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Community Development Volunteer Abroad Programs: Provide Homeless Support, Build Schools, Empower Women & More

Nick Callos
Written By
By Nick Callos
community development volunteer

There is a huge need for community development volunteers around the world. After all, the statistics paint a gloomy picture:

The fact is, many communities around the globe don’t have the proper resources to support education, health, and infrastructure needs. As a result, it’s difficult to break the cycle of poverty. International volunteers play a key role in helping to educate locals, build and maintain community infrastructure, provide healthcare resources, and uplift communities. 

As a community development volunteer abroad, there are a variety of ways you can help improve the quality of life in communities. For example, you could join International Volunteer HQ at a homeless shelter in Quito, Ecuador, and help provide basic necessities to those most in need. You could sign up with GoEco to empower women in Kathmandu, Nepal to live independent, self-sufficient lives. Or, you could even join Maximo Nivel in Guatemala to provide childcare and education to young kids from impoverished communities 

Interested in becoming a community development volunteer abroad? Consider this article your guide to community development volunteer programs. Read on to find out about the best projects and how you can help. 

Best Community Development Volunteer Abroad Programs

Searching for the right community development volunteer project abroad can be tough. You not only have to make sure the organization is reputable and the project is impactful, but you also have to consider the location, costs, and volunteer dates. Thankfully, we’ve put this article together to help you with your search. 

Below, we’ve listed the best community development programs. There are a variety of impactful projects across the world. Read through and see which program suits you best!

International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ)


International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) began in 2007 and has placed 133,000 people on affordable projects around the world. With 330+ projects, IVHQ connects thousands of travelers with opportunities each year across more than 44 countries. Rated the world’s #1 volunteer abroad organization, IVHQ has an incredible variety of community volunteer projects

IVHQ is a great choice for community development volunteering because the projects are affordable, impactful, and align with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Popular programs include:

  • Community Outreach in Argentina: Head to Córdoba, where you’ll help with food outreach, educating disadvantaged children, caring for elders and more. Your volunteer work will go a long way in ensuring food security, social inclusion, and access to education. 
  • Youth Support in Croatia: Journey to the seaside city of Split to assist with after-school programs for children and teenagers from disadvantaged communities. By providing extra educational and social support, you’ll help improve the future prospects of these kids.
  • Women’s Empowerment in India: As a community development volunteer in Kerala, you’ll teach English, health and personal care, and skills workshops to girls and women. By helping to empower women, you’ll give them the ability to find jobs and live more independent lives.



Founded in 2006, GoEco is a leading ecotourism and volunteer company. Recommended by major media publications such as the Boston Globe and Guardian, GoEco is known for carefully vetting every project to ensure high standards of safety and quality. The organization has projects across 40+ countries and sends more than 2,000 volunteers to projects annually. GoEco has lots of projects focused on community development, so you can certainly find a project that interests you. 

For instance, you could join the Food Rescue and Community Empowerment Program in Barcelona, Spain. As a volunteer, you’ll contribute to the fight against hunger by distributing surplus food to those in need. And during free time, you can have fun in the amazing city of Barcelona.

Another great community development program offered by GoEco is the Women’s English Literacy Program in Sri Lanka. As a teaching volunteer, you’ll help women improve their English language skills and help them become more confident, empowered, and employable.

One more GoEco program to consider is the Cape Town Community Project. This project in South Africa is truly inspiring. You’ll volunteer at a surf and adventure club, teaching disadvantaged children life-saving skills, such as swimming, whilst having fun surfing and skating.

Maximo Nivel

coronavirus volunteer

If you want to work, study, or volunteer abroad in Latin America, Maximo Nivel should be your top choice. Featuring affordable, impactful, and immersive volunteer projects in the region, Maximo Nivel directly oversees projects with local projects, ensuring top quality and safety. What’s also great is each program fee includes accommodations, meals, airport pick-up, insurance, and emergency services.

When it comes to Maximo Nivel’s community development programs, some great choices include: 

  • Organic Coffee Farming in Costa Rica: Industrial farming damages the environment. This project focuses on eco-agriculture in the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Brunca Region, helping to give local coffee growers a more sustainable living. Your duties include removing weeds, planting shade trees, roasting and packaging. You even get to try the fresh organic coffee!
  • Construction Volunteering in Guatemala: Help local communities in Antigua improve their quality of life by constructing classrooms, health clinics, and community centers. The great thing about this project is you can see your tangible impact right away.
  • Andean Immersion in Peru: Live in an indigenous, Quechua-speaking community high in the Andes mountains, approximately 1 hour from Cusco. You’ll assist with farming work, light construction, teaching at the local school, and weaving textiles. This authentic and unique experience is something you’ll never forget.

Projects Abroad

Volunteer in Mongolia with Projects Abroad

Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad has placed 132,000+ volunteers in programs around the world, including many in programs dedicated to community development. Known for a commitment to volunteer support and safety, Projects Abroad does a lot to help local communities, which has earned them recognition from the likes of Time, BBC, and CNBC. 

What’s noteworthy is Projects Abroad aligns their volunteer programs with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). For example, through the Youth Empowerment in Nepal project, volunteers can help the youth improve their future prospects through education and skills development (addressing UN Goals such as no poverty and quality education). Through the Building Volunteer Work in Ghana project, volunteers can help impoverished neighborhoods have better classrooms, libraries, community centers, and homes (addressing UN Goals such as reduced inequalities and good infrastructure).

Interested in a community development internship? Projects Abroad has those, too. One to consider is the Social Work Internship in Mongolia. As an international social work intern, you’ll improve the lives of children in Ulaanbaatar who live in poverty, endure bullying at school, and face mental health and substance abuse issues. Duties include helping to provide access to proper nutrition, medicine, therapy, education and more.

