Updated for 2024
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 as volunteer work abroad programs and voluntary charity jobs to differentiate them from short-term voluntourism trips.
Be sure to check out this entire travel guide as we will highlight organizations that offer all-expenses paid (flights, food, accommodations, monthly stipend) long-term volunteer opportunities.
Long-term Volunteer Abroad Programs to Check Out
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 voluntary 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 volunteer 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 voluntary jobs 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. For example, the daily rate for International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ’s) programs starts at just $20 per day and gets even cheaper the longer you volunteer. As another example, GoEco is another trusted volunteer organization which has program durations up to 16 weeks. The longer you volunteer, the more impact you will leave and the cheaper it will be! Especially for programs that you can build relationships with like teaching English in Ghana, or in Galápagos Islands, or be involved in a community development.
In addition, the weekly rate for Maximo Nivel’s volunteer programs also become less expensive the longer you stay: while their volunteer programs in Costa Rica start at $680 for 1 week, an additional week beyond 4 weeks only costs $135.
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. For example, African Impact offers short- and long-term volunteer programs, including one where you can work at a National Park in South Africa; the longer you stay, the more responsibility you will have at the sanctuary.
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
Since its founding in 2007, International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) has built its reputation as a trusted, low-cost volunteer program provider. With project fees starting at only $20USD a day, IVHQ offers affordable volunteer programs in 40+ countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. To date, IVHQ has placed more than 130,000 volunteers around the world on programs that provide support for education and childcare, conservation and wildlife, community building, and medical care. IVHQ partners with local NGOs and organizations that allow its volunteers to gain meaningful experiences. Upon registering, IVHQ volunteers receive a comprehensive information booklet and guidance in preparation for their trip; in-country support also is available 24/7.
Here’s a great opportunity to contribute to the unique Amazon ecosystem. Live and work onsite at an Amazonian jungle conservation camp as an IVHQ volunteer in Peru. You’ll travel from Cusco to the project base – a 6-hour bus ride – and enjoy a cultural experience you’ll never forget! Accommodations are rustic but comfortable and communal, in bungalows or dormitory-style rooms. Volunteer tasks include reforestation, trail and home-base maintenance, basic research, and taking inventories of native animal species. There are three different locations, and volunteers are placed where the need is the greatest and field conditions permit it. Orientation in Cusco will introduce you to Peruvian customs, language lessons, rules, safety, travel opportunities, and in-depth information about your project and placement. This opportunity requires a minimum stay of two weeks, but you can volunteer up to six months.
Grab your swimsuit and head to Portugal for an Environmental Scuba Diving volunteer project with IVHQ. Open to beginners without any diving experience, you’ll earn your Open Water PADI Dive certification on this project, or take specialty diving courses if you’re already certified. Certifications you complete depend upon your diving experience and duration. Stay up to 12 weeks, accumulate training, and gain enough experience underwater to apply to Dive Master certification! You’ll work with a local diving school in Cascais to help contain underwater pollution and conserve marine life – a few of your tasks may include trash removal on the seafloor, recording items collected, observing, identifying and counting fish, and learning how to protect the marine ecosystem. You’ll arrive in Lisbon, be transported to Cascais, and stay in a dormitory-style hostel in same-gender rooms. Wifi is available, as well as nearby cafes and restaurants. Program fees start at $1015 for one week, and includes the required PADI manuals, crew packs, PIC cards, and full scuba equipment.
Travel to Morocco and help empower women through education as a volunteer with IVHQ. You’ll work to combat the poverty and unemployment rates when you help improve women’s literacy levels, which, in turn, leads to professional development and a positive social environment. The Women’s Education project not only helps Moroccan women, but it also improves their children’s education prospects. Volunteers teach English as well as sewing, art, computer training, sports and other activities, and provide occasional childcare. Share your knowledge and skills in finance, health, communication, women’s rights, and single parenting. If you have a business background, you can assist in creating and managing online websites to showcase and sell items made by women. During your time in Morocco, you will live in a homestay with a local family and fellow regular and full-time volunteers. This is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the Moroccan way of life, meet local people, and eat local food. During weekends, you’ll have the chance to relax or explore Rabat, travel to neighboring cities, or even trek to the south of Europe.
