I love the idea of doing some good while I’m abroad, but don’t have enough time off to do anything long-term. Are there any volunteering holidays that are just a couple of weeks or even a weekend?
It’s a great idea – by doing a volunteering, or working holiday, you’ll develop new skills, meet people, take a little time to figure out if you want a change of direction, and give something back.
The key is in the research and planning. It’s probably best to draw up a list of what you want from it first so you don’t have your head turned by counting gorillas in Uganda when it’s working with children that you really want.
There’s some good advice on the YearOutGroup.org website about the sort of questions you need to ask an organisation before signing up. This includes what costs are covered by your fee, and what percentage will benefit the project and community you are being sent to. Also ask the organisation to put you in touch with someone who has recently returned from the placement you’re planning to go on.
It’s a not-for-profit group that represents 35 vetted organisations, including SWP, i-to-i, The Leap, Outreach International, Bunac, Greenforce and Raleigh.
Before you go, be sure that there is a need for volunteers, ask for reports to prove how efficient the programme has been and ensure the project is run in conjunction with locals.
If you’re based in the UK there are plenty of projects you can get involved in with organisations like the National Trust. Their working holidays can be just weekends, or you can go for a week, and costs are often less than £100 including meals and accommodation. The holidays range from herding goats to building dry stone walls.
Or you could go further afield, of course. Namibia is a fascinating country – readers of the adventure travel magazine Wanderlust regularly vote it their favourite destination for its other-worldly landscapes and wildlife.
According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund more than 90% of the cheetahs in Namibia roam farmland, so they are often blamed when domestic animals get killed. Earthwatch is offering placements of 15-22 days, which involves wildlife surveys and cheetah husbandry, though you do need to raise a considerable sum for the charity to take part.
There are plenty of projects that will have you working up a serious sweat, like building in Honduras. Go with i-to-i, and you’ll live and work with a family in the highlands of western Honduras near La Esperanza for anything upwards of one week.
It’s not an easy ride – you’ll most likely be sleeping on the floor, living on tortillas and beans three times a day and there’s the physical exhaustion to boot, but it’s rewarding work. Not all of the i-to-i placements are this tough – monkey conservation in South Africa or surfing and saving turtles in Costa Rica might be a little more up your street.
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
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