Volunteering abroad used to be a long term commitment for a highly qualified few but that has since changed.
VOLUNTEERING IN EUROPE GUIDE
Volunteering abroad used to be a long term commitment for people with solid professional qualifications. These days you’ll find placements across the world for people of all ages and skill levels, with commitments from as little as five days. It’s not just far flung developing countries that welcome volunteers either. Europe has lots of exciting opportunities, from marine conservation in Greece to managing food waste in Portugal to volunteering with rescued bears in Romania.
Anyone with a passion for the environment, animals, or helping disadvantaged communities can volunteer in Europe; you don’t need to be an expert to make a positive impact.
With the vast number of placements now available, it’s crucial that you fully research your trip, to find a reputable and responsible company. You should also be aware of the work involved. You’ll be joining genuine wildlife or community projects and working with dedicated scientists, conservationists and park rangers, and while you’ll certainly have fun in the process, be aware that volunteering breaks are more about making a positive contribution than having a glorified holiday that’ll look good on your CV.
IS VOLUNTEERING IN EUROPE FOR YOU?
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TYPES OF VOLUNTEERING IN EUROPE
So you’ve decided to take the volunteering plunge, but what should you do? Well, you’ll find plenty of European projects to whet your appetite, whether you want to work with animals, habitats or local communities.
Wildlife conservation trips don’t involve getting up close and personal with animals, rather they’re about protecting wild animals and the environments in which they live, whether that be monitoring bear and wolf populations in Greece, or constructing bird and flying squirrel boxes to encourage nesting in the forests of northern Finland. You’ll also get to spend time learning from local conservationists and park rangers, with good chances to see incredible animals in their natural environment, and you’ll have a positive, lasting impact on the environment you explore.
Volunteering with animalsSome trips allow you to volunteer more closely with animals, often in the setting of a sanctuary. In most cases, the animals have been abused or injured and brought in for rehabilitation. You could, for example, be working with wolves that have been rescued from hunters or from zoos, who will be living the rest of their lives in a sanctuary. Duties include feeding, monitoring wellbeing and in some cases even giving sanctuary tours.
Marine conservationMarine conservation is aimed at anyone with a passion for the ocean; enthusiasm is valued over experience and you don’t need a scientific background, but will be given training in data collection, basic marine biology and boat skills. Popular placements include dolphin and turtle conservation but you won’t necessarily be working with marine animals, you could be helping to clean up their environment by removing ocean debris instead. Some trips will involve diving, but inexperienced divers or newbies needn't be left out, as the trip may include a PADI course or a chance to further your diving qualifications along the way.
Family volunteering holidays in Europe are a brilliant way to introduce children to a completely different world, giving them a chance to learn about wildlife and conservation issues and, hopefully, setting them up to become future responsible travellers. Options for families include dolphin and turtle conservation or working with wolves or bears in a wildlife sanctuary. Volunteer projects aren’t suitable for very young children, as the minimum age ranges from eight to 12 depending on the trip. Some operators offer more comfortable accommodation for families such as an apartment with kitchen facilities, and will often build more downtime in as well.
Community projectsCommunity projects can be some of the most rewarding volunteer holidays, as you work with the people you’re helping, sharing practical skills, assisting in building projects or working in soup kitchens, for example. In Europe, most of our community projects are based in Portugal, where you could be working towards ending food waste and distributing food to the homeless and working poor; or renovating homes, improving safety and access to sanitation.
Small group or tailor made?The majority of our volunteer trips in Europe are small group, meaning that they have set departure dates and you’ll be joining a small group of around six to 10 fellow volunteers with whom you’ll live and work, often sharing shared mixed gender accommodation such as bunk rooms.
If you’re going to work in a sanctuary or on a year round project then you can often arrange a tailor made tour, departing at dates to suit you and choosing the length of your stay, though there may be minimum stay requirements. Some tailor made tours can arrange for you to stay in private hotel or apartment accommodation.
WHEN TO GO ON A VOLUNTEERING HOLIDAY IN EUROPE
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