Updated for 2018-2019
Is joining the Peace Corps worth it? Absolutely, it is! Peace Corps is known as the “toughest job you’ll ever love,” but it’s not for everyone. Whether you’re a high school student, or want to volunteer in a country that Peace Corps doesn’t serve, or even if you’d like to volunteer for a week or during your summer vacation, there are many different ways you can still do good abroad by joining other volunteer organizations all over the world.
Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps has become the gold standard of sorts for international volunteerism. This federal government agency’s three goals are to provide trained Peace Corps volunteers to countries that request them, to promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of peoples served, and to promote a better understanding of peoples served on the part of Americans. Peace Corps Volunteers usually serve abroad for 27 months – two full years’ commitment plus three months’ training – in the areas of education, agriculture, environment, community economic development, health, and youth in development. And contrary to popular belief, you can’t just run away and join the Peace Corps: on average, it takes nine months from submitting the first portion of your application to stepping foot in your new host country as a Peace Corps volunteer. It makes sense, though – Peace Corps is a full-time commitment in a foreign country for two years, so it’s very important you understand what you’re signing up for!
I had the wonderful opportunity to intern at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, DC all four years of college. After graduating, I worked there as an employee helping Returned Peace Corps Volunteers transition from their 27 (or more) months of service overseas back to life in the US, where they could pursue degrees or careers inspired by the amazing work they did abroad. Something I learned very quickly after starting was that Peace Corps isn’t just for recent college graduates: there are couples who serve together, mid-career professionals looking for a change of pace, and even retirees. In fact, the final year I worked at headquarters, our oldest-serving volunteer was 81 years old.
One of my favorite responsibilities at Peace Corps headquarters was to field questions from a general email inbox. These questions came from individuals all over the world, with all different backgrounds, abilities, and interests, but one thing tied them together: all of these people wanted to volunteer abroad – they all wanted to pursue an adventure in a community they’d never visited, and that they could help through their time, skills, and friendship.
The downside is that the Peace Corps acceptance rate isn’t as high as one might expect: sometimes we had to tell people right off the bat that Peace Corps wasn’t the right opportunity from them – for example, you must be a US citizen to become a Peace Corps volunteer, so if you live in Canada, the UK, or beyond, unfortunately you aren’t eligible to serve through this particular program. There are also restrictions for things you wouldn’t expect – medical issues usually are the biggest hangup for would-be volunteers, and anecdotally are the main reason there’s a nine-month-average waiting period from application to training. A few of the questions and concerns I saw on the regular from potential Peace Corps Volunteers included:
- I’m not old enough for Peace Corps (you must be 18 or older, though Peace Corps generally prefers applicants with a college degree)
- I don’t have 27 months to commit to a volunteer project
- I’m not a US citizen
- Peace Corps is not offered in the country I want to visit (remember: Peace Corps only operates in countries that request volunteers – on top of that, they only operate in countries that are deemed safe for volunteers)
- I want to sign up for a non-government volunteer program (Peace Corps is NOT a nonprofit or an NGO – it’s a federal government agency)
- I want to volunteer in some area that Peace Corps doesn’t focus on (oftentimes very focused programs such as journalism, marine biology, or other placements that fall outside of core areas offered by the agency)
The upside is there are lots of ways you can do good overseas, regardless of your background, age, travel style, or time commitment. Personally speaking, I wanted to join the Peace Corps since I was six years old, and was instantly rejected for a medical reason once I was eligible to apply. But that didn’t stop me from volunteering abroad: so far, I’ve traveled all over Central America and to the Caribbean on awesome, adventurous volunteer projects that have let me do wonderful work – even alongside Peace Corps friends! – because there are so many amazing organizations out there that are working every day with travelers all over the world to build better and stronger communities.
So, if you’ve found that Peace Corps isn’t for you – for any reason – here are a few Peace Corps alternative volunteer abroad organizations to check out!