Like spending your time outdoors? The beach is at your doorstep when you travel to the island of Nusa Penida and work with sea turtles at the conservation center. Develop your interest in wildlife and conservation as an IVHQ volunteer by feeding, cleaning, and caring for turtles. Be proactive in their protection and take part in beach cleanups. Help develop waste management projects to improve the surrounding areas. Become part of the solution by educating the local community, especially the children, about Indonesia’s endangered sea turtles. Extend your stay and watch as your actions have lasting impact. Housing on the island is comfortable but basic, and you’ll share a large room with fellow volunteers. Food is simple, Balinese-style, vegetarian meals. Rice is a staple, and eaten daily along with fresh vegetables. On weekends, you can explore Ubud, Sanur, Seminyak or Kuta. Take cycling or trekking tours on Mount Batur, and visit temples and nearby rice terraces.
Since 2006, GoEco has offered affordable volunteer abroad programs and internships in over 40 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, and South America. With more than 150 different programs, GoEco is a great organization to check out if you’re looking for a variety of impactful 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. Currently, GoEco is offering a special travel grant where you can stay for the 3rd week free! Check out the qualifying programs here!
If you love playing and caring dogs, then look into this amazing program in a renowned and ethical dog shelter in Sri Lanka. There are over 2000 dogs that need your help. They need medical attention as well as emotional well being to be nursed back to health by volunteers. You will help with routine care such as playing and socializing, grooming, feeding, etc. and some medical care. There will be lots to do in this sanctuary so the longer you stay, the more impactful your experience will be. You can stay for up to 16 weeks for this project. In addition, in your free time, there will be lots to explore including the many beautiful beaches, temples, yoga sessions, etc. For more information, click here!
Add on GoEco’s Spanish language Immersion Week before volunteering, and your experience will be even more meaningful and culturally immersive in this animal conservation project! One of GoEco’s top 5 volunteer abroad programs, this project duration maxes at 12 weeks at the Alajuela Rescue Center. You will help over 130 Costa Rican wildlifes such as sloths, monkeys, macaws, etc. with their routine care with the goal of releasing them back to nature. Other tasks may include gardening, facility care, community projects, etc. On the weekends, there are many tours and activities you can join to explore the surrounding popular spots like the Arenal Volcano, white beaches, and Manuel Antonio National Park. With so much to do, you will want to stay longer! Click here to get started!
Here’s another project in Sri Lanka where you can spend your volunteer vacation to make an impact on the lives of the women there. Through this English literacy program, you can be a part of a movement to break down education barriers by teaching English to give them better chances of employment and confidence. You will lead the lessons, as well as help them practice English speaking skills in creative ways. Each day, you will spend 2 hours teaching and then some time on planning lessons. The longer you are involved, the more you will be able to contribute to the lives of these women and the more meaningful your relationships will become. You can stay as long as 12 weeks for this project. Please note, this project only accepts female volunteers. Located in Galle, a coastal beach town, there are lots to enjoy in your free time such as nightly yoga sessions with other volunteers, bike tours, fishing trips, and even an adventure tour!
Start your long volunteer trip by exploring Quito and learning Spanish for the first week. Then, head off to care for rescued wild animals. During the program, you’ll get to see some of Ecuador’s most beautiful natural areas, such as Yasuni Biosphere Reserve and National Park. Main duties include feeding the animals, general facility maintenance, assisting the vet, and educating visitors.
Sound like an awesome experience? Project fees begin at $1390 for three weeks and you can stay up to 12 weeks. Get all the details here!
