Macedonia is not only a peaceful land of laidback rules, scented toilet paper, and void of pocket change; it is also a country with an epic flag and a complex history, dating back to the times of Alexander the Great. Part Balkan, part Mediterranean, with influences from Greek, Roman, and Ottoman history, Macedonia is the perfect combination of ancient sites and modern growth. However, Macedonia has only recently gained peaceful independence, so it is in need of helping hands to get it to its feet. Volunteer in Macedonia, Mother Teresa’s birthplace, and you can explore the magnificent lakes, ancient towns, endless mountain peaks, and learn to “spread love everywhere you go.”
Those who volunteer in Macedonia will fall in love with the beauty, the contrasting cultures, and the laidback vibes. Whether you want to lend a hand in a bustling city or explore the great outdoors, spend your free time admiring the contrasting architecture or relaxing at a cafe, you are sure to find a location that suits you in this jigsaw puzzle of modernity and ancient culture.
Skopje is the easygoing capital of Macedonia and hometown of Mother Teresa. While the city has an old-town feel with a Game-of-Thrones-worthy fortresses dating back to the fifth century, Skopje has also been under a massive construction spree. New statues, fountains, bridges, and museums pop up overnight, so almost every day you feel as if you’re in a new city. In your free time, explore the lively Macedonian Square on the new side of town, or get lost for hours in Carsija, the old Turkish Bazaar. And don’t leave Skopje without a visit to Tyrdina Kale Fortress, where you’ll feel just like Khaleesi as you gaze out at a brilliant view of the city and river.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, consider volunteering in Macedonia in Ohrid. This city is a prime destination for volunteer work in Macedonia, with rolling hills, medieval castles, and popular beaches to enjoy in your free time. During the summer months, the city and beaches are packed with tourists due to the famous summer festival. On the other hand, in the winter, volunteers can hit the alpine slopes around the region. Regardless of the season you choose for your volunteer program, you’ll be able to take a break from English classes or construction sites to visit the 3-million-year-old Lake Ohrid, explore old Balkan villages, and meditate in medieval monasteries.
Despite its small size, Macedonia has more mountains than any country in the world. Bitola, another popular destination for volunteering in Macedonia, is located 660 meters high in the mountains. This city is known for its colorful townhouses, old Turkish mosques, chic cafes, and good-looking people. Bitola is more low-key, less touristy, and one of the most intriguing, livable cities in Macedonia. Volunteers usually appreciate its sophisticated feel and enjoy spending many afternoons on Sirok Sokak, the pedestrian-only street on the main promenade, sipping coffee and people watching.
Volunteer Programs in Macedonia
Macedonia is a fairly “new” region, only gaining its peaceful independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The country’s integration into the European Union has been slow, so despite its growing modernity, there are several areas that could benefit from international volunteer support.
More than 80,000 households in this small country lack long-term housing. While construction is on the rise, many of Macedonia’s buildings are ancient, poorly-maintained, and some are even illegally-constructed. Construction projects are always in need of volunteers. You can work with a team to build better-constructed houses, repair and replace windows and doors, and help maximize energy efficiency, as “green” homes are in high demand.
Those who volunteer in Macedonia can also support the Syrian refugee crisis by becoming a medical volunteer. Due to the constant flow of refugees coming from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa into and through Macedonia to other European nations, the local health care system is strained. Hospitals are in constant need of medicine, vaccines, and medical supplies, and of course, volunteers who can deliver supplies or help care for refugees and children in hospitals.
Like many European countries, the demand for English speakers in the workforce is high, so volunteers can also serve as English teachers in Macedonia. Spend your time volunteering in Macedonia teaching conversational English to locals, while they introduce you to their own Macedonian dialect. Just be cautious when practicing around Bulgarians; they are convinced that Macedonians stole their language!
Costs & Affordability
While volunteering abroad will be an incredible experience, both for you and the people you are helping, most international volunteer programs cost quite a bit. Volunteer programs in Macedonia are no exception, as most require volunteers to pay an upfront program fee, which will be in addition to your flight there. Once you are on the ground, the price of volunteering in Macedonia will be well worth it though.
Volunteer program fees typically cover accommodation, meals, and transportation, as well as supplies for the duration of your volunteer work. While the initial cost of fees and flights can be high, reaching up to $2,000, the cost of living is very affordable in Macedonia. One Macedonian denar is equivalent to about 2 cents in the United States. Rent is cheap, a one bedroom apartment will only cost about $200 in Macedonia, and food and drinks cost next to nothing. Check out the local markets and you’ll be able to fill grocery bags with fruit for only a couple dollars or less. Eat a meal out with new friends for $4 or hit the bars and socialize over $2 imported beers.
If the initial cost of getting there intimidates you, have no fear! Creating a FundMyTravel campaign can help you make your volunteer trip happen.
Accommodation & Visas
One of the coolest parts about becoming a volunteer in Macedonia is the accommodation provided by most programs. While shorter trips of a week or two accommodate volunteers in hotels, longer volunteer programs in Macedonia will often host volunteers in nearby monasteries. Typically, volunteers will be provided with meals as long as you BYO sleeping bag. Staying in a monastery can be a truly unique experience (like a homestay with monks), as you’ll be staying in Byzantine masterpieces nestled in the hills.
Most volunteer programs in Macedonia are short term, lasting less than 90 days, so most volunteers don't need a visa; a valid passport and proof of your departure when you arrive at the airport. For more information on the visa process, or if you’d like to extend your trip, check out GoAbroad's Macedonian Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Laidback culture. In Macedonia, they say anything goes. As a volunteer in Macedonia, you will experience a laidback lifestyle outside of your volunteer work. Sidewalks are filled with parked cars, smoking is permitted everywhere, and their colorful flag featuring a massively trippy sun mirrors the positive vibes of locals.
Finding a program. While Macedonia is in need of international volunteers, there are not many organized volunteer program opportunities. But if you do your research and find a program that suits you, you will no doubt have an incredible experience.
When most people think of volunteering abroad, they think of underdeveloped, third world countries where the homeless line the streets or live in slums; they don’t think of majestic beauty, purple mountains, and medieval castles to go along with beautiful people. Despite the magnificent feel of the country, locals need your help all the same. Volunteering in Macedonia will have a truly unique experience, where you will play an essential role in teaching this country how to establish roots and it grows forward.