Want to do good for others while doing good for yourself? Volunteering with an NGO can help you build capacity and support long-term goals in the underserved communities of developing countries. It also can enhance your resume as you gain hard and soft skills.
NGOs, or non-governmental organizations, are nonprofit charities or citizen-operated agencies and groups that operate independently of governments, generally on an international level. They provide aid to people, animals, and the environment, and try to improve standards in the areas of humanitarian, educational, health care, public policy, social, human rights, and environmental issues according to their objectives. They rely on donations and funding by citizen groups to achieve their goals.
NGOs seek volunteers who are highly motivated and self-driven, and who would like to gain work experience abroad. Their initiatives can be limited because of a lack of permanent staff and dwindling finances. Because of this, they rely upon volunteers to help them in office work, fundraising, public relations, and even manual labor (like these programs in Cambodia, where you’ll help with administrative tasks, business development, and more). They often welcome creative and talented people who can help to keep their causes relevant and in the public’s eye. Without support or a shared common interest, an NGO’s work will founder and fail.
The term “NGO” came to the public’s attention in 1945 when the United Nations was created, itself an intergovernmental organization.
There are about 10 million NGOs worldwide. Some of the more popular and influential NGOs include Doctors Without Borders, Greenpeace, Heifer International, Food and Water Watch, CERES, The Nature Conservancy, Oxfam, Sierra Club, and the World Wildlife Fund. In this article, we will highlight some lesser-known charities and organizations that work with NGOs, such as the UK-based Agape Volunteers, which runs affordable volunteer programs throughout Africa. Agape Volunteers’ model is unique since unlike other international volunteer organizations, they do not charge a separate registration fee to participate and they offer free comprehensive travel insurance to participants.
NGOs are funded by donations normally, but many avoid formal funding and are operated by volunteers. A characteristic of an NGO is that they are not hindered by short-term financial objectives, and instead devote themselves to issues that are far-reaching and enduring. Because of this, they are regarded with public trust.
Want to know more about how you can become involved with the mission of an NGO, working for positive and sustainable outcomes? Keep reading and learn about some of our partner’s initiatives in amazing locations.
NGO Volunteer Opportunities & Internships
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) works with community organizations and NGOs in more than 40 countries. With a mission to change the face of volunteer travel, it provides 200+ affordable, responsible, safe, and high-quality projects worldwide. Since its founding in 2007, IVHQ has hosted more than 80,000 participants, and sends more than 10,000 people abroad annually, connecting travelers with meaningful projects.
If you’re looking to gain international work experience, sharing your skills and developing them even further, consider a volunteer placement with an NGO that partners with IVHQ. You’ll take on a range of tasks, including general administration, grant writing, research, marketing, fundraising, IT support, website development and teaching English.
NGOs often require volunteer support in administration, so you’ll work at organizing and running community workshops, conferences, and outreaches. You’ll be needed for English language support, networking and communication, organizational development, and research. IVHQ partners with NGOs in many different destinations, giving you a range of possibilities for a great volunteer placement. Your responsibilities will depend upon your level of training as well as your enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. Here are several IVHQ volunteer opportunities with NGOs:
In Cambodia, IVHQ’s partner cooperates with a network of 40 NGOs based in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Pursat, and Kampong Speu. It places volunteers with NGOs working in the following fields: community development, human rights, health and HIV/AIDS awareness, gender issues, environmental issues, education, and computer support. Click here to learn more.
In Italy, you’ll assist NGOs in Naples working in the fields of either community development, child and youth welfare, immigration and migrant support, or human rights (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community). Click here to sign up.
In New Zealand, volunteers are based in Auckland, in the North Island of New Zealand, providing help with organizing community events such as beach cleanups and tree plantings, education campaigns, networking and communication, organizational development, and research. Learn more and sign up here.
In Romania, work behind-the-scenes with the NGO support project, assisting with marketing (including social media management, photography, and video making), basic office administration, stock organization, fundraising, and possible application writing, record keeping, public relations, system reviews and development, and local volunteer promotion and management. Read more and apply here.
In Spain, you can volunteer with Creative Technologies, which supports NGOs to develop their online presence and marketing materials to expand their reach and charitable initiatives. If you have experience in website development, graphic design, videography, or photography, you’ll love this placement! Click here to learn more and to register.
Maximo Nivel offers volunteer programs, internships, Spanish language courses, TEFL certification, and adventure trips in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel operates educational institutes and is a leader in international education and study abroad placements in Latin America. The organization places more than 4,000 people each year on high-quality, safe, and affordable programs.
Focus on social justice and human empowerment with a human rights internship in Latin America. Work with Maximo Nivel and their partner NGOs in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru to help to alleviate poverty and discrimination, and to enhance access to resources. Internship placements allow you to help with community outreach, education, research, and fundraising. When you immerse yourself into a community and a project, you’ll gain insight and see firsthand the impacts of culture and social values, as well as the roles of politics, religion, gender, and ethnicity.
