Russia alone is incredibly vast, bordering Mongolia and Kazakhstan to the south and extending north to the Arctic, east to Alaska and west toward the Eastern European nations of Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Hungary, and many more. Volunteer programs can be found all over Eastern Europe and Russia, focused on anything from education and childcare to medicine, conservation, and renovation projects. The need for extra hands is high so volunteers looking to an unfamiliar culture will find plenty of opportunities to volunteer in Eastern Europe and Russia. However, with so much cultural and linguistic diversity, volunteers may find it challenging to choose just one location.
While volunteer work in Eastern Europe and Russia covers a massive area, most placements will be found in Russia, Romania, Poland, and Croatia specifically.
Russia. This enormous country has over 160 ethnic groups and 142 million people, with most of them living in urban centers, like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Demand for volunteers in Russia is high in the cities, in orphanages and the fields of education, medicine, and community outreach. There are also opportunities to volunteer in Russia which allow volunteers to experience the wilder side of Russia, through working in conservation, animal rehabilitation, and archaeology.
Romania. Romania has long enticed foreigners with its incredible and romantic landscape, language, and rich cultural history. The capital city of Bucharest offers many volunteer opportunities, but so do the less populated cities of Brasov, Sibiu, and the infamous Transylvanian region. Those looking to volunteer in Romania in orphanages or engage in service projects and community outreach will find plenty of programs options.
Poland. Six countries border this nation, including Germany, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine, not to mention Denmark and Sweden just across the Baltic Sea. Those looking to combine volunteering in Europe with traveling will appreciate the central location. Volunteer programs in Poland tend to be most prevalent in Krakow or Warsaw.
Croatia. Located on the Northeast side of Italy across the Adriatic Sea, Croatia is the land of 1,000 islands. It’s a great place to get involved with conservation efforts and wildlife rehabilitation, including working with brown bears, elephants, monkeys, or even bottlenose dolphins. There is also a high demand for improving infrastructure through construction and renovation projects.
Projects & Placements
Education. Teaching English is one of the most widely available placements for volunteering in Eastern Europe and Russia. There are several types of volunteer teaching programs to choose from, some allow participants to live with host families and receive home cooked meals and cultural immersion in return for language training. Even though English is a global language, this region is still in need of native speakers, especially in rural areas. Individuals can also become an education volunteer in Eastern Europe or Russia and work with small children teaching arts, computers, and sports too.
Orphanages. The quality of life throughout this region can vary greatly from town to town. Therefore, many orphans, children with physical or mental disabilities, troubled teens, and even many elderly reside in group homes and orphanages, where they are provided with much needed attention and resources otherwise not available to them. Volunteering in orphanages can be emotionally challenging but also one of the most rewarding ways to volunteer in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Medicine. Many places throughout Russia and Eastern Europe offer medical volunteering programs. Whether in busy urban centers or rural less-developed areas, medical volunteer placements are abundant. Volunteers can even choose from a variety of medical specialties, including nursing, dentistry, and veterinary studies.
Community Outreach. There are lots of volunteer programs in Eastern Europe and Russia that focus on community development and service projects, including youth rehabilitation, social work, public health awareness, trail development, and recycling initiatives.
Conservation & Animal Rehabilitation. From bear sanctuaries and archeology sites in Romania to environmental conservation efforts in Poland and Russia, individuals looking for volunteer work based in a more natural setting will find opportunities across the region.
Costs & Affordability
Most individuals who volunteer in Eastern Europe and Russia will have to pay a program fee, the cost of which depends highly on the type of project, location, and inclusions. Volunteer program fees generally include housing and meals, as well as visa assistance and other amenities.
Russia is one of the most expensive places to live in the region, followed by Poland and Croatia. However, Romania is relatively affordable compared to other Eastern European nations. Be sure to research locations that fit your budget accordingly.
Accommodation & Visas
Accommodation will vary depending on the program you choose. Those who volunteer in Eastern Europe and Russia usually live in shared housing, in the form of apartments, houses, or dormitories. Other volunteers will have the chance to live in a homestay, which tends to include home cooked meals. If you live in or near to major cities, you will likely have more modern and Western style amenities, but in more rural areas the latter may not be true. Be sure to prepare yourself for for the climate, local way of life, and living conditions.
Cost of visas will vary, as will visa requirements for volunteer work in Eastern Europe and Russia. For instance, Russia requires volunteers to have a work permit. Sometimes visa requirements will depend on the length of your program, and programs that last less than three months often don’t require anything more than a tourist visa. Be sure to check the government regulations of your chosen country well before departure.
Benefits & Challenges
- Language Training. Since the languages of Eastern Europe and Russia are so diverse, many volunteer programs offer language training in conjunction with volunteering, so you have the opportunity to learn a bit of Russian, Romanian, or what have you.
- Adventure. Russia and Eastern Europe are full of incredible sights to see. Volunteers may find the terrain and environment highly unfamiliar, and should take advantage of the opportunity to explore mountain ranges, national parks, historical ruins, and shores of the Baltic or the Black Seas.
- Cultural Difference. Living in non-Western environments may take some getting used to, especially when it comes to language, customs, food, and transportation. Volunteers should research the culture, primary religion, and historical context to better prepare for living and volunteering in Eastern Europe and Russia.