It's nice to give something back, if you have the spare time on your hands. When I first looked into doing volunteer work, a few years back, I was quite surprised, and a little shocked by how hard it is to actually find volunteer opportunities that you don't have to pay for.
It seems volunteering is big business; some of the larger organizations charging up to £8,0000 sterling for a few months volunteer work. I really can't agree with this. I understand that some organizations have to charge something, I think, at most, you should have to pay for your room and board.
If like me, you'd rather not line a profit organization's pockets, there are some options. I will be compiling a list of Non-profits, but for now, I can just fill you in on the NGO that I volunteered with.
All Hands is a non-profit, disaster response NGO. David Campbell set them up soon after the tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004.
I volunteered with them in Haiti for 3 months from October 2010.
They don't charge any fees for volunteers. You just need to make your way there. Their philosophy is, because you don't pay, you'll be more inclined to work, and I have to say, it really does work.
Volunteers work 6 days a week, and when I say work, I mean "work" there'll be sweat, a few cuts and scrapes, bruises, it's not a holiday. The meat and veg of their work is physical labor, whether it's rubble removal, one of the main tasks in Haiti. Or building Schools, roofing, painting, plastering etc.
It's not all physical labor though, there is office work to be done, a water filtration project - Bio Sand Filters, community education programs etc.
Another option is just to keep your eyes open when you're traveling in developing countries. I did 2 weeks volunteering, fixing up a garden at an orphanage in Swaziland. The hostel I was staying at had a flyer up looking for volunteers.
So, there are opportunities out there, they're just a little harder to find, the profitable organizations have a much higher marketing budget after all.
If you'd like some more easily digestible advice on backpacking, or to read some of my tales from the road, head on over to my blog, http://www.planitbackpacker.com/
There's lots of things I could have done better when I first set out on the big solo backpacking adventure. You learn by your mistakes I guess. If you're new to backpacking, why not learn from mine.