(New! Updated for 2020 trips)
Since 2015, Volunteer Forever has compiled the original list of best volunteer abroad programs worldwide. Using our database of 1,000 international volunteer abroad organizations, 6,000 program reviews, and 13,500 fundraisers who’ve collectively raised $3 million for their trips, we have crunched the numbers to identify the top volunteer abroad opportunities. To take some of the guesswork out of choosing a program, we considered the history of each organization, number of alumni, and our seven years of intensive work and research in the volunteer abroad world.
Read on for our list of the top recommended volunteer abroad programs!
2020 Best Volunteer Abroad Programs
If you’ve resolved to travel and make a difference this year, there’s no shortage of amazing volunteer abroad, intern abroad, study abroad, and teach abroad programs awaiting you. All of the volunteer abroad organizations showcased below have excellent reviews from very happy participants on Volunteer Forever – on this list, you’ll see some of the many different volunteer abroad experiences you can embark on and you’ll learn how to get there.
While traveling abroad can be expensive, we feature wonderful volunteer organizations such as International Volunteer HQ, which are super affordable and available in over 50 different destinations, including Bali, South Africa, Costa Rica, Peru, Fiji, Nepal, and Spain. They have supported over 100,000 travelers to volunteer abroad safely since 2007 and have an experienced team of volunteer travel experts who will ensure you are well prepared for your trip. Their top rated volunteer abroad programs and focus on safety are what makes IVHQ the world’s most popular choice for solo travelers, couples, families, and groups. They also have the world’s largest range of projects to choose from with volunteer opportunities in Healthcare, Childcare, Teaching, Conservation, Construction, Wildlife and Animal Care, and more. Some of the most popular destinations to check out are Madagascar, Vietnam, Kenya, Cambodia, Spain, and Thailand, and they’ve recently opened new programs in Jamaica, Greece, Australia, Belize, Belgium and USA – New Orleans.
Plan My Gap Year is another excellent organization offering affordable & trusted volunteer projects overseas. They’re transparent about fees and are a wonderful choice for solo female travelers (93% travel solo and 83% of volunteers are female). Their most popular destinations are Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Bali and they recently opened projects in Costa Rica, Peru, and Ecuador.
If you’re interested in an immersive volunteer abroad trip to Latin America, check out Maximo Nivel, which offers impactful and educational placements in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Some of Maximo Nivel’s volunteer abroad opportunities include construction, conservation, teaching English, working with kids, and working with indigenous communities. You also might consider earing your certificate by enrolling in a Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification program, which offers job-placement workshops and prepares you for ESL job placements around the world – or on the flip side, if you’re looking to learn a new language, be sure to check out Maximo Nivel’s Spanish Immersion programs. Lastly, if you are interested in studying abroad in Costa Rica, Peru, or Guatemala, you’ll definitely want to look into Maximo Nivel’s University Abroad programs, which are excellent alternative to traditional programs due to their affordability.
If you’re a current or aspiring doctor, nurse dentist, or other healthcare professional, you will find a ton of medical volunteer opportunities and internships below. Some great volunteer projects include Plan My Gap Year’s mental health placement in Ghana, and Agape Volunteers’ HIV/AIDS support program in Kenya.
Or if you’re interested in volunteering with animals, then check out Plan My Gap Year’s wildlife conservation projects, some of the most popular in the world. If you want to work with animals in exotic locations, then check out Fronteering, which offers a Husky Ranch volunteer project in Canada and Predator Research Internship in the Amazon.
Ready to plan your trip? Read on!
Founded in 2007 by Dan Radcliffe, International Volunteer HQ offers over 200 affordable volunteer trips to 50 destinations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, the USA, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. IVHQ has placed more than 100,000 volunteers around the world on projects ranging from teaching and healthcare, to wildlife conservation and construction, and more. Programs last one week to 24 weeks and start at $180. Given the affordability of IVHQ’s programs, volunteers could very well volunteer abroad for free by fundraising on Volunteer Forever and applying for our volunteer abroad scholarships!
One of the key benefits of volunteering with IVHQ is knowing you’ll receive ongoing support from their experienced team of volunteer travel experts. If you’re looking for an immersive and impactful travel experience, IVHQ makes organizing a volunteer trip on your own schedule easy and affordable.
IVHQ Opportunities to Check Out
Volunteer in Bali: Ubud and Lovina
Looking for a beach getaway in an island paradise where you can do good? Volunteer with IVHQ in Bali! Travel to the cultural center of Ubud, where you can volunteer with a teaching project, in a kindergarten, with construction and renovation, turtle conservation, environmental education, or healthcare education. Or head to the coastal town of Lovina, where you can lend a hand with kindergarten support and teaching, or with school and community renovation. During your free time, go snorkeling or diving, embark on a cycling or trekking tour, explore temples and waterfalls, and much more! IVHQ’s trips to Ubud and Lovina, Bali start from one week at a very affordable $325.
Have you always wanted to visit Africa? If so, IVHQ may have the perfect volunteer abroad opportunity for you! Travel to central Cape Town or to nearby Table View and immerse yourself in South African culture while volunteering on impactful initiatives.
In Cape Town, you can choose between childcare, teaching, computer training, sport development, or surf outreach volunteer trips. If you decide to volunteer in Table View, check out IVHQ’s Surf, Skate & Swim volunteer program, which supports students from low-income communities. Other Table View volunteering opportunities include kindergarten, special needs care, sport development, and the Holiday Club project, which keeps students active and engaged during their school holidays. During your free time, you can explore the area, and even take a long weekend to go on a safari or check out the Garden Route. IVHQ’s South Africa volunteer programs in Cape Town and Table View start from only $250 for one week.
Embark on an adventure to Costa Rica with IVHQ, where you can choose from several different volunteer programs in San Jose, Manuel Antonio, and beyond! Programs that you can be a part of include:
- Childcare and working with children at daycares and schools
- Turtle conservation and research
- Healthcare at clinics for disabled children, hospitals, and other locations
- Construction and renovation
- Teaching English at public schools, in homes, or even at a local fire station
- Eco-agricultural conservation in the central highlands of Costa Rica
- Special needs care for students with intellectual and physical disabilities
IVHQ also offers a Holiday Experience during Christmas and the New Year, where you can participate in a variety of volunteer projects, including working with children and the elderly, planning celebrations for underprivileged children, and sprucing up community centers. And if you would like to gain university credit while volunteering in Costa Rica, check out IVHQ’s Spanish Service Learning Course in San Jose!
