Volunteering, what is it?
The Woofing or workaway is a kind of volunteer. You have a free accommodation in the inhabitant’s place in exchange for a work. In general, the work lasts 20-25h/week and Saturdays-Sundays are days off. Sometimes, the meals are also included and you may eat with your host. The work can be very different from one place to another: teaching languages, gardening, helping to run a hostel, take care of animals, etc.
Why become a volunteer?
I decided to do woofing for many reasons. First of all, it’s been nearly 3 months I was traveling and I began to be tired to change of place every 3 days. Staying 2 weeks at the same place, in a house, was a pleasant idea for me.
The second reason, I wanted to do something useful. Traveling is great, but I wanted to help local people, to be useful to them.
Last point which makes me choose to volunteer: prices on easter island. Going and staying on the island is really expensive, approximatively twice more than on the continent. If I couldn’t find an economical solution, I couldn’t afford to stay on the island. The flight ticket is expensive and to visit the island, you’ll need to buy the ticket of the national park ( 54 000CL$). Then, you need also an accommodation (13€/night) and of course something to eat (prices can be double or triple compared to the continent). To sum up, my budget would have exploded.
For all these reasons, I choose to try woofing, to have a break, spare money but still be able to visit the island.
How did my woofing go?
I stayed for 2 weeks on Easter Island in my host’s place, Maria. Most of the time we were 3 volunteers and spent most of your time together. We shared the meals, visited the island together and even share the bedroom.
Most of the time, we worked from 9h30 to 13-14h from Monday to Friday. We were free to decide if we prefer to work the morning, the afternoon or all the day to have a day off the next day, according to your “obligations” (events or activities). Maria trusted us to make the work and the hours we were supposed to do.
When you finished the work, we ate lunch and visited the island. Maria always took care of us and asked where we were going to advise us about the places so we can enjoy even more.
Depending on the woofing, but in this case, the meals were not included. However, you had access to the kitchen. From times to times, meals with friends or family took place. In this case, of course, we were invited to eat with them.
We could use all the facilities in the accommodation, including the laundry machine.
For this woofing, Maria wished to build a hostel with only recycled products. Due to this, we had to do small works: renovate stairs, building a barbecue, a drying rack, cleaning the future area for the hostel, etc. The work was something physically demanding but you could take breaks at any time and eat or drink something of course. We were free to use Maria’s tools according to your needs. In general, Maria explained to us what she wanted, and you have to figure out how to respond by yourself. This allows us to be autonomous and to organized the work as we wished. Thereby, we could work all the 3 together, alone, at the same time or separately.
Some days, the weather was really bad (rain or wind, or both) and we couldn’t work outside. In the case, we created jewels (hearings, bracelets, necklaces, etc.) so which Maria would sell later.
The relationship with the host and local people
Maria is an adorable person. She wants to help the volunteers and make them feel at home.
She came to the airport to search for me, gave me all the information to discover the island without spending all my savings. In her place, I had access to all the facilities: kitchen, bathroom, laundry machine, television, terrace, etc. This implies a minimum of mutual respect: wash the dishes, clean the kitchen, clean up your belongings, take care of the host’s tools, etc.
In Maria’s place, people are always coming or leaving. It could be friends or family, anyway, there is always someone. It’s an excellent way to meet local people, learn about their culture, learn Spanish or discover the Rapa Nui way of life.
My host really wanted to have an exchange between her and the volunteers. For this, she invited us to the different activities or events: harvesting avocados, meals with friends or the family, birthday party, etc. She even cooked a traditional Polynesia food when she realized we wanted to try it.
With no hesitation, I will do again woofing. Beyond the financial advantage, it was an immersion in the Rapa Nui culture. I had the opportunity to meet many people from everywhere (locals and volunteers). I learn a lot about the island, the traditions, and history. Inhabitants are really warm people and proud of their culture. Live with them allows me to understand them better.
This experience was really positive for me and I can’t wait until I’ll do it again somewhere around the world.
I want to thank you all the persons I met on this island and made my stay so special: Maria (my host), her friends and family, Jun and Lilith (the other 2 volunteers I visited this island with).