Visayas is a cluster of islands in the Philippines, known for its pristine beaches, affordability, and, let’s be honest — balut. Tiny edible birds aside, the most overwhelming reason people love it here is the joyous nature of the locals! But what many forget is that this beautiful area is frequently affected by typhoons, causing significant strain on the lives of the locals. Due to a lack of resources, volunteers from diverse backgrounds are needed more than ever. If you want to give valuable help to others in between exploring the island on your own adventures, then read on for how you can volunteer abroad in Visayas!
How to Volunteer in the Visayas
The main cause for volunteering in Visayas are typhoons. In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda was one of the most intense storms of it’s kind on record and did a great deal of damage to the Visaya region. The hurricane affected multiple aspects of the locals’ lives, things we often take for granted — this is what you need to know to help out.
Popular causes and projects. Popular causes/program types in Visayas include working at health clinics within the region, assisting with nutrition, teaching English, working with children (whether street children, at orphanages or child care) and community development projects including housing. Most programs require you to be at least 18. No experience is generally required, but what is always needed is the willingness to help and an open mind. Most program fees cover the costs of a homestay, meals, orientation for the cause chosen and a completion certificate. Note that flights are often not included.
Short term volunteer programs in the Visayas. One-two week volunteer programs in Visayas are a good option if you haven’t volunteered in Visayas before. It can give you a taste of what life would be like if you considered doing long term volunteering in this area and whether it is right for you. Keep in mind that you must volunteer at least two weeks, no less than that.
Long term volunteer projects in the Visayas. Have more time? Month long or longer volunteer programs in Visayas are a good option if you want to have more time to adjust to the lifestyle or want to have more if an impact in the locals’ lives. Of course, it’s also great if you have been to Visayas before and have absolutely fallen in love with the lifestyle there (which is not hard to do!).
Life in the Visayas
When volunteers arrive, they are greeted with smiles! The positivity of the locals and hospitality of the host families usually have a significantly positive impact on the volunteering experience.
Working hours will depend upon the organization that you sign up with and the nature of the work that you do, but in the time that you will have away from work, there is plenty to do if you are a nature lover. Cliff jumping, exploring caves, relaxing on the beach or singing with the locals just to name a few.
There are certain aspects of life there that you will need to adjust to, for example in many areas there is no electricity and so many facilities are not available. The area also does get hit by bad weather regularly during wet season (June to early November). These are a challenge for many volunteers, which is why many organizations have great support programs in place.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
Did you know that the Philippines is home to the inventor if the karaoke machine?! Maybe this explains why Filipino’s love singing (anywhere and everywhere, seriously), here are a few other quirks of life there that you could enjoy:
- The culture is very family oriented, in fact, you will probably become an honorary family member;
- The concept of “saving face” is prevalent, which means that locals will have an answer to every question — this may be problematic when asking for directions;
- Do not point at things, as pointing can be very offensive in Filipino culture;
- It is customary to bring a gift if you are staying with a host family;
- They speak impeccable English; and
- The Philippines is one of the largest producers of coconuts in the world!
So what makes volunteering in Visayas a meaningful experience? The community. Sure, there are beautiful natural landscapes and a family oriented culture to be immersed in, but it’s your everyday interactions with the people that will make your volunteering here so special. The lifestyle of the locals is truly about enjoyment beyond material things. Expect to be humbled by those you meet and come away from your volunteering experience a better person.
For more information, read our comprehensive guide on volunteering abroad in Visayas.