Long Term Volunteer Work Abroad Programs & Voluntary Charity Jobs
(Updated for 2017)
Whether you’re looking for a valuable way to give back during your gap year or perhaps just interested in doing something different for a while, long-term volunteering is an excellent opportunity to give back in a way that is structured, sustainable, and beneficial to everyone involved. These long-term positions are typically referred to volunteer work abroad programs and voluntary charity jobs to differentiate them from short-term voluntourism trips.
Long-term Volunteer Abroad Programs
Image Credit: Author and Fulbright Scholar Britney Edwards in Malaysia
I spent a year volunteering abroad in Malaysia during a Fulbright grant. Before I left, I knew spending a year volunteering abroad would have a lot of, well, results.
Some of the results were ones I expected -- like the invaluable relationships that I forged with my community and the perspective that I brought back home to my American community after spending a year away in such a distant, otherworldly place.
Some results were ones that I hoped for, like seeing my community consider a way of thinking that goes beyond the kampung, or village. Since I volunteered teaching English and geography, I was proud to see that one result was that my students now knew their way around the globe and could see, for the first time in their lives, just how small and special a country like Malaysia is.
Still, some results were ones that I did not expect. After returning from Malaysia, I never expected to spend my nights editing essays from my wonderful, bright students who are bravely applying to study at universities around the world. I never expected to have changed my career plans from non-profit programming to teaching, two fields which are not as different as you’d think. Finally, I would not have expected that so many of my ambitions, goals, and dreams are now a result of spending a year abroad.
Benefits of Volunteer Work Abroad Projects
My year abroad transformed me and I think I am right in believing that the changes within my own life were only a small part of the good that came out of my work. While I had spent shorter lengths of time volunteering abroad before, usually less than three months, this was the first time that I had the time to really see the problems in my community for what they were and become a part of my community in a way that was substantial enough for us to work together on brainstorming solutions.
Long-term volunteer work abroad projects differ from short-term ones in a few key ways that are especially important to volunteers who are looking to change or define their career paths or for additional work in the fields of international development. Since long term volunteering abroad projects can only support a limited number of volunteers at a time, these positions are often more selective and thus recognizable in a way that makes them comparable to a prestigious fellowship or grant. In my experience, many employers are impressed by international experience and give it much more clout than they would short-term volunteer abroad trips.
There are many other benefits to choosing a long-term volunteer abroad trip over a project that lasts for a shorter duration. Since long-term volunteers are more likely to establish long-term working relationships with staff, there is a greater chance that their volunteer experience could lead to a job or further work within the same field or area. Long term volunteer abroad experiences are also generally less expensive and projects or organizations are more likely to offer cheaper rates, free room and board, or even compensation for the volunteer’s work and travel.
Finally, since the volunteer will be spending a much longer amount of time working for the project, they often are able to have both a greater impact on their community and a greater opportunity to gain knowledge and wisdom about their project and generally serving abroad.
While short-term volunteer projects often place the emphasis on accomplishing short-term goals and changes, long-term volunteers become much more rooted in the creation of long-term, transformational aspirations. In many cases, long-term volunteers are the ones who have the time and capabilities to work towards the systemic changes that many projects and organizations aspire to accomplish.
Most people associate volunteering abroad with short-term, project-oriented experience. Volunteering is seen as a type of excursion rather than something that could be a permanent or semi-permanent lifestyle change that involves massive amounts of community collaboration and planning. They don’t realize that many volunteer organizations could not exist without the support and constant hard work of long-term volunteers.
Additionally, some projects, like those that work with children, must rely solely on the commitments of long-term volunteers because of the nature of their work and the institutional knowledge that must be understood in order to work effectively within them. These kinds of organizations, and others that have well-organized and implemented long-term volunteer abroad projects, will be the ones we talk about today.
