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Know of any volunteer programs in S. America that are free?

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Know of any volunteer programs in S. America that are free?

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1. Posted by maridod (Full Member 114 posts) 11y

I will be graduating from college in May 2005. I am hoping to go back to school in one year to get a masters in Economic Development. Unfortunetly, I have absolutely no experience in that field. I was hoping to do some hands on development work in South America through volunteering, but everything charges a ton of money. Does anyone know of any programs that do not charge and maybe even give you basic housing and a little food. Anything would is getting cloe to graduation and my parents are on my back! PLEASE HELP!!!


2. Posted by findemundo (Full Member 127 posts) 11y

Willing Workers On Organic Farms] is a volunteer program where you work on organic farms in exchange for room and board. SOME charge a small fee to work on the farms while others are a completely even, free exchange. There are some farms in South America, I'm planning on working on two, one in Peru and Ecuador, though I haven't done it yet, so can't give first-hand experience.

3. Posted by ukmassage (Inactive 1052 posts) 11y

YOU pay to work for THEM ?

nice money making scheme - better then money pyramids.

4. Posted by PistolPD (Full Member 19 posts) 11y

for most of these not-for-profit NGO volunteer programs, the fees you pay are just the administration costs of placing you on the job. If the costs are higher, it is because the organization needs materials to provide their service. If you're building houses or wells in a developing country for example, funds are needed to buy materials to build this stuff...they wont be free.

5. Posted by thowra (Full Member 74 posts) 11y

try , there are loads of NGO jobs listed here, some pay, some are free, and others you have to pay, just sift through them!!

6. Posted by chuckolas (Full Member 31 posts) 11y

You know, the most halarious part about it is that the fact the farms are 'organic' is purely by coincidence. It later years, campesino farmers who live in the most severe rural areas and have no money to spend on pesticides and no way to transport it, have discovered from outsiders that all thier produce is technically 'organic', and now they're making livings they never dreamed possible. Your chance of getting onto one of those is slim at best, and sure to be a filthy, gruelling experience, that only benefits the one family in that they are getting free work from you.
If you want to do some good, I recommend a rural development aid foundation like [/i]Plan Internacional. You will be working to make life better for entire communities, not just single families, and not just finacially. The potable water canals they build keep commuities free of many deseises and increase life expectancies. The basketball courts they build in rural ares let kids do something besides resort to alcohol and school houses help them get an education so that they are not limited to a lifetime of digging in the dirt like thier parents were. Programs like animal husbanry instruction assure that if they [i]do choose such a life, they are well prepared for it.

7. Posted by stevemc (Budding Member 28 posts) 10y

I know this is a bit late for the orig poster,
but there is a directory of free and low cost volunteer
programs here

Some programs offer free basic accommodation for longterm
(i.e. 3-6 months) volunteers.


8. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 10y

Send me a PM I help a lot of non profits in Central America and I live here...I can get you around "paying"!

9. Posted by bujsad (Budding Member 2 posts) 10y

I am not exactly sure how plausible this is because I have never done it, but based on my experience, it seems extremely easy.
Try and find an NGO or whathaveyou that you really want to work for and contact them directly. Most organizations and communities would LOVE for someone with relative experience come and work for free for them. I guarantee you that an affiliated person or family will have an extra room or place for you to sleep.

I have done several volunteer program in South America and I have heard about dozens more and the discussion above is mostly correct. The fees you are paying are for adminstration costs. In my opinion, you are essentially paying for unneccesary bureacracy of US or European-based organizations. I would try to do as much as possible directly dealing with an organization. It may be a good idea to check out programs and find out what organizations they work with, and then contact that organization directly.

If you try this strategy out, definitely give me feedback about how it turns out and what type of responses you get.
Hope this helps!


10. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 10y

From our User Group "Help to Help" on

Help to Help Worldwide
a list of websites offering jobs in the development area, worldwide, in the field of humanitarian aid, social projects, environmental issues, etc. If you have anymore opportunities or leads to share, feel free to do so.


Help to Help,1&_dad=gov_portal_iefp&_schema=GOV_PORTAL_IEFP

An excellent site with an International Job Bank

Remember, if traveling overseas make sure your
employer will SPONSOR your work permit, as you are
unable to work legally without it, always apply months
in advance.

Volunteering abroad, especially in developing
countries, may lead to other opportunties abroad or back home if you are