Alternatives to Peace Corps
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) is an amazing organization that partners with NGOs worldwide to offer affordable volunteer abroad opportunities for travelers who want to make a difference. IVHQ’s volunteer placements start from only $180 per week depending on where you’d like to go and what type of project you want to take on, and since its founding, has placed nearly 80,000 volunteers in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and beyond. And this New Zealand-based organization is great for travelers who want to visit countries Peace Corps doesn’t serve, are looking for a flexible time commitment, are traveling in a group or with family, or even looking for an alternative break or business retreat.
If you want to visit and volunteer in Brazil, check out IVHQ’s programs there, where you can choose from childcare, English teaching, community development, a Carnaval program, and a one-week experience where you can volunteer on several different projects. IVHQ’s one-week placement in Brazil starts the second Monday of each month and includes:
- Orientation, walking tour, and a traditional lunch
- Working in a community garden and playing soccer with local kids
- Making garments and souvenirs out of scrap and recycled materials
- Helping with a local sports program, such as soccer for the blind
- Excursions to the beach and a local art exhibit, plus a tour of Sugar Loaf or Corcovado mountain
This one-week program costs $365, along with the entry fees for your day of excursions.
Another excellent program to check out is IVHQ’s healthcare placement in Argentina, where you’ll have the chance to work in a small community clinic. As a volunteer, you’ll shadow doctors and nurses – or depending on your background experience and Spanish language skills, you may be able to provide medical care, nursing services, vaccinations, gynecology, dentistry, social support, and other primary health attention for those living in poverty. This program lasts two weeks or longer, and you must be able to speak Spanish at an intermediate level to sign up. The Argentina healthcare program starts from $490 for your first two weeks.
If you want to combine a European vacation with a hands-on service opportunity, check out IVHQ’s volunteer programs in Italy! Projects include English teaching, after-school care, environmental conservation, and NGO support. Through the after-school program, for example, you’ll help care for children in who do not have adequate adult supervision and are more likely to get into trouble or danger in the streets. As a volunteer, you’ll work with a program that provides structured activities for these kids through playing games, creating workshops, leading educational activities, and finding ways to engage these children through music, art, cooking, sports, and more. Since this program takes place in the afternoons, you will have the morning to plan you activities for the day, or you can take the Italian language lessons. IVHQ’s after-school program in Italy starts at $685 for two weeks, and you’re invited to stay longer.
Here’s an amazing immersion experience: Live and work onsite at an Amazonian jungle conservation camp as an IVHQ volunteer in Peru. Tasks include reforestation, trail and home-base maintenance, basic research, and taking inventories of native animal species. The local staff place volunteers at one of three different locations, based upon where the need is the greatest and if 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. Accommodations are rustic and communal, but comfortable, in bungalows or dormitory-style rooms. This opportunity is a minimum stay of two weeks, but you can remain up to six months. Program fees start at $295.
For more information about volunteering abroad with IVHQ, please visit: www.volunteerhq.org
Interested in long-term volunteering, but not able to commit 27 months? Plan My Gap Year offers excellent solutions for people of all ages to travel throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, staying for one week to six months. Plan My Gap Year partners with unique organizations for exciting projects that allow you to help with wildlife conservation, healthcare, community projects, teaching, and women’s empowerment. Founded in 2011, Plan My Gap Year offers safe, sustainable projects with an emphasis on responsible volunteering. With awards such as the Shell LiveWire Grand Idea Award, Thailand Green Excellence Award, and Special Recognition from the United Nations in Sri Lanka, Plan My Gap Year prides itself on safety (all volunteer programs are personally vetted by Plan My Gap Year staff), and quality placements abroad.
If you’re looking for a hands-on volunteer opportunity with long-lasting impact on a developing nation, consider the Sri Lanka community renovation program. Volunteers work to renovate community facilities, such as Buddhist temples, orphanages, hospitals, and schools in Ambalangoda. Renovation work by previous volunteers include the building of a clinic at the government hospital, constructing flower tables at the Buddhist temples, and re-plastering and re-painting classrooms in schools. No previous construction experience is required, just a willingness to learn and to help. Sign up as an individual or with a group, and stay for two weeks or six months. Program fees start at $390.