Recommended Long-term Volunteer Abroad Projects
Featured Program: Global Vision InternationaI
Since 1997, Global Vision InternationaI (GVI) has placed more than 20,000 volunteers and interns on meaningful, adventurous programs all around the world. With placements in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australasia, and Africa, GVI has no shortage of impactful adventures where you can help with conservation, teaching, construction, and so much more.
On this program, you’ll intern for 24 weeks in South Africa to research and assist with wildlife conservation – including learning about and getting up close with South Africa’s Big Five animals. For the first half of your internship, you’ll help with big cat research, learn conservation techniques, and learn about animal tracking and other skills.
After this expedition, you’ll work at a conservation organization or a safari lodge – and after completing your internship, you may have the opportunity to work with GVI or its partner organizations either in South Africa or around the world. This program costs $9,495 for the full 24 weeks, which includes staff support, meals, orientation and training, project equipment and materials, 24-hour in-country support, and much more.
Based in Pokhara, Nepal, this program lets you teach children against the backdrop of the Himalayas. Through this placement, you’ll teach in a care center or children’s home – including playing sports and games, creating art projects, helping with homework, and more – while also visiting traditional Hindu and Buddhist sights.
During your orientation, you’ll visit the Tal Bahari temple and learn about culture through language lessons and cooking classes. GVI also offers optional side trips, including kayaking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, and much more. You’re invited to stay up to 20 weeks, and are housed with fellow volunteers with a host family. Longer term stays are highly desired to minimize the effect of volunteers' departures on the children.
Right now, GVI is inviting you to Fiji, where you’ll take on a 24-week internship that includes diving, helping with research and conservation, and educating the local community about sustainable management of protected marine areas. For the first half of your internship, you’ll take part in a training program, learn advanced diving, and learn about the local marine ecosystem. After that, you’ll complete your PADI Divemaster course while also helping out with day-to-day operations at a local dive center. This program costs $11,500 for the full 24 weeks, and you must have PADI open water certification (or equivalent) before signing up.
On this project, you’ll travel to the coastal area of Phang Nga, Thailand to help with climate and conservation research and management. You’ll work alongside local researchers to contribute to scientific studies, educate the community about conservation, and encourage capacity for and understanding of sustainable development. A few tasks you may take on include sea turtle research and conservation, biodiversity surveying, beach cleanups, and tourist management, and the type of work you take on will depend on the time of year and the priorities of the program.
During your stay in Thailand, you’ll live at the research base, and will have the opportunity to take side trips, such as exploring Khao Sok National Park, visiting the beaches of Khao Lak, going island hopping through the Similan and Surin island groups, and much more. You’re invited to stay up to 24 weeks on this program, with arrival dates available every month throughout the year.
Featured Program: Maximo Nivel
Since 2003, Maximo Nivel has provided a wide variety of affordable volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru to over 25,000 participants. Each program is internationally accredited, with choices including volunteer abroad projects, international internships, native Spanish program, TEFL certification, Spanish camp for teens, and adventure and culture opportunities.
Maximo Nivel’s volunteer abroad programs start from just $595 per week, and their intern abroad programs start from $1,525 for four weeks. Each program includes airport pickup, 24/7 emergency support, orientation, certificates, wifi, salsa dance classes, Spanish books and materials, and lots more.
Through this program, you’ll help with construction projects to improve schools, homes, and more. You’ll work in a rural village Monday through Friday each week, depending on the construction schedule, weather, and project needs. All projects are led by foremen, architects, and engineers, who will guide you on tasks such as digging, removing dirt, carrying bricks, mixing cement, painting, and cleaning. Program fees for volunteers staying one month or longer start from $1,125. To learn more about this program, visit: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/construction/
This is the perfect opportunity to earn your TEFL or TESOL certificate while providing valuable education to children in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. As a volunteer, you’ll teach English—including grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, and more—to students in community centers and shelters, and help with homework and tutoring. Maximo Nivel also offers a TEFL/TESOL certification program lasting four weeks, with 100 hours of classroom instruction, 25 hours of practical teaching and observation, and 25 hours of self-study and research outside of the classroom. Learn more about this program and sign up at: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/teaching-english/
If you’re currently in a bachelor’s or master’s program - or have a year of vocational training - in business, economics, communications, or a related focus, you’re invited to take part in Maximo Nivel’s micro business internship. Based in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru, you’ll work alongside a local entrepreneur or with a small business to help with marketing, client services, accounting, or development, all of which will help keep the company running and successful.
