We caught up with Rita from our local team in Portugal to give you an insight into what to expect when volunteering in Portugal…
Question 1 : What do you love about living in Portugal?
I live near by the sea, so I have to say that’s one of the best things about living in Portugal. The sea, the beaches and the weather. I have lived in the Netherlands, in Hungary and Malaysia and even though I loved the experience in each one of these countries, Portugal will always be home and has an incredible quality of life to offer.
Question 2 : What type of person is best suited to volunteering in Portugal?
We offer a wide range of projects in different communities to suit different types of volunteers. We have for example the Environmental Scuba Diving that is perfect for more adventurous volunteers. We also have the Food Rescue or Youth Support projects where volunteers can provide valuable assistance to community-run organizations. Everyone should get a chance to contribute and that drives what we do.
Question 3 - What does a typical day look like for someone volunteering in Portugal?
Your day to day schedule as a volunteer always depends on your project, and whether your shift is in the morning or in the afternoon. Some volunteers have only afternoon shifts (if you’re volunteering on the Food Rescue project for example) so you can take the morning to explore Lisbon, or enjoy the beach further up the coast.
Let’s take a look at a typical volunteer day: Breakfast is served in the accommodation and from there, volunteers travel to their placements, where they will focus on their volunteering activities. Depending on the number of hours that volunteers are needed at placements, they can have lunch at the placement or come back for lunch at the accommodation. After projects finish, most volunteers like to get together and take time to explore the local beaches and take part in the day tours.
Question 4 - What is the food and accommodation like for volunteers in Portugal?
The accommodation is very comfortable. Our main accommodation is apartment-style in central Lisbon, where volunteers share rooms with 4 to 8 others of the same gender. Single or double room upgrades are also available for volunteers who want more privacy. The apartments have bathrooms divided by gender, a common living room, free wi-fi and all the amenities needed to have a good time. The second accommodation is in a hostel a bit further down the coast in a town called Cascais. Both locations are very close to transport (e.g. train and metro) and have everything they need close in the area. Meals are served in the accommodation and are traditionally Portuguese - they always have soup, fish, meat, vegetarian options, dessert, bread and fruit.
Question 5 - What do you love about working with international volunteers?
Everything! To be able to meet volunteers from all over the world and learn about new cultures. The ability to work with people who are willing to get out of their comfort zone, come to discover a different country and make a positive contribution to the local community.
Question 6 - How do you know international volunteers are having an impact in the community?
The project staff are the first ones to tell us all about the positive impact the volunteers are having. Some of the kids’ parents are asking us for more volunteers as their kids have the opportunity to learn more English at the after school projects than at school! Some of the Food Rescue centers would not be open during the summer if it wasn’t for the support of international volunteers. The volunteers not only have a direct impact on the projects they support, but also on themselves. We can really see the transformation of the volunteers that stay a bit longer. They change the way they see their life choices and goals. We become real friends with volunteers.
Question 7 - What feedback do you receive from the NGOs you work with regarding the support from international volunteers?
At first it was very difficult to convince them about the concept of hosting international volunteers as it is very new in Portugal. But now, they love our volunteers, their joy and their work. It’s very important to give support to the NGOs, and knowing that people from other countries and cultures are able to help is fantastic!
Question 8 - What advice would you give to volunteers who don’t speak Portuguese and are concerned about the language barrier?
The best advice is don’t be concerned! There’s always somebody who speaks English and we are here to help. Normally volunteers learn the basics very fast and most Portuguese people do speak English. Maybe not the old lady form the grocery store, but everyone who is from a younger generation does. Even though some times there is no one who speaks English, people always understand each other. That happens a lot with the youth support program, children don’t speak English very well or at all, but they always end up being really good friends!
Question 9 - What advice would you give to volunteers who are traveling alone for the first-time and are considering volunteering in Portugal?
We would be very pleased to receive you in our family of volunteers. People in Portugal are very friendly and it’s very easy to make friends with the other volunteers. Portugal is the 5th safest country in the world, so volunteers can wonder explore the country and soak up the fantastic weather!
Question 10 - What are the cultural customs unique to Portugal that volunteers should be aware of?
Our schedules are a bit different to what some volunteers may be use to. We normally have dinner after 8pm. and during the weekends after 9.30pm. Shops normally open at 10am, but almost everything is open on Sundays. Also, we like to be outside, Portuguese people love to hangout with friends in coffee shops, going for walks and relaxing at the beach.
Question 11 - What are the must dos for volunteers while in Lisbon?
There is a lot to do in Lisbon, and we even set out a challenge for volunteers when they arrive! We provide a list of 100 things to do in Lisbon. If I had to choose 4: Try Pastel de Nata, walk through the neighborhoods of Alfama and Mouraria, go to Bairro Alto during Day and night, and see the views of Lisbon from one of our amazing viewpoints.
Question 12 - How can volunteers spend a weekend in Portugal?
They can do so many different things… Go to Oporto and see the north of Portugal, go to Algarve and see some of the best beaches in the country. And if volunteers want to stay in Lisbon they can take part in tours to Valada do Ribatejo, Arrábida or Sintra, or have a Surf or SUP class in Cascais and spend the rest of they at the beach. We are here to suggest something special to every volunteer!
Video: Common IVHQ Portugal Questions Answered In 5 Minutes!
To continue researching your trip to Portugal, be sure to browse the Portugal program webpage, or start your volunteer journey by applying below.