Are you tired of the same routines of life? Do you need a break from work or school? Have you ever wondered about traveling to new exotic places with purpose? Consider volunteering abroad! Volunteering offers opportunities for personal growth, and skill development while giving back meaningful contributions to communities. Whether you’re motivated by a desire to learn, try something new, give back, or develop leadership skills, understanding your motivations is crucial in selecting the right volunteer project.
This blog delves into various aspects to consider when choosing a volunteering opportunity. Additionally, we’ll guide you through choosing ethical and reputable volunteering abroad projects and providers, ensuring your experience is both impactful and fulfilling. We’ll also introduce some top volunteering opportunities perfect for beginners, highlighting organizations that offer unique experiences in diverse locations worldwide.
Understanding Your Motivations and Goals
What would you like to gain at the end of your volunteering experience?
First off, let’s talk about what’s driving you to volunteer. Maybe you’re looking to learn new things or you want to give back in a meaningful way. Whatever it is, knowing your ‘why’ helps you pick the right kind of project. If you’re all about leadership, look for opportunities where you can lead a team or manage a project.
Questions to ask yourself
- Skill and Interest: Do you want a project you know you’ll be good at? Or are you up for a challenge and ready to throw yourself into learning a new skill? The possibilities are endless!
- Ideal Location: Choose between the urban energy of a city or the rural tranquility of the countryside – it all depends on your personal preference! Are you looking to stick to a more predictable location, or are you willing to push yourself and accept the challenges that come with an unfamiliar place or language?
- Duration of Commitment: How long can you go for? Decide the length of your volunteer stint, ranging from short-term (a few weeks) to long-term (several months). Many choose to do their internships during a mid-year school break, and some even opt to take a full gap year.
- Your Personal Goals: What would you like to gain at the end of this experience? Would a shiny addition to your CV be ideal? Or are you happy to make new friends and build new personal connections worldwide? What about mastering a new language entirely? No matter your goal, there will be a project aligned to meet this.
What to look for when choosing a Volunteering Project or Provider
Make an informed decision and choose a volunteering opportunity that is both ethical and fulfilling.
When you’re looking into volunteering abroad, it’s crucial to ensure that the project and provider you choose are both ethical and reputable. Here’s how you can check:
- Research the Organization’s History and Reputation: Look up how long the organization has been operating and read reviews from past volunteers. A long-standing history of positive feedback is a good sign.
- Assess Their Commitment to the Community: Reputable organizations prioritize the needs of the community. Check if their projects are developed in collaboration with local communities and if they have a clear, positive impact.
- Transparency of Operations and Finances: Ethical providers are transparent about where your fees are going. They should clearly explain how your money is used to support the project and the local community.
- Safety Standards and Support: A reputable organization will have robust safety protocols in place and offer support for volunteers, including comprehensive pre-departure information, in-country orientation, and assistance for emergencies.
- Sustainable Practices: Look for organizations that emphasize sustainability in their projects. Their efforts should focus on long-term benefits for the community rather than short-term solutions.
- Volunteer Code of Conduct and Ethics: Ethical organizations will provide a code of conduct for volunteers, emphasizing respect for local culture and environment.
- Check for Accreditations and Partnerships: Accreditation from international volunteering bodies or partnerships with well-known NGOs can be a sign of a reputable provider.
- Contact Past Volunteers: If possible, talk to people who have previously volunteered with the organization. They can provide firsthand insights into their experiences and the organization’s operations.
By thoroughly researching and considering these factors, you can make an informed decision and choose a volunteering opportunity that is both ethical and fulfilling. Check out our guidebook on the best volunteer programs for 2024.
Researching Volunteer Opportunities
Your next volunteering adventure is just a click away!
Now, let’s find you a great project! Here are our top picks that are ideal for first-time or beginner volunteers.
Assist in understaffed centers and schools in South Africa with IVHQ!
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), established in 2007, has placed over 132,000 volunteers since its inception, showcasing its extensive experience and reputable standing in the volunteer community. IVHQ distinguishes itself through its commitment to ethical and responsible volunteering, offering over 330 projects across 42+ countries. They prioritize community-centric programs such as teaching, childcare, marine & turtle conservation, wildlife conservation, and medical projects.
IVHQ’s ethical stance is further reinforced by its B Corporation Certification, ensuring stringent standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Their programs, run by local people, focus on long-term benefits for the community and sustainability, aligning with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. With costs starting from $20 per day, IVHQ offers a transparent fee structure, ensuring value for money on all their programs.
