For a volunteering experience like no other, consider the chance to volunteer in Uganda.

No travel experience has been more powerful and transforming for me than my trip to Uganda.

Just for reference, I have traveled to more than 70 countries.

I went with Shanti Uganda, a non-governmental organization dedicated to women’s health.

Instead of being on the outside looking in, Shanti Uganda afforded me the unique and precious opportunity to immerse myself in the daily lives of a small Ugandan community.

Volunteer in Uganda

Arriving at Shanti Uganda, I was embraced with open arms by the local Ugandan women and their children.

Their joy for life was contagious and their beaming and outpouring welcome was deeply moving.

Over the ensuing days, other trip participants and I worked with them, sang with them, drummed with them, and danced around the fire with them late into the evening.

They told us their stories and shared their sorrows and their dreams.

We learned how to prepare their food, dined in their homes, and played with their children.

After just a week, I felt such a deep bond and connection with this group of rural Ugandan women and their families.

I experienced a profound reaffirmation that we are all one.

On my trip, I visited a birthing center Shanti Uganda built to assist local mothers (many of them HIV-positive) who have virtually no other support for normal deliveries.

Tragically minimal support for births with complications.

Their work in that area is essential; in Uganda, one in twenty-five women in dies in childbirth.

volunteer in Uganda
The midwives of Shanti Uganda

It was evident that Shanti Uganda has grown far beyond its original vision of bringing conscious birth to communities experiencing trauma in Uganda.

It’s become a center for women and children’s health education, vaccinations, and preventive care.

And it’s become a community activity and education center for teens, and a work and skills training site for rural women who, through Shanti Uganda’s initiative in developing cottage industries, are earning an income for the first time in their lives!

And this amazing work takes place in a beautiful organic garden setting with solar-powered energy and a cistern-based water collection system, making Shanti Uganda off-the-grid and self-sufficient.

Learn about WWOOF before you make your plans to volunteer in Uganda.

My trip with Shanti Uganda was ten days, and it included a trip to a national park and the impressive Murchison Falls.

We also experienced a safari with elephant, hippo, giraffe, lion, baboon, crocodile and warthog sightings; a white water rafting experience on the Nile; and time exploring the local markets and amazing restaurants of the capital, Kampala.

But the truly unique part of our travel was living and working with and learning from the women of the Shanti Uganda community center.

Through Shanti Uganda, I discovered a way to support meaningful work, both actively with my time and more passively with the money and supplies I could bring to the center.

I felt like my contributions could make a real and palpable difference in the lives of people I grew to know and care for.

It is rare to find a way to truly immerse yourself in another culture and live it, not just peer at it through a camera lens or on a tourist bus.

Shanti Uganda afforded me that experience and I am eternally grateful.

Volunteering in Uganda

There are many ways to volunteer in Africa and to volunteer abroad.

Learn all you can in advance so you can make the right trip for your interests and your abilities to serve.

Learn about volunteering on an organic farm.

If going abroad isn’t in your sights right now, there are plenty of local volunteer opportunities as well.

Shanti Uganda is an NGO committed to improving lives.

They strive to improve infant and maternal health, provide safe women-centered care, and support the well-being of birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

The chance to volunteer in Uganda was life-changing.

For a unique opportunity for travel to transform lives, join Shanti Uganda on one of their upcoming trips.

photo credit: Shanti Uganda

Volunteering in SE Asia: Getting Your Foot on the NGO Ladder

Volunteering in SE Asia can be a wonderful, life-changing experience.

Getting your foot on the first rung of the ladder in the conservation and humanitarian sectors is a chicken and egg kind of situation – you want a job to gain experience but the employers want to employ someone with experience which you can’t have until you get a job!

Through searching the web and talking to career advisers, you will probably come to the conclusion that to take that first step you often must volunteer.

Volunteer travel is now big business and as the pool for governmental and corporate funding is continually shrinking, which is worsened by the increasing number of fund seekers.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are turning to volunteering as a way to fund their conservation or outreach activities.

Paying to volunteer in itself sounds wrong, but when you think of yourself as a voluntourist and, if you volunteer, 100% of your money is paid directly to the project then this blow is lessened.

Editor’s Note: While we don’t necessarily advocate for paying for volunteering, (since there are ways to volunteer without paying, like through WWOOF) the author makes a good point that if you are going to pay you should only pay the volunteer organization directly and not a middleman.

