Updated for 2024
Want to do good for others while doing good for yourself? Volunteering or interning 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 on volunteers to help them in office work, fundraising, public relations, and even manual labor. NGOs 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.
Some great organizations that provide NGO support volunteer opportunities include International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), which offers 10 NGO support projects in 9 destinations around the world. Their sister organization, Intern Abroad HQ, also offers an NGO support internship in Spain.
As another example, through Projects Abroad, a highly respected international volunteer organization, you could work with an NGO in South Africa that helps disadvantaged communities build an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Or, you could work with local NGOs in Vietnam that tackle tough issues like drug abuse and human rights. Your help as a volunteer is vital to keeping these NGOs running successfully.
NGOs have come a long way in the last 75 years. The term “NGO” came to the public’s attention in 1945 when the United Nations was created, itself an intergovernmental organization. There are now 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 award-winning volunteer organization, Maximo Nivel, which is the top-rated volunteer organization in Latin America. They do truly great work with NGOs in countries like Costa Rica and Guatemala.
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)
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 300+ affordable, responsible, safe, and high-quality projects worldwide. Since its founding in 2007, IVHQ has hosted more than 130,000 participants, connecting travelers with meaningful projects around the world.
Check out IVHQ’s NGO volunteer programs:
Price: from as little as $20USD per day (check each program for specific fees)
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 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. As mentioned above, IVHQ’s sister organization, Intern Abroad HQ, also offers an NGO support internship in Spain.
- 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 Ecuador, volunteers work in Quito providing assistance with the operational workload of the NGOs to widen their reach and support more children within the community. Learn more and apply 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.
Rated the 2018 Top Volunteer Abroad Organization, GoEco offers exciting volunteer opportunities across more than 40 countries. Founded in 2006, GoEco has placed more than 17,000 volunteers abroad on more than 150 environment, wildlife, and community initiatives. Their great programs have got them featured in major publications, including the Boston Globe and USA Today.
To fulfill their mission to effect real change in the world, GoEco works with NGOs in local communities. This enables them to address real needs, and gives volunteers the chance to have a positive impact and life-changing experience.
Check out NGO volunteering opportunities with GoEco below:
Price: $1,250 for 2 weeks; $2,100 for 4 weeks
Volunteer at a privately owned, fully accredited wildlife ranch in Oudtshoorn, a gorgeous town at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains. As a volunteer, you’ll create enrichment activities for cheetahs and other animals, prepare food for the animals, monitor wildlife behavior, and help with ongoing maintenance. If you want to work in zoology or learn more about ethical wildlife interactions, choose this program.
Past volunteers return home with great things to say about the project, like Rachel:
“The whole experience was humbling, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get up close and personal with all sorts of animals. But more importantly to me, it helped me learn and understand the troubles that animals are faced with and what this particular organization is doing to protect endangered species, such as the cheetah. I have a lot of fond memories of the people who I worked with and the animals I was fortunate enough to get to know. Those memories will never fade.”
Before or after the trip, explore the rest of the Western Cape. The Cango Caves are located nearby and will amaze you. And vibrant Cape Town is within five hours. Already thinking about a South African volunteer vacation?
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.
Check out Maximo Nivel’s opportunities to work with NGOs below:
Price for 4 week practicum: Costa Rica ($1,925); Peru ($1,525); Guatemala ($1,495)
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.
For an overview of all Maximo Nivel’s human rights internships with NGOs, visit this page and get started on your application.
Price: $3,795 for 12 weeks (can vary since you can customize this gap year NGO internship)
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.
Price for 1 week: $665 for Peru and Guatemala; $719 for Costa Rica
Price for 4 weeks: $1,295 for Peru and Guatemala; $1,544 for Costa Rica
Learn about sustainable farming during this NGO volunteering experience! These eco-agriculture operations utilize modern, energy-efficient farming practices alongside traditional techniques. This reduces environmental damage and threats to human health. As an eco-agriculture volunteer, you’ll work with NGOs and farming cooperatives in one of the following destinations:
- Costa Rica: Journey to Monteverde Cloud Forest and learn all about coffee production, from bean to cup. You’ll get to have fresh Costa Rican coffee every day!
- Peru: Make your way to the Huyro Region in the highlands, about three hours from Cusco. There, you’ll get your hands dirty as you help with coffee, tea, and chocolate production.
- Guatemala: Head just outside Antigua and engage in the responsible farming of macadamia nuts and coffee.
As a volunteer, you’ll not only support farmers, but you’ll also help the environment and local people. Past volunteers give the project great reviews, like Curtis:
“I had a great experience working at the Coffee Farm project. The host mom is a great cook, and the work we did every day with the local farmers felt important and impactful. Overall, I would definitely recommend this program to anyone interested in coffee and community service. I had a lot of opportunities to practice Spanish as well, in addition to exploring the area and playing soccer with a local team.”
So, are you ready to plant and grow coffee, tea, and more?
Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad has had a mission to make a true impact through its service programs since its beginning. Having hosted more than 132,000 volunteers to date, Projects Abroad has become known for high-quality projects that enact positive change in local communities. The organization is also known among international volunteers for its gold standard of staff support. All your needs, from lodging to local transportation, are handled efficiently by Projects Abroad.
Projects Abroad has a variety of NGO volunteer opportunities, such as an International Development Internship in South Africa. During this project, you’ll support local community initiatives in Cape Town, while boosting your skill-set.
Read below about two more NGO volunteer opportunities with Projects Abroad.
Price: 4 weeks for $3,380; $4,860 for 8 weeks
Gain experience working with a local NGO as you shadow and assist social workers, and gain an insight into the challenges they face. In addition, you’ll help run awareness campaigns, as well as research solutions to challenges that NGOs, public schools, and daycare centers for the disadvantaged face.