African Impact

volunteer in Africa

Founded in 2004, African Impact works to create real, measurable change across Africa. They develop projects hand-in-hand with communities in Africa, with dedicated teams working directly on the ground with locals. These projects rely on the help of volunteers, and African Impact takes great care to ensure the safety and health of international volunteers. If you want to volunteer for community development in Africa, consider African Impact. They provide some of the best international volunteer experiences in the region. 

African Impact’s community development programs focus on key areas, such as healthcare. For example, the Public Health and Community Volunteer Project in Zambia involves providing health and nutrition education to those living in rural communities. As a health and community volunteer, you’ll help people living in poverty gain access to more resources and build skills to better care for themselves. 

Another great community development volunteer program offered by African Impact is the Teaching and Adult Literacy Program in Zanzibar. While living on the tropical island of Zanzibar, you’ll teach children, young adults, and women within the local community, helping them learn important language skills to succeed. During free time, you can experience island adventures such as swimming with dolphins.

Involvement Volunteers International (IVI)

Involvement Volunteers International (IVI) began in 1989 with a mission to educate, fight poverty, improve health and empower change through sustainable volunteer work. To date, IVI has hosted more than 25,000 volunteers across 23 countries. With 112+ projects, IVI has a variety of community development volunteer opportunities. If you volunteer with IVI to support communities in developing countries, you could join one of the following projects:

  • Remote Island Construction in Fiji: Help construct and renovate community buildings, homes, schools and clinics. Volunteer tasks include laying bricks and cement, painting, carpentry work and more.
  • Nutrition and Meal Support in Vietnam: Volunteer with an NGO in Ho Chi Minh City. As a community volunteer, you’ll serve affordable, high-quality meals to people living in poverty, helping them get the nutrition they need to lead healthier lives.

Volunteering Solutions

Volunteer Forever - 30 Best Places to Volunteer Abroad

Established in 2007, Volunteering Solutions has placed more than 21,000 volunteers in projects overseas. A trusted member of the WYSE Travel Confederation, Volunteering Solutions has been featured in major publications such as Huffington Post, Culture Trip, and Mashable — a testament to the quality of their programs. Known for high-quality, affordable, and impactful service projects, the organization supports community development in countries around the world. 

One great community development program offered by Volunteering Solutions is Charity Shop Volunteering in Ireland. As a charity shop volunteer in the town of Clonmel, you’ll provide sales assistance, help stock and display goods, repair and sort donations, move and clean furniture, and much, much more. Your efforts play a big role in providing support to those in the town living in poverty.

Looking for volunteer work that helps the youth? Consider Volunteering Solutions’ Childcare and Social Welfare Program in South Africa. This program strives to provide disadvantaged children with safe spaces, educational support, proper nutrition, and social activities. As a volunteer, your help goes a long way in helping improve the lives of these children.



Founded in 2015 by Daniel Botha, Surfpop aims to empower children to live healthier, active lifestyles, provide access to employment opportunities that uplift people from poverty, and overall positively impact communities. Surfpop currently has two community development programs around Muizenberg, Cape Town. These programs strive to build a sustainable future for vulnerable, disadvantaged children in the area through: 

  • Teaching surfing and the value of active lifestyles
  • Education and skills workshops
  • Life coaching and mentorship

What’s great about Surfpop is that they take a long-term outlook. On average, they work with each child for 8 years, and then help them find sustainable employment as they enter adulthood. This helps end the cycle of poverty and change the futures of families. 

To date, Surfpop has hosted 350+ volunteers for their two surf volunteer projects in Cape Town, South Africa. This program is not only impactful, but also a ton of fun. After all, you get to surf! 

Consider Surfpop’s comprehensive after-school program that combines surfing and swimming with academic education and life-coaching. You will play a critical role in helping disadvantaged children escape poverty, crime, and drugs. Learn more and register for the Surfpop program here!

Global Vision International (GVI)

gap year diving programs

Founded in 1997 by Richard Walton, Global Vision International (GVI) is an award-winning organization that provides volunteer abroad opportunities in North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Australasia and Europe. To date, GVI has sent more than 35,000 volunteers overseas on programs ranging from marine conservation and animal care to construction and education. 95% of volunteers rate their experience with GVI as positive, and say they’d volunteer with them again — a testament to the quality of GVI’s projects and the organization as a whole.

GVI is especially known for community-based conservation programs that aim to protect local environments and improve sustainability in towns. One great program you could join is the Plastic Pollution and Conservation in Thailand project. As a volunteer in this program, you get to lead beach cleans, conduct plastic awareness workshops in the community, and assist with sea conversation. Your efforts go a long way in preserving local environments and resources. 

Want to get on the water? Consider GVI’s Sustainable Fishing Volunteering in Fiji project. As a volunteer, you’ll assist with fish monitoring and data collection, documentation of fish catches, and strategies to solve issues affecting fish sustainability, such as overfishing. Your research and work will help ensure sustainable fishing practices are utilized in Fiji, which helps protect life below water and human life on land.

Volunteer for Community Development Abroad Today

Sustainable community development is a crucial need for many places around the world. With conflict, climate change, political instability and other issues impacting development, the need for volunteers is greater than ever. 

The programs listed in this article give you a variety of ways to help uplift communities, from helping distribute food to low-income communities to educating and empowering children and women. You can even build houses and help people learn how to farm and fish sustainably. 

Now, there’s only one thing left to do: Find the program that matches your budget, interests, and skills, and sign up. Before you know it, you’ll be volunteering abroad for community development. 


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