Volunteering direct is booking and paying the organization directly rather than pay through an agent.

Many excellent projects around the world are crying out for paying volunteers and would be more than happy for you to come along and help out.

There are many benefits for joining these smaller organizations.

The most important will be that you will increase your contacts and network within the relevant NGO sector.

It’s “who you know”

The more you delve into the world of conservation and community development, the more you may realize that it is not what you know but who you know.

Many positions are filled even before the job is publicized.

Many of the top leaders in conservation actually started as a volunteer.

The contacts you can make by volunteering directly can lead you to places you never thought possible.

I personally was offered a PhD position in Australia in ecotourism as a result of people I worked with when I volunteered in Borneo.

After volunteering on my own I set out to help more people to volunteer directly and started Ecoteer.

We now help around 2,000 members to find volunteering positions directly.

We have scores of projects on our site and have introduced a member assessed rating system to help our members when they are choosing which projects to apply to.

Through the past years of running Ecoteer and extensive travels and volunteering in SE Asia, I have found many small projects in need of volunteer help.

Below I have listed my top 5 volunteer projects in Southeast Asia which could help you get on the first rung of the ladder.

Kalaweit

Kalaweit means Gibbon in Indonesian.

This project shows what can be achieved by a traveler with a mission — it is a sheer inspiration to any budding conservationist.

In 1999, Chanee, an 18 year old Frenchman, set off on an adventure to save the Gibbons of Borneo.

He found a small wildlife center in the center of Kalimantan, Borneo, where he first volunteered and started to buy gibbons from villagers who kept them as pets.

At the wildlife center, Chanee helped the Gibbons back to full strength and then set them through the long and tedious process of rehabilitation.

Chanee also started a radio station with hourly messages about gibbon conservation and requests for listeners to report caged Gibbons.

The Kalaweit organisation now rehabilitates 300 Gibbons and Siamangs, and employs 50 people (veterinarians and keepers).

Before you pay to be a volunteer, it is worth learning about volunteer travel programs.

There are so many resources for volunteering abroad and volunteer opportunities to consider.

Help Our Penyu

Penyu means sea turtle.

Help Our Penyu is a sea turtle conservation project in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia.

The project was initiated in 2009 by Azimi Ahmad, a Malaysian student.

It is a registered charity in Malaysia.

The Perhentian Islands are a heaven for travelers following the SE Asia backpacking trail; however, the high tourist population on the islands are causing big problems for the sea turtles.

The project seeks to unify sea turtle conservation by engaging the resorts, villagers and school children in sea turtle conservation.

Help Our Penyu has already stopped egg poaching on one major nesting beach in the Perhentian Islands.

In 2011 it expanded to protect a second nesting beach.

Each week, Help Our Penyu run an after school club for the school children and host an information booth on weekends to engage tourists in marine conservation.

Help Our Penyu initiated the Walk for Turtles campaign which was the first large-scale turtle track survey in Terengganu.

The turtle track surveys are essential to accurately assess the nesting turtle populations of Terengganu.

If you are considering volunteering, there are several things to know about volunteering abroad.

Volunteering in SE Asia: help our penyu

Marine Conservation Cambodia

Founded in early 2008 by Paul Ferber, Marine Conservation Cambodia has committed itself to the comprehensive protection of Cambodia’s marine environment.

They assist local communities in the sustainable use of their marine resources and provide alternative forms of income generation through ‘true’ eco-tourism and scuba diving.

The project plays a big part in marine research in Cambodia and has an online photographic directory of marine species in Cambodia.

MCC has had a positive ID on a seahorse species never found before in Cambodia – Hippocampus mohnikei.

MCC has empowered the community at Koh Rung Samleom, who are now self-protecting a globally significant seahorse breeding ground.

Borneo Child Aid Society

In Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, it is estimated that over 50,000 children are not given any schooling.

Non-Malaysian children are not entitled to state schooling.

The Borneo Child Aid Society is helping to address this issue and are providing basic education for about 10,000 children.

The project started in the mid-1990’s and is led by Torben Venning, a Danish humanitarian activist.

The society works very closely with the Palm Oil Plantations and is helping to provide education for their foreign workers’ children who are not entitled to state education.

The Borneo Child Aid society learning centers provides the children with basic math, science, Bahasa Malaysia and English lessons.

Afternoon activities for the children are conducted with environmental awareness sessions at least once a week.