African Impact is a responsible, sustainable volunteer travel organization that has won multiple industry awards, including being voted the world’s Top Volunteer Abroad Organization by volunteers on GoAbroad four years in a row. Since 2004, they have hosted over 35,000 participants on 20 projects across 7 countries. The organization believes in the spirit of Africa and that the volunteer experience is just as important as the impact made. It is also recognized as a trusted specialist on volunteering and interning in Southern Africa. African Impact offers internships, as well as group, family, and high school projects. The minimum age requirement for their projects is 16, making African Impact a great option for teen and high school volunteers.
The African Big 5 Wildlife Conservation project is a volunteer program in South Africa that offers participants the opportunity to work with expert field guides and research teams in the Greater Kruger Area, one of the world’s last remaining wildlife strongholds. The Greater Kruger Area encompasses over 20 private wildlife reserves on the west side of the Kruger National Park, and it is home to many of Africa’s iconic “Big 5” animals, including lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo.
Participants in this program will have the chance to collect information about these animals and to help protect them from threats such as poaching and habitat loss. They will also be able to track the movements and behaviors of herds of elephants and prides of lions, and to witness nocturnal animals in their natural habitat on unforgettable night drives.
During their time on the project, participants will live in a private volunteer lodge in the heart of the Greater Kruger Area. The lodge offers a safari-style camp experience, with amenities such as a swimming pool, viewing deck, WiFi, and hot showers. Participants will be able to relax and socialize in the outdoor area, and to enjoy the stunning views of the African bush.
This volunteer program is open to people of all skill levels and backgrounds, and it is suitable for anyone with an interest in wildlife, nature, or conservation. No prior experience is necessary, and participants will be able to choose from a range of start dates and duration options to suit their schedules and preferences. Once they have submitted their application, a Destination Specialist will be in touch to discuss the project and to answer any questions they may have.
African Impact offers wildlife photography volunteer projects in South Africa where participants can improve their photography skills while contributing to wildlife conservation. The projects take place in the Greater Kruger Area, where participants will live in a lodge and have daily game drives to photograph a variety of animals. The projects are guided and tutored by professional photographers and have monthly start dates. Participants will also have the opportunity to contribute to conservation efforts by supporting non-governmental organizations and raising awareness of environmental issues. The cost of the project varies depending on the length of stay.
The program offers volunteers the chance to work with vulnerable children in underprivileged townships. Volunteers will support children in foster care homes and pre-schools, providing them with access to education and care that they may not otherwise have access to. The project aims to make a positive, long-term impact on the lives of disadvantaged children by providing them with the support and education they need to succeed.
In addition to working with children, volunteers will have the opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Cape Town and all it has to offer. Cape Town has been named the Most Beautiful City in the World for the past 5 years, and is known for its stunning natural beauty, diverse culture, and vibrant nightlife. Volunteers can take advantage of the many activities available in the city, such as hiking up Table Mountain, going paragliding, kayaking in the ocean, or visiting historic sites such as Robben Island.
Volunteers will live in a spacious guesthouse in the center of town, with shared dorm-style accommodation and shared bathroom facilities. The guesthouse is close to the main sights of Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront, and the Company’s Gardens. A team on site will be available to support volunteers and help them with any needs they may have during their stay.
Volunteer in Zanzibar on African Impact’s Dolphin and Marine Conservation Project and make a real difference to the sustainability of dolphin tourism. As a volunteer, you will monitor human-dolphin interactions, promote ethical dolphin tours, and contribute to the conservation of marine life in the area. This project is ideal for those passionate about marine conservation and the environment. In your free time, you can explore the beautiful coastlines and vibrant culture of Zanzibar. You will live in a private volunteer house near the coastal village of Kizimkazi and work with local communities and organizations to protect the marine ecosystem. This is a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact while enjoying a truly amazing location.
