Volunteering can take many shapes and forms. In addition to traditional opportunities, volunteers today can take part in group volunteering events, family friendly opportunities with their children, and even remote volunteering positions from the comfort of their home. One form of volunteering that is popular in Europe and gaining traction in the U.S. is residential volunteerism.

What is Residential Volunteerism?

Residential volunteerism is the act of volunteering for a prolonged period of time – usually 4 weeks or more – often in exchange for free or reduced-price lodging and meals. Industries that often provide residential volunteer opportunities range from nonprofit farms and youth camps, to government programs like the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Benefits of Residential Volunteerism

This unique form of volunteerism offers many great benefits for volunteers, including:

  • The chance to gain a great deal of experience in a short amount of time
  • A great way to get involved with a community
  • The opportunity to develop a close relationship with a nonprofit and their mission
  • A relatively inexpensive way to travel or live in a new location
  • A unique chance to learn new skills and make new connections
  • An impressive addition to a resume and a great talking point in a job interview

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Things to Keep in Mind When Considering Residential Volunteerism

While residential volunteering has many benefits, these opportunities are certainly not for everyone. If you’re considering becoming a residential volunteer, consider the following:

  • These opportunities are often located in remote, rural locations with limited transportation
  • Residential volunteer positions usually require long, full-time hours, up to 7 days a week
  • Most positions involve some form of physical labor, such as maintaining trails or cleaning animal enclosures
  • Living quarters may be more rustic than most people are used to, with limited internet and/or cell phone service
  • There may be a lot of competition to get into some residential volunteer programs
  • Most positions have requirements, such as minimum age, education, or work experience

Residential volunteerism may not be the right fit for everyone, but the benefits it offers, both for the volunteer and the organization, make it a valuable and unforgettable experience.