South America is one of the most popular destinations for volunteering overseas. Whether it’s part of a year out before or after college, a career break or just an extended holiday, if you want to explore South America whilst giving something back to the community, consider doing a volunteer placement. However, many of the volunteering organisations charge huge fees – often hundreds of dollars, just so you can volunteer. There must be better ways to volunteer in South America without having to pay?
There are! We’ve put together this guide of six great organisations that allow you to volunteer in South America… for free!
A great way to volunteer in South America for free is with the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps volunteer programme is part of the US government but is independently ran. It provides volunteers to support overseas projects. The Peace Corps regularly recruits volunteers for positions in South America. Joining the Peace Corps is one of the best ways to volunteer overseas without having to pay.
The Peace Corps was founded in 1916. Since then, it has developed a reputation for being one of the top volunteer schemes for people looking to gain experience abroad.
There are Peace Corps opportunities all over the world, including across South America. It is free to volunteer with the Peace Corps. There are Peace Corps programmes in Colombia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Guyana, and Peru, making it one of the best options for those looking to volunteer in South America for free.
Volunteers with the Peace Corps work on a range of development projects. These can include education, healthcare, environment protection, agriculture, community development and youth work. When volunteering with the Peace Corps, candidates are selected for projects based on their skills, experience and ambitions.
Joining the Peace Corps is one of the best ways to volunteer in South America without paying large fees to a volunteer organisation.
Volunteer postings with the Peace Corps last two years. New volunteers are provided three months of training when they first arrive in their new country.
Peace Corps volunteers receive free return flights from their home country, as well as medical and dental insurance, housing, and a monthly living allowance. Volunteers also receive technical training relevant to their project and language lessons. At the end of their placement, Peace Corps volunteers receive a lump sum allowance to help them with readjusting back in their home country.
Applicants for volunteer postings with the Peace Corps must meet two requirements. The first is to be a US citizen and the second it to be over 18 years of age. Anyone with previous professional experience with the CIA also cannot apply.
How To Apply
Applications to volunteer with the Peace Corps are made through the organisation’s website. Visit the Peace Corps page to see open volunteer positions and to apply. You also need to submit your health history as part of your application.
Following the submission of an application, selected candidates will be called for an interview. If selected for a volunteer placement, applicants must also submit additional legal and medical information. All Peace Corps volunteers go through an onboarding process and training before departing.
There are no fees charged to apply to the Peace Corps and once selected, Peace Corps volunteers to do not pay anything.
EU Aid Volunteers
EU Aid Volunteers is a voluntary programme ran by the European Union. It is free to join and there are opportunities across South America.
EU Aid Volunteers works closely with humanitarian aid and development NGOs to deploy volunteers into crises responses. If you are looking to start a career in overseas aid, taking a volunteer posting with EU Aid Volunteers is one of the best ways.
There are opportunities to volunteer across South America with EU Aid Volunteers. They have ongoing projects in Peru, Chili and Guatemala. As EU Aid Volunteers does not charge, it is a great way to volunteer on the continent for free.
The EU Aid Volunteers scheme is open to any national from a European Union country.
Taking a placement with EU Aid Volunteers is a great way to get first-hand experience of working on humanitarian and development projects. There are EU Aid Volunteer postings supporting areas such as humanitarian assistance, recovery, resilience, community development and civil protection.
Volunteer placements with EU Aid Volunteers are for between one and 18 months. Each listing gives the duration volunteers are required for. Volunteers are expected to commit to the full duration of the placement.
EU Aid Volunteers receive a monthly allowance, plus accommodation. Travel and insurance costs are also covered. There are a number of training opportunities open to volunteers which are also free of charge. Upon completion of the placement, volunteers receive a lump-sum payment to assist with returning home.
To volunteer with EU Aid Volunteers, you must be 18 years of age and a citizen of an EU member state. Some volunteer placements may also have additional requirements.
How To Apply
Apply to EU Aid Volunteers through their online platform.
Another great option for those wanting to volunteer in South America for free is with UN Volunteers. This is the United Nations volunteer programme. It offers volunteer postings across the world, including in South America, and does not charge a fee.
UN Volunteers are deployed into ongoing UN projects. They support the UN’s work in peace and development, with a specific focus on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. UN Volunteers has over 8,000 ongoing placements, with many across South America.
Joining UN Volunteers is especially good if you want to follow your volunteer experience with a career in the United Nations. UN Volunteers can be a great way to gain experience supporting UN projects. You do not get charged to do placements with UN Volunteers so it’s a great way to volunteer overseas, including in South America, without having to pay.
There are a huge range of roles across UN Volunteers. There are opportunities to support education, healthcare, hunger reduction, peace building, water and sanitation and climate change projects.
UN Volunteers is one of the best regarded and most prestige international volunteer schemes. With projects across South America, it is definitely one of the best options for those wanting to volunteer on the continent for free.
Contracts with UN Volunteers are usually for 6 or 12 months initially. These can be extended for up to two years. UN Volunteers does have some shorter placements, usually for three months, but sometimes less.
During a placement with UN Volunteers you receive a monthly living allowance, plus travel expenses and insurance cover. Volunteers also receive a one-off ‘settling-in’ grant at the beginning of their posting and a resettlement grant paid upon completion.
UN Volunteers can take leave during their placements.
Applicants to join UN Volunteers must have university degree or higher education diploma. There are also UN Volunteer positions that require a master’s degree or a technical qualification. To join UN Volunteers, you also need two years of professional work experience. Applicants must have good written and spoken English, French or Spanish. You need to be over 25 years of age to apply to UN Volunteers.
