3 Types of Volunteer Work For A Digital Nomad

by Diego Navarro | LAST UPDATED August 10, 2021

Volunteer work
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Volunteer work as a digital nomad sounds like a match made in heaven. You still get to travel around the world whenever you want, but you’ll also be able to help people during your travels.

There are a few options when it comes to the sort of program you can go for, so we’ll take you through what we consider to be the best volunteer work for a digital nomad.

Local Community Service

You don’t need to go halfway around the world to have a positive impact on the world, and you can simply offer your time and services at any NGO or nonprofit organization that you have located close to you.

If you’re a digital nomad, then the term “local” simply means in the city that you’re currently staying in. Several big cities will likely have a handful of nonprofit organizations that’ll be more than happy to accept a few more helping hands.

You might be able to find information on these sorts of organizations if you visit the city’s official website or Facebook page or if you go down to the local council building and inquire about this sort of thing in person. Your best bet is usually to ask about animal shelters, food banks, or homeless shelters since these are some of the most numerous types of volunteer organizations.

Animal Shelters

When we say animal shelters, many people automatically assume that you need to be a licensed veterinarian to work at such a place. At the very least, you’re probably expecting to provide some proof of experience in working with animals.

While it’s true that animal shelters would hire veterinarians or experienced volunteers in a heartbeat, there are still a lot of options for those of us that don’t really have a background in animal care.

Basic documentation sorting, feeding the animals, buying the food, making sure that the water is always topped off and replaced regularly are all vital jobs at these sorts of shelters that pretty much anyone could do.

You’ll likely receive on-site training to ensure both your safety as well as the animal’s safety. The training usually isn’t super extensive, and you won’t be briefed on how to provide specialized care to the animals. 

In all likelihood, you’ll be given a few lessons on how to act around the animals, a tour around the facility, any restricted zones and lines that need to be respected, and a general rundown of your tasks and how to accomplish them. You may even get to walk some dogs as a volunteer gig, not a bad trade. 

Food Bank

Food banks take in tons and tons of food regularly and usually don’t have the necessary staff to sort through the massive volume of items and adequately sort and categorize them. 

The banks will be a large warehouse where people go to donate and receive food or “front lines” where they distribute the food and have a separate location where they take donations.

If you’ve ever been a grocer or worked in a supermarket, then you pretty much know what goes on in the warehouses. You’ll be asked to help with the clean-up, stack and organize the shelves, help maintain the storage in the back, and so on.

The “front line” locations will require a lot of carrying boxes from the warehouse to the vans and then from the vans to the areas where the food is meant to be distributed.

A large part of this type of volunteer work is taking inventory and going through all of the donated items. A large portion of the food donated to food banks is either expired or is close to expiring. 

This means that a large part of your day-to-day is also going to consist of filling up a dumpster with spoiled goods to make sure that people don’t accidentally get those.

Homeless Shelters

Volunteer opportunities at a homeless shelter are usually limited to working on documentation or distributing blankets and meals to the visitors. 

The majority of your tasks are going to revolve around the signup process. In essence, you’ll be asked to sign in the people that come to the shelters. You’d be helping with the documentation, taking all of their personal information, and verifying their homeless status and the reasons that brought them to the shelter in the first place.

Of course, some shelters are more discreet than others, and they might have less strict screening procedures, in which case your job is most likely going to be to explain the common rules of conduct and to make sure that you take note of any grievances or disturbances.

There are also a few other responsibilities that you might be saddled with, but you’ll be trained in all of the necessary new skills you’ll need. 

We should mention that this type of volunteer work will involve a lot of human interaction, so it might not be a good fit for you if you don’t consider yourself to have good social skills.

Volunteerism

Volunteer work

Volunteerism gives you access to different types of volunteer opportunities while also allowing you to see as much of the world as possible. The name itself pretty much explains exactly what volunteerism is since it’s a combination of the words volunteer and tourism.

There are plenty of international volunteer projects that range from long to short-term positions. We’ll mostly cover the short-term positions since they can allow you to see the world while also doing some good, without the need for any specific prior experience in a certain field.

The more long-term volunteer jobs are generally in specific fields like health care and community development, both of which require certain degrees and training. So we’ll keep things simple and only cover the jobs that just about anyone can do with minimal training.

As for how you can find these sorts of volunteering opportunities, we’ll include a link to sites that can provide more information on all of the volunteer programs that we mention in the respective sections.

Teaching English

There are a lot of benefits to knowing a second language, especially English. It can open up new opportunities, enhance your existing set of skills, and it can help you more easily find employment online or in a different country.

Volunteer work with children can be done online as well as in real life, especially when it comes to being an English teacher. There are benefits to both of these types of volunteering projects, and we’ll go over both of them one by one.

The real-world option for teaching English would involve going to an organization like Go Abroad and looking up what sort of open postings there are where they could use an English teacher.

The online option still requires that you log on and register to an organization like that, but all of your work will be done online over your computer.

The clear benefit of actually going to a grade or high school to teach children is that you’ll get to engage and have a more meaningful connection with all of your students. However, when you teach online, you’ll be able to hold one-on-one sessions with specific students to give them a bit more guidance if need be.

As we said, both of these options have their advantages and drawbacks. Still, whichever type of teaching you decide to go for, you’ll be providing young people with the opportunity to better themselves and potentially open up new opportunities for themselves.

Disaster Relief

When it comes to disaster relief volunteer programs, we’ve found that the best place to look is the Go overseas website. This is a great tool for anyone that’s looking for a specific type of volunteer work since you can easily use the site navigation options to look through and explore all of the many available opportunities.

Disaster relief programs are probably the most difficult types of volunteering programs to expand on. This is mostly due to the enormous scope of possible jobs and training options that you can opt for.

For example, you can choose to go train as a fireman in Columbia and help with the fire suppression efforts, you can volunteer at a refugee camp in Palestine and help the unfortunate souls that were forced out of their homes, or you can even join the Habitat for Humanity and help the British Virgin Islands rebuild after the hurricane season.

It’s probably very obvious that the volunteer positions in the disaster relief sector are incredibly demanding at best and immensely dangerous at worst. Luckily, dangerous jobs always require extensive training, which will give you a taste of what you’re getting yourself into and allow you to decide whether this sort of thing is for you.

On the positive side of things, the very fact that these volunteer positions are so tricky means that organizations are always short on helping hands, meaning that new arrivals are always welcome and make a massive difference to the relief effort.

Nursing Home

You’d assume that most of the people who work in nursing homes are qualified nurses, but while that is true for a lot of the workers, there are also many positions for volunteers without any qualifications.

Nursing programs are considered to be less than glamorous by a lot of people since they usually entail a lot of laundry and cleaning chores. The standard nursing responsibilities like the pill prescriptions and the actual health care are done by qualified individuals, while most of the other tasks are relegated to the volunteers.

We understand if you decided that this sort of work isn’t for you after hearing that, but you’d actually be offering a valuable service to people that desperately need it.

Nursing homes are almost always desperately understaffed, and there are more than enough programs that will offer you a choice of locations as long as you agree to go and help out as much as you can.

The jobs themselves aren’t difficult, but you’re going to have to get used to stripping and making beds, taking bedsheets down to the laundromat, giving out the food, and a few other similar kinds of chores.

Online Volunteering

Online Volunteering

This type of volunteer work will probably feel like the most natural fit for many digital nomads since you can assist a lot of people, all the while not even moving from in front of your computer.

There isn’t one single site where you can go to find online volunteer work, but you’ll easily be able to stumble upon more than a few opportunities if you look through volunteer-oriented message boards. Alternatively, you can also visit the sites we mentioned in our article and find something from their search options.

In essence, online volunteering is pretty much the same regardless of the organization that you apply to. We’ll explain the specifics of what you’ll be asked to do and how you can do it, but we won’t add too many examples since we’d largely be repeating ourselves.

Fundraisers

Many different types of fundraisers can be organized so that we won’t go into specifics here, but we’ll instead cover the tasks you would be asked to accomplish if you decide to volunteer.

The most crucial components of any fundraising are going to be completed by the organizers themselves. This includes everything from the scheduling of the events, all of the financial aspects and the documentation, any locations that need to be booked, any permits that need to be obtained, and so on.

Your primary concern when it comes to any fundraising events is going to be spreading information. This means that you’ll be given specifics by the organizers on dates, times, amounts, all of which you’ll be asked to spread online.

You might also be asked to serve as one of the spokesmen and answer any questions posted on social media about any upcoming events. This means that you’ll essentially be the organization’s voice, and you’ll be asked to make sure that as many people as possible know about the specifics of any event.

Women’s Empowerment

There are plenty of excellent women’s rights advocacy groups attempting to breach oppressive countries that hold less than egalitarian views on the rights of their female citizens. These groups try to provide disenfranchised women with access to education, safe menstruation and birth control practices, and so on.

While these are all great causes, the people involved in them are highly skilled and can offer their expertise in many different fields, from women’s health care to teaching specific skills for better workplace options. However, even if you aren’t able to be of much help in those fields, there’s still a way that you can do a lot of good.

Information is an important weapon, and women from oppressive countries are more than likely looking for ways to get in contact with activist groups that can help them improve their living situations.

Your job will revolve around scouring online forums and message boards and looking for people who need information on these subjects. You can later use those platforms to direct people to the right websites and even answer any questions that they might have.

Conclusion

To paraphrase Morgan Freeman’s line from Evan Almighty, “The way that we change the world is with one single act of random kindness at a time.”

Regardless of the type of volunteer work you decide to do (or if you decide to try your hand at a few of them), the most important thing at the end of the day is that your efforts are going to make the world a little bit better for the people you’re helping.

Diego Navarro
Diego became interested in a nomadic lifestyle during a semester abroad during college. He spends most of his time in central Europe and the American southwest (where his family is from). He loves exotic food and playing video games on his Nintendo Switch.

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