Last year I spent 3 weeks volunteering as a WWOOFer in a little village close to Sacramento, California. WWOOF provides travelers with opportunities to volunteer on organic farms. You can also find places to work with animals.
I worked in a rehab place for hurt or sick wildlife, mostly birds. We had geese and herons with deformed wings, wild turkeys with broken legs, an elderly one-eyed rooster who liked to be petted. We had little doves and tiny chick which fell from the nest and had to be fed with a syringe and an owl who got tangled up in a net and messed up her wings and legs.
We even had a goose thinking it’s human. Someone bought him as a pet. To a flat. When a little, cute yellow chick grew up and became a big, grey goose pooping everywhere around the house they changed their minds and gave it away. This goose followed me everywhere around the property and treated me like I was his girlfriend. Defended me, talked to me and gave me these longing looks when I was going back to the house where he couldn’t follow.
It was a fascinating experience for me, a girl who grew up in the city and never had an opportunity to spend more time in the village. And it was one of the reasons why I chose to WWOOF. To gain a completely new experience.
WWOOFing On A Ranch In California
I worked a couple of hours every day. Every morning I had to feed the birds. As easy as it might seem, I needed time to get used to lifting over 20 kg bags of feed and to feeding the raptors with dead mice.
I will never forget my first day.
My host showed me around and opened the freezer. I saw plastic bags full of black and white mice with their tangled pink tails. Right next to them – dead birds which didn’t make it through rehabilitation. I can call it a truly unforgettable experience…
It took me a couple of days to get used to that but when I did I even injected the mice with medicine before feeding them to the birds. I also had to clean up after the birds and wash their cages. I must say that cleaning bird poop of a terrace taught me an important life lesson!
The most rewarding part of my job was releasing fully healed birds back to their natural habitat. I had an opportunity to release a bunch of herons and it felt so amazing to see these little creatures fly away. I felt proud then. I might not be changing the whole world — but if everybody had such a tiny positive impact on the world while traveling we would live in a better place.
You can find more details and more pictures from my day on WWOOF volunteering program on my blog.
Advantages Of Working As A WWOOFer In The USA
One clear advantage of volunteering abroad is the fact that you don’t have to spend your own money, as in most cases you are provided with accommodation and food. But it’s not the most important one.
The most important advantage for me was gaining a brand new experience and meeting amazing people. I lived with Americans for that time and I participated in their every day life. My hosts showed me breathtaking places I wouldn’t see otherwise, they loaned me a bike to explore the surrounding towns and villages. We tasted local craft beer together, watched movies, discussed life and death.
And I helped them fulfill their mission.
WWOOF – Practical Information
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is not one organization, it’s a network. There is a WWOOF organization in numerous countries in the world. You can find a complete list on WWOOF.net. Unfortunately it’s not possible to become an international member of WWOOF. You need to choose the country first and then buy a membership in a respective organization.
After becoming a member you get access to full information on all available farms in the country. Yearly membership in WWOOF USA cost me 40$ back in 2016. Then you can find a farm and contact its owners. In your message don’t forget to tell them why you want to WWOOF on their farm specifically.
If you feel WWOOFing is for you check if it is available in the country which interests you and start looking for your own adventure 🙂
About the Author. My name is Dorota, I live in Poland. Even though I have always been passionate about travelling, I discovered a whole new world when I went to Russia for 6 weeks volunteering program. I loved it so much that I decided to volunteer on every continent and promote this idea on my blog. I slowly make the dream come true – and I want to help others believe they can do it too! Follow Dorota on her blog, Instagram, and Facebook!