The Borneo Child Aid Society is expanding its learning center network to offer floating schools to the sea gypsies of the Sulu Sea (Bajau Laut) who live on boats off the coast of Semporna and the southern Philippines.

Ban Roean Ram Workcamps

Ban Roean Ram was founded in 2008 by Jatuporn Jitprapan and Uthai Tongkamkeaw, two passionate and caring Thai women.

They now have a team of five Thai people and a few past volunteers are now helping them develop their network internationally.

The purpose of the NGO is to develop sustainable development in villages in Southern Thailand.

The centers provide locals with education about community development, traditional Thai culture and folk wisdom, (which is being lost) the local environment and nature.

In cooperation with temples, schools, local government and with the community, Ban Roean Ram is aiming to establish groups around Southern Thailand with six objectives:

1. collect folk wisdom from sages
2. stimulate cultural as well as economic life in the village
3. improve opportunities for children and youths teaching them about Thai traditions
4. offer activities such as music, sports and establish a shop with local products
5. found local museums
6. found libraries

Volunteering in SE Asia is a valuable opportunity

Our world is full of amazing, inspiring and life-changing places to volunteer.

Learn about volunteering in Africa and in Uganda, and our experience volunteering on an organic farm

There’s much to learn about volunteering.

Fistula Horror Stories: Socially Conscious Travel & Human Rights

I didn’t want to get married. They would find a husband, throw a party and send me away. I ran away many times. I refused to go back, but my father kept beating me. I was about 10 or 11 years old. I kept running away until I finally stayed with the fourth one because I got pregnant. I told my father, “You beat me and kept sending me back and look what has become of me.” If my mother were alive, she wouldn’t have let this happen. I won’t go home without being cured because no one will accept me. My other choice is to kill myself.
— Wubete, 17 years old, in A Walk to Beautiful

I seriously considered becoming a physician so I could travel to Africa and volunteer.

In the end it didn’t work out (chemistry is not my friend), but I’m still fascinated by public health.

Frankly, find it abhorrent that the US doesn’t provide medical care to everyone who lives here.

But I digress.

At Go Green Travel Green, we’re advocates for social responsibility and volunteering at home and abroad.

In honor of Bloggers Unite for Human Rights, I want to bring to light an issue that I just learned about on Tuesday: the obstetric fistula epidemic in Ethiopia.

I watched the PBS documentary A Walk to Beautiful about a hospital in Addis Ababa dedicated to treating women with this condition.

What Is Fistula?

The Fistula Foundation defines an obstetric fistula as a “hole between a woman’s birth passage and one or more of her internal organs” – namely, her bladder and/or rectum.

And according to the World Health Organization, “2 million women have untreated fistula” and “approximately 100,000 women develop fistula each year.”

These days, fistula of this sort is seen primarily in developing countries when women are in labor for many days without the care of a doctor or midwife.

Ethiopian girls like Wubete are often married off before they hit their teens.

Their young age, coupled with the fact that malnutrition has stunted their growth, means that their pelvises are under-developed for childbirth.

That causes labor to take longer and often leads to fistula. And, ultimately, the “root causes of fistula are grinding poverty and the low status of women and girls,” says the Fistula Foundation.

On top of the physical pain associated with a long labor and a gaping hole between internal organs, women affected by fistula suffer psychologically.

They’re outcast in their communities because of incontinence and their husbands reject them.

Fortunately for these girls and women, Drs. Catherine and Reginald Hamlin have founded hospitals in Ethiopia dedicated to treating fistula patients.

Australia-born Catherine lives in Ethiopia, where she’s been for 30 years, treating women affected by fistulas.

In the documentary, she says her husband would still be with her in Addis Ababa if he were living.

fistula
Wubete, photo credit: PBS

It doesn’t have to be this way.

If the girls and women in Ethiopia had basic human rights, they wouldn’t be married as preteens and pregnant at 13.

But there’s hope for fistula prevention.

One of the women in the documentary said she wouldn’t let her daughter marry young.

She wanted her to be able to make her own choice.

A number of the interviewees spoke bitterly of the fact that they were married as children.

It sounds like the tide is slowly turning in Ethiopia.

I can only hope that in 10 or 20 years, the idea of marrying off an 8 year old will seem as outrageous there as it does here.

But change takes time.

Back to Wubete.

In the end, a Sister from the clinic gets her a job at an orphanage.