This is a great NGO internship program if you wish to make a true difference and improve your resume while doing so. Your NGO placement could be at a center for education, center against violence, or art therapy association. All placements are in the bustling, historic city of Ulaanbaatar.
Interested? Sign up here to volunteer with an NGO in Mongolia.
Price: 4 weeks for $3,780; 8 weeks for $5,460
Make your way to Guadalajara, and gain hands-on work experience at NGOs. As an NGO intern, you’ll help address different local issues, from immigration to women’s rights. Typical tasks may include:
- Helping with fundraising efforts
- Supporting migrants traveling through Mexico
- Helping address child malnutrition
- Helping with community land rights issues
- Working to empower women in marginalized communities
As you can see, this NGO internship offers the chance to learn and experience a lot, all the while helping those who need it most. Plus, you can have fun in Guadalajara during free time.
Interested? Sign up here to volunteer with an NGO in Mexico.
First Things Foundation (FTF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity organization that partners with local leaders to build sustainable businesses and communities in developing countries. FTF is definitely a long-term volunteer commitment and an opportunity to work directly with a non-profit charity organization: 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 NGO 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.
Volunteering Solutions began in 2007 and has hosted more than 17,000 volunteers to date. Volunteering Solutions has more than 150+ projects across 27 countries, with plenty of NGO volunteer abroad opportunities in countries such as Cambodia and Morocco.
Known for high-quality, affordable projects, Volunteering Solutions has an array of great programs to suit a wide range of interests and goals. From NGO support projects to intern opportunities with NGOs, they have a lot of options.
To learn more about Volunteering Solutions and volunteering with NGOs abroad through their organization, visit their website here. (UK readers, please visit their UK site here). Also, check out these three great NGO volunteer programs below.
Price: $920 for 5 weeks; $1210 for 8 weeks
Journey to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. There, you’ll have the opportunity to volunteer for a local NGO and support Cambodian civil society and community. As an international NGO volunteer, your role will depend on your skills and interests. Volunteering Solutions can connect you to positions in the following fields:
- Human rights
- Women’s empowerment
- NGO administration
- Vocational training
This is a great opportunity to boost your resume while helping local Cambodians live better lives. To apply to the program, click here!
Price: $620 for 2 weeks; $1830 for 8 weeks
Head to Rabat, Morocco’s capital, and work for a local NGO to help support initiatives in the community. Depending on your skills and interests, Volunteering Solutions will connect you to a role in one of the following fields:
- IT support
- Women’s rights
- Poverty alleviation
This NGO volunteer program in Rabat is a great chance to help local Moroccans while improving your work experience and skills. To learn more, click here!
Price: $1499 for 3 weeks; $2499 for 8 weeks
Grab the opportunity to work with one of the most popular charitable organizations in Ireland. Located in Clonmel, County Tipperary, the charity shop provides key goods and services to those living in poverty in the region, such as furniture and books. As a volunteer, you’ll help sort donations, clean the store, help customers and more.
This volunteer program is a wonderful experience and you get to work alongside amazing staff. To join the program, click here!
Global Vision International began in 1998 with the goal of advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. To date, they’ve placed more than 25,000 volunteers of projects around the world, If you want to contribute to the sustainable development of communities and conservation of the environment, joining one of GVI’s initiatives can enable you to do that.
To realize their mission, GVI partners with some of the largest and most renowned NGOs in the world, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). They also work with WANGO, the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations. If you want to intern with NGOs, GVI has quality opportunities for you!
Check out some NGO internship programs with GVI:
Price: $4,160 for 4 weeks; $6,280 for 8 weeks
Few animals possess the mystique of jaguars. You won’t ever forget seeing one dart across the jungle. And guess what? You can! As an intern in Costa Rica on this jaguar research project, you’ll work in and around Tortuguero National Park. With GVI’s local partner, Coastal Jaguar Conservation, an independent research group, you’ll assist with rainforest and wildlife surveys, monitor the predator-prey interaction between jaguars and sea turtles, and identify and count big cats. You’ll also help develop and implement conservation solutions.
Volunteers are crucial to supporting this project, as Ian Thomas, Co-founder of Coastal Jaguar Conservation, attests:
“Volunteers contribute immensely to our project and form the backbone of certain activities related to our work in Tortuguero National Park.”
How awesome does this project sound? If you seek a career in sustainability, ecology, and/or conservation, or just want to help out the jaguar and their rainforest habitats, this program suits you. Don’t miss out!
Price: $11,445 for 24 weeks
Ready to dive? As a marine conservation intern, you’ll compile vital research data off the coasts of Thailand and Seychelles (12 weeks in each country. Tasks include identifying fish, surveying coral reefs, collecting data, and assisting with operations at the dive center. To achieve the 24-week project’s goals, GVI works with an NGO, Project AWARE (PADI). Through PADI, you’ll earn your PADI Divemaster qualification. That will set you up well for a career in ocean conservation and diving! Or, at the very least, you can enjoy diving as a hobby for a lifetime.
This internship takes you to some of the most beautiful places on earth—both above and beneath the surface. You’ll also have plenty of free time during the 24-week internship for side trips. Explore the culture, sites, and entertainment of the Seychelles and Thailand. They’re both world-class tourist destinations. The Indian Ocean is calling your name. Go!
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.
Check out Fronteering’s NGO volunteer programs below:
Price: $1,795 for 4 weeks; $2,295 for 8 weeks
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.
Price: $1,595 for 8 weeks; $1,895 for 20 weeks
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.
Price: $1,995 for 4 weeks
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.
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.