Some UN Volunteer positions may also have additional requirements.
How To Apply
You can apply for UN Volunteer placements through the organisation’s website. Sign-up to the UNV online platform to browse openings. Once an application has been submitted, selected candidates will be called to an interview.
Workaway is another great option for volunteering in South America for free.
Workaway is a platform that connects volunteers with homestay places. Volunteers agree to contribute a set amount of work each day in exchange for room and a place to stay. Workaway has a huge range of opportunities across South America. It’s great for those on a budget who want to move around and volunteer on different projects, maybe across many countries on their trip.
Workaway pride themselves on being a cultural exchange. Its hoped volunteers and hosts will build bonds and work together. The majority of Workaway placements are free, but some hosts may charge a small fee for food or board. However, this is much much less than the fees charged by major volunteering companies.
If you’re looking to volunteer in South America definitely explore the postings on Workway. Through Workaway you can volunteer on almost any type of project, including farming, hostel work, construction, teaching, childcare, environment protection and climate action.
There are free volunteer positions with Workaway in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Chili, Brazil, and Argentina. This makes it a great place to look for those wanting to volunteer in South America without having to pay.
Volunteering opportunities with Workaway are for different time periods depending on the needs of the hosts. Many hosts include how long they want volunteers to stay on their listing. However, it is possible to contact hosts and negotiate directly with them if you wish to stay a longer or shorter time.
The majority of Workaway volunteer placements are from a few weeks to a few months.
Volunteers on Workaway do not normally get an allowance. If you want to volunteer with Workaway you will need enough money to cover all your expenses, apart from lodging and food. Workaway hosts generally do not charge volunteers though, so it’s a great way to volunteer overseas, including in South America, without paying.
There are a few Workaway hosts who offer small payments or even a wage to their volunteers. This is usually included in their listing.
Workaway requires volunteers to be at least 18 years of age. Some hosts may have additional requirements.
How To Apply
Sign-up through the Workaway website to browse open volunteer placements. This costs 56 USD a year. This is the only charge for volunteering with Workaway. Once you’re signed up, you can browse hosts and contact them directly. Actually doing a volunteer placement with Workaway is free of charge.
WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Volunteering through WWOOF is another great way to work in South America for free.
WWOOF volunteers provide assistance for farms. In exchange, they receive free food and a place to stay. Volunteering with WWOOF is free and there are no charges for working on the farms. There are opportunities with WWOOF across South America making it a great way to volunteer on the continent without having to pay.
There are WWOOF hosts in many South American countries, including Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Columbia.
When you volunteer with WWOOF you get the opportunity to take on a range of tasks. For example, you can work doing harvesting, construction, irrigation, or sowing. Each farm has its own needs, and you can pick to volunteer at places that have work that interests you.
WWOOFing was establishing in 1971 and has a long history of connecting volunteers with farms around the world. It is built on the ideals of free exchange and therefore WWOOFing volunteers do not have to pay.
There are WWOOFing hosts in many South American countries. If you want to volunteer in South America for free, definitely explore WWOOFing.
Most WWOOFing experiences last from a couple of weeks to a few months. You can contact hosts directly and discuss the duration of your stay through the WWOOFing website.
WWOOFing volunteers do not normally receive an allowance. However, volunteers are also not charged by their hosts, making it a great way to volunteer overseas for free.
The only formal requirement to volunteer with WWOOFing is that you must be over 18 years of age. Some hosts may set additional requirements depending on the kind of assistance they are looking for.
How To Apply
WWOOFing is a decentralised network with many different WWOOFing organisations around the world. One of the main websites is wwoof.net. Almost all the WWOOFing networks sites require a small fee to sign-up to, and then you can contact hosts directly. Hosts do not charge volunteers, meaning the sign-up cost to join the WWOOFing site is the only thing you need to pay.
Another great option for volunteering in South America for free is HelpStay.
HelpStay links volunteers, or ‘helpers’ with hosts. Volunteers are provided with room and board in exchange for doing an agreed amount of work each day. HelpStay has hosts all over South America making it a fantastic way to volunteer on the continent.
Volunteers with HelpStay have a huge choice in the type of work they do. HelpStay has volunteer opportunities in hostels, bartending, childcare, cooking, teaching, community development and environmental conservation.
There are HelpStay hosts in many South American countries, including Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chili, and Argentina.
If you are looking to volunteer for free in South America, definitely explore the opportunities available through HelpStay. Each HelpStay host offers a unique experience so be sure to thoroughly explore the open positions.
Volunteers are generally not charged by their hosts, making HelpStay a great way to volunteer in South America without paying a fee. Some hosts may ask for a small contribution towards the running costs of their projects, but these fees are way below what you would pay one of the big volunteer companies.
Volunteers can negotiate directly with their HelpStay hosts and arrange how long they wish to stay. Most volunteers stay between one and two weeks and a couple of months.
The majority of HelpStay hosts do not provide allowances to volunteers. However, it is usually free to volunteer through HelpStay.
To volunteer with HelpStay you must be over 18 years old. Some volunteer opportunities may have additional requirements.
How To Apply
The first step to volunteering with HelpStay is to sign-up on their website. They charge a yearly fee of around 30 EUR, but this is a one-off charge and is the only cost volunteers must pay to use HelpStay. After signing-up you can browse the listings of volunteer placements and contact hosts directly.