During your weekends and free time, you’re invited to explore San Jose and other areas of the country, including volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches. Volunteering with IVHQ in Costa Rica starts from one week at only $370.
Volunteer in beautiful Spain with IVHQ! Travel to Barcelona for one to 12 weeks on these wonderful programs, where you’ll be able to gain new skills and make a positive impact.
Programs in Barcelona include:
- Youth support, where you will volunteer in an afterschool center
- Animal care, which will have you working in a shelter for cats and dogs
- Marine conservation, which gives you the chance to complete PADI dive certifications and help with underwater cleanup activities
- Special needs support, which may include arts and crafts, physical therapy, exercise, and much more for adults with physical or mental disabilities
- Creative technologies, where you’ll help local NGOs develop their online presence
During your stay in Spain, you will have the opportunity to explore areas such as the Castle of Manzanares el Real and Alcalá de Henares, or go shopping or relax on the beach. This program starts from only $625 for your first week.
I volunteered in Guatemala with IVHQ and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had! My program cost less than half of some of the other programs I was looking at and gave me more than those programs did – from the great food at meal times, to the actual program and the pickup at the airport and lots of options for support if it was needed!! Overall IVHQ is amazing and they are definitely the organization to volunteer with!
Check out over 3,500 reviews of International Volunteer HQ here!
Founded in 2011, Plan My Gap Year (PMGY) offers among the world’s most affordable placements for travelers who would like to volunteer abroad in childcare, English teaching, wildlife conservation, community projects, and mental health projects in Africa and Asia. PMGY prides itself on transparency and accountability, with all programs personally inspected and vetted by the PMGY team to ensure project safety and to be certain that you will be matched with an initiative that complements your skills and interests. Since 93% of PMGY’s participants are either solo or female, this organization is a great fit for people who will be volunteering alone and want to meet other like-minded travelers. And with recognition such as the Shell LiveWire Grand Idea Award, Thailand Green Excellence Award, and Special Recognition from the United Nations in Sri Lanka, Plan My Gap Year is a wonderful organization to check out if you want to make sure you’re helping with sustainable, impactful projects.
Plan My Gap Year Opportunities to Check Out
Located in Ambalangoda, the Southern province of Sri Lanka, this program invites you on several different volunteer experiences, including child care, English teaching, medical care, turtle conservation, and much more. As PMGY’s most popular destination, there’s plenty of opportunity for exploration, adventure, and impactful volunteer work that you can take on in Sri Lanka. This program starts on the first and third Saturday of every month, and is based in a gorgeous island beachside location. You can stay from two weeks to over six months, and depending on the project you sign up for, your first two weeks abroad cost only $400.
Another wonderful opportunity to check out with Plan My Gap Year is their Bali, Indonesia volunteer program, where you can care for children in need, teach English in a classroom, and much more. Bali is also featured in PMGY’s Ultimate Round the World Tour, which takes you to 9 different destinations over 36 weeks. Based in Tabanan, PMGY’s Bali volunteer abroad program is extremely affordable, starting from just $330 for your first two weeks onsite.
If you have always dreamed of visiting Africa, PMGY has many different meaningful volunteer projects in Ghana, including supporting disabled children, teaching English, providing medical care, and even helping out with mental health and psychology initiatives. As a volunteer, you’ll be based in an urban neighborhood of Kumasi, and have the chance to visit Cape Coast, Elmina, and Mole National Park. This program starts from only $375 for your first two weeks in Ghana, and you can stay up to six months, depending on the project you sign up for.
Travel to Vietnam and work beside NGO professionals as a Plan My Gap Year volunteer, and gain experience in marketing and promotion! Put your writing and social media skills to great use while you learn about economic, environmental, and social issues in the developing world. If you have an affinity for graphic design or web development, your fresh new ideas and energy can make a difference with NGOs in need of extra help with fundraising, marketing, and more. Program fees start at only $435 for two weeks, and you’re invited to stay up to six months.
If you’re more interested in visiting India, join Plan My Gap Year in Haryana and be part of a program that provides computer and vocational training for young women. Through this initiative, these women have a greater chance of employment and education success in what traditionally is a male-dominated community. Everyday skills that you may take for granted – such as sewing, arts and crafts, and even basic numeracy and English language – can help overcome cultural barriers, make new friends, and help these women build bright futures for themselves and for their families. Program fees start at just $330 for two weeks, and you can stay up to six months.
Maximo Nivel is Volunteer Forever’s top-ranked volunteer abroad program with over 250 reviews and a perfect 5-star rating. Their projects are very affordably priced, starting at just $595 (for one week) and appeal to a broad base of participants from high school students to graduate students and working professionals.
Maximo Nivel was founded in 2003 and has hosted over 25,000 participants for its volunteer abroad, internship abroad, study abroad, Spanish Immersion, Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), Semester Abroad, and High School Abroad programs. Maximo Nivel offers its projects in three countries in Latin America: Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru.
Whether you’re looking for a one-week adventure or a full gap year experience, Maximo Nivel is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a high-quality, affordable, and enriching experience in Latin America.
Maximo Nivel Opportunities to Check Out
Right now, Maximo Nivel is offering TEFL certification courses for travelers who want to volunteer abroad as English teachers and gain new skills abroad. You’ll start with an intensive, four-week, accredited certification course in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru (online courses also are available), after which you’re free to look for paid teaching abroad placements.
Maximo Nivel provides lifetime job-seeking support for their alumni, and even hires three to five graduates each month to work as teachers in their Native English Program in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. There are lots of different types of teaching opportunities Maximo Nivel will help you find, including business English teaching, private tutoring, school teaching, and much more, depending on your skills and interests.
On this two-week volunteer adventure, you’ll spend five days volunteering, and six days traveling in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. A few volunteer work projects you can take on include working with kids, teaching English, construction, conservation, animal care, or medical / healthcare.
