Working in exchange for accommodation: is this the new alternative for UAlg students?

Report on students who, without money to pay for a room in Faro, are volunteers in exchange for accommodation

Photo: Lara Rivera | Sul Informação

It's early in the morning and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee begins to spread through the corridors of the hostel Ria Terrace, located in the city center of Faro. Keven Prado prepares to start the day. Look for a quiet, distraction-free corner to join your online class.

“Sometimes, it's difficult to live with 9 people in the same house, we only have one bathroom, only one room,” he says, as he sips his coffee.

On the other side of the house, between good morning greetings, masks and runs to the bus station, it's no longer strange to have a little adrenaline in the day-to-day of RS, who attends his in-person classes every morning at the Campus de Gambelas from the University of the Algarve (UAlg).

These are the cases of two UAlg students, who, at this moment, present themselves as volunteers in exchange for accommodation at Hostel Ria Terrace, on Rua Conselheiro Bivar, in Faro.

This form of volunteer jobs. consists of dedicating a certain weekly workload (between 16 and 25 hours), receiving in exchange the possibility of staying at the hostel, with a bed available in a shared room, along with the rest of the team.

«Many people are surprised when I say that I live in a hostel», comments Keven while rolling the cigarette. «My income is not enough to pay for a room, at the moment that is (maybe) my only and best option».


Keven Prado – Photo: Lara Rivera | Sul Informação

Keven Prado, aged 20, is currently attending the 2nd year of Psychology at the University of Algarve. She arrived in Portugal for the first time in August 2019. Since then, and on the recommendation of other friends and students, she has found a new alternative to “lessen” her expenses through volunteering.

«When I left Brazil, I arrived in Europe with only 600 euros in my wallet. I had to look for an urgent job, because with that money, I could only rent a room for a month and the rest had to be distributed among food, general expenses and transport to the University».

«In the first hostel where I stayed, I met a friend who travels and managed to save a lot of her money thanks to volunteering, and I didn't even know that was possible. Then I discovered that many other students bet on this activity».

It is a particularly popular option for those who want to spend several years of their lives traveling. There are several online platforms, such as Worldpackers ou Workaway, where you can create an account and apply to volunteer almost anywhere in the world. On these platforms, you can find ads where many hostels, hotels, agricultural or permaculture fields, and even NGOs, are looking for people who want to dedicate hours of work in exchange for a place to sleep and still receive one or more meals a day.

It can be an effective and useful solution for those planning to travel for long periods, when it is essential to spend as little money as possible. It is also functional for those people who, for different reasons and life situations, really need a safe place to sleep and choose to take this option as a “lifeline”, as described by Rui Silva.

“In the beginning it wasn't easy, my mother was very worried about what could happen, the people I could meet and this pandemic gives even more reason to be suspicious”, he says. But, "to be honest, I was never afraid," he adds. "It's the only viable option for me right now."


Photo: Lara Rivera | Sul Informação

RS, born in Coimbra, is a student of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Algarve. For personal reasons, he left his city and home to continue his studies, but this time in the city of Faro.

Faced with the difficulty of keeping a job and studying at the same time, he receives a grant from the State to cover his basic needs, such as food and lodging. He also receives help from his mother, who, with a lot of effort and sacrifice, manages to send her son some money to continue to pay for his studies at the university.

This situation affects RS in a personal way: “I don't want this to go on in the long term, I really want to work”. "I'm just holding on," he adds, saying that "between volunteer hours and classes, I can barely accommodate my time to study."

Unemployment, scarcity of new jobs, uncertainty and the impossibility of making plans for the future are some of the post-pandemic vestiges that this 2020 leaves us with.

Keven says one of his sources of income was teaching private English as an independent teacher. “Returning to my country to go through quarantine was the worst decision of my life; I lost most of my students to the pandemic, now I only have one client and the money I earn is only enough for what I eat during the week».

“Fortunately, I was lucky enough to meet some wonderful people who are also volunteers at Ria. If my reality changed now, I would stay just because of them and their coexistence. We help each other, as most go through the same situation».

Both RS and Keven agree that, for both, the volunteer experience is enriching in many ways. In addition to the money they can save and having a safe place to sleep, “the opportunity to create new bonds and connections with other people from different backgrounds is invaluable”, says Rui. “We formed strong bonds, we are now a family”.


Photos: Lara Rivera | Sul Informação


Note: Lara Rivera is a 2nd year student of the Professional Photography course at ETIC_Algarve, Algarve School of Technologies, Innovation and Creation



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