As a conservation volunteer for a wildlife reserve in Madagascar with Plan My Gap Year, you’re able to spend up to six months conducting important research. You’ll monitor and record endangered animals, and help to preserve their remote habitats in the forests of Madagascar. The island nation is famous for its lemur population, now threatened by deforestation and human encroachment. Lemur familiarity with human activity is integral to the reserve’s research plan, so long-term involvement is encouraged. Part of your tasks as a conservator is to participate in the collection of seeds, and learn about the flowering cycles of trees and shrubs. Other important duties are the development of food gardens to increase the sustainability of the reserve, general repair and maintenance of the compound’s trails and facilities, and educating local communities about the importance of the project. Duration is one to 12 weeks, and fees begin at $270.
Plan My Gap Year partners with NGO professionals in Vietnam to promote grassroots civil development and reform. Volunteer for communication projects that lead to long-lasting change. NGOs support underprivileged communities, environmental conservation and children’s rights, but staff need training and additional funding. You can gain real-world experience in marketing and promotion while you share your writing and social media skills with others. If you have talent in graphic design and web development, you can help impact Vietnam’s social development on a strategic level. Volunteers with backgrounds in finance or accounting can assist with bookkeeping, and those with communication skills can help create and edit fundraising proposals. Program fees and duration begin at $435 for two weeks, with stays lasting six months.
The Isabella School Empowerment Project is a unique social initiative in India that provides computer and vocational training for young women. Volunteer with the empowerment project, initiated by a former volunteer with Plan My Gap Year, to teach young women a variety of skills, ensuring them a greater chance for employment and success in a male-dominated community. As an educational volunteer, your goal is to teach simple skills such as sewing, arts and crafts, personal hygiene, beauty and grooming. Other important lessons are basic numeracy and English speaking. When you contribute your time to the women’s empowerment project, you’ll recognize the project works on various levels, particularly in raising confidence levels of these culturally shy women. Program fees start at $330 for two weeks, with durations up to six months.
Teach English in Cambodia and complete Plan My Gap Year’s accredited 60-hour Online TEFL Course at the same time. Cambodia has one of the poorest literacy rates in Asia, especially among women. The volunteer program helps students learn a new language, and prepare for a new economy driven by industry and service. You’ll work at a community school in Takeo, established in 2010 to provide educational opportunities and English development to children. As a teacher, you’ll lead your own class with English as the main subject. You can add courses on computer studies, math, art, dance and sports, as well, depending upon your experience and the time you have to invest. Program fees start at $360 for two weeks, with stays up to six months. The online TEFL Course is $150.
Since 2003, Maximo Nivel has offered volunteer abroad, intern abroad, study abroad, and teach abroad placements in Latin America. So far, 25,000 travelers have signed up with Maximo Nivel, which partners with locally-based organizations to provide high-quality, engaging placements for travelers who want to learn, explore, and make an impact on the communities they visit. Maximo Nivel has programs like the Peace Corps that are extremely affordable, starting from just $595 for your first week in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. Maximo Nivel is a wonderful opportunity if you’re under 18 or still in college, if you want to travel with a group or with your family, or even if you want to earn TEFL certification and get paid to teach English abroad. Maximo Nivel also offers university credit for students volunteering abroad through a variety of options, including Spanish immersion, volunteer placements, service learning, and international internships, all of which can help you earn college credit toward your major, minor, or elective.