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
Projects Abroad is a leading international volunteering organization, with more than 600 trained staff and hundreds of projects to choose from. Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad offers programs and internships in 50+ countries and has placed more than 120,000 travelers worldwide. Working across language, cultural, and geographic lines, mutual learning and cultural exchange is a priority for this organization. Projects Abroad volunteers have immense global impact each year, working together on numerous projects that work with some of the most vulnerable groups in the world.
Projects Abroad’s flagship volunteer program lets you experience working in five destinations over a period of 27 weeks. The Global Gap program is the perfect gap year option if you want to travel the world while making a difference during your gap year. This program is ideal for high school or college graduates.
Not only will you be able to explore five amazing countries, you’ll also get to experience working in the different fields of childcare, building, teaching, medicine, and conservation. The program runs a total of 27 weeks with a four-week winter break in the middle. Highlights from the Global Gap Program include:
This is the first leg of the program, where you’ll develop the skills to educate children from a disadvantaged community. You’ll spend time at a local day care center, focusing on promoting literacy, numeracy, and hygiene practices among young Ghanaian children.
Based in the fascinating ancient city of Cuzco, you’ll work at a teacher training program during the local school holidays. Here, you’ll help improve the quality of teaching which will benefit hundreds of school children. During your time in Peru, you also get to visit the amazing Machu Picchu!
After completing your own PADI Open Water Diver certification, you’ll team up with leading researchers in marine conservation. You’ll take part in survey dives, coral clean up dives, tackle mangrove reforestation, and help keep idyllic beaches clean.
Find out more about the full Global Gap program.
Searching for a transformative volunteer abroad experience? Involvement Volunteers International (IVI), established in 1989, is a non-profit and charity that beckons individuals to be part of 25,000 volunteers who’ve positively impacted 112 projects in 23 countries. They have an excellent safety record, in-country 24/7 support & emergency assistance. Take a look at the below programs for longer volunteer projects.
Are you a natural mentor? Do you like passing down wisdom and knowledge to the younger generations? Look into this special program to help youths who have had a rough start in life, and have had troubles with the law. Having a social work or counseling background, or related field, is welcomed but is not required as long as you have the patience and willingness to listen to these youths. You will coach, mentor, and empower youths from ages 13-19 years old in a youth rehabilitation center, as they have committed crimes related to violence and drugs. With the help of positive mentors and role models, the aim is for them to change their future for the better. The project requires a minimum duration of 4 weeks, and is located in Tacloban, near the city of Manila. You will stay in a local experienced homestay while immersing in the local community and culture. For more information, click here!
Try a slower pace of life and scenery away from the hustles of city life in this farming project located just outside of Antigua! You will work on tea farms, coffee farms, and macadamia nut and permaculture farms while learning about eco-farming. You will get to help with growing, watering, harvesting, and processing crops as a part of a team. It will be physically demanding but seeing the fruits of your labor will be worth it. You can stay as long as 3 months learning sustainable farming techniques! And in your free time, you can enjoy Antigua, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, filled with colonial buildings and ancient sites to explore. Start this adventure here!
For those that love to work with turtles or have a passion to change environmental issues, this is an exciting project to help sea turtles in Costa Rica to increase their population. Your work will support biologists and researchers with data collection, tagging turtles, counting eggs and turtle numbers. Another part of this project includes helping with beach cleanups and educating the public on environmental issues. The minimum requirement for this project is 2 weeks, but you can stay for up to 12 weeks! You will start off in San Jose city for orientation, and then be transferred to the turtle volunteer site, which is quite rural with a host family or dorm accommodation. It will be basic living but comfortable. For more information, click here!
Volunteering Solutions began in 2007 with the mission to connect volunteers with affordable, high-quality and impactful service projects. To date, Volunteering Solutions has hosted more than 17,000 volunteers.
With 150+ projects across 27 countries, Volunteering Solutions has a variety of offerings, including long-term volunteer work abroad as well as volunteer charity jobs. Below, we’ll discuss three great programs if you’re wishing to volunteer abroad for a bit longer than the usual two weeks.
