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Volunteering in Europe

Volunteering in Europe can be a great way to give something back to the destinations that you visit. Find out more in this guide to volunteering holidays.

Volunteering in Europe

Volunteering overseas isn’t just for teenagers or students. 

It’s possible to take a break in your working life and give something back while you travel, even if it’s only for a month or two. There are numerous volunteer opportunities in Europe which give individuals, couples and families the chance to work for charities or on community projects, while still having an enjoyable holiday.  

From wildlife conservation to community development, eco projects to humanitarian aid, volunteering in Europe can take many forms. For placements in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle can help you get started on your volunteering holiday. 

Dog’s head being held by someone’s hands who is clearly examining the dog

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Young people find that volunteering gives them new life experiences, a chance to meet new people and experience a foreign culture at first hand. It also looks good on a CV. 

These things will all be relevant to older volunteers, but they might also feel a sense of purpose in doing something sustainable or beneficial for a community. Learning new skills, gaining confidence and making a difference to people’s lives are among the other benefits of volunteering. 

How to get involved in volunteering in Europe

There are numerous ways you can find out about volunteer opportunities in Europe. Go Overseas has links to volunteer programs across Europe such as homestays, teaching, community service, wildlife and environmental projects. Organisations like Indigo Volunteers, which focuses on humanitarian projects, match you with the right opportunity for your interests and skills. 

Placements are advertised on sites like Workaway, putting volunteers in touch with hosts. You could also approach reputable charities directly for details of projects in which volunteers are needed. 

Smiling volunteers packing boxes for charity in a community centre

Volunteer projects teaching English

One of the most popular ways to spend your volunteering holiday is teaching English in Europe. 1, 2 or 3 month placements are available with families in France through companies like Greenheart Travel. Volunteers spend around 15 hours per week teaching the host family conversational English, while the rest of the time is yours. Accommodation and meals are usually provided by the host family. 

Alternatively, if it is the classroom that calls you, you can teach English in a French school, or take a TEFL course. 

Volunteering with children

If you are looking to work with children during your volunteering placement, you will probably be teaching, working in a children’s home or in some limited circumstances refugee centres. You should have relevant experience and child welfare certification, and be prepared for the emotional demands of these roles. 

Volunteering with animals & wildlife

Woman leading a grey horse in a field, with the sun setting in the background

This is the dream for many people. However, you may find that opportunities to work with exotic animals is more limited in Europe than the rest of the world. You are more likely to be rescuing turtles in the Maldives than Marseille! But you could still find placements in dog sanctuaries, horse farms or camel parks, for example.

People with experience of working with farm animals will have no end of volunteer opportunities in Europe. Agricultural labour is always in high demand during the summer months, and if sustainability is also important to you, organisations like WWOOF can put you in touch with organic farms in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. 

Frequently asked questions

Do I need a visa to volunteer in Europe?

You do not require a visa, but your time in the EU will be limited. Under the terms of Brexit UK citizens are considered ‘third country nationals’, which means that travellers from the UK can stay in the EU for no longer than 90 days in any 180 day rolling period without a visa. 

How old do I have to be to volunteer?

If young people are thinking of volunteering by themselves, most volunteer programmes will have a minimum age of 18. Some will accept children aged 16, as long as permission is granted from their parent or guardian. 

Adults taking their own children as part of a family volunteering holiday should carefully consider how much time they will need to spend on childcare themselves. What can the children realistically contribute to the work? Will the experience be beneficial for parents and children alike? 

Woman picking up a plastic bottle from the ground, with other litter pickers in the background

Is volunteering in Europe ethical?

You should try to establish whether a project does long term good for the people, animals, community or environment it is aimed at. It is worth doing some checks beforehand, and read best practice guidelines for travel companies offering volunteering holidays. 

Organisations offering volunteer work in Europe should be able to give you information about past projects, and previous participants’ feedback. Read online reviews of the company to see what other volunteers have thought of their experience.

Be wary of short term projects, especially relating to childcare, teaching or community work. 

Is it safe to volunteer in Europe?

Europe is one of the safest places in the world to have a volunteering holiday. You are as safe here as you would be on a normal holiday, but you should always be careful and aware of your surroundings. Your travel company should be able to offer any advice you need on keeping yourself and your belongings safe. No extra vaccinations are required to volunteer in Europe. 

Person feeding cow

Find out more about volunteering in Europe

Who knows, you could be helping to renovate a castle, bringing the harvest in on an organic farm or caring for dogs in an animal rescue. The important thing is to find the project that is right for your skills, and the amount of time and effort you have to give. 

Make a difference with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

Your volunteering holiday in Europe begins with a crossing in just 35 minutes from Folkestone via Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Sustainability starts from the moment you board the train, as this is one of the greenest ways to get to France!

Useful links: 
https://www.workaway.info/
https://www.indigovolunteers.org/
https://www.gooverseas.com/

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