Want to travel for free? Become a volunteer

Volunteering abroad may fulfil the vision of having time but not money during the holidays.

(Source: AP/TASR)

A glossary of words as well as exercise related to this article are also published online.

For young people, summer is an opportunity to work, travel, and meet new people, and volunteering is a chance to join all three into one.

Volunteering does not necessarily require traveling far, as local communities can always use help, but several months off from university make summer a good time to travel abroad. Young people usually consider volunteering and living abroad some of the best months of their lives, fulfilled with different activities, new people and enriching experiences.

Slovakia is still in its infancy regarding voluntary activities, although there is positive trend in Slovak volunteering at home as well as abroad, said Ivana Petrisková, the project coordinator in Mladdinfo, Slovakia. As a non-profit organization, Mladdinfo’s main task is to coordinate foreign volunteers in Slovakia, send Slovaks to volunteer abroad, and organize projects for youth and others.

“Travelling abroad is a bigger challenge than volunteering at home,” Petrisková, who also volunteered during and after university, told The Slovak Spectator. “Youth get know the people from the country, learn a foreign language, and find both themselves and what they are interested in.”

For any interest

“Activities and tasks for volunteers depend on the agreement between the organisation and volunteer,” explains Lenka Čurillová, executive director of ADEL (Association for Development, Education and Labour). ADEL organizes youth exchanges, trainings, workshops, language courses, volunteer’s programmes and others.

As a volunteer, one can be involved in the organization of cultural, sport or outdoor activities, teaching a foreign language, caring for children, the disabled or animals, do activities to protect the environment or focus on media, marketing and graphics, enumerates Čurillová.

“In June, for example, we will send five Slovaks to Bulgaria where they will help organize a film festival,” Čurillová told The Slovak Spectator. The preparation work will engage 75 young people from 15 different countries.

“In Slovakia, there is still this idea that a young person should finish high school, go to university, find a good job and start a family. I am glad that this concept is slowly changing,” thinks Petriskova .

Both Mladiinfo Slovakia and ADEL work as organisations involved in the European Voluntary Service (EVS). Young people aged 17 to 30 can apply and everything a volunteer needs (accommodation, food, travel cost, insurance, language course in the particular country) is paid via a grant given from the Erasmus+ programme so that volunteer has no expenses.

During the 20 years of EVS, more than 100,000 volunteers from all around the world have participated in the programme. It is possible to apply to a voluntary programme lasting from two months to one year.

Be careful who you work for

Moreover, all the organizations which send volunteers through the EVS have gone through an interview and they are accredited and checked from the EU.

“Be more careful about a host organization; it’s good to gain as much information as possible – from the sending organization, volunteers who have already worked there or via Skype interviews with the people from the organization,” advises Čurillová.

Besides the fact that young people do not have to pay anything to volunteer abroad, there are more advantages.

“Once you finish high school or university, you have 50 plus years of a normal job ahead of you. This is the opportunity to do something different and the opportunity stays only when you are young,” said Čurillová.

Moreover, she sees that learning a language, gaining work and practical experience and last but not least getting the chance to travel through different cultures as advantageous. Compared to an internship, a volunteer gives people more of an opportunity to help in a community, rather than simply being immersed in work .

Petrisková added that these programmes offer a different view of society, a society of which we are part of and which we ought to participate on bettering it. Volunteering abroad will also teach youth to respect other cultures and traditions, which is necessary in today’s society, thinks Petrisková.

“Young people have good ideas and they are not afraid to present them,” continues Petrisková. She added that a big motivation for young people in volunteering is the possibility to travel.

The countries young Slovak volunteers prefer are Italy, France, Germany and Spain, for a simple reason – to improve their language skills. But usually there is no preferred type of voluntary work that could be generalised, said Čurillová. Often the volunteering programme is a youth’s first opportunity to live away from home in a new country, meeting new people.

The Spectator College is a programme designed to support the study and teaching of English in Slovakia, as well as to inspire interest in important public issues among young people. The project was created by The Slovak Spectator in cooperation with their exclusive partner – the Leaf Academy.

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