There isn’t a better way to travel around the world with a purpose than by volunteering! In these series on alternative tourism we are covering popular international volunteer programs for young adults to participate in. If you feel that you’re ready to share knowledge with others, learn new skills, and boost your life experience, read on! In this article, we will talk about Help Exchange, a program that provides information on host organic farms for short-term exchanges for volunteers around the world.
HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, hostels for backpackers, and even sail boats that invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.
HelpX is an opportunity to stay with local people and gain practical experience. In the typical arrangement, the helpers work an average of 4 hours per day and receive free accommodation and meals for their efforts.
Time Commitment for Helpers
How much time volunteers commit to helping their hosts can vary considerably depending on the tasks at hand and the host’s preferences. Some hosts may require just 2 hours per day for accommodation only, and ask you to provide and cook your own food. Others may expect 6 hours per day in return for meals, your own room and sometimes other benefits such as free Internet use, horse riding, kayaking, biking, local sight-seeing trips, yoga or English lessons, etc. Some will give weekends off, while others might allow you to put in 8 hours one day and later take a full day off. Helpers often live with the host family and are expected to join in and offer a helping hand with day-to-day activities.
Volunteer helpers are required to register for one of two levels of membership, Free or Premier. Premier membership costs 20 Euros for 2 years and allows the helper to contact all hosts and read all host reviews. Hosts wishing to add a free listing inviting helpers to stay will need to register. Registered hosts may update their details as often as they like and view helper profiles.
Helpers can also opt to provide a self-description for hosts to view who may then wish to invite the helper to stay with them. It is advised that helpers include information about any skills or experience they may have, such as gardening, farming, agriculture, permaculture, fruit-picking; trade skills such as building, carpentry, landscaping, sail boat crewing; or working with animals or having an ability to care for and ride horses.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main difference between Free and Premier memberships?
When you register as a host or helper you automatically become a Free member (hosts need to be approved first). Free helper members who provide a self-description as part of their profile can be contacted by Premier hosts but cannot contact hosts directly. A helper who upgrades from a Free to a Premier membership will be able to view all provided host details and reviews in all networks worldwide. A host who upgrades to a Premier membership will be able to contact all helpers. It costs 20 euros to upgrade to be a premier helper, which lasts for 2 years worldwide for both single and twin memberships.
Are there age limits for being a helper?
You need to be a least 18 to be a helper. Under-18s are allowed if accompanied by a parent, provided this has been agreed with the host. There is no upper age limit so long as the applicant is fit and healthy enough to participate.
I have registered as a helper, but I intend to visit more than one country and these countries are not in the same network. How can I join them all?
A network is a location which you would like to go to for volunteering. There are six networks presented in the application: Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and International.
As you cannot be in more than one country at a time, select the network that includes the first country you wish to visit. Then when the time comes to move to the next one, login and change the network that includes the next country you will visit.
You can still view hosts in all networks regardless of what network you are currently registered under. Note that hosts looking for helpers will generally just be looking out for helpers listed under their network.
Photo: Shutterstock / edit: Martina Advaney
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