Here are our top picks ideal for beginners:
- Construction and Renovation in Ubud, Bali: Perfect for first-timers who are physically active and willing to get hands-on. You’ll work on building and renovating schools and community spaces, contributing to local infrastructure improvements. No prior experience is needed, as you’ll work alongside local staff.
- Childcare in Table View, South Africa: Ideal if you enjoy caring for young children and are interested in early childhood education. Assist in understaffed centers and schools, providing learning and fun activities. A great way to make a significant difference in the lives of children in under-resourced communities.
- Forest Conservation in Lisbon, Portugal: Suited for volunteers with good fitness levels and an interest in outdoor work. Engage in restoring native forests and wildlife, learning about conservation practices. It’s a physical role that contributes significantly to environmental sustainability.
- Teaching English in Antigua, Guatemala: A fantastic option for fluent English speakers, especially if you’re keen to help students learn a valuable skill. You’ll assist in classrooms and teach English, with a TEFL crash course provided to get you started. No teaching qualifications are required.
Get up close and personal with Big Cats while volunteering with GoEco!
GoEco, established in 2006, is a prominent ecotourism provider offering over 150 affordable and ethical volunteer projects in more than 40 countries. With a focus on community, environmental, and wildlife initiatives, and more, GoEco ensures high standards for quality and safety. Its programs are developed in collaboration with local communities, aiming for long-term benefits and sustainability. Volunteers can expect comprehensive support, including pre-departure information, in-country orientation, and emergency assistance, ensuring a safe and enriching experience. Recognized and endorsed by the United Nations, GoEco is a reliable choice for first-time volunteers seeking meaningful global engagement.
Explore our favorite GoEco programs below:
- Argentina – Puma Sanctuary & Wildlife Reserve: Join the effort in Cordoba to protect pumas and other native wildlife. Ideal for those who enjoy hands-on conservation work in a stunning natural setting. No experience is needed, making it perfect for first-timers.
- Zimbabwe – African Wildlife Orphanage: Engage in one of Africa’s largest wildlife rehabilitation centers. This program is great for those passionate about animal welfare and looking to gain experience in wildlife care in a renowned facility.
- Australia – Wildlife Animal Sanctuary: Work closely with native Australian wildlife near Sydney. This program is excellent for first-time volunteers interested in animal care and conservation in a unique Heritage Listed site.
- Thailand – Hua Hin Teaching and Childcare: Perfect for those wanting to immerse in Thai culture while teaching English in schools. A great option for first-time volunteers looking to make a meaningful educational impact.
Immerse yourself in Andean and Mayan cultures with Maximo Nivel!
Maximo Nivel is a respected provider in the field of international volunteer programs in Latin America, known for adhering to high standards and ethical practices. They follow the Standards of Good Practice from the Forum on Education Abroad and the Forum’s Code of Ethics for Education Abroad, emphasizing their commitment to providing ethically sound and beneficial programs for both volunteers and host communities. This organization is dedicated to creating a positive experience for all participants, focusing on professional, ethical, and hard-working practices. They invest continually in their staff and facilities, ensuring that their team is multicultural, multilingual, and available for support 24/7. Here are some top programs by Maximo Nivel:
- Volunteer in Amazon Conservation & Reforestation: Join this project in Peru’s Amazon Jungle, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. You’ll get involved in vital reforestation efforts, contributing to the preservation of this unique ecosystem. It’s a great opportunity for first-time volunteers to make a real, visible difference, and learn about local tree species and communities.
- Volunteer with Indigenous Communities: Immerse yourself in Andean and Mayan cultures through this program. Living and working in an indigenous community, you’ll gain insights into traditional lifestyles and help with various tasks. This program is ideal for those interested in anthropology and indigenous cultures, offering a rare chance to experience a different way of life.
- Volunteer in Beach Conservation: Take part in conserving Costa Rica’s stunning natural reserves and national parks. As a volunteer, you’ll work on trail and beach maintenance, research, and education. This program is perfect for those who love nature and want to contribute to preserving some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
- Volunteer in Sea Turtle Conservation: Join conservation efforts in Costa Rica or Guatemala to protect sea turtles. This program involves beach patrols, hatchery management, and community outreach. It’s a fantastic opportunity for first-time volunteers to get involved in marine conservation and witness the direct impact of their efforts.
Work with archaeologists and uncover historical sites with Projects Abroad!
