We knew that we wanted to find volunteer work on our travels, so signed up to several websites before we left (HelpX & Workaway).
We were also adamant that we would not pay organisations vast sums of money for the privilege of volunteering.
However, in the end none of the work we ended up doing, came from the websites we joined before we left.
We found it much easier to contact the organisation direct, quite often walking in off the street.
Listed below are the five ways we found volunteer opportunities on our travels:
1) Ask around in the place you are visiting. We asked the local tourist offices & they pointed us in the direction of NGOs & charities. Colin found an opportunity with Comunidad Connect in San Juan del Sur in this way & ended up photographing the Local Junior Baseball League for the charity newspaper.
2) Look for language schools, if you are looking to teach English. To give something back to the local community, schools often run free English lessons for locals.
We visited Habla Ya in Bocas del Toro, then Boquete, Panama & taught English in the evenings for a total of 5 weeks. See: Teaching English Abroad
3) Local schools & sports clubs are always looking for help.
We visited a private school in Antigua Guatemala, who had links with a charity supporting a village school for the indigenous people of El Hato. We spent two weeks here teaching & supporting the staff El Hato School
4) If the place has an expat community they are often involved in charity organisations & can point you in the right direction. Also any expat newspapers run ads. The Canadian lady we stayed with in Boquete worked at the local dog rescue, & also the group for the disabled, where we helped out.
5) Quite often the town’s tourist website will point you in the right direction. I was particularly saddened by the plight of young boys on the street in Granada, Nicaragua. The Granada tourist site had several charities working with these children, who we contacted to help. They had opportunities working in schools, talking to the boys on the street to educate them about shelters or even visiting to play board games with them.
We still have 2 months left in Central America & hopefully more opportunities to volunteer along the way.