For the tour portion of your trip, you’ll go zip lining, touring on a catamaran, hiking through a national park, visiting waterfalls and volcanoes, and much more, depending on which country you decide to visit. This is an excellent opportunity to combine international community service, learning, and adventure.
If you’re currently studying education, secondary education, or a related field at your college or university, you are invited to take part in Maximo Nivel’s education internship abroad. Through this placement, you’ll work alongside professional teachers to gain insight into teaching in classrooms for early childhood, elementary, middle school, and high school students. ESL-specific placements also are available.
You’re invited to stay for a minimum of four weeks and can expect to work four to six hours per day Monday through Friday each week. As an intern, you’ll have the wonderful opportunity to observe classroom instruction and management, help with planning and conducting lessons, learn about Latin American culture, and develop your teaching and leadership skills.
Maximo Nivel also offers a micro business internship for students interested in subjects such as business development and management, marketing, sales, client services, accounting, and much more. For four weeks, you’ll work with a local company or entrepreneur in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru to assist with marketing, client needs, administrative work, and other tasks that can help keep the company running, scale it appropriately, and set it up for success over the long-term.
You must have intermediate Spanish language ability to apply, and you’re encouraged to enroll in Maximo Nivel’s online Spanish class or native Spanish program to gain the language skills you’ll need to be successful on your internship.
Maximo Nivel Program Review: Alexa Hart
I went to Cusco, Peru on a one-way ticket back in 2009 and had the time of my life. Maximo was a big contributor to my positive experience. I volunteered with underprivileged kids and helped paint a battered women’s shelter. I also took inexpensive Spanish lessons with them.
The accommodation they provided was great (I recommend Arcopata Family House). I lived with fellow participants of the program in a house and was provided really good meals. When I got sick, they had a doctor come to the house to check on me and give me medicine too.
After volunteering, I became TEFL certified with them during a 4-week course. All in all, I was very impressed, and I would recommend them to anyone. The experience changed my life.
Founded by a brother-sister team, Love Volunteers is a low-cost international volunteer organization that provides meaningful, life-changing projects in over 34 countries around the world.
Every year, thousands of Love Volunteers from all over the globe are placed into 1 week to 6 month volunteer abroad projects in Central and South America, Asia, Africa, The Middle East, and Europe. A few of Love Volunteers’ popular locations include:
Love Volunteers’ volunteer abroad programs start at just $175 for a one week placement along with a one-time $249 registration fee when you submit your application.
Love Volunteers offers 120 community-based development programs in healthcare, education, sports and coaching, law and legal assistance, social services, engineering and architecture, special needs, construction, environmental protection and in many more areas.
We LOVE Love Volunteers because it is an affordable volunteer program with lots of options in terms of placements.
Love Volunteers Opportunities to Check Out
Through this program, volunteers work in multiple schools in the city of Arusha. English teacher volunteers are especially needed to English and as such, volunteers should consider a TEFL course prior to volunteering (though this is not required by the program).This program starts at one week for $175.
This program is located in Kathmandu in order to assist people with disabilities. Volunteers in this program help the participants in the special education program to develop technology skills, develop their conversational English skills, and build the life skills needed to live an independent and dignified life. This program at 1 week for $195.
Based in Surin, this volunteer trip invites you to provide care for elephants that have been abused and neglected as tourist attractions and for logging work. As a volunteer, you can help to create a safe place for elephants to live full, peaceful lives in their natural habitats. This program starts from one week at $619.
Another excellent trip you can take with Love Volunteers brings you to Costa Rica to help save sea turtles from extinction by assisting in hatcheries, helping with conservation projects at the beach, releasing hatchlings into the sea, and patrolling hatching grounds. This trip starts from one week at $349.
Love Volunteers Program Review: Delaney and Jordan
Love Volunteers is such an amazing organization. I can’t stress enough how kind and helpful they were doing the whole trip process. They were happy to answer any question I asked, and made the process as smooth as possible. I would recommend Love Volunteers to everyone. I can’t thank them enough for helping give me this opportunity. It easily was the greatest experience of my life, and I can’t wait to do it again.
Agape Volunteers is a registered UK charity that offers high-quality, low-cost travel experiences throughout Africa. This organization specializes in volunteering, tourism, and development work in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, and Maasai-land. For 10 years, AV has supported humanitarian efforts and environmental conservation – projects range from medical volunteering, to teaching, to volunteering with wildlife, and program costs include registration and administration fees, as well as travel insurance, in total making Agape Volunteers the lowest-cost option if you want to volunteer in Africa.
All Agape Volunteers participants are covered by the Agape Travel Policy, provided at no extra cost, and accommodations, airport transfers, food, and orientation are included in the program fee. Orientation and full health and safety briefing are provided to all newcomers, as well as a city tour.
Agape Volunteers Opportunities to Check Out
If you have completed at least one year of medical school, or are a qualified nurse or doctor, you can work with Agape Volunteers on the Kenya medical program. This is a great opportunity to use and develop your medical training, while saving lives with healthcare teams in the clinics and hospitals of Kenya. Your duties vary depending upon your experience level. Shadow professionals during your first few days, then perform basic procedures under supervision, including distributing medicines, dressing wounds, and assisting with births. Outside of volunteering, enjoy side trips such as safaris, beach weekends, mountain climbing, cultural city tours, and more. Fees start at £590 for one week.
Share your love for animals and help to support endangered species on a wildlife conservation program in South Africa. This memorable experience invites you to contribute to the protection of lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, cheetahs, buffalos, and hyenas at Marakele National Park. You will monitor the movements and behaviors of animals, and take part in anti-poaching activities, such as looking for suspicious tracks, reporting low-flying aircraft, joining sleep-outs, and even flying on a microlight to check the reserve. Other tasks include invasive plant removal, road restoration, trash removal, fire control, game capture, and bush clearing. Stay two weeks or longer on this program starting at £1,530.
Volunteer with Agape to provide HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness and care to needy populations in Kenya. As a medical volunteer working five days a week, you’ll be helping to support the burdened healthcare teams on the ground. Volunteers are encouraged to take part in the HIV Testing and Counseling Course (HTC), an internationally-recognized qualification provided by local universities. The course helps to ensure safe testing techniques, and provides a useful qualification for your future medical career. Costs start at £590 for one week.