The documentary concludes with Wubete saying, “I grew up too fast and then was made small and helpless.

And now I have become an adult again.”

What you can do to help end fistula suffering

Donate to an organization fighting for human rights or working to improve the quality of health care in developing countries:

Volunteer

With the Fistula Foundation to fund raise and spread the word about the fistula epidemic.

In Ethiopia with a variety of organizations.

If you’re a medical professional or have a relevant specialty, volunteer with an organization like Doctors of the World or Doctors Without Borders.

Spread the Word

Blog about fistula or send this post to your friends.

Every bit counts.

Volunteering Abroad – 10 Things to Know Before You Sign Up

resources for volunteering abroad

Updated:

Volunteering abroad can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

You get to spend a few weeks or months saving the rain forest or building houses for people who can’t afford them.

Every program is not a good fit for everyone.

But there are so many different places and types of work to choose from, you’ll definitely be able to find one that works for you.

We’ll cover everything you need to consider when deciding on a program for volunteering abroad.

Read another one of our articles to learn about resources for volunteering abroad and reasons to volunteer abroad.
resources for volunteering abroad
There are so many important things to consider before planning a trip to volunteer overseas.

Here’s our top list.

10 things to know about volunteering abroad before you sign up

Do your research about volunteering abroad

Not all volunteer abroad opportunities are created equal.

Some cost money, others are free.

Some require commitments of 3 or more months; others only ask that you stay a week.

Location

This is one of the most important things to consider when you’re picking a destination.

Is the program in a place you want to visit?

Would you be living close to a major city?

Would you want to?

If you’re looking to go barhopping on the weekends, and you commit to 6 months in rural Romania, you probably won’t be happy.

Safety

Learn about the safety of the region you’ll visit and, if possible, talk to other people who have lived or traveled there.

Safety can be crime-related or illness-related.

Some people would prefer to avoid politically volatile regions, but are okay with risking malaria.

Decide what you value before you book a trip.

Cost

Some volunteer programs charge thousands of dollars; others are completely free and provide you with housing and food.

Take your budget into account before you commit to a program.

Climate

If you’re uncomfortable when the thermostat rises above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, you should probably steer clear of Calcutta in May.

Look at average temperatures for the dates you’ll travel and make sure you pack weather-appropriate clothes.

Most programs offer packing advice on their websites.

Length of Stay

Some programs are come-and-go and allow you to show up and stay for a while.

Others have strict requirements for booking in advance and staying a minimum amount of time.

Your dream program may require a 6-month commitment.

If you’re only able to get away for 3 months, contact them and see if that’s a possibility.

If not, ask them for recommendations of similar programs and keep on looking.

Type of Work

You could be volunteering on an organic farm, like Chacra Millalen, building houses through Habitat for Humanity, doing environmental research, teaching English, or helping out in a medical clinic.

There’s definitely something for everyone, so choose an activity that you’ll enjoy.

What’s Provided

Some programs give you food and lodging at no additional cost.

Others provide lodging, but you’re expected to pay extra for it.

Still others point you in the right direction by giving you recommendations, but you have to book and pay for it.

Figure out what your program provides and what you can afford.

Schedule

If getting out and exploring the region is important to you, figure out how much free time you’ll have.

Some programs give you days off, while others expect you to be available the entire time you’re there.

Do your research, and decide what will work best for you.

As an example, while we were in Argentina volunteering at Chacra Millalen, we didn’t realize they do not have their volunteers work on the weekend.

Had we realized that, we might not have planned on Saturday-Sunday as part of our stay.

It was wonderful being there, but we were there to work.

Reputation

Dig around online, scour forums, and ask for references if you have doubts.

If the company or organization you’re considering seems sketchy, it might be.

Or they might just have a small budget and no website.

Do your research and try to speak to a real person about any concerns.

You can look up U.S.-based organizations (or orgs with a U.S. affiliate) on Charity Navigator, which evaluates non-profits and gives them 1-4 stars, and GuideStar, which provides information on thousands of non-profits.

Additional resources for volunteering abroad traveling and WWOOF ‘ing:

Volunteer Travel Programs: Local and Abroad
11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF
21 Resources for Volunteering Abroad Why You Should Do It

Doing your homework in advance will ensure there are no surprises.

Using our list above will help you consider things you might not have otherwise thought about.

Volunteering abroad should be an enriching experience.

Make it a great one too with these tips.