Through Maximo Nivel’s Spanish Immersion program you can choose to learn Spanish with a small group or by taking private classes, or even by combining these two options as you work with professionally-certified and native Spanish-speaking teachers. Outside of the classroom, you can take on volunteer experiences and internship opportunities to truly immerse yourself in the community in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru, and learn Spanish conversationally with native speakers. As well, you’ll be able to earn college credit for the volunteer abroad component of this program. Spanish immersion with Maximo Nivel starts from one week at just $70 per day for courses, and daily accommodations start from just $25 per day, depending on which country you visit and the type of housing you sign up for.
If you’d like to volunteer in Central or South America, Maximo Nivel offers many different opportunities in Guatemala, Peru, and Costa Rica. Through these programs, you can focus on:
- Volunteering to support and teach local children in orphanages, daycare facilities, and community centers so they can build a better future for themselves
- Teaching English to youth and adults so they can pursue more educational and career opportunities which will lead them out of poverty
- Environmental conservation work, which includes protecting endangered species, assisting with reforestation, building environmental awareness, and helping with sustainable farming initiatives
- Helping to build or repair schools, community centers, and homes for children
- Working at shelters that help abandoned animals by providing medical treatment and daily care
- Working in small, sustainable coffee-producing communities through Maximo Nivel’s eco-agriculture program
- Working alongside local doctors, nurses, and physical therapists to help treat and care for local people at clinics and hospitals
- Working and living with an indigenous family as you help to care for animals and livestock, assist with agricultural work and weaving, helping with local construction projects, and supporting local children
Volunteer programs with Maximo Nivel start from just $595 for your first week, depending on which program you sign up for, and you’re invited to stay four weeks or longer to gain the most from your volunteer experience.
If you’re in college and are looking for an internship that will further your education or help kickstart your career, check out Maximo Nivel’s internships in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru! You can choose from a variety of different programs, including:
- Education: Work with a K-12 classroom teacher helping to teach classes and plan lessons
- Special Education: Work with students with visual, hearing, or physical impairments or developmental disabilities
- Medical: This program is best for pre-med, medical, or nursing students – dental and physical therapy placements are also available
- Micro Business: Help to support local companies through marketing, sales and client service, or accounting
- Hospitality and Tourism: As tourism increases in these countries, you will gain practical experience in client services, sales, and marketing
- Human Rights: Work with a variety of community organizations in outreach, education, and research to further community development while learning about social justice and human empowerment
While gaining college credit through your internship in Central or South America, you will have practical work experience, develop your Spanish language skills, and build an international network. Maximo Nivel’s internships include a four-week practicum and an eight-week (or longer) internship placement, both of which include private Spanish lessons, four to six hours of practical work each weekday, and a final project. Throughout your internship, you’ll also meet regularly with a Maximo Nivel advisor who will guide you through the program and help answer any questions that you have. The four-week practicum starts from $1,525, while the eight-week internship starts from $2,245, plus $185 to $235 for each additional week after that.
Be an ambassador for the English language and immerse yourself in a new culture when you volunteer to teach English abroad. You can prepare for your teaching opportunity with a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification course at Maximo Nivel. Since 2003, this successful language institute has been helping teachers and travelers to live and work through its internationally accredited TEFL program.
Thanks to the expansion of the global economy and interest in international travel, thousands of programs around the world, from South America to Asia, from the Middle East to Africa, and even Europe, seek English-speaking teachers.
At Maximo Nivel, you can acquire the international standard qualification for English teaching with your 150-hour TEFL training, just like 3,500 other graduates now teaching around the world. You’ll learn:
- Introduction to learning and teaching theories
- Introduction to critical ESL techniques
- Understand English language structure
- Understand language skills and systems
- Build classroom management skills
- Learn how to create effective lesson plans
- Learn how to engage and motivate ESL learners
- Learn methodologies for teaching ESL
- Learn how to assess learners’ English levels
- Introduction to ESL teaching resources, tools, and materials
- Introduction to international English exams – TOEFL, IELTS, Cambridge, etc.