Before you book a trip with Volunteering Solutions, consider getting travel insurance through them. It’s only $12 per week!
Head to Hanoi, and teach English to students from disadvantaged communities. As Vietnam continues to develop, they have an ever-growing need for English teachers. As a teacher, you can help children obtain a language skill that will greatly benefit them later in life and help them end the cycle of poverty for their families.
As a teaching volunteer, you’ll work in schools and education centers in the Cau Giay District. Gain valuable international teaching experience, while enjoying the buzzing city of Hanoi.
Program fees begin at $750 for 4 weeks ($1190 for 8 weeks; $130 for each additional week). To apply for this long-term volunteer work abroad program, click here!
Make your way to Jaipur, the capital of India’s Rajasthan state. You’ll volunteer in a local slum center and help adolescent girls and women improve life skills, self-confidence, and health. Duties include:
- Teaching English
- Counseling and mentoring
- Teaching nutrition and family planning
- Providing computer and life training lessons.
This is a great opportunity to learn about the challenges women and girls in Jaipur face, and help them work to overcome those barriers.
Program fees begin at $1000 for 4 weeks ($1700 for 8 weeks; $175 for each additional week). To apply for this long-term volunteer work abroad program, click here.
Volunteer at the most impactful charitable organizations in Ireland! Situated in Clonmel, County Tipperary, the charity store provides key services and goods to impoverished residents in the region, such as furniture and books. Volunteer duties include sorting donations, offering sales assistance to customers, cleaning the store and more.
Work alongside amazing staff as you enjoy your time in Ireland. This program is a truly great experience.
Fees begin at $1499 for 3 weeks ($2499 for 8 weeks; $200 for each additional week). To apply for this long-term volunteer work abroad program, click here.
First Things Foundation (FTF) is a non-profit organization that partners with local leaders to build sustainable businesses and communities in developing countries. FTF is definitely a long-term volunteer opportunity: its field workers (international volunteers) commit two years of their lives to living in the communities they are serving. This allows field workers to develop deep relationships with the people they are working with and to better understand the needs of the community. Furthermore, First Things Foundations covers all travel costs and living expenses (food, local transport, accommodation, etc.) for its field workers. In addition, field workers receive a monthly stipend of $375. FTF also provides international medical and evacuation insurance for all of its field workers.
The organization has 15 projects in 4 countries (Guatemala, Sierra Leone, the Republic of Georgia, and Mozambique), which are all led by locals in the communities. FTF’s field workers have worked on a variety of projects, including starting businesses, building schools, and providing healthcare. FTF field workers are not afraid to get their hands dirty: working on farms, sanding wood, and kneading dough are some of the ways that they integrate into the local community.
FTF is looking for participants with a desire to better their souls by undertaking a serious challenge, an adventurous attitude, a willingness to learn new languages, make fun of themselves, and be made fun of. Field workers typically have completed 4 years of college or have an equivalent amount of experience. If you are looking for a challenging and rewarding volunteer experience, the First Things Foundation volunteer program is a great option.
FTF Long-term Volunteer Work Opportunities:
- Field Worker Immersionship in Guatemala: Since 2016, First Things Foundations has been facilitating impactful projects in popular tourist destinations in Guatemala with accomplishments such as building schools and supporting local businesses. As a field worker, you’ll immerse in the local community for 8 months to understand their needs and become proficient in Spanish. Then you will embark on a community development or social entrepreneurship project. This two-year paid immersionship is a unique opportunity to make a real difference while experiencing the rich Mayan culture.
- Field Worker Immersionship in Sierra Leone: First Things Foundation has been empowering communities in Sierra Leone since 2017, with projects ranging from constructing churches to enhancing medical services. Volunteering in the serene town of Kailahun, you’ll immerse in the local culture for 8 months, then collaborate with an “Impresario” on meaningful community projects. Embrace this two-year “immersionship” for a deeply rewarding experience that brings tangible change to communities.
