When travelling previously, I’ve done some volunteering work in the country I’ve been staying in. It’s been a great experience, really enriching my travel by getting to do some work with people who live locally, get to know their lives, culture and the people in general. Staying somewhere for a few weeks, living with locals gives you so much more than just passing through as a tourist.
When I’ve done this before, it was organised through Workaway – a great website which helps get travellers in contact with locals who would like some help with their projects. Generally, the hosts offer board (food & accommodation) in return for your work. There are different arrangements though – some require a small fee to cover your board and some will only offer 1 meal a day, it depends on the requirements of the host.
As the worker, you get to browse the available hosts in the area you’d like to travel to and contact the ones you feel are suitable to your needs. You can both then provide feedback on each other so any future contacts know what to expect eg. Lovely person who is a hard worker or lazy person who just wants free accommodation.
My hope is to do a similar thing while I’m in Mongolia on my trip, however I was disappointed to see there are only 2 hosts on Workaway.info in Mongolia. I’ve contacted both of them, and have been awaiting a reply for a while now and I’m starting to lose hope that it will work out.
As it’s not looking likely that Workaway will be fruitful in Mongolia, I’ve spent the day today researching other volunteer opportunities in the country. Disappointingly, all I seem to be able to find is “volunteer” work where you book through a Western Corporation and pay thousands of dollars for the experience. In fact, some of the organised tours I’ve found are cheaper than these volunteer programs.
I honestly do not have the funds to be able to pay for an organised tour or corporate volunteer program. Also, I’m usually not into organised tours – preferring to travel independently when possible. If I can raise the funds, I’d definitely consider paying for a volunteer program – but I’d want to do some research on the company/program first. Obviously, I’d want to ensure that it does actually help the locals and not take advantage of them or harm them in any way!
The main thing I would like to get out of volunteering is a real cultural experience – meet the locals and experience the real Mongolia rather than just the tourist sites. I’m not even after free stuff – I’m happy to cover the costs the local people would incur due to me being there eg food, accommodation etc However, I am sceptical of volunteer companies that charge large sums of money in a country where a hostel in the main city only costs about $10 per night.
Do you have any thoughts, opinions or advice on this? I’d be keen to hear from you!
Have you volunteered with one of these companies you pay for? What are your thoughts and opinions?
Do you know of somewhere in Mongolia that I could help out for a few weeks in exchange for immersion in the culture?
Thanks for reading,
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Let me know 🙂