- Career assistance and job finding workshop
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to volunteering with an educational program, including classroom management, creating lesson plans, encouraging the shy students to speak up, educating while entertaining, and more. Having a TEFL certification will give you valuable skills and the confidence you need to embark on a fun adventure as a teacher, and it may even lead to a new career.
For more information about all of the opportunities Maximo Nivel provides for travelers in Latin America, please visit: https://maximonivel.com
Agape Volunteers provides humanitarian aid and support to Africa, offering many different volunteer abroad programs to better the lives of those living in underserved communities across the continent. Agape Volunteers also is one of the most affordable volunteer abroad organizations like Peace Corps that you can find, and has placements in South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, and Maasai-land. As a Peace Corps alternative, Agape Volunteers is a great organization to check out if you want to volunteer in Africa, but don’t have 27 months to commit to your volunteer work.
One fun way you can make a difference is through Agape Volunteers’ sports volunteering program in Kenya. Through this program, you’ll work with football clubs and community groups to teach sports to children – this is a very important part of Kenyan culture, and mentoring children and youth through sports is an excellent way to develop leadership skills and provide a positive and healthy outlet for kids after school. As a volunteer, you’re encouraged to teach other sports and games to the kids you’ll work with – and while you don’t need a coaching background to sign up, you should be prepared and confident to teach new ideas and techniques to children. This program starts from about $530 for your first week, and you can stay longer to gain the most from your experience.
Agape Volunteers offers an excellent volunteer opportunity in South Africa, where you can volunteer with wildlife for two, four, or six weeks. During this placement, you’ll work on a game reserve to track and monitor movements and behaviors of rhinoceros, leopards, and elephants. You can expect to get up close with these animals each day, and depending on how long you stay and what’s required by the research team, you may also help with snake and crocodile park conservation, clearing out foreign plants, patrolling conservation areas, clearing paths, and more.
To learn more about volunteering in Africa with Agape Volunteers, please visit: www.agape-volunteers.com
As one of the world’s largest volunteer travel organizations, Projects Abroad was founded in the early 1990s for students who wanted to take a break in between schooling. Projects Abroad places volunteers, interns, students, and groups on global projects ranging from sports coaching, to medical care, to archaeology, and much more. More than 10,000 travelers embark on trips with Projects Abroad every year through programs that emphasize mutual learning and respect through cultural exchange.
Projects Abroad is a great alternative to Peace Corps, offering volunteer programs without the long-term obligation. A few ways that Projects Abroad differs from Peace Corps include:
- Shorter time commitment and flexible program dates
- Larger variety of project types
- Ability for volunteers to choose the programs they would like to take part in, rather than placement based entirely on ability and need
- Less strict requirements for participants, such as age restrictions (you must be 18 or older to join Peace Corps, but high schoolers are welcome to apply to Projects Abroad)
Here are a few Projects Abroad alternatives to serving with the Peace Corps:
- Gain valuable international experience on a Medical internship. You can shadow doctors in large hospitals in countries like Argentina, Peru, Ghana, Kenya, Vietnam, and others. This is a great option to gain a global perspective on healthcare, and boost your resume for medical school applications.
- Volunteer with children in under-resourced communities. You can help promote early childhood development by assisting local staff at kindergartens and daycare centers. Work in countries like South Africa, Cambodia, Fiji, and more.
- Protect the environment on a Conservation Project. Tackle issues like global warming, poaching, pollution, and work with amazing animals in the jungle, in the ocean, or in the African bush!
To learn more about the many different volunteer programs and internships available through Projects Abroad, please visit: www.projects-abroad.org
Love Volunteers is one of the fastest-growing and affordable volunteer travel organizations similar to Peace Corps in the world, with more than 20,000 people placed on meaningful projects worldwide since its founding in 2009. Right now, Love Volunteers hosts more than 120 projects in 34 countries around the world – in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas – and just in the past year, they’ve sent more than 4,000 travelers abroad on projects ranging from child care, to construction, to disabled care, and much more. Love Volunteers is a great alternative to Peace Corps if you’re looking for a highly-specialized program to help your education or career goals – or alternatively if you’re looking for a meaningful program that doesn’t require background experience or intensive training. Love Volunteers also offers placements in countries Peace Corps doesn’t currently serve, such as Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Palestine, and Argentina.