Projects Abroad, founded in 1992, has positively impacted communities worldwide with over 132,000 participants to date. Their commitment to ethical volunteering is reflected in their strong safety protocols, emphasis on sustainable practices aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and a focus on community-driven projects. Recognized by Learning Outside the Classroom and the Expedition Providers Association, they offer a diverse range of programs from conservation to education, ensuring meaningful experiences for volunteers while respecting local cultures and environments. Read on for our top volunteer opportunities abroad with Projects Abroad:
- Volunteer as a Basketball Coach in Ghana: Empower youth in the Akuapem Hills by coaching basketball, improving their skills, and boosting their confidence. Work alongside a local coach, live with a host family, and immerse yourself in the culture. This is ideal for those passionate about sports and youth development, requiring no prior experience.
- Archaeology Volunteering in Peru for Teenagers: Dive into the world of ancient civilizations in Peru. Work with archaeologists, uncover historical sites, and visit Machu Picchu. Perfect for history buffs and aspiring archaeologists, this project offers hands-on experience and cultural exploration.
- Migrant and Refugee Support Project in Mexico: Provide essential aid in Guadalajara to refugees and migrants. Help with clothing, meals, and data collection in a shelter. Suited for empathetic individuals, this project is impactful for both volunteers and beneficiaries, enhancing understanding of global humanitarian issues.
- Volunteer with Children for Spring Break in Jamaica: Support education in Mandeville by teaching basic skills, running health workshops, and renovating learning environments. This project is great for students looking to make their spring break meaningful by contributing to the growth and development of young children.
Contribute to the sustainability of dolphin tourism in Zanzibar with African Impact
African Impact, established in 2004, is known for its long-standing reputation and positive volunteer feedback, demonstrating a strong commitment to community needs. African Impact designs programs in close collaboration with local communities, ensuring clear and positive impacts. They prioritize sustainability in their projects, focusing on long-term community benefits. With a strong code of conduct, African Impact respects the local culture and environment. Additionally, African Impact’s alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals highlights their dedication to global standards of ethical volunteering. Here are a few volunteering opportunities ideal for beginners:
- Reforestation Project in Kenya: This project suits those interested in environmental science, forestry, education, or sustainable agriculture. Volunteers partake in biodiversity initiatives, local education, and sustainable farming practices, gaining experience valuable for careers in environmental policy, education, or community development.
- Whale Conservation in Mozambique: Dive into marine conservation by joining efforts to protect humpback whales. Participate in boat-based research, gathering crucial data to safeguard these magnificent creatures and their habitat. This is an excellent opportunity for those eager to contribute to marine life protection and learn from leading conservationists.
- Public Health & Community Project in Zambia: Ideal for those interested in healthcare, this program involves assisting in medical clinics and providing home-based care in rural Zambia. You’ll engage in health education, offering vital information on topics like HIV and nutrition. It’s a deeply rewarding experience for anyone looking to make a tangible difference in public health.
- Dolphin & Marine Conservation in Zanzibar: Contribute to the sustainability of dolphin tourism by monitoring interactions between humans and dolphins. You’ll also be involved in coral reef monitoring and educational outreach, making it a perfect fit for those passionate about marine life and eager to promote ethical wildlife tourism.
Assist in caring for children in Fiji with IVI.
Involvement Volunteers International (IVI), established in 1989, boasts over 35 years of experience as a pioneering volunteer travel organization. Their programs, including teaching and environmental conservation, are tailored to support and enhance local communities and economies. They achieve this by partnering with local organizations, creating jobs, and ensuring volunteers complement rather than replace local staff. Emphasizing ethical and sustainable practices, IVI provides safe and enriching volunteer experiences. Their approach aligns with global standards for ethical volunteering, making them a reliable choice for those seeking meaningful volunteer opportunities abroad.
Here are some volunteering projects for beginners with IVI:
- English Teaching in Ubud, Bali: Perfect for first-timers passionate about education and cultural exchange. You’ll teach English to children in local schools, using creative methods like games, songs, and art. No prior teaching experience needed, making it a great opportunity to develop teaching skills while inspiring students.
- Orphanage Volunteer in Fiji: Ideal for those with a nurturing spirit. Assist in caring for children, supporting staff with daily tasks, and engaging in fun activities. It’s a chance to provide love and care to children in need, suitable for those seeking a meaningful connection with kids.
- Alpaca and Llama Farm in Peru: A unique experience for animal lovers. Assist with daily care of alpacas and llamas, and help in the production of Peruvian textiles. Great for those interested in animal care and traditional farming practices, with no prior experience required.
Contribute to infrastructure development in Madagascar with VolSol!
