Unlike Latin America or Europe, volunteers looking for pre-arranged or ad hoc volunteer work won’t find the opportunities quite as bountiful in Turkey. Nonetheless, from street art festivals to the ANZAC Day commemorations via organic farming or cave hotel work, the variety of intriguing volunteer options in Turkey makes up for the lack of quantity.
I’ve listed here the larger organisations that can help with finding volunteer opportunities but as we found out when we stayed in a fairy chimney hotel in Goreme last year there are plenty of smaller projects that would appreciate a helping hand if you ask around or look hard enough. Many of these are helpfully listed on websites like TaTuTa or Workaway (both listed below) but others, particularly concerning the care of animals, can be found via expat networks.
Working for five or six hours a day, groups of between 12 and 15 volunteers help out with manual tasks such as planting trees, building a school, digging an irrigation channel, or on environmental projects and archaeological sites. Gençtur organises a couple of dozen such workcamps across Turkey – mostly in rural areas – each summer. Each workcamp lasts for between one and three weeks and volunteers sleep on the floor of schools with meals prepared by villagers. Also available are art workshops and longer term work with the disabled. Gençtur require a registration fee of €100.
The Turkish WWOOF organises ecological farm stays in Turkey either as volunteers or paying tourists. Around 100 farms are listed. Membership is €30 per year.
EIL’s Conservation Corps programme facilitates the exchange of 20 hours volunteer work a week for room and board in Istanbul, Izmir or Adana. The programme lasts for one to three months and volunteers share their English language skills by talking for a few hours a day with a Turkish family. No teaching experience is required and there is no upper age limit though older volunteers may take longer to be placed.
Similar to WWOOF but without the organic element, Workaway lists hosts willing to provide food and accommodation in exchange for a few hours work a day. Hosts include yacht owners in Fethiye looking for office help, a bar in Patara, a fairy chimney mini hostel run by artists in Cappadocia, and retired expats on Lake Iznik needing help with the garden. Sign up for a two year membership for €22 to access the contact information of hosts.
Here’s your chance if you have ever wanted to run away to the circus. Among the short volunteer projects in over 60 countries is helping to prepare, run and perform in a circus and street arts festival in Mardin, in southeast Turkey. Anybody is welcome but people with juggling, clowning, stick walking, tightrope walking and fire blowing skills are especially welcome. Placement fees are £150.
An Australian organisation that places volunteers around the world including to Turkey. Non Australians are welcome to apply. Current projects in Turkey include teaching English to organic farmer’s families, assisting the disabled in Istanbul or near Izmir or joining a workcamp. Placements begin at A$1200.
Conservation Volunteers Australia
Gallipoli’s nation building role in the history of Australia and New Zealand defines this project with volunteers providing support during the dawn ceremony on ANZAC day. The A$5200 fee includes return international airfares, all meals, hotel accommodation at Gallipoli and Istanbul, all transportation, battlefield visits and an Aegean cruise. Applications for 2012 are closed but those interested can register their interest for 2013.
Volunteer Action for Peace
Working with Turkish partner organisations Gençtur and GSM Turkey, VAP currently list 52 projects across Turkey requiring short term volunteers in 2012.
Volunteers for Peace
Similar to VAP, a trawl through this American international volunteer organisation’s search results reveals 67 projects in Turkey. The registration fee is $350 per project.
American Jewish Joint distribution Committee
The JDC provides humanitarian assistance to Turkey’s 25,000 strong Jewish population. Volunteers on the year long programme should be mature self starters with a strong Jewish background. JDC provides round trip travel expenses, housing, health insurance, a monthly stipend for basic living expenses, and a small end of year bonus. Orientation for the programme is in New York.
European Voluntary Service Youth in Action Programme
A youth exchange rather than volunteer work, this EU programme is aimed at inspiring a sense of active citizenship, solidarity and tolerance among young Europeans aged 15 to 28. Turkey is included as an EU candidate country. In the UK the programme is administered by the British Council.