Projects Abroad describes itself as providing the gold standard of volunteer support and safety so that travelers may fulfill their potential, discover themselves, and create positive change in the world. Long-term, sustainable solutions are at the core of their programs, where you can be part of their ongoing efforts to meet specific goals in places where extra support is critical. Projects Abroad works directly with local community members and organizations, ensuring that their work meets real needs.
Programs run year-round, allowing volunteers and interns to choose their own start and end dates. With a hassle-free experience and dedicated in-country staff available 24/7, you don’t need experience or qualifications to sign up for most trips.
Projects Abroad Opportunities to Check Out
Projects Abroad’s medical internships in Ghana give you the opportunity to learn directly from doctors in hospitals or clinics. You’ll shadow them on their rounds, observing how they diagnose and treat different illnesses or conditions. You’ll see medical cases that you’ve only read about in textbooks, which is a great way to enhance your practical medical knowledge. This program is suitable for pre-med and medical students.
In Ghana, the organization runs regular medical outreaches in communities where healthcare services are limited. As a volunteer, you will help provide basic medical treatment, from cleaning and bandaging wounds, to measuring blood pressure levels. If you would like to focus specifically on practical outreach work, you may be interested in joining the Public Health internship.
In Nepal, Projects Abroad supports the work of local caregivers and teachers by focusing on improving early childhood development and literacy in care centers. During your time here, you will work with young children and assist with a variety of activities such as:
- Sing songs to teach the alphabet and counting
- Play catch with a ball to improve hand-eye coordination
- Read stories that engage the kids’ imaginations
You don’t need previous experience to volunteer with children in Nepal – you’ll work alongside local staff and have regular workshops.
Live in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest and work alongside experienced conservationists to protect wildlife and indigenous plants. You’ll be on the frontlines of rainforest conservation at Taricaya, an award-winning ecological reserve.
There’s plenty to do in the jungle. You’ll help rehabilitate wild animals like the spider monkey, and release them back into their natural habitat. You’ll also help with reforestation, collect scientific data on local animal populations, and work on a sustainable farming initiative.
Projects Abroad Program Review: Christian, Shark Conservation in Fiji
As a scientist-in-training I was most impressed with all of the science underlying the project and how willing the staff was to share their knowledge. I was able to see science in action as well as conservation efforts making their way up the chain to actually change environmental policy.
Since 2006, GoEco has offered affordable volunteer abroad programs and internships in over 45 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America. With more than 170 different programs, GoEco is a great organization to check out if you’re looking for a variety of impactful volunteer abroad trips to choose from, from wildlife conservation to teaching English. GoEco was recently recognized as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization from GoAbroad, Top Eco-Enthusiast by Greenmatch, and has been recommended by Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and more. As a volunteer, you will have 24-hour support from the GoEco team, from start to finish.
Top destinations include South Africa, Australia, Bali, Costa Rica, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. Top activities include wildlife and animal conservation, marine and coral reef conservation, medical and healthcare, community aid and development, teaching English, and volunteering with children.
GoEco Opportunities to Check Out
- Zimbabwe – African Wildlife Orphanage: Volunteer abroad at a wildlife orphanage in Zimbabwe to care for various wild animals that have been injured or orphaned. Volunteers work closely with these animals to rehabilitate them before releasing them into a Protected Area.
- Indonesia – Bali Sea Turtle Rescue: Join GoEco on the beautiful island of Nusa Penida, just off the coast of Bali! Work hands-on with injured sea turtles and release the rehabilitated back into their ocean home.
- Thailand – Learn, Volunteer and Travel: Discover the Sing Buri region of Thailand through this immersive volunteer experience! Choose between a rural teaching or construction placement and enjoy helping the local community either way.
- South Africa – Wildlife Sanctuary: On this program, you will travel to South Africa for two weeks to three months to volunteer in a sanctuary for orphaned or injured animals. Volunteer tasks focus on construction at the sanctuary and hands-on care for animals such as elephants, lions, cheetahs, hippos, and hyenas.
- Australia – Wild Animal Sanctuary: Lend a hand at a sanctuary that provides a safe, natural home for some of Australia’s unique wildlife such as koalas and kangaroos. This sanctuary provides refuge for rehabilitated but unreleasable, injured and orphaned animals.
- Costa Rica – Animal Rescue and Conservation: Experience Costa Rica with this unique program! Volunteers will work closely with injured sloths, monkeys and other Costa Rican wildlife and immerse themselves into the local culture through Spanish language lessons, exploring the capital of San Jose and living with a host family.
GoEco Program Review
Taking this volunteer trip to the Wildlife Sanctuary project was something I had wanted to do for several years… Literally after one day of volunteering, I was already regretting only having two weeks to stay. Every day was amazing and full of incredible experiences and new people.
The days flew by as we were so busy working on the farm, hanging out and making new friends, and learning about the wildlife in a very hands on manner. The staff is very helpful, friendly, and seem just as excited to be there as the volunteers. As mind-blowing as the actual project [was], the people I met were similarly incredible. It’s crazy that in just a few weeks you can develop friendships that seem like you’ve had for years. Leaving was very emotional, but still, I can’t recommend this trip enough to anyone who is considering it or may be on the fence, seriously, do it.
Having just returned home, I already miss everything that filled my days for those two weeks in South Africa. I find myself constantly looking back at photos and in the back of my mind planning a return visit as soon as possible. – Dave P, Wildlife Sanctuary, South Africa
If you’re looking for a volunteer abroad experience that’s unique, exotic, and off the beaten path, look no further than Fronteering. With volunteer and internship projects located in 14 different countries, Fronteering offers impactful programs for travelers who want to visit unspoiled locations and make a positive difference in environmental conservation, wildlife research, indigenous communities, and more.
Fronteering’s volunteer abroad and intern abroad opportunities start at an affordable $695 for your first week onsite – and if you’d like to stay longer, the organization also offers placements up to 24 weeks.
Fronteering Opportunities to Check Out
For four to eight weeks, you’ll have the chance to feed, groom, and walk huskies, help with ranch maintenance, go dogsledding and snowmobiling (if you’re volunteering in the winter), clear and prepare dogsled tracks, and more. Located in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, or the Yukon, this program is excellent for volunteers who love animals and the outdoors, and starts from $1,395 for your first four weeks.
