Let’s face it, travel can be expensive! Remote locations such as Antarctica or places like Tibet, where in order to get a visa you must sign up for an expensive tour, are extreme examples of costly vacations.
There is a better way…
Traveling does not have to drain your bank account. Consider the more affordable (and arguably the more rewarding) option of volunteering. Such opportunities range in type of service, from working with disenfranchised peoples to technical support for an NGO, and vary in length of time commitment, from a week to a month to years.
So often, the only way to sign up for volunteer support is to go through agencies who charge exorbitant prices and, of course, take a large cut for arranging visas, flights and accommodation. There are a few exceptions, however. A small number of places will charge either nothing or a nominal fee, that often is actually a donation to the NGO. Here are a few organizations we’d like to recommend (in no particular order):
1) The Peace Corps: This can be a great way to travel and reach out to non-vacation spots around the world. A background in city planning, agriculture or healthcare, for example, can go a long way here in helping communities set up a water system or educating people about diseases. These are just to name a few. All applicants must be US citizens (and at least 18 years old) and the application process takes anywhere from 6 to 12 months so you will need to plan ahead. For more information, including the location and type of projects and the application process, check out their website at: http://www.peacecorps.gov/
2) United Nations: Many of the positions offered require specialized skills, including leadership and project management, providing the unique opportunity to travel the world and volunteer based on one’s professional career. Peruse their website and find out if you have what they are looking for: http://www.unv.org/how-to-volunteer.html
3) Action Reconciliation Service for Peace: ARSP is a German-run NGO that began in the 1950s by a group that felt the need to “set a sign of atonement for the Nazi era”. The volunteer projects available with ARSP involve working with disenfranchised groups directly affected by the Nazis. These groups include mentally-challenged people, Jewish communities, Sinti and Roma and LGBT communities. German citizens can volunteer in twelve various countries, mostly in Europe but also including Israel, Russia and the United States. In addition, citizens of those countries, respectively, can also volunteer in Germany. For further information, check out their websites:
- Volunteering in Germany: http://www.actionreconciliation.org/
- Website for Germans: http://www.asf-ev.de/
4) Brethren Volunteer Service: For those of you who might not know, “Brethren” is one of the three peace churches (the others are Quaker and Mennonite) whose members are exempt from military service in the case of a draft, because pacifism is at the root of their ideologies. You do not need to be Brethren to apply to volunteer with BVS and there will be no attempt made by the organization to convert you. Their mission is “Sharing God’s love through acts of service, by advocating justice, working for peace, serving human needs, and caring for creation.” Project placement is worldwide with most of their assignments in the United States, Europe, as well as Central and South America.
I did a year of volunteer service with BVS and chose my project in Berlin, Germany. I worked in the office of the Aktion Suehnezeichen Freidensdienste (ARSP headquarters). This also allowed me to volunteer with the Judische Gemeinde (Jewish Community) visiting Jewish elderly, most of whom were Holocaust victims. I encourage you to browse their website for additional information: http://www.brethren.org/bvs/
Are you too old too volunteer?
You are never too old to volunteer. Princeton in Asia has a program just for seniors. Often some of these positions are paid to help offset ongoing costs you may have at home. Check out if there is the perfect project for you at: http://piaweb.princeton.edu/