You’re invited to stay at least four weeks on this internship, and you must have at least intermediate Spanish language ability to apply. If you don’t have Spanish language background, Maximo Nivel invites you to take their online Spanish class or enroll in their native Spanish program before applying for your internship. Learn more and apply here: http://maximonivel.com/internships/micro-business
Another amazing internship opportunity being offered right now through Maximo Nivel takes you to Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru to teach students with special needs at a private school. The students you’ll work with may be visually or hearing impaired, or developmentally disabled. During your internship, you’ll work as a teacher’s aide, where you’ll conduct lessons, work with individual students, and take on teacher-to-teacher mentoring.
If you’re an expert in American Sign Language (ASL), you’ll have the opportunity to teach English to hearing impaired students as well. As with Maximo Nivel’s micro business internship, you’re asked to stay at least four weeks on this program, and you must have intermediate Spanish language ability to apply. Learn more and sign up at: http://maximonivel.com/internships/special-education
Featured Program: Love Volunteers
Areas of the World: Palestine, Zambia, Vietnam, Thailand, and nearly 30 other countries
Project Types: media, journalism, and community development
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: None
Time Commitment: Projects can last from 4-24 weeks, depending on availability and the volunteer's schedule
Costs: Varies depending on project length
Love Volunteers was started by volunteers who believed that they could find a way to make volunteering abroad even better, more affordable, and more accessible to prospective volunteers.
Love Volunteers offers high-quality volunteer placements and internships for passionate changemakers who are interested in committing to an intensive, highly productive volunteer project. Love Volunteers guarantees that all of its projects are fully supported by a staff point of contact, all placements are fully vetted, and all volunteers are given whatever they need so that they are able to maximize their experience.
Volunteers interested in community development should check out Love Volunteers’ community development program in Ecuador. People who are interested in making a difference in the world of speech and journalism may be interested in Love Volunteers’ Morocco-based journalism project. Finally, volunteers interested in working with the media in Southeast Asia may enjoy Love Volunteers’ media program based out of Phnom Penh.
Featured Program: Volunteering Solutions
Areas of the World: Cambodia, China, India, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Spain, Australia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru
Project Types: Childcare, Teaching, Community Development, Women’s Empowerment, Wildlife and Conservation, Medical Volunteering, Language Immersion, and more.
Selectivity: Somewhat Selective
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: Volunteers traveling solo must be at least 18-years-old and depending on the project, may be required to have additional qualifications. For example, participants within an internship program are required to be a currently registered student. Some language requirements also apply, depending on the region and project.
Time Commitment: Volunteers may serve depending on their availability, anywhere between two weeks and several months.
Costs: Program costs are very affordable and vary depending on the project. All volunteers must submit a $225 application fee and individualized project costs can be found here.
With over 10,000 volunteer alumni, Volunteering Solutions is no stranger to the industry of volunteer placement. Founded in 2006 by volunteers who wanted to connect passionate volunteers to hardworking local projects and provide internships for up-and-coming professionals, VolSol is well-loved both by its volunteers and by its many international connections. Volunteering Solutions offers incredibly flexible volunteer abroad projects and provides many other optional supports such as travel insurance, the opportunity to meet with volunteer alumni prior to committing, and intensive on-the-ground support.
Through Volunteering Solutions’ journalism internship in Thailand, you can work up to six months alongside Thai staff in editorial, multimedia design, print and design, or marketing at a magazine publishing house in Bangkok. As an intern, you’ll not only learn about working in publishing and journalism, but you’ll also make a contribution to the magazine as part of the team. During your free time, you’ll be able to explore the city, admire the architecture, enjoy the nightlight, and go shopping at world-famous marketplaces.