Volunteering Solutions (VolSol), established in 2007, has a commendable history of hosting over 15,000 participants across 25 countries, demonstrating its reputation and reliability in the field of international volunteering. Recognized by the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation, VolSol adheres to ethical and sustainable practices, emphasizing its commitment to community needs and long-term positive impacts. Their Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy, along with their Responsible Volunteer Travel Policy, showcases their dedication to safety, transparency, and ethical conduct. With a diverse range of over 250 active projects, VolSol has been featured in various publications for promoting responsible travel and professional growth through voluntourism.
- Early Years Childcare Support Program in Nepal: Volunteer in Kathmandu, Nepal, and help young children in nurseries and kindergartens. This program is great for first-time volunteers who want to make a difference in children’s lives, gain international experience, and explore the Himalayas. You’ll engage in activities like storytelling, crafts, and teaching English, ideal for those looking to boost their CV and interact with volunteers from around the world.
- Volunteer NGO Support and Human Rights Morocco: In Rabat, Morocco, assist local NGOs in areas like education, women’s rights, and IT support. This program suits students or anyone interested in international development work. Volunteers engage in policy formation, advocacy, and administrative tasks, providing a deep understanding of Morocco’s social landscape. It’s perfect for those passionate about uplifting underserved communities.
- Community Development Volunteering in Nosy Komba, Madagascar: Contribute to infrastructure development in Madagascar, improving lives and living conditions. Ideal for volunteers looking to make a significant community impact and explore Madagascar’s unique environment. Tasks include building pathways and bridges, and spreading health awareness, suitable for those eager to experience island life and community integration.
If you're a surfer looking to give back, you must check out Surfpop!
Surfpop, established in 2015, has made a profound impact in Cape Town, South Africa. Their unique approach includes long-term commitment, as they work with each child for around 8 years, focusing on surfing, education, life coaching, and nutrition.
Volunteers play a key role in surf sessions, educational support, and life skills workshops. With strong partnerships and media recognition, Surfpop’s transparent operations and commitment to community upliftment align well with ethical volunteering standards.
Surfpop is an excellent choice for first-time volunteers, offering a unique blend of surfing, education, and life coaching in Cape Town. It provides a supportive environment, ideal for those new to volunteering, ensuring a meaningful impact on the community while fostering personal growth and cultural exchange.
Help local educators empower children in Ghana with GVI!
Global Vision International (GVI), established in 1997, is a prominent organization offering ethical opportunities in various fields like marine, wildlife, and community-based conservation across the globe. Celebrated for its Badge of Ethics, GVI symbolizes empowerment over charity and focuses on measurable, sustainable impact. Partnering with entities like WWF Kenya and Ohio State University, GVI’s projects align with community needs, prioritizing transparency and safety. Its long history, extensive partnerships, and over 35,000 volunteers reflect its commitment to ethical and impactful volunteer experiences. Here are our top picks for volunteering opportunities with GVI:
- Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Volunteering in Ghana: Make a difference in education in Ghana by supporting schools to advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Help local educators empower children from diverse backgrounds, addressing challenges in school enrollment and completion, especially for girls and minorities. Your role includes training teachers and engaging with children to develop skills for managing peer pressure and embracing diversity.
- Gibbon Conservation Volunteering in Thailand: Join efforts to protect endangered gibbons in the forests of Chiang Mai. Assist conservationists in tracking and studying gibbons, setting up camera traps, and collecting crucial data. Get immersed in the Karen community’s culture, participate in elephant conservation projects, and gain unique skills in wildlife observation and conservation.
- Business and Micro-Enterprise Volunteering in Tanzania: Empower Tanzanian communities by volunteering in business and micro-enterprise. Your involvement ranges from graphic design to weaving, helping enhance local handicraft skills and entrepreneurship. No specific skills are required, just your enthusiasm and creativity.
Embracing the Rewards of Volunteering: A Journey of Growth and Impact
Elevate your next trip by participating in meaningful volunteer opportunities.
Volunteering is a powerful journey of self-discovery and contribution. Whether you’re looking to hone specific skills, immerse yourself in new cultures, or simply give back, there’s a plethora of opportunities awaiting you.
Remember, the right volunteer project aligns not only with your personal goals but also resonates with your deeper motivations. By choosing ethically responsible and reputable organizations, you’re ensuring that your efforts contribute positively to communities and the environment. So, take the plunge into this rewarding adventure, where every effort you make not only enriches the lives of others but also transforms your own. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned volunteer, the world is brimming with opportunities to make a difference, learn, grow, and connect.