- Field Worker Immersionship in Mozambique: First Things Foundation’s Mozambique program offers a unique opportunity to pioneer community development in Corrane, a town impacted by internal displacement. As a field worker, you’ll immerse in the rich culture, learning Portuguese and Makua, while forging deep connections with locals over 8 months before spearheading impactful projects. With the support of a dedicated professional team, this challenging “immersionship” promises personal growth, skill enhancement, and the chance to leave a lasting positive mark on Mozambique
- Field Worker Immersionship in the Republic of Georgia: First Things Foundation is expanding its impact to the Republic of Georgia, focusing on Akhaltsikhe, a town enriched by its Armenian heritage. As a field worker, you’ll dedicate the first 8 months to deeply connect with the community, subsequently aiding local businesses and community projects during a transformative two-year immersionship. With expert guidance, immerse in Georgia’s vibrant culture, enhance your skills, build genuine relationships, and contribute meaningfully to a nation on the cusp of change
With more than 20,000 travelers placed on service trips and internships abroad since 2009 (and 4,000 in the past year!), Love Volunteers is one of the fastest growing volunteer organizations that you can be a part of right now. Each of Love Volunteers’ trips is affordable, starting from $259 for one week overseas, depending on where you travel. A few of Love Volunteers’ popular locations include:
- Asia: Nepal, Thailand, Bali
- Latin America: Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador
- Africa: South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania
Love Volunteers has placements in 34 countries worldwide, with more than 120 different projects. Most of Love Volunteers’ trips start from one or two weeks, and invite you to stay for three months with longer stints available on an individual basis.
For four weeks or longer, you are invited to teach English, computer skills, arts, economics, and other subjects in a school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This can greatly help to improve future education and employment prospects for Cambodian students, particularly those living in poverty – and learning English and IT skills can make a major difference in finding jobs in an increasingly globalized society. In addition to teaching, you will be able to play sports and games with the children, and help them with projects and other activities – outside of volunteering, you will be able to explore the area and learn all about Cambodian culture. Learn more here!
Based in Bangkok, this internship invites pre-med students, medical students, and those with experience in the medical field to learn from and work alongside local professionals in a private or public hospital. Depending on your qualifications and background, you will shadow a doctor, provide medical care to locals, undertake routine hospital tasks, and work on health and education campaigns. This program lasts from two weeks to three months, and longer stays can be arranged on an individual basis – learn more and apply here!
Travel to Central America on this volunteer program, where you can make a difference in protecting and conserving the Costa Rican environment. With multiple locations throughout the country, this project gives you the chance to help with a variety of initiatives including organic farming, assisting on a butterfly farm, or even helping out with rainforest research programs. A few tasks that you can take on include researching plant and insect species, maintaining trails, educating the community about ecological practices, taking care of medicinal gardens, and much more. This program lasts two weeks to three months, with longer stays available – learn more and sign up here!
If you have at least four weeks to give, and if you are a pre-med student, in medical school, or if you have background and education in medicine, come to Kenya, where you can assist with a vitally important HIV/AIDS program. As a volunteer, you will start with a two-week HIV/AIDS support course, after which you will help those living with HIV/AIDS through medical care and other services, such as providing food or other basic support. As well, you will educate adults and children about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and provide much-needed care to children who have been orphaned due to the disease. You are invited to stay between 4 and 12 weeks on this program, with extensions available on an individual basis – learn more and apply here.
If you want to stay a little longer when you volunteer abroad, Fronteering has plenty of programs that may just be perfect for you. Known for taking volunteers and interns to unspoiled locations, Fronteering’s unique programs usually last at least four weeks, with the option to stay 12 weeks or more for most.
Even better, the longer you volunteer through Fronteering, the cheaper the price gets on a per week or per day basis. So, you get to help out and experience life abroad for an even longer time, while not breaking the bank.
