A mesmerizing blend of old and new, Portugal enchants its visitors with medieval castles, cobblestoned roads, vibrant street art, and possibly the world’s strongest coffee. If you’re considering a trip to Europe, this historic, culturally rich country guarantees amazing encounters.
Lisbon, the idyllic capital of Portugal, may be known for stunning architecture, music, and food – including the famous egg custard tart – however, this city is rapidly evolving into a new world fashion capital. The combination of nice weather, low prices, and a safe atmosphere make Lisbon the perfect locale for creativity. The Principe Real is this European city’s hippest neighborhood, filled with fashion shops, concept stores, and contemporary galleries.
Add a meaningful week or more supporting the community with a development and restoration project or assisting at a wildlife conservation center, and you’ll bring home a photo album filled with unforgettable experiences.
Use this guide to learn more about how to volunteer in Portugal, and connect with the vibrant country.
Volunteering in Portugal: Know Before You Go
Portugal lies along the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. Formerly one of Europe’s greatest empires, it still shares cultural and geographic similarities with its Mediterranean neighbors.
The country has been continually settled and invaded since the Second Century BC by a succession of different people, including the Pre-Celts, Celts, Carthaginians and Romans, Visigoths, Suebi Germanic, and Muslim Moors before the “Reconquista” (reconquest) of the Iberian peninsula from AD 722-1492. After the 700+ years of reconquest and repopulation of the peninsula, the territory became a Roman Catholic realm.
Portugal’s head of state is the democratically elected President of the Republic, with a five-year term. The president selects a prime minister, who heads the government. The national parliament is the Assembly of the Republic, consisting of 230 elected officials.
Portugal abolished its death penalty, one of the first countries in the world to do so. It also decriminalized the usage of common drugs, however, trafficking and possession of larger amounts are punishable by fines and jail time. Because of this, overall drug use has declined, as well as HIV infections, which dropped by 50 percent. Portugal legally recognizes same-sex marriage, allows same-sex adoption, and LGBT+ rights have increased within the past decade.
Volunteering and Teaching Opportunities in Portugal
Portugal is a stable country with more than 13 million tourists each year, so you may be wondering why volunteers are needed here.
The financial crisis experienced worldwide in the late 2000s, which many economists believe to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, struck Portugal’s children and poor the hardest.
As a result, some underfunded communities are burdened with crippling poverty and unemployment is as high as 14 percent. A recent study, “Unequal Portugal,” reports that a quarter of the nation’s “new poor” are children and that a million workers earn the minimum wage.
In 2016, research into the long-term effects of the Medieval re-conquest and colonization revealed that territory quickly re-taken and given to nobility (Lisbon and Porto are examples) more than 500 years ago still suffer from long-term development problems and inequality.
This means the capital, Lisbon, is where volunteers are most urgently needed, working with youth and the poor, helping to stem the waste of food, as well as assisting with construction and renovation of housing.
Portugal also has exciting outdoor opportunities for volunteers interested in marine habitat and wildlife conservation. Let’s take a look at a few volunteer programs that you can be a part of in Portugal.