To be effective on this placement, you’ll need intermediate Spanish language ability, and if your skills aren’t at this level, you can sign up with Maximo Nivel for online Spanish classes and its Native Spanish Program to improve. When you develop your Spanish language skills you can add “Bilingual Spanish” to your resume!
Some of your responsibilities can include:
- Providing marketing support through website development, social media, and designing promotional materials
- Creating presentations to launch new projects and ideas
- Collaborating and assisting with the development of projects and events
- Attending organizational meetings
- Supporting staff in daily office tasks
In Costa Rica, you’ll work to improve the rights of women and undocumented migrants, advocate for the end of discrimination against refugees, and help with representation of native peoples in politics, as well as the inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Click here to sign up.
In Guatemala, indigenous populations account for 44% of the country’s population, but this group remains largely outside of the political, economic, social, and cultural mainstream. You’ll help an NGO with gender equality, education, and indigenous rights, as well as access to resources by assisting with community outreach, education, research, and fundraising. Read more here!
In Peru, NGOs tackle challenges such as violence and discrimination against women, children, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ, and indigenous people. The people in rural areas face unequal access to education and healthcare, and child labor is a common problem. Gain experience working with an NGO to perform community outreach, education, research, and fundraising for human rights issues you’re passionate about. Learn more and apply here.
This unique volunteer opportunity with Maximo Nivel places you with an NGO helping to conserve the deepest lake in Central America: Lake Atitlan. Often compared to a closed sea, Lake Atitlan is surrounded by three volcanoes and was formed by their eruptions 87,000 years ago. The lake is surrounded by villages with direct descendants of the ancient Mayan culture that once lived here – and the lake also hides a hidden Mayan temple ruin!
Known as Samabaj, the site is the first underwater archaeological ruins excavated in Guatemala and scuba divers are still exploring its depths. The temple was a sacred island site where Mayan pilgrims worshipped, until rising waters caused by a catastrophe, such as another volcanic eruption or landslide, submerged it in 250 CE. Hidden beneath 50 feet of water, the important spiritual site contains six ceremonial monuments and four altars.
The lake once again is threatened by catastrophe, but this time it’s by human encroachment and pollution. You can help preserve Lake Atitlan and its natural resources by raising awareness and educating the surrounding population about sustainable resource management. As a volunteer, you’ll work with an NGO to learn more about conservation practices and to share information about proper waste management, environmental management, and improving the ecological conditions of the lake.
Depending on the project’s needs, field conditions, and your Spanish language skills, you’ll support the NGO in these ways:
- Environmental education – teach residents about recycling, trash disposal, water conservation, and pollution
- Management of natural resources – help restore the surrounding hillsides as part of a reforestation effort
- Environmental cleanup – work in water filtration, recycling, waste management programs, and seasonal clean-up
This is a great opportunity for travelers who are physically fit and interested in working outdoors. Learn more about this important program here.
Agape Volunteers offers meaningful programs in Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, and Tanzania. A registered UK charity, this organization specializes in volunteering, tourism, and development work to benefit communities and travelers alike. Accommodations, airport transfers, food, and orientation are included in the program fee – also included is travel insurance, making Agape Volunteers the most affordable option on this list if you want to volunteer in Africa.
Volunteer in Kenya at Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, helping Agape Volunteers and its NGO partner Marifiki to build and improve housing for refugees. As a volunteer, you will assist with food deliveries, construction, and more at an IDP camp in Mahi Mahu. Select a volunteer opportunity in Kenya from the following programs:
Fees begin at £510 for one week, and you can stay up to a year. Learn more about programs in Kenya.
Work close-up with endangered species across South Africa on a wildlife conservation program that allows you to participate in activities including tracking, monitoring, tick balling, education programs, and animal capture and transport. This experience has you contributing to the protection of lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, cheetahs, and more in the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park, renowned for its natural beauty. Other tasks include patrolling fences, conducting invasive plant removal, restoring roads, removing the trash, and clearing brush. Duration and costs start from two weeks for £1,530. Read more and sign up here.
HIV affects many Africans, and medical support doesn’t always reach those in the most need. Volunteer with the HIV Prevention program and help to promote the future health of communities in Kenya. Your assistance is needed to perform HIV tests, distribute medicine, and counsel those with HIV. As part of your training, you’ll take part in an internationally-recognized HTC course that teaches you safe practices when dealing with those afflicted with HIV, including for testing. Program fees start at £590 for one week. Click here to apply.
Across the world. Fronteering works to uplift indigenous communities and preserves unspoiled nature. Active in more than 15 countries, they’re a great organization if you’re looking for a unique, high-quality volunteer opportunity with a local NGO.
By volunteering with an NGO through Fronteering, not only can you gain international work experience, but you’ll also get to immerse yourself in the local culture and make a positive impact. Fronteering prides themselves on taking volunteers and interns off the beaten path, and their NGO volunteer opportunities do just that.