If you’ve always wanted to visit the Amazon, Fronteering invites you to help with bush dog research and monitoring in the rainforest, with tasks such as setting camera traps, collecting data, helping with community activities, performing research, and much more. This volunteer abroad opportunity starts from one week at $695, and you’re invited to stay up to six weeks to help further research, get to know the community, and rough it in the Amazon Rainforest.
Through this program, you’ll delve into the jungles of Guyana to help an indigenous community create a sustainable, eco-friendly infrastructure through construction, maintenance, wildlife research, and more. And depending on your skills and background, you can also teach IT skills, build wildlife viewing camps, and much more. You’re invited to stay two to eight weeks, starting at $1,695.
Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Via Volunteers began in 2013 with a firm focus on ethical volunteering. To date, they’ve hosted thousands of volunteers from more than 60 countries. Through Via Volunteers, you can have a rewarding and meaningful volunteer experience in South Africa on community, childcare, wildlife, and conservation projects. Via Volunteers’ projects receive high ratings from past volunteers (currently 99 5-star reviews on Volunteer Forever).
Via Volunteers only supports sustainable, long-term projects that are developed through genuine community and conservation needs. Whether you want to apply for a short-term volunteer placement in South Africa or join a combination of projects for a longer stay or gap year, Via Volunteers has suitable programs.
As a Via Volunteers volunteer, every project includes pre-arrival support, airport pickup, orientation, accommodation, in-country support, and a volunteer certificate of appreciation. Some projects also include meals, a free SIM card, and a Via Volunteers t-shirt.
Via Volunteers Opportunities to Check Out
Join Via Volunteers at the Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre near Cape Town, where you’ll care for infants, toddlers, and children up to 8 years old. This highly-rated enrichment program involves daily reading and prepared lessons for any child not attending school. You’ll also assist with weekly lessons aimed at improving gross and fine motor skills, as well as basic Maths and English literacy. For babies and younger children, volunteers can help primary caregivers with serving and feeding at mealtimes. In addition to lessons and general care, you’ll get to have fun with the children. Do arts and crafts, play games, talk and laugh, and more!
Volunteers get the pleasure of working with Heather, the co-founder of Via Volunteers, and Jenny, the doctor who attends Fikelela once a week. Both are great sources of knowledge and really appreciate the assistance from volunteers.
What’s also convenient is that you can combine your childcare volunteer work in South Africa with travel in Cape Town and beyond. Hike Table Mountain, tour the District Six Museum, and relax at Boulders Beach. Know that the Via Volunteers app, which is the first ethical volunteering app, has a unique Cape Town bucket list feature so that you can plan your adventures.
Interested? Fees start from an affordable $328 per week. Join for four weeks or longer!
Committed to conservation? Then sign up to assist with ongoing research projects within Greater Kruger National Park. You’ll work alongside a dedicated team of conservationists and experience the African bush first hand. You’ll be within a Big 5 area, which means you could encounter lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos, and leopards, on top of other wildlife like vervet monkeys, eagles, and snakes. How cool is that?
During the Greater Kruger Conservation Project, you’ll do very important work and research. Tasks may include elephant and rhino identification, clearing alien vegetation, reserve maintenance, and camera trap monitoring. You’ll learn a lot from local staff and you’ll get to contribute to data collection and conservation reports.
This project suits those with a serious affinity and respect for nature and wildlife conservation in South Africa. Note that your participation supports the ‘Black Mambas’, an anti-rhino poaching unit.
Ready to apply? Fees start from $355 per week. Join for two weeks or longer!
Via Volunteers Review: Ally, Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre Project
I absolutely loved my experience volunteering with Via Volunteers in Cape Town! While in this program, I not only got to spend several exciting weekends exploring many of the city’s exciting attractions, but, more importantly, I also was able to interact with incredible children Monday-Friday through many educational initiatives that Via Volunteers had developed for the kids. I am so grateful for this life-changing experience, and I would highly recommend volunteering at Fikelela for anyone passionate about working with young children on educational development!I was especially impressed with the communication I received from Via Volunteers. Whether it was before the trip via email or during my stay via Facebook Messenger, I felt that I was always in the loop and able to reach out to Heather or Ed if anything unexpected popped up. I would definitely say that communication and support was one of the most impressive aspects of Via Volunteers.
If you need help navigating all of your choices for international travel, check out Abroadly, Volunteer Forever’s new booking platform that helps you find and apply for meaningful volunteer abroad trips, long-term service projects, internships, and TEFL certification and teaching placements.
Abroadly partners with reputable, vetted organizations worldwide and features more than 150 programs in the fields of child and youth development, construction and community development, education, health and medicine, human rights, sports and recreation, and wildlife and environmental conservation.
By applying through Abroadly, you’ll have free access to Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform, and enter for the chance to win a $500 scholarship – and your application fee is 100% refundable if you are not accepted into the program of your choice.
Join Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica for a conservation project, supporting biologists and researchers at a sea turtle nesting site on either the Caribbean or Pacific coast. Tasks include patrolling the beach at night for nesting turtles, relocating turtle nests to hatcheries, counting eggs and turtles, tagging turtles, and more.
If you’re physically fit and at least 17 years old, sign up for two weeks at the beach and take an active role in saving turtles from extinction. Earn a letter of recommendation and an official certificate of volunteer service when you’re finished. Free time can be spent exploring San Jose, trekking in the cloud forests, swimming at beaches, and enjoying the shops and restaurants in town. This volunteer abroad placement starts at $1,105 for your first two weeks, and you’re invited to stay longer. Learn more and apply here!
Abroadly Opportunities to Check Out
If you have an intermediate level of the Spanish language, consider helping school children in San Ramon improve their English-speaking skills on a trip abroad with uVolunteer to Costa Rica! You’ll work directly with students, focusing on spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Tasks include planning and carrying out lesson plans, testing and grading students, and practicing English during one-on-one lessons, all with the guidance of a qualified teacher. By exposing students to conversational English, you’ll help them with a skill that can land them a job in tourism or business.
