University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

What could volunteering do for you?



Nov 6, 2018

Get educated and get involved with amazing opportunities to give back to the community, while also gaining integral life skills that are transferrable to your studies, career prospects and your overall passions…

If you have not heard about WWOOFing already, then it is also called willing work of organic farm or world wide opportunities of organic farming. Basically, it is about connecting eager volunteers interested in farming, sustainability, small-scale-ness and horticulture.

WWOOFing as a federation that started in 1979 in the UK, today you can WWOOF in 120 different countries.  It is a unique experience that allows you to travel whilst helping hosts that need your help. In exchange for your helping out, you get food and accommodation for free, as well as allowing you to develop impressive skills like learning a new language.

From my own experience of WWOOFing in Wales this summer, I worked for three weeks and I was on a very small local organic farm. This was located nearby Llanidloes, which is one hour away from Aberystwyth. The fields were mainly for growing of vegetables, but they also had a poly-tunnel where they grew tomatoes, pumpkins and a flower-garden as well as a forest-garden based on horticulture and permaculture. On a usual WWOOFing-day I helped with different tasks such as harvesting, weeding, picking berries and cooking.

In terms of the living conditions, the hosts were a  very kind and welcoming English couple. The woman in the family taught horticulture for adults in a special needs facility once a week.

The accommodation and conditions were simple but very cozy and authentic. Me and three other WWOOFers stayed in caravans.  In my case, it was a vintage caravan with a bed, storage space and a sink, without any running water. In fact, we had no running water at all on the farm. We collected rain-water in big tanks and we had compost-toilets.

The climate was a huge challenge this year as Wales suffered a draught rather than the usual rainy weather they are accustomed to within this season. As a result it was hard to water the plants and sometimes there was not enough water for a shower. But it didn´t matter as it made me appreciate a new way of living that was so different to my own back home.

I did WWOOFing for the travel opportunity. Others do it for a lifestyle change or as part of their studies. For example, an alternative, vegan, British couple decided that they wanted to do wwoofing over a couple of months. They went so far as to terminate their housing contract, quit their jobs and buy a mini-bus, which they turned into a caravan. Their plan was to do it for a year in the UK and so the caravan made for a comfier  set-up that also allowed for a smoother way medium of travel.

Other reasons for volunteering were outlined by our host, who told us that some do WWOOFing across seasons to be able to see the changes in nature. In order to witness the seasonal transformation from seed to fruit, and to be able to fully understand the process of farming. It is also important for some to listen to signs in nature, for example, if you wait too long to pick berries, in an attempt to allow them to reach their ripest, optimum condition, then the birds might take them instead. It is said to be nature’s way of scheduling when is best to pick them.

  The biggest advantage of WWOOFing as a vegan, city-girl interested in sustainability is the experience of actually helping with tasks related to small-scale agriculture. Another benefit is being in the countryside without electricity and to be able to read books during the nights. This differs from the usual busy lifestyle we may all relate to from day-to-day. One con however, is that some tasks that may seem easy, can in fact be quite difficult in reality, but that is all a part of the experience.

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