Madrid is the second largest city in Europe after London and Paris, and with its highly modernized global outlook it is also one of the most influential cities in the world. Spain’s capital is a highly touted global city with multinational organizations and corporations, a beautiful mixture of historical and cutting edge architecture and, need we say, home to one of the best football clubs in the world, Real Madrid. Volunteering abroad in Madrid is your opportunity to experience life in this magnificent city first hand while contributing back to sectors of the underserved urban population.
Projects & Placements
Madrid is a highly developed city and one of the wealthiest in all of Europe. At first glance this may mislead you to believe that the city is not in great need of volunteers – in reality however much of this wealth is highly concentrated and, like in most big cities, there are a large population of marginalized citizens without access to basic services. Volunteering in Madrid is popular in the areas of healthcare, community development, social advocacy, education, and other such areas.
Volunteering in Madrid in the area of childcare is also broadly available. Working at an orphanage, primary school, community center, or au pairing for a local family are all fun ways to live abroad and experience life in the city while making a positive impact on local children by giving them the opportunity for cross cultural interaction and learning.
Many volunteer programs in Madrid do not require volunteers to speak Spanish to participate, but nevertheless you will find that learning enough to be at least conversational in the language will carry you a long way. Spain actually has one of the lowest English speaking rates in Western Europe, so your ability to interact with locals will be greatly enhanced if you can speak the language.
Life in Madrid
Madrid is the political, financial, and cultural center of Spain. With a population of over 6 million people residing in the greater metropolitan area, yet it somehow manages to maintain a big city feeling without losing any of its romantic aesthetic or historical charm. A large variety of museums, art centers, theaters, historical landmarks, and creative architecture give the city a rich cultural backdrop and provide a broad labyrinth of unique sights to be explored.
The Madrid Metro is one the most expansive in the whole world and serves some 5 million people a day throughout the city. Combine this with a well constructed road system and global-leading high speed rail network, and you will find transportation throughout Madrid to be quick, efficient, and affordable. With its central location in the heart of the country, while volunteering in Madrid volunteers will also have easy access to other popular destinations throughout Spain.
You may experience a moderate degree of culture shock while adjusting to the slower and longer pace of life which Spaniards enjoy. Dinner is often not eaten until 10 p.m. or later, nightlife does not begin until after midnight (and does not end until early morning), and shops often close up in the late afternoon for siesta. While you may become frustrated with the apparent lack of efficiency, you will soon come to very much enjoy the relaxed pace which is a welcome break from the high intensity urban environment of other cities.
Costs & Affordability
Madrid is a fairly expensive city, as it is a leading financial center and popular travel destination for people from all over the world. Like any big city however, it is possible to get by on a reasonable amount if you are thrifty with your spending habits. There are many cheap cafes and bars, and museums also tend to offer free exhibitions to the public quite often. Just don’t go out for a seven course tapas meal every night, and you should be fine!
As a volunteer in Madrid many of your everyday costs of living will also be taken care of by your program (i.e. housing and meals). As such, most of the expenses you incur will be paid for in the upfront program fees required by your program provider. Fundraising is a great way to go about generating funds for a volunteer trip abroad if you are have concerns with affordability.
Accommodation & Visas
As a volunteer abroad in Madrid you will likely be offered the opportunity to live in a homestay or in group housing with fellow volunteers. Spanish host families consistently receive glowing reviews as they are part of a very fun and open culture, and living in a homestay will be your chance to form an intimate bond with locals that you otherwise might not get living independently and practice your Spanish skills. On the other end, living in a group apartment or flat gives you a degree of independence that you might not see living with a host family. It is a matter of personal preference.
You will only need to obtain a visa to volunteer abroad in Madrid if you plan on volunteering for longer than three months (European nationals do not even need a visa in this case because of EU labor laws).
Benefits & Challenges
Volunteering in Madrid will be a once in a lifetime adventure in one of Europe’s most vibrant and cultured cities. As opposed to just travelling through Madrid as a tourist, you will have the rare opportunity to contribute positively to local communities and leave a lasting impact through your efforts. You will also come to know the city as locals do, living as a local, and spending significant time immersing yourself in the Spanish culture. If you are looking for an exciting challenge to spice up your life, then Madrid awaits you.