On days off, tour the Else Kientzler Botanical Garden or the Cloud Forest Reserve. Ride horses along the Arenal Volcano or tour the coffee plantations. San Ramon also has numerous museums, restaurants, and shops for short trips out and about. Program fees begin at $245 per week, with a minimum of three weeks required – you can also stay up to three months. Read more and apply here!
Join a medical volunteer abroad program in Cusco with Volunteering Solutions and spend two weeks or more working in Peru’s hospitals, health clinics, and medical centers. You’ll shadow local medical practitioners and help to provide compassionate care to people in need. Gain valuable experience working with professionals abroad, and spend your weekends and free time exploring ancient sites, including the world-famous Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Fees start at $845 for two weeks. Read more and register here!
Gain experience and insight into Indonesian healthcare when you travel to Bali and volunteer with a medical program offered by Plan My Gap Year. Assist in a hospital that cares for 500 patients per day, observing treatment in the areas of general surgery, intensive care, maternity and midwifery, pediatrics, prenatal, general medicine, outpatient, and public health. Opportunities for specialized programs are available as well, and during your stay you’ll learn how traditional Balinese beliefs work in tandem with Western medicine, and the importance of culture in patient care.
Spend days off touring nearby ruins, spiritual sites, and temples, or taking yoga lessons. Sample the amazing food at local restaurants and shop at street markets. There are many organized side trips, including a visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest. Program costs start at $684, and you can stay for two weeks or more. Learn more and apply here!
Spend a week or more in Costa Rica teaching English to the children of Playa Jaco with Love Volunteers. This opportunity places you in a classroom as a teacher’s assistant, improving students’ speaking skills, helping to plan lessons, and organizing games and activities. Add new skills to your resume and engage in fun intercultural exchange with eager young students.
Jaco is a booming beach town close to San Jose, and features surfside shops and souvenir stands, as well as restaurants and bars. Go on a catamaran cruise, take surf lessons, or be adventurous and go on a zip-line tour in the pristine rainforest of Carara National Park. Program costs start at $608 per week, and you can stay for up to 12 weeks. Read more and register here!
Founded in 1997 by Richard Walton, Global Vision International (GVI) is an award-winning organization that provides opportunities for internships and volunteer abroad trips in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. GVI has sent more than 25,000 volunteers overseas on programs ranging from construction, to animal care, to education, and beyond with 95% of past volunteers stating they would want to travel again with them again.
GVI is unique from other volunteer abroad programs in three ways:
- They operate their own volunteer projects to ensure real, sustainable impact on the ground
- They provide 360 degree support before, during, and after your placement
- Their alumni network provides increased access to higher education and career development opportunities
GVI’s differentiators and their emphasis on volunteer safety make the program very appealing to first-time international volunteers and teen / high school / under age 18 volunteers. Their projects start from one week and can last up to one year. Projects mix community service with global and cultural awareness to inspire and encourage volunteers to continue learning and serving even after they’ve returned from their trip. Lastly, many of their alumni end up working for GVI full-time, so if you are looking for a meaningful, international career, you should definitely check out a GVI project!
GVI Opportunities to Check Out
Through this program, you’ll work with local research team to track animals, study behavior, and learn more about the wildlife of South Africa. You’ll get started with a training session to get you acquainted with the project and the types of animals you’ll study, and from there work day-to-day tracking wildlife, conducting research, assisting with data entry, and even participating in community education about conservation. This program starts from two weeks at $2,390.
If you’d like to visit Asia, GVI has an amazing opportunity right now in Thailand to volunteer with elephants that have been rescued from working in the tourist industry. Through this program, you’ll help rehabilitate elephants and work with trainers to care for the animals, and may even help with community education and outreach programs. This amazing project starts from one week at $1,840.
Through this placement, GVI invites you to teach English to Buddhist novice monks in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site close to the Mekong river and other gorgeous areas. You’ll work directly with monks in a temple school and learn about Lao culture, history, religion, and much more. This program starts from two weeks at $1,890.
On this project, you’ll travel to Caqalai Island in Fiji to work with a local NGO in collecting data on fish species, mapping coral reefs and mangrove, developing an environmental education and awareness program for local schools, and assisting with the development of best practices in conservation on the island. For the first part of your project will start with an initial training phase, where you’ll learn to identify fish and coral species through a series of dives with guidance from GVI staff. This program starts at $4,000, and you’re invited to stay from four to 24 weeks.
Through this program, you will have the chance to earn PADI Advanced and PADI Coral Reef Research Diver qualification while working alongside marine researchers in the Seychelles. Five days per week, you will go snorkeling or diving to conduct underwater surveys, and can also expect to participate in training sessions, marine debris surveys, environmental education sessions, and more. This marine research program starts from four weeks at $4,100.
GVI Program Review: Amelia, Costa Rica Community Development Program
I was in need of a career break, and was looking to do something out of the ordinary. I was looking to get far away and do something worthwhile. After some heavy research GVI continued to be the organization that ticked all the boxes.
They were incredibly helpful when I was choosing my location, and the onsite assistance and support throughout the entire journey was fantastic. I was so lucky to be involved in the Community development program of El Cocal, the children were amazing, I made some friends for life and hopefully one day soon I’ll return for a visit! It really was an unforgettable experience!
A Broader View Volunteers, a US nonprofit charity, was founded in 2007 by Sarah and Oliver Ehlers. Their team sends more than 5,000 volunteers each year to 245 programs across 25 countries, and has raised and distributed more than $3 million in donations worldwide.
A Broader View’s goals are to provide developing countries with volunteer assistance while educating those volunteers about the communities in which they serve. Projects can include wildlife conservation, childcare, teaching, and more, and start from one week at $745, depending on the location and placement. Many of their projects are offered year-round, which provides you flexibility in terms of your start date.
A Broader View is one of the best rated programs on our site and has over 150 positive reviews on Volunteer Forever!
A Broader View Opportunities to Check Out
Volunteers in the Quito Hippotherapy program assist with rehabilitation and recreational programs with horses for those with mental or physical disabilities. Through this placement, volunteers feed and groom horses, prepare them for and handle them during therapy sessions, and may provide horseback riding lessons to the general public. Gardening and canine therapy placements also are available. Placements range from one to 12 weeks and start from $895. Volunteers must have intermediate Spanish knowledge, and immersion courses are available for those that would like to gain a greater language proficiency.
