Organizations That Offer Volunteer Travel Opportunities
While majority of organizations are open to volunteers of all ages, there are a few others that actually take special interest and tailor their trips to accommodate the different capabilities and needs of retirees. Here are a few places you may want to check out if you want to travel the world as a volunteer worker. Take note that they accommodate people of different ages.
Global Volunteers is technically open to volunteers of all ages, even minors who are traveling with a parent or legal guardian, but more than 60 percent of their volunteers are seniors or retirees, with the oldest one to date aged 92 at the time of her work. Global Volunteers is certainly the perfect organization if you want one that has experience tailoring the trips and activities to seniors.
Global Volunteers currently has 2 to 3 week service programs in as many as 19 countries, which include local US places to as far away as China and Ghana. All of their porgams are community based, so you should be prepared to work under the direction of local team leaders and caring for disabled children, and working with indigenous people. Their current rates at time of writing range from $650 to $2,592 excluding air fare and insurance costs. Their program costs and air fare are all tax deductible.
Elderhostel is one of the few organizations that caters solely to seniors and retirees, with its volunteer tours tailored specifically for the capabilities and requirements of volunteers aged 50 and up. The length of the tours vary from four to fifteen nights, depending on the package, with the rates ranging from $500 to $3000 excluding the airfare. Unfortunately, since the tours come with educational field trips and lectures, only a portion of the program fees qualifies as tax deductions.
The locations on offer with ElderHostel are all within the US, but there are special tours that go as far as Peru and China. The activities range from community projects to novelty ones such as preserving dinosaur tracks in Zion National Park, or teaching English in Xi’an China.
Global Service Corps
Global Service Corps offers both short term and long term programs, so it is one of the organizations you should check out if you want to volunteer for the long term. The organization offers homestay programs as well as independent accommodations while working with local counterparts. The type of activities include programs in support of HIV/AIDS prevention, Sustainable Agriculture, Healthcare, English instruction, and others. Majority of its volunteers are seniors, and they are a nonprofit international volunteer organization, so the expenses are tax deductible.
I-To-I is an international volunteer organization that has one of the most diverse selection of programs and locations, providing as many as 300 different projects scattered over different 24 countries worldwide. The length of tours range from one week to as long as 24 weeks, with activities ranging from conventional ones like English teaching to more unique ones such as tsunami-relief projects or wild animal rehabilitation. Their rates start at $995 for one week, excluding air fare. Unfortunately, since I-to-I is a for profit organization, the trips are not tax deductible.
What To Expect
One of the first things you need to remember about traveling as a volunteer worker is that the whole thing is about you helping the others, not the other way around. So don’t expect it to be free, much less to actually earn a profit.
There are volunteer organizations that are subsidized by the government or another private benefactor, but even in these cases, you’ll only earn enough to break even and sustain your cost of living while living overseas. For other volunteer organizations, you’d actually have to pay a couple of hundred to a few thousand dollars in order to participate, as you’ll basically be paying for your own orientation, training, transportation, lodging and food, the services of a project leader, and of course, some of your contribution will go to the local community or project that you’re trying to help. There’s no insurance involved so you need to get a comprehensive travel insurance that comes with an emergency evacuation coverage, if you want to visit places that are far away from the US.
Perks and Benefits
That’s not to say that traveling as a volunteer worker is completely unrewarding outside of the feeling that you’ve made the world a better place – on the contrary. There’s actually a few perks to be had. For instance, since your trip is being managed by an organization that has experience with these sorts of things, they can manage the expenses better so your overall per-day expenses are usually lower than those you will incur in a traditional vacation.
You also don’t need to worry about itineraries, tour guides, and looking for lodgings since the organization will take care of these. Additionally, if your trip is organized by a non-profit group, the cost of your trip – including airfare – are all tax deductible. In most cases, you’ll be able to recoup a third of the total cost of your volunteer work through tax deductions.
Before you go and start looking for global volunteering programs, you need to make sure that you’re fit for the job first – and yes, it is still technically a job, not everybody can do it, and there are things required of a person aside from good intentions.
• You should be mobile enough for travel and not have any illnesses or disability that could put you at risk while under stress. Travel is inherently taxing, and the volunteer work also has its fair share of physical activities. You don’t need to be athletic, but you should be healthy and fit enough for your age.
• You should be willing to go out of your comfort zone, both mentally and physically, since you’ll be exposed to unfamiliar language, culture, and surroundings that you must learn to understand, learn, and sometimes even adopt.
• You should be a team player and able to work efficiently as a member of a team under the direction of local people. As a travel volunteer worker, you should be prepared to be humble and take orders from foreign and local team leaders.
• In a way, you need people skills and must be able to maintain a modicum of humor even under duress and stressful situations. You won’t be effective at volunteer work if you’re constantly grumpy and unapproachable.