If the chance to learn Portuguese, visit the Azore Islands, or experience a lesser traveled European locale is not enough to entice you to volunteer in Portugal, then the number of opportunities to work alongside local community members just might. As the global economy has shifted greatly over recent decades, so has the economy in Portugal, leaving many families in out of the ordinary, unexpected situations. Contributing to local communities through volunteer work in Portugal will not only be a learning experience, it will be a rewarding journey to a more shy European gem.
There are some wonderful locations in which to volunteer in Portugal, though sometimes selecting a location can go hand in hand with selecting a placement type. For example, home building projects and beautification initiatives often take place in the cities, such as Braga, Porto, and Lisbon. Volunteering in urban areas usually revolves around helping communities hit hard by poverty due to the global recession.
In rural areas, volunteer work in Portugal might entail being paired with a local homestay family and working on their farm for a few weeks or months. This type of volunteer placement often occurs in agrarian parts of the nation, such as the Douro Valley, and gives volunteers the chance to contribute to organic farming cultivation in the country.
Off the coast, volunteers may have the chance to get involved in conservation efforts, such as whale and dolphin conservation initiatives in the Azores isles. Coastal placements will undoubtedly provide volunteers with a beautiful backdrop for their volunteer work in Portugal.
Volunteering Abroad in Portugal
In a changing world, socioeconomic issues have developed in Portugal that have led to an increased need for volunteers and international aid.
For example, affordable housing is often an issue for low-income Portuguese families, because the recent global recession has left so many families unemployed or living below the poverty line. Housing conditions have also declined with the economy, so there is a great need for home improvement projects. Improved housing conditions, or completely new homes, not only allow people to live more decently, home projects also help progress communities as a whole.
As Portugal is a nation focused on agriculture, other volunteer initiatives provide the opportunity for individuals to volunteer on farms, where they can learn a great deal about the landscape, subsistence farming, and growing methods use by local Portuguese farmers.
Environmental and marine conservation efforts are in place to help protect the stunning natural landscape both inland, coastal, and offshore in Portugal. Conservation volunteers will have the chance to help impact the growing visibility of conservation issues across the globe and protect the nation’s threatened species.
Growing globalization has also brought about a need for native English speakers to teach English in rural schools, or among highly impoverished populations. As the world becomes increasingly more interconnected, English language fluency is becoming more and more important; English language skills help youth and adults alike increase their employability in local tourism and hospitality sectors and open up many more opportunities.
While some volunteer work in Portugal does not require you to speak Portuguese, many programs will include pre-arranged Portuguese lessons along with volunteer placement services. Community-based volunteer programs in Portugal are most often set up this way, as volunteers will be heavily interacting with local community members.
Costs & Affordability
In comparison to its European neighbors, Portugal is actually quite an affordable place to volunteer abroad, and live in general. For example, food is much cheaper in Portugal then across the rest of Europe, especially seafood due to the prosperous coastline, as well as public transportation. As in any other location, the affordability of volunteering abroad often comes down to choices of the individual volunteer and the location of volunteer work in Portugal.
Accommodation & Visas
Individuals who volunteer in Portugal through farming exchange programs will typically have housing included in a homestay or onsite, as most of the locations are rurals. This is a wonderful way to get to know a quintessential Portuguese town and its culture from the inside. Meanwhile, if you volunteer in Portugal in another placement, such as a building project in one of the cities or a language and community program, your housing may be in a hotel or volunteer house nearby your project site; this type of housing makes sense for community volunteers as most volunteering is done in teams. Those who teach English in Portugal will have varying housing options available to them, whether they are required to find their own or have the chance to select from multiple pre-arranged options.
U.S. and European citizens do not need a visa to volunteer abroad in Portugal. But other nationalities will most likely require some type of visa, depending on the length of the volunteer program. Check out GoAbroad’s Portuguese Embassy Directory to locate an embassy in your home country to inquire about the process required for you to volunteer in Portugal.
Benefits & Challenges
It can be challenging to volunteer abroad in a nation where many people do not speak English, however this is also a great benefit of volunteer work in Portugal. Learning to engage and interact internationally with those who speak other languages is an asset both personally and professionally. As the world becomes more interconnected by technology and travel, the ability to widen your global and cultural outlook is becoming more and more essential. Many individuals who volunteer abroad in Portugal will have the opportunity to take language lessons along with volunteer placements, which can be a very rewarding way to cultivate relationships with locals.
Volunteering in Portugal will give volunteers the chance to see a different side to Europe then most tourists will ever get a glimpse of, and allow them to contribute to the growth of an incredibly unique nation.