In this conservation volunteer abroad program, volunteers work in reforestation, organic farming education, and sustainable growth at a Peruvian national park in the Madre de Dios region. Projects can include flower inventory, research, replanting, clearing holes, animal rescue, and other tasks. This program lasts one to 12 weeks and starts at $895. Spanish language background isn’t required, but is helpful while assisting on community outreach programs.
Volunteers in A Broader View’s Social Welfare program assist a local center that cares for children from 18 months to five years old, and that educates single mothers about child care, nutrition, and hygiene. On this placement, volunteers help provide lunch, assist in the kitchen, teach preschool lessons, and play games with the children. This program starts from two weeks at $995.
Based in the Bulenga community, this program provides the opportunity for volunteers to support two healthcare centers that offer maternity, ultrasound, and contraceptive services; treatment for malaria, typhoid, and diarrhea; infant care; antenatal care; and HIV/AIDS testing and counseling. Volunteers also assist with outreach and education for expectant teen mothers within the community. This program starts from two weeks at $995.
I had a great time in La Ceiba, Honduras. I did not feel unsafe or threatened at any time. My work was great and fulfilling at both the old hospital and the school. My host family was excellent and accommodating, and the food – especially the local food – was very delectable.
All of the people, from the children to the patients at the hospital were very nice and respectful. I had a lot of fun with the other volunteers and I highly recommend being outgoing and personable… it will make you life way easier if you can hang out with friends and commiserate after a long day of work.
I had very good Spanish entering into the program, but after 2 weeks of immersion my Spanish is crisp and fluent; I truly valued the ABV experience as a life-changing event. I am willing to speak with others about my experience.
Founded in 2004, Global Leadership Adventures provides teen and high school programs abroad that combine community service with hands-on learning and adventure. With an emphasis on safety – outlined in Global Leadership Adventures’ five-point safety system – this organization sends thousands of travelers to nearly two dozen countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America every year.
As a leader in youth development, Global Leadership Adventures has a database of nearly 2,000 references willing to vouch for the impact of their programs – and in fact, GLA’s co-founder was recognized by President Obama for making a positive impact in Africa.
Global Leadership Adventures Opportunities to Check Out
On this spring break program, you’ll volunteer with rural communities in the Dominican Republic and learn about their challenges in accessing daily necessities. A few projects you can take on include building schools and community centers, assisting in reforestation or water filtration projects, or building vertical gardens or clean-burning stoves. You’ll also have the opportunity to check out the beach, explore freshwater lagoons and caverns, and much more. This eight-day program costs $1,899 – click here to learn more and to register.
Another amazing program you can sign up for in the Dominican Republic is Global Leadership Adventures’ Global Health Initiative. Perfect for students who want to pursue an education in medicine or public health, you’ll meet with community leaders to discuss health, sustainability, and education, assist traveling doctors and Peace Corps volunteers with their work, and lots more. On the adventure portion of your trip, you’ll zip line through the jungle, hike through waterfalls, and explore coral reefs on a snorkeling expedition. This 14-day program costs $3,399 – learn more here.
If you’re passionate about protecting animals and their natural habitats, check out this program in the Galapagos Islands, where you can help to restore the habitat of native wildlife. On Isabela Island, you’ll volunteer in a tortoise breeding center, and on San Cristobal Island, you’ll help to clear invasive species to allow tortoises and birds to re-inhabit the area. You’ll also be able to go snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, and hiking during this two-week program. Click here to learn more.
GLA also invites you to Ghana, where you’ll teach children in a village primary school or orphanage, make bricks for construction of new facilities, and play soccer and other team games and sports with the kids. You’ll also learn about Ghanaian culture through workshops in cloth dyeing, drumming, and local Ewe or Krobo language – and you’ll have the opportunity to meet with local tribe members and chiefs to learn about religion, social construction, and much more.
During the adventure portion of your trip to Ghana, you may have the chance to explore mountains, hike waterfalls, and explore outdoor markets. This 21-day summer trip costs $4,999, and is an amazing way to spend your summer break. Click here to learn more and to sign up!
Founded in 1984, Raleigh International offers volunteer abroad programs for youth and young adults in Nepal, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Tanzania. Programs focus on clean water and hygiene, sustainable use of natural resources, and community building. So far, 400,000 youth volunteers have traveled with Raleigh International, with another 800 expected to sign up this year.
With a commitment to youth leadership and engagement, Raleigh International helped design and currently holds the BS8848 Safety Standard for organizing and managing visits, fieldwork, expeditions, and adventurous activities outside of the UK. If you’re in high school or college, taking a gap year, or recently graduated and looking for a way to make a difference, Raleigh International offers a wide variety of volunteer projects with a real impact led by multicultural and multinational teams.
Raleigh International Opportunities to Check Out
One of Raleigh International’s expeditions brings you to Nepal. Based in a rural village in Gorkha, you will be able to make a difference by volunteering with an initiative to improve access to safe water and sanitation. This is especially important in an area where 85% of homes were affected by the devastating earthquake of 2015 – as a volunteer, you will help with digging trenches, laying pipes, and awareness-raising to help those living in this community lead healthy lives. As part of this expedition, you also will have the chance to go trekking in the foothills of the Ganesh Himal mountains. Learn more here!
Naturally Africa Volunteers (NAV) coordinates sustainable, community-centered projects throughout Kenya, South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana , and Namibia. Their projects tend to run from two to twelve weeks and are perfect for volunteers who are seeking shorter term opportunities in Africa. Naturally Africa Volunteers seeks to solidify its change on two levels– by coordinating high-impact, well-researched volunteers programs and by supporting its international volunteers from the moment they join the project.
NAV is dedicated to making sure that each international volunteer has the best experience possible and is able to work in close conjunction with communities across the continent. Volunteers are currently urgently needed in Malawi to assist with medical care, childcare, teaching, and sports coaching. Participants from Volunteer Forever are eligible for a reduced program fee that starts at an affordable $925 for a two week placement, which includes your room & board, transportation (including airport pickup), and contribution to the host community.