Love Volunteers offers three very different wildlife and conservation projects for volunteers who’d like to visit Australia. The first is a wildlife rescue center program in Yackandandah, Victoria. Each year, thousands of animals are forced out of their natural habitats, injured, orphaned, or become ill from increasing interaction with humans and domestic pets. The local wildlife shelter in the Stanley State Forest has been home to thousands of animals in need of rescue and rehabilitation over the past 30 years. As a volunteer, you will have the opportunity to help these animals hands-on through:
- Bottle feeding infant animals
- Exercising the younger animals
- Assisting in emergency medical treatment
- Collection of grass/gum leaves and other resources from the forest
- Cleaning the animal enclosures
- Assisting in rescue calls
- Keeping the grounds and facilities clean
- Keeping the volunteer housing clean
- Helping with administration, fundraising, and other responsibilities
This program is open year-round, so you’re invited to sign up at any time. Outside of volunteering, you’ll be able to take time to explore the local sights and get to know the community. This program ranges from two to 12 weeks with costs starting from $725.
The second Australian adventure you can sign up for right now is Love Volunteers’ Great Barrier Turtle Conservation project in Cairns, Queensland. Australia as some of the most diverse marine life in the world – and is home to the Great Barrier Reef, which includes 2,900 individual coral reefs and spans 900 different islands. Unfortunately, the reef and the marine animals that make their home in it face threats of endangerment and extinction due to human life encroaching on this habitat. As a volunteer on this program, you’ll play a key role in caring for sea turtles that must be protected – a few of your tasks can include preparing food for the turtles, cleaning their tanks and enclosures, scrubbing algae from turtles’ backs, releasing turtles back into their natural habitat, monitoring reefs, helping with beach cleanups, promoting sustainable practices through education programs within the community, and much more. All of these projects are critical to marine conservation in Australia, and you’ll gain hands-on experience while working alongside professionals and fellow volunteers. This program starts from one week at $749, and you’re invited to stay up to three months.
The final Australian experience you can sign up for through Love Volunteers is their bat rehabilitation and wildlife rescue project in Gold Coast, Queensland. As a volunteer on this program, you’ll have the chance to see and learn about lots of different animals indigenous to Australia by working in a sanctuary that protects bats, flying foxes, different types of marsupials, and many more animals. During your five-day work week, you will be able to help with wildlife rehabilitation, rescue and release, preparing food and water for the animals, exercising the animals, cleaning enclosures, grooming, and helping with other tasks to keep the sanctuary and grounds clean and accessible. This program lasts one to 12 weeks, and starts from just $400.
For more information about Love Volunteers, please visit: www.lovevolunteers.org
Since 2006, GoEco has offered affordable volunteer abroad programs and internships in over 45 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. With more than 170 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.
Head to Goa, one of India’s most beautiful states, and help society’s most vulnerable build a brighter tomorrow. For this initiative, you’ll support, educate, and care for young children in the slums and elders at a senior home. If you can stay for four weeks (that’s the minimum commitment), you can volunteer at the women’s shelter and help out women who have left abusive and unhealthy home situations. Ready to make a difference in Goa? Project fees begin from $620 for one week. Register here!
Teach art in low-income communities in Rio, and give children a healthy, engaging after-school activity where they can make friends, learn a skill, and build self-confidence. Along with the children, you’ll beautify the neighborhood by painting buildings, walls, staircases, and other structures. And, during free time, you can enjoy the beaches, cuisine, culture, and nightlife of Rio de Janeiro. Sound like an awesome volunteer trip? Fees start from $800 for one week. Get more details here!
