In Australia e.g. it is allowed to volunteer. Note that hosts, who wish to have volunteers are looking for help for almost a week, often for much longer time. I decided to ask for home-stays only and I have got lots of hosts – more than I need. I did not know, when I started requesting places, that so many people will be keen to welcome me.
What means volunteering and home-stay? For the first: There are several sites for volunteering all over the world. By most of them, you volunteer for free accommodation and free food. If you are in organic farming, you can become a “wwoofer”: http://www.wwoof.net/. If you like other kinds of volunteering you can sign up on https://www.helpx.net/. For both and other sites you have to pay a small amount for a year or two, because there are expenses to run such a site, but it is worth it! There are also sites where you have to pay for to be a volunteer. There are most about protecting some species, like elephants etc. My site is for budget travels and therefore I do not name the last ones. If you want to help such projects, just google on the Internet.
There also is another opportunity to have free accommodation by helping their owners, that is called house-sitting. Depending on if you are sitting in a city or on a farm you have to engage more or less. One of the sites I found is for mature people: http://www.homesitters.co.uk, but there are more. Find the one which fits you best.
I like to interact with people and to know the culture by them, but I am not keen in farming, therefore I am in “help exchange” (helpx). First I read carefully the visa regulations – in Australia it is not allowed to volunteer for jobs an Australian could/would do and it has not to be in a commercial environment, e.g. a backpacker hostel or a B&B.
Furthermore I read carefully what the hosts are requesting:
What kind of help do they need? – For building, farming, cooking?
Do they look for helpers all year around, for a part of a year or a project?
Are they keen in single helpers or do they prefer couples?
How many hours a day do you have to volunteer?
Do they offer free accommodation and free food?
Which time of the days do you have to help?
When you found the right hosts – just the right one for you – write to them, but make it individual like you do when you are looking for surfing a couch or looking for a job. You have also to tell them what skills you have. Are you a good cook, good with needles, a great baby sitter, a story-teller or can you help to tile, setting up wall papers etc. Do you have a driver’s licence? Sometimes it is requested, too. Do not forget to ask for an international driver`s licence before you leave your home country. Your European Driver`s Licence is not valid all over the globe, but often they accept it also outside Europe.
You have to think about, that everywhere in the world people are different. There are no Kiwis, Australians, Canadians etc. There are individuals and each one of them often do not think the way I do or you do. I had contact with an Australian couple, who was looking for helpers, for around a year and every-time I wrote to them I got the answer, that it is to early and I have to keep in touch with them and ask them later. So I did, but the last time they told me, that they had – for the period I had ask for – a girl from Vietnam. Though I looked for another person, who needed my help under the same period and I found one, who want have my help for a week. Actually she told me after three days, that she felt “uncomfortable” with me because I did not accept, that her dog had it`s nose over the lasagna, my host had cooked for the upcoming day. I have had a host, who did only offer accommodation, not ask for the Swedish culture – even cultural exchange is a part of it – and even not invite me to the BBQ och meet their friends. Other hosts took my to their families, shared their meals with me and were happy to learn about the Swedish culture and liked to eat Swedish meals, buns and biscuits.
I have always been aware of individuals integrity. That was very important, when I worked with elderly and disabled people, but it seemed, that some of the people I met, did not care about it. They let their bills and/or bank statements lay on the tables or hanging at the fridge. One of my hosts even gave me totally free hands for putting her clothes, underwear included, in the drawers, even I did not know, what should be in which drawer. She told me, she will find it anyway and actually she was not well organised and had always to look for the clothes at different places.
Another side of volunteering is, that you for the whole period, you promised to stay, are on the same place. Lots of places are at the outskirts or longer from small towns or villages, some places are very remote. If you do not have a car you are dependent on your host. There are a lot of hosts, who love to show you around, make bush walks with you, take you to hot pools etc, but there are also others, who do not offer or do not have the possibility to offer you a ride or to spend time with you. I have learned, that I am uneasy with to stay on the same place for such long periods. I usually stay at the same place for two or three nights, bigger cities maybe a little longer, it depends on, what they have to offer, but to stay for ten days or a fortnight, when you cannot decide by yourself how to manage the day may be good for others, but is not good for me. Anyway or just for that, I am very thankful to all the hosts I have had and I look forward to, to volunteer in other countries. I have promised and I come!