Naturally Africa Volunteer Opportunities to Check Out
Naturally Africa Volunteers supports programs in many areas of interest, including volunteer teaching, medical volunteering, sports coaching, community outreach, and wildlife and conservation. Volunteers who are interested in a short-term volunteer project (2-3 weeks) will especially be interested in NAV’s Wild Coast School Project, which places volunteers in underfunded rural South African schools supporting full-time staff and volunteers. Volunteers will have the opportunity to work with students aged 6-14 promoting computer literacy, often through traveling through rural schools alongside state-of-the-art technology education equipment including laptops that the students usually lack access to.
Naturally Africa Volunteers Program Review
My time in Malawi was amazing. Meg, Sam and Aug were the main reason. They provided a balanced view on how to go about my role as a volunteer. I can not describe how inspired I was by the whole trip and the staff at the cottage.
The structure of the project was brilliant. You can clearly see the priorities. Keeping a good relationship with the village population and the elders was their main focus. Providing amazing support to the wound clinics, HIV support groups, nursery and home based care groups was incredible. I am very lucky I was part of the development of the different village I visited.
At the weekends I got to experience other parts of Malawi. Like the landscape and culture outside the village. I wish I could have stayed for longer. I hope to return to Malawi in the near future. – Maria, March 2015
Founded over 25 years ago, Frontier combines community development, capacity building, ecosystem protection, economic growth, and the development of civil society through collaboration between local communities, researchers, and volunteers of all ages.
From their first program in Tanzania – a marine park still operating today, developed in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund – Frontier has expanded to include more than 400 projects in 72 countries around the world.
This nonprofit scientific research organization employs dedicated staff who have been published in more than 450 articles in peer-reviewed journals – and whether you’d like to take on an internship abroad, volunteer project, gap year, or teach abroad / TEFL program, Frontier is a fantastic way to travel the world and make a positive impact.
Frontier Opportunities to Check Out
On this program, you’re invited to gain practical research and conservation experience while helping to conserve the natural habitats of Costa Rica’s wildlife. Costa Rica has one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems, and your work will be vital to protecting it and ensuring endangered animals have a place to thrive. A few activities you’ll take part in include beach patrols to research turtle nesting habits, surveying and collecting data on big cats, walking primate transects to collect data on different species, and more. This program starts from one week at $1,445.
Through this placement, you’ll have the opportunity to aid conservation research on Beqa Island, Fiji. You’ll locate and map coral reefs, conduct a reef census to discover which species live there, assess coral bleaching and damage, record marine life feeding habit observations, and much more. This research is provided to local stakeholders, research groups, and government entities to help develop plans for protection of the island and its marine ecosystem. This project starts from one week at $2,095.
Costa Rica is home to more than 500,000 animal species in need of protection from deforestation, encroachment on natural habitats, and poaching. On Frontier’s animal rescue project in Costa Rica, you’ll volunteer in a rescue center that provides a sanctuary to animals that have been injured or that have been rescued from captivity, with the goal of reintroducing them into the wild. You’ll work alongside local staff to care for the animals – such as monkeys, sloths, raccoons, and other wildlife – and educate visitors about wildlife protection and environmental conservation. This program starts from two weeks at $1,145, plus $395 for each additional week if you’d like to stay longer.
If you want to go off the beaten track, take a look at this marine conservation program in Madagascar, where you can dive nearly-untouched coral reefs while studying marine life and providing valuable research into sustainable management of the island’s natural resources. A few tasks you’ll take on include charting coral reefs, recording healthy fish populations, identifying different species in the reef, studying how fishing communities utilize marine resources, and more. This volunteer program starts from one week at $1,745, with PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water training available at an additional cost.
Founded in 1995, Cross-Cultural Solutions offers international internships, gap year experiences, volunteer trips, and high school volunteering programs in 9 countries throughout Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Programs focus on important topics such as child development, girls’ and women’s empowerment, and global health. To date, nearly 35,000 volunteers have traveled with Cross-Cultural Solutions (with a 99% approval rating from past participants), which offers year-round presence their host communities, a full-time team of local expert staff to support their volunteers, and among the highest standards of safety and well-being in the volunteer travel industry. This organization has received such recognition as Special Consultative Status with the United Nations, as well as GreatNonprofits’ top award for the third year in a row, and is accredited by the American Gap Year Association.
Cross Cultural Solutions Opportunities to Check Out
Cross-Cultural Solutions offers several different volunteer opportunities in Ghana, including child development, global health, and girls’ and women’s empowerment. As a child development volunteer, you will be able to work with a community group or in a daycare to assist teachers, conduct early education programs, teach English language skills, and more. If you’re more interested in global health, you can provide support with various public health projects including malaria prevention campaigns, vision screening, and oral health campaigns. And as a girls’ and women’s empowerment volunteer, you will play a part in helping Ghanaian women achieve financial independence. Learn more here!
Right now, Cross-Cultural Solutions is offering several different volunteer placements in Dharamsala and New Delhi, India. In Dharamsala, a more rural region of the country, you can help to support children in community centers or daycares, promote oral hygiene in school, help with public health projects, or help women pursue new economic opportunities. In New Delhi, you will have the chance to fight urban poverty by volunteering with children and families in slums and low-income communities through financial development, public health, and childcare.
Another volunteer opportunity you can check out through Cross-Cultural Solution is their program in Morocco, where you can contribute to children’s educational development programs, assist with much-needed support to the country’s healthcare system, and help girls and women develop their leadership skills to build bright futures for their families and create stronger communities. Learn more about volunteering in Morocco here!
Big heart, but little wallet? Check out our list of free volunteer programs and affordable volunteer organizations.
P.S. If you’re still looking for a volunteer opportunity, check out our list of gap year programs and recommended volunteer projects in Asia, South Asia, Africa, Central America, South America, and Thailand. You can also read about 7 Great Medical and Veterinary Volunteer Abroad Projects, 10 Dental Volunteer Abroad Program and Medical Mission Tips for Pre Dental Students, and nursing volunteer abroad projects for students and nurse professionals. Or, if medical volunteer projects aren’t for you, be sure to read about our sports and coaching volunteer abroad, wildlife conservation and veterinary abroad, teach abroad, and intern abroad programs. Lastly, if you’re under age 18, you may be interested in a teen volunteer abroad program from one of our many great partners.