Ready to go off the beaten path with Fronteering? Read over some of their great long-term volunteer work abroad programs below.
Go howl with the wolves at a sanctuary in New Hampshire. This program involves true off-the-grid living, as the wolf rescue center is located in a remote and beautiful natural location. Your main duties will include food preparation, helping the more social canines exercise, building and maintaining animal enclosures, and general cleaning. You’ll also get the chance to educate the public about wolf conservation initiatives.
When you’re not caring for and learning about wolves, you’re free to enjoy the wonderful scenery of New Hampshire. Interested to hear more? Program fees start at just $995 for six weeks. You can stay up to 12 weeks. Get even more info here!
Venture to Vancouver, known as the world’s most liveable city, for an exciting environmental internship. Lasting eight weeks, this internship is a great way to gain real, hands-on experience. Depending on your work history and education, your role could involve environmental research, public relations-related tasks, office work, and/or public outreach campaigns. Note that, if you’re in university, you may be able to get academic credit for this environmental internship in British Columbia (check with your university and Fronteering beforehand).
When you’re not working, check out Vancouver, a city where you can ski and lounge on the beach in the same day. Have fun in Gastown, enjoy Stanley Park, and walk the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Sound like the right long-term internship? The program fee is $1,595 for eight weeks. Get even more info here!
Teach in a rural area of Guyana! As a teacher, your main responsibilities will be to teach English, sports, and math, as well as basic computer skills to older children, teens, and adults. Depending on your interests and skills, you can also get involved in community development, which includes construction of community centers. There’s really a lot you can do. You’ll also help with marketing and eco-tourism initiatives aimed at giving the community sustainable income and preserving their way of life.
This program offered by Fronteering allows you to experience life in the jungles and savannahs of South America, and immerse yourself in the culture of Amerindian communities. Want to hear more? Program fees start at $1,795 for four weeks, and you can stay up to 12 weeks. Get even more info here!
The Intern Group is an award-winning social enterprise that annually places 2,000 interns with renowned NGOs and important global employers. Founded in 2011, the Intern Group’s mission is to develop an innovative and culturally-sensitive generation prepared to address the issues that affect the world today and tomorrow. It receives 30,000 applications each year and works with top applicants from 600 different universities to develop customized professional development internships in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The Intern Group has been featured in Forbes, TIME, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and CNN. It provides assistance with visas, as well as developmental workshops, career training, social and cultural events, quality housing, and in-country support.
Start an exciting career in event planning or international tourism with a hospitality internship in Medellin, Colombia. If you speak basic Spanish, you can work for up to six months with a tourism company or resort hotel on a placement with the Intern Group. As a budding professional, you’ll enjoy the multicultural adventure and real-world work experience as you learn first-hand about event planning for major international events. You’ll learn about management, marketing, and customer service of the tourism industry. Colombia’s natural beauty and warm climate make for a perfect location for an internship in hospitality and tourism. Medellín was named the “innovative city of the year” by the Urban Land Institute in partnership with Citi and the Wall Street Journal – spend free time on a walking tour of the city, learning about the culture and history of this mesmerizing country. Enjoy a day trip to el Peñon de Guatape, a landmark rock formation in Colombia. Take in cinemas, museums, restaurants and more. Fees for this placement start at $3,620 for six weeks – click here to read more and apply!
Immerse yourself in the creative industry of theater and music with an international entertainment internship in London. Spend up to six months following your passion with a professional placement by the Intern Group, working with high-quality theaters that let you explore roles both on and off the stage. Or choose to work with a record label on a music internship, gaining hands-on experience in all sectors of the music industry, including public relations, label marketing, and music production. Design your own internship that accelerates your creativity and career development. While in London, take time to enjoy street festivals like the Notting Hill Carnival, and a visit to Buckingham Palace. Tour St. Paul’s Cathedral while in the city, and enjoy a play at West End. You’re invited to stay six weeks or longer and program fees begin at $4,841. Learn more and apply here!