If you’re currently enrolled in medical school and want to expand your studies and start building your career in medicine or healthcare through a volunteer opportunity abroad, Volunteering Solutions offers an excellent placement in Uganda.
As a volunteer, you can focus on a variety of areas based on your background and interests, including radiology, dentistry, pediatrics, surgery, maternity, and beyond, and assist with such tasks as dressing wounds, checking vitals, helping patients who have mobility issues, providing day-to-day assistance to local medical staff, conducting weekly health education workshops, and performing community outreach. In your free time, you’ll be able to explore Kampala, enjoy Ugandan cuisine, and truly immerse yourself in the culture while learning about medical and healthcare practices in Africa.
Based in Cusco, Peru, this volunteer program invites you to teach English to local students for up to six months. Through this placement, you’ll teach three classes per day or help out as a teaching assistant in a fixed-curriculum program with students aged 13 to 45, grouped by English language ability. A few tasks you’ll help with include preparing lesson plans, assisting local teachers with their lessons, helping with general work such as translations or reception, preparing tests, helping students improve their vocabulary, and helping to develop new teaching models and methods. During your free time and on weekends, you can visit markets and sights around Cusco, explore the Inca Trail, and even take a trip to Machu Picchu.
Featured Program: International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT)
Since 1993, International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT) has provided TEFL and TESOL courses and certification for travelers who want to teach English overseas. ITTT certifies more than 7,500 students each year through its online course, in-class courses around the world, and a combined course that lets you learn from home and complete certification overseas. ITTT also provides lifetime English teaching job support for all graduates, including leads on unadvertised jobs, employer databases, CV and resume review, cover letter assistance, contract consultation, and interview preparation. Online classes start at $190, in-class programs start from $1,490 for four weeks, and ITTT’s combined courses start from $1,195.
If you want to earn TEFL certification from the comfort of your home - then get paid to teach English abroad - check out ITTT’s online course, starting from $190 for the 60-hour program, or $349 for their 120-hour course. Open to anyone 17 or older who’s a native English speaker or fluent in English, ITTT’s online program allows you to complete your certification at your own pace, with or without a tutor to assist along the way. Once you successfully complete the online program, you’ll be awarded with an internationally-recognized, accredited qualification to teach English anywhere in the world.
If you want to earn TEFL or TESOL certification abroad - and then have the opportunity to teach English in the country of your studies - ITTT offers four-week in-class courses in 25 different locations throughout Thailand, Costa Rica, Spain, France, China, and many others. ITTT’s in-class programs start at $1,495, and are divided into six areas: teaching practice, foreign language experience, language awareness, student profile, teaching techniques, and a materials project.
One of ITTT’s many amazing in-class programs invites you to Costa Rica, where you can gain TEFL certification at one of the most recognized and well-established training centers in the industry. This course takes place in Manuel Antonio right by Costa Rica’s beautiful Pacific coastline, where you can learn all the skills you’ll need to teach English while also exploring one of the most tourist-friendly locations in Central America.
Once you’re trained and certified, you’ll be able to teach English to students in Costa Rica and beyond - with job placement assistance from ITTT staff. ITTT’s Guatemala program is another excellent opportunity for travelers who want to learn to teach English abroad - courses are offered year-round, and as with ITTT’s Costa Rica training program, you’ll be certified to teach in-country after graduation, or anywhere else in the world.
If you want to earn your TEFL certification alongside other students but don’t have the time yet to attend a full, four-week course, take a look at ITTT’s combined TEFL course. Through this program, you’ll start with a 120-hour online program that can be completed at home, at your own pace, followed by an in-class course lasting 5, 8, or 10 days in the US, Canada, Spain, Thailand, Italy, or France. This program starts at $1,195, and you’ll receive full TEFL certification after successfully completing both portions of the combined course.
Areas of the World: Italy, China, South Africa, Laos, Brazil, Nicaragua, Belize, Peru, Thailand, Argentina, Tanzania, Costa Rica
Project Types: Wildlife conservation, film and photography, human rights, animal rehabilitation, TEFL, marine biology, renewable energy and sustainability
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: None
Time Commitment: Varies depending on availability and project requirements
Cost: Varies depending on project length
Global Nomadic aims to create programs that help passionate volunteers pursue their desire to affect positive change while also developing skills and gaining experience that will help them become even more marketable in today’s competitive job market. All programs are incredibly flexible so that they are able to meet the needs of all potential volunteers and interns. Global Nomadic works hard to ensure that its programs are affordable, accessible, and provide vital, transferable skills that volunteers can take into their next job and beyond.
Other Long-term Volunteer Abroad Projects to Consider
Areas of the World: Widespread in 65 countries
Project Types: Environment, agriculture, education, community economic development, health, youth in development
Selectivity: Highly selective
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: 90% of placements require a bachelor’s degree and many projects require significant working experience
Time Commitment: 2 years and 3 months (27 months total)
Costs: None; PC volunteers receive a stipend and transitional funds after service ends
The Peace Corps, as one of the oldest, most-widely recognizable, and biggest programs, is a good place to start when considering long-term volunteer projects. In many ways, Peace Corps volunteers have the best of both worlds when it comes to working abroad. They are able to have ownership and provide the direction of their projects, but also supported by an in-country team, Peace Corps staff in America, and a large network of volunteers, returned volunteers (RPCVs) and other supporters.
Since the Peace Corps is a governmental organization, all volunteers must adhere to rigid guidelines and do not have as much freedom over choosing their placement and interest area as they would with some other projects. All volunteers, except in extreme circumstances, must stay the full 27 months and must juggle a duality of roles as they strive to be accepted by their community while serving and representing their country at all times. Additionally, all Peace Corps volunteers must be United States citizens.
Areas of the World: Widespread in over 130 countries
Project Types: volunteers work in over 25 thematic areas such as refugees and displaced people, emergency relief, and gender
Selectivity: Highly selective
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: Volunteers must be at least 25, have a university degree, be fluent in English, Spanish, or French, and at least two years of relevant work experience.
Time Commitment: Renewable contracts are usually issued for either 6 or 12 months, with the expectation that volunteers will serve a year or more.
Costs: None; volunteers receive transportation, a stipend, and benefits.
UN volunteers work primarily to support the work of in-country United Nations teams. Volunteers assist with a variety of projects such as helping run fair elections, maintain building projects, encourage public civic participation, and support the growth of local volunteerism. Because UN Volunteers places a high value on making sure their volunteers are representative of a global way of thinking, over 80% of their volunteers come from developing nations and 30% volunteer within their own country.
If you aren’t sure about your ability to travel and serve, UN Volunteers also operates UNV Online Volunteering, which connects organizations with online volunteers to help solve global challenges through online collaboration. Short-term assignments are also available.
Voluntary Service Overseas
Areas of the World: Widespread
Project Types: Animals and natural resources, communications and fundraising, community and social development, engineering and tech, health, HIV and AIDS, management, business, and IT, and teaching and education.
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: Exact requirements depend on the post, but volunteers are general expected to have a degree and from 2-5 years of professional experience depending on the duration of the post.
Time Commitment: 6 months to 2 years
Costs: None; volunteers receive a stipend, transportation costs, and insurance
VSO works to put highly qualified, engaged volunteers at the heart of international development in order for them to build strong, lasting partnerships and solutions. VSO volunteers are placed with a local in-country partner project where they can use their unique skills to the improvement of their host community. These communities are especially selected so that their needs are matched to the skills of the volunteer. VSO operates from recruitment bases and urges interested volunteers in seeking out information from their closest recruitment base. Volunteers are usually advanced professionals and specific postings can be found through VSO’s job portal.
If you don’t have all of the qualifications required yet, don’t worry- VSO has a special program for 18-25 year olds called VSO International Citizen Service that lasts for three months and takes place alongside other young in-country volunteers. More information can be found about their recruitment and selection processes on their FAQs.
European Voluntary Service
Areas of the World: Widespread
Project Types: Varies, depending on current availabilities
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: None
Time Commitment: 2 weeks to 1 year
Costs: Volunteer may be responsible for administrative costs, but most costs (even food and travel) are reimbursed.
European Voluntary Services provides opportunities for young people (aged 18-30) from the European Union to volunteer abroad and have their fees and expenses paid for. The list of opportunities and countries is long and changes frequently depending on the current needs and relationships of partners of the European Voluntary Services. Volunteers are expected to reach out to accredited volunteer sending organizations that will be responsible for coordinating with an in country-partner to plan the volunteer abroad trip. Sending organizations can be found in the European Voluntary Service’s online database, which also lists the availability of current positions. Fees, a volunteer timeline, and other details should be discussed with the volunteer sending organization.
Since the European Voluntary Services operates differently in each country, any questions should be addressed to your own country’s council (Example: the resources for British applicants.) More information can be found in the European Voluntary Service program guide.
Kiva Fellows Program
Areas of the World: Widespread in over 60 countries
Project Types: Projects vary based on the goals of the local initiative.
Selectivity: Highly selective
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: Kiva accepts volunteers of all backgrounds and experience levels. However, volunteers must be at least 21 years old to apply.
Time Commitment: Volunteers serve from 4 to 12 months.
Costs: Although volunteers must fund the fellowship and travel costs themselves, Kiva provides basic insurance.
The Kiva Fellows Program prides itself on being the experience of a lifetime for people interested in microfinance and international development. Fellows, which must apply by a yearly deadline, serve as “the eyes and ears of Kiva” by working with local microfinance institutes and field partners to witness and communicate Kiva’s work to the world. Although Kiva advertises that former fellows are of a wide range of ages and come from many different backgrounds, they especially encourage applicants with interests or skills in journalism, economics, consulting, or fluency in a language where Kiva operates.
Internships must be fully funded by the individuals; volunteers must be able to provide for their own travel fees, living arrangements, and other costs. Kiva encourages its fellows to apply for grants and scholarships or else use crowdfunding to fundraise for their trip. Kiva volunteers have an average 7 years of work experience, so this may be a fellowship best suited for those well-grounded in their field.
Crees Foundation- Manu
Areas of the World: Peru
Project Types: Wildlife conservation, conservation research, wildlife management, community education
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: None
Time Commitment: 6 months
Costs: $6,500 for 24 weeks
The Crees Foundation, based in Peru, helps continue its mission of conservation and sustainable community development initiatives taking place in the Amazon rainforest in Peru. Crees Foundation Internships last for six months and include a homestay, Spanish lessons, and extensive training. All internships are comprised of three phrases-- an introductory phase, a volunteer phase, and an intensive research placement phase. Interns take part in activities such as wildlife monitoring, working with local communities on conservation initiatives, biological survey planning, species identification, and conducting environmental impact surveys.
Areas of the World: Chile
Project Types: Childcare, mentoring, education, administration
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: None
Time Commitment: 4 months minimum, 6 months preferred
Costs: There is no program fee, but volunteers are responsible for covering airfare and in-country costs.
With only about fifteen volunteers on staff at a time and a very targeted outreach area, VE Global is much different from many other volunteer abroad organizations. However, it makes up for what it lacks in size by providing its full-time volunteers with highly personalized experiences with plenty of staff and community support. VE Global achieves its mission -- providing enrichment for at risk Chilean youth -- by providing volunteers who act as educators, role models, and advocates of social justice.
While many in the volunteer abroad industry criticize volunteer programs that sponsor or allow volunteers to work with children, VE Global ensures that children are much less likely to suffer from high volunteer turnover rates by requiring that volunteers stay at least six months and by keeping their team small and close-knit. If you would like to learn more about the application process and volunteer culture at VE Global, their Volunteer Forever page is a good place to start.
Foundation for Sustainable Development International Internship
Areas of the World: Argentina, Bolivia, India, Kenya, Nicaragua, Uganda
Project Types: Microenterprise/microfinance, environment/appropriate technology, health, education and youth development, women’s empowerment, community development, human rights
Selectivity: highly selective
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: currently enrolled student or recent graduate
Time Commitment: 3 months to 1 year
Costs: The application fee ($50) is nonrefundable and programs costs are dependent on the program and due 45 days before the start of the program.
With this long-term internship opportunity, volunteers are placed with host organizations in one of ten FSD international sites and work closely with existing staff on a project related to the applicant’s skills and interests. The internships incorporate homestays, an on-site orientation, and direct work with a local NGO or project and teach the volunteer useful industry skills such as grant writing, development training, and international project implementation. The FSD internship is unique in that volunteers are required, after training, to implement their own project with their local support network and seed funds provided by FSD.
Because there are additional costs associated with this program, you may want to look into ways to finance this fantastic opportunity. Aside from crowdfunding with Volunteer Forever, FSD also offers the Katie Evans Memorial Scholarship for Master of Public Health students and recent graduates. FSD also provides additional resources for finding grants based on your specific project, school, or affiliations.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)
Areas of the World: Widespread
Project Types: Agriculture, environmental education
Selectivity: Less selective
Volunteer Prerequisites/Requirements: Requirements are dependent on the post, but usually none. Volunteers with more agricultural or environmental experience may receive more desirable posts.
Time Commitment: Although it is dependent on the post, WWOOF suggests short term stays to start with longer term stays upon negotiation.
Costs: Volunteer is responsible for the one-time WWOOF fee (which varies by region or country) travel expenses, and in-country costs. Food and housing are generally provided by the host.
Out of all of the long-term volunteer abroad options in this article, WWOOF is probably the most flexible and can be individualized to the largest extent. In many ways, WWOOF operates like an agricultural volunteer-oriented couchsurfing network. Volunteers must reach out to the farm or host upon choosing a destination and becoming a part of that region or country’s specific WWOOF network. They then apply to the farm or host, and if accepted, work out an agreement stipulates what the host must provide (shelter, food, supplies) and what tasks for which the volunteers are responsible. This process is more thoroughly detailed here.
Before deciding to WWOOF, it is a good idea to do some research into the countless blogs and articles about people who have gone WWOOFing around the world. It is also a good idea to take some time to consider the fact that WWOOFing requires hard work and long days, so if you’re looking for something a little lighter with more direct work with a community, this might not be your thing.
I hope that you don’t finish this article thinking that short-term volunteer projects are somehow less important than long-term ones, as I don’t think that is true at all. Short-term volunteer projects have the high level of energy and collaboration that is difficult to sustain with longer, more personally-driven projects. Each kind of program has its own merits. Ideally, I think that someone who would like to make volunteering abroad a part of their lifestyle should have a variety of projects- both long and short- under their belts so that they can understand the benefits and values of each.
That being said, it is inarguably more difficult to set aside the time, money, and dedication to dedicate yourself to a long-term volunteer project. I urge you, in light of that, to do it. It’s simply worth it -- for you, the community you help, and for the greater international service industry. Six months or a year may seem like a long time as you consider the project, but once you’re on the other side of such a beneficial and transformative experience, it will seem like no time at all. In fact, you may find yourself making plans not just to go back, but to go back for longer.
P.S. If you're still looking for a volunteer opportunity, check out our list of best volunteer abroad programs and recommended volunteer projects in Africa, Central 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 18, you may be interested in a teen volunteer abroad program from one of our many great partners.
Brittany Edwardes is a Fulbright Scholar who spent the last year teaching and living in Southeast Asia. Brittany is very passionate about service learning, spending time outdoors, and making her own pasta.
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