Many of us have probably considered volunteering at one time or another outside of community engagement projects…

The posters up in the English department motivate you to teach English in Korea, or the adverts on your newsfeed promote what appears to be easy and affordable volunteer work building homes in third world countries, and these are definitely things you could have considered, but the further you look into it the more you discover the hidden expenses and ridiculous qualifications you need.

However, this isn’t to say that there aren’t any awesome and affordable volunteer programmes out there, many of which can not only be done in your vac (even the upcoming one in June/July) but will look great on your CV regardless of whether or not you plan to become a full-time humanitarian, but still want to make a difference in the world. To cut down on your research time here are just a few examples of some awesome volunteer projects and how to pay for them:

1) WWOOF SA (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms):  For anyone with an interest in agriculture or sustainable food initiatives this is by far the most organised and affordable volunteer programme available. The basic workings of WWOOF is that you will sign up to live with a host in a country of your choosing and you will provide 4-6 hours of work per day in exchange for a full day’s food and accommodation. Your host can ask you to perform any number of tasks from making compost, gardening, planting, harvesting, milking, feeding, fencing, making mud-bricks to wine making, cheese making and bread making. The length of your stay on the farm is completely negotiated between you and your host and can be anywhere from 1 week, to 6 months. Whilst you can sign up to work anywhere around the world the cheapest option would be to sign up for the WWOOF organization right here in SA and get to explore more of your home country.

Cost: R100

For more information on WWOOF see the link below:

2) Jaguar de Madera Eco-construction (Mexico): If you are looking to really get your hands dirty and make a difference while doing so, Project Jaguar de Madera in Mexcio is a great way to learn about eco-construction and make a difference in the lives of those in need. Volunteers will be able to learn and practice bio-construction by using only low-cost and recycled resources over the period of at least 1 month minimum and anywhere up to 6. Food and accommodation is included however volunteers are often required to bring their own sleeping bags and mats. All in all the programme will end up costing you a fair amount, however considering you are learning a valuable trade as well as building homes and networking with environmentalists from around the globe it seems like a pretty fair price to pay.

Cost: R2329

3) Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town: Anyone interested in aiding refugees or wanting to directly benefit the lives of individuals in need must definitely look into the Scalabrini Centre in Cape Town. The organisation assists foreign nationals from across Africa integrate into South Africa through the programmes, welfare, English school and outreach services as well as their Employment Access Programme (EAP). Volunteers would help in the EAP division by assisting up to 50 people a day look for jobs, create CVs, write cover letters and a learn new skills through a series of workshops. Volunteers would however need to commit for 3 months so this option is best done in December vac.

Cost: FREE

4) Volunteers Initiative Nepal (Print Journalism): Although this is definitely one of the more expensive volunteer options on the list it is certainly the most rewarding career wise. Whether you are currently studying journalism or considering it as a career option VIN Nepal allows aspiring journalists to gain knowledge of how a newsroom functions, write for several major journalistic publications in the area and get involved in community engagement projects. Food and accommodation ae supplied by the host family you are set up with upon arrival and that is the host family you remain with for the one month duration of the trip.

Cost: R8560

5) Sisters Incorporated: This private welfare organisation based in Cape Town houses South African women who are the victims of domestic violence and whilst it is an organization always in need of help, it is not for the lighthearted. Volunteers are always desperately needed to transport residents to the local hospitals, collect donations, maintain the garden and help with fundraising. As a volunteer you will also be asked to lead a workshop once a week which aims to educate women on their human rights and empower them for their return to life outside of Sisters Incorporated.

Cost: FREE

How can I afford these?

  1. Volunteer Forever:  Probably the most popular method of fundraising at the moment is Volunteer Forever, an online website which allows you to create a profile for yourself stating where you want to go volunteer, how much you need to get there and when you plan to leave. From there, you can share your profile on Facebook or any social media and hope that people will be interested enough in your cause to donate whatever they can. Whilst this method of fundraising does rely essentially on the charity of your friends and family, if you explain the intention of your cause well enough it could hopefully be shared enough times to make your plans a reality.


   2.  Travel for Good Voluntourism Grant: This is certainly not the only volunteer scholarship option but it is one of the longest running with one of the largest travel grants. Travelocity offers Volunteers’ up to $500 covering project fees and transportation costs for periods from a few days to a few months. Furthermore, four winners receive this grant each and every year. This may seem competitive, but you should definitely be considered applying more than once if you aren’t lucky enough to receive it the first time.

Written by: Frances Housdon

Originally published: