It doesn't take much time travelling in Third World countries to awaken the desire in many people to do something to help the humans or animals who live there. The extent of poverty and difficult conditions abroad is often a shock to those of us from the First World.
Lots of people consider volunteering abroad to help alleviate suffering there, to gain experience working in another culture, or for other reasons. However, there are always costs associated with working for free in a foreign country. Transportation is a major expense, and there are also usually program costs connected with organised volunteer programs. Some of these costs can be quite high.
To make it easier for people to accumulate the funds for their volunteer efforts abroad, the Website www.volunteerforever.com provides a platform whereby people can solicit funds for their project from their friends and family, social networks, and from strangers. It sounds a little like Kickstarter, which allows participants to raise funds for business ventures, but this one is for volunteer work.
Volunteer Forever includes articles on low-cost volunteering, reviews of participants' volunteer experiences, and other useful information. I was interested to see that one of the low-cost volunteer programs featured, called www.ubelong.org, was started by a professor from my grad school, Johns Hopkins SAIS, and one of his associates. It operates in Costa Rica where a two-week placement costs as little as $370, and in Quito, Ecuador where the same length placement starts at $270.
If for some reason it is not possible for you to volunteer abroad at this time, there are always plenty of volunteer options in most cities and towns around the world. It may take some looking and experimentation, but the time spent is worthwhile when you secure a volunteer placement that you enjoy. A good place to start looking is your local Volunteer Bureau, your place of worship or a local hospital.