Make the trip to Rupununi with Fronteering, a place known for its endless savannah, expansive wetlands, well-preserved rainforest, and big blue skies. You’ll volunteer at the Karanambu Lodge, which is situated on an untouched land and river system. During this program, you’ll experience life in one of the last real frontiers on earth. As a volunteer, you’ll help with general maintenance of the lodge, fish for food, care for horses, feed resident wildlife, and show tourists and guests around. Each day, you’ll be surrounded by incredible natural beauty and have the chance to view native wildlife roam free. From giant river otters to crab-eating foxes to red brocket deer, you’ll see plenty of amazing creatures. Be sure to check out the Victoria amazonica water lilies too!
Does this sound like an awesome NGO volunteer opportunity? Program fees start at $1,795 for four weeks, with stays up to eight weeks available. Discover all you need to know and apply here!
Want an NGO internship that will boost your resume? Head to Vancouver with Fronteering for this environmental internship. You’ll gain hands-on experience in environmental research, public relations-related tasks, and/or public outreach campaigns. Your work will go a long way in creating sustainable conservation strategies for the region. Additionally, if you’re currently enrolled in university, you may be able to obtain academic credit (ask your university and Fronteering beforehand about this). How great is that?
What’s also nice about this internship is that there’s plenty to do in Vancouver. Check out scenic Stanley Park. Have a night out in Gastown. And travel around British Columbia if you have time. Gorgeous places like Yoho National Park await. The internship fee begins at $1,595 for eight weeks. You can intern for up to 20 weeks. Discover all you need to know and apply here!
Live on a horse farm with a local Canadian family! Not only will you get the chance to gain farming experience, but you’ll also be able to work at the food bank, a non-profit organization that provides food for those in need in the local community. On the horse farm, your tasks will consist of caring for the horses by brushing, feeding, and walking them. You also can help out with medical treatments for the horses. At the food bank, you’ll help with stocking shelves, supporting clients in accessing services, picking up donations, and other general duties. Please note that both jobs are physically demanding so you must be healthy and ready to work!
When you’re not busy, explore beautiful Ontario, which includes famous natural sites like Algonquin Provincial Park and Niagara Falls, as well as major cities like Toronto. So, are you ready to pack and head there now? Program fees begin at $1,995 for four weeks. You can stay for up to 12 weeks. Discover all you need to know and apply here!
With a goal to create global citizens, African Impact places travelers on structured and sustainable programs in 12 countries throughout Africa. Nearly 13,000 people have volunteered for its award-winning humanitarian projects since African Impact’s founding in 2004. Their staff work alongside volunteers and interns, ensuring everyone makes a positive impact, builds friendships, and has fun while contributing to responsible community and conservation projects.
Discover Africa while you gain practical experience with African Impact’s own foundation and a registered charity. This organization is looking for enthusiastic interns with an interest in working at the grassroots level to effect change. The internship program is a great opportunity to gain valuable experience while immersing yourself in a different culture in a beautiful location.
This internship can be customized to your skills and interests while providing you with the time and space to learn about African cultures as you build your resume. You’ll be responsible for managing the charity’s projects, which vary depending upon location. The foundation’s work takes place in the following locations:
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Zululand, South Africa
- Greater Kruger Area, South Africa
- Livingstone Zambia
- Zanzibar, Tanzania
- Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Projects in Cape Town and the Greater Kruger Area place you in a rural community where you’ll also experience the beauty, wildlife, and adventures of the natural surroundings and the Big Five wildlife! If you enjoy native and conservation, working in St. Lucia you’ll catch glimpses of the hippo and work in a Zulu village. The business impact program is in the busy city of Livingstone, Zambia, where you’ll tour Victoria Falls while writing and developing grant proposals that benefit children and youth, as well as medical outreach and awareness. On Zanzibar Island, you’ll be living on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, where the unemployment rates are high and people live on subsistence levels. As an intern, you’ll work at the African Impact base, helping the project manager with community partnerships and relations. This internship makes you accountable as you learn how to manage donations and supervise the implementation of all funds.
You’ll stay at fully furnished accommodations, with most meals provided. Your internship places you close to global landmarks like Table Mountain and Victoria Falls, and you can check out the incredible safari options, go hiking, or relax on a beach. Zanzibar offers swimming, boat rides, diving, and sailing. Fees for this internship begin at $2,205. Read more and apply here.
Ready to Go NGO?
An internship with an NGO allows you to take real action to support rights you’re passionate about while you gain professional experience. When you choose to work with an NGO, you’ll provide a voice to a disadvantaged population. You’ll also work in solidarity with like-minded individuals while creating lasting connections.
Shouldering responsibility at an NGO matters because it forces you to be brave and to challenge yourself. You’ll grow personally when you try new things and make more with less. More importantly, your work will really matter. By following your passion, you choose to be a part of something that affects entire communities, and incrementally, the world.