If you want to succeed in the world of finance or accounting, consider an international internship with a financial institution in Hong Kong, a world cultural capital as well as a leader in the global economy. Prepare for your successful career when you choose a long-term placement with the Intern Group and its partners, selecting from hundreds of leading investment banks, commercial banks, hedge funds, asset managers, financial technology companies, accounting firms, private equity funds, and venture capital firms. Gain vital experience in order to establish yourself in the industry, and develop critical, real-world knowledge. During time off, enjoy a day trip to Macau, known as the “mini Las Vegas of Asia,” and a tour of Lantau Island. Enjoy dinner and the view on The Peak, which provides a panoramic view of Hong Kong. You can stay four weeks or longer and program fees start at $4,919. Read more and apply today!
If you’re looking to stand out in the competitive field of engineering, check out a long-term engineering internship in Shanghai with the Intern Group. Choose fields from chemical, industrial, mechanical, environmental, and civil engineering, and learn from leading industry professionals. Then, put your knowledge to use in a real-world context with a blue-chip corporation in one of Asia’s most innovative cities. As an up-and-coming engineering professional in Shanghai, you’ll learn about Chinese culture and make valuable networking connections. As part of your internship cultural schedule, you’ll take a guided day tour of Suzhou and Tongli, an ancient water town known for its picturesque canals, bridges and UNESCO World Heritage gardens. You’ll also enjoy a traditional Kung fu performance, and participate in a Chinese cooking class. Spend four weeks or more with placement fees starting at $4,120. Read more here!
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.
On this trip, you will head to the city of Luang Prabang in Laos to teach practical and conversational English to Buddhist novice monks as well as to other local students. Each week during your stay, you will have the opportunity to plan and carry out English lessons, which will help these students find future employment opportunities and build a better socio-economic status within their community. This program starts from two weeks at $1,900, and you are invited to stay for six months.
Founded in 2010, International TEFL Academy (ITA) provides internationally accredited TEFL courses and certifications for travelers who would like to teach English overseas. If you’d like to get paid to travel – or find an affordable way to explore the world – ITA is a great place to start: they certify over 5,000 people a year and with extensive pre-enrollment guidance and information from expert advisors, you will be matched with the TEFL training course that’s best for you and your interests.
ITA also maintains strict standards of excellence for all certification programs, which are taught by university-level professors committed to your success. And with lifetime job search guidance as well as an array of other valuable resources for students and alumni, ITA is an amazing organization and community that you can be a part of long after you’ve completed your English teaching certification.
If you’d like to earn your TEFL certification before traveling abroad, ITA’s 170-hour online certification is the way to go. This 11-week, state-of-the-art course can be completed part-time (usually with 10 to 12 hours of training per week) and includes optional Young Learner and Business English modules. You’ll start with 150 hours of coursework through lectures, webinars, and chats with a university professor – once that’s completed, you’ll take on 20 hours of live practice teaching with ESL students. This online course covers basic principles of teaching, grammar, classroom management, error correction, lesson planning, use of visual and audio aids, and much more. Once you’ve completed your certification, you will be qualified to become a full-time, paid English teacher abroad – learn more here!
Ready to take the plunge with your TEFL training? Check out ITA’s four-week, full-time course in Nicaragua, where you will earn your TEFL certification and be able to teach English in Latin America and beyond. On this program, you’ll travel to Leon, one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Central America, and take classes each weekday from 9:00am to 5:15pm. This class covers basic principles of teaching, classroom management, lesson planning, and many more modules to help you become an effective English teacher – plus you’ll be able to practice teaching with local ESL students. During your stay, you’ll have the chance to go volcano surfing, salsa dancing, take Spanish lessons, and much more. Learn more and sign up here!
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.
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.
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 $249, 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 $249 for the 60-hour program, or $295 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.
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.