The goal of this program in Kathmandu is to empower local women by enhancing their English language skills, therefore making them more employable. Volunteers will assist in confidence-building discussions and activities, as well as assist at a health, hygiene and reproductive health workshop. Read more here.
Lend a hand in the community of Goa! In addition to teaching children of lower-income areas, volunteers can choose a second daily placements, including working at a women’s shelter, elderly care facility, a construction site or at an additional teaching program. While in India, don’t forget to visit the Taj Mahal and other amazing sites! Read more here.
Via Volunteers began in 2013 with a firm focus on ethical volunteering. Based in Cape Town, they only support long-term, sustainable projects in South Africa with genuine community or conservation needs, making them a great alternative to the Peace Corps. They have a variety of affordable childcare, community, wildlife, and conservation projects, and offer service workers the flexibility to plan both short- and long-term stays.
Via Volunteers has hosted volunteers from more than 60 countries, with the majority of travelers aged between 17-25 years. You’ll have the chance to meet like-minded people from around the world and do good for local communities in South Africa! We’ve highlighted two great Via Volunteers projects below! Download the Via Volunteers app, the first ethical volunteering app, to check out more programs and organize your trip.
Join the team at SANCCOB Seabird Rehabilitation Centre, a world-leading marine bird rehab center. The center has treated more than 95,000 injured, ill, and oiled African penguins and other birds. Independent research finds the African penguin population is 19% higher thanks to SANCCOB’s work. Isn’t that incredible?
As a volunteer, you’ll rehabilitate endangered African penguins and other marine bird species, as well as take part in releases. Heralded as South Africa’s most hands-on ethical wildlife project, this center will show you the powerful impact well-run conservation efforts can have.
Past volunteers, like Selene from the USA, have great things to say about this program:
“My experience with the African penguins was the best thing I ever had the chance to do. The program was very hands-on, and within 2 weeks I was feeding, tubing, and administering medications to the penguins. The support from Via Volunteers was also excellent.”
You can opt for a homestay or backpacker accommodation. Fees begin from $175 per week and you can join for six weeks or longer. Sign up here!
The Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre provides a safe, nurturing home for infants, toddlers, and young children who’ve been orphaned, abused, neglected, or abandoned. As a volunteer there, you’ll assist with daily reading and school lessons, improving basic Maths and English literacy, and weekly workshops aimed to enhance fine and gross motor skills. Other duties include feeding the babies and younger children, doing laundry, and getting the children ready for bed.
A very successful childcare volunteer program in South Africa, you’ll work directly with Heather, co-founder of Via Volunteers. She’s a great source of knowledge and will see that you can put your skills to effective use.
Costs start from $328 per week and you can join for four weeks or longer. Apply here!
Since 1994, i-to-i has offered TEFL certification, adventure trips, paid internships, and jobs for travelers who want to teach English overseas. So far, more than 175,000 graduates have completed i-to-i’s accredited TEFL courses, with certificates recognized by thousands of employers all over the world. i-to-i has an impressive 90% approval rating from their past participants and students, who have embarked on amazing journeys like four- to five-month trips to China and Vietnam, and even shorter-term TEFL experience trips to Thailand, Cambodia, and several other countries. If you’re looking for shorter-term adventures, a gap year, or another alternative to Peace Corps that will lead you to a job teaching English abroad, look no further than i-to-i!
Right now, i-to-i is offering an amazing TEFL Internship in China, where you’ll be paid to travel and teach English. You’ll begin with a 120-hour TEFL online training course, after which you’ll travel to Beijing and take a two-day classroom teaching training session. Once both of those requirements are complete, i-to-i will place you with a partner school in a Chinese community, where you’ll work as an English instructor for five months, five days per week. As an intern, you’ll receive housing, meals, and a living allowance of about $260 per month, plus a bonus of $320 upon successful completion of your internship. This program costs $1,199 to sign up and for all orientation, training, and support.
If you’re looking for a gap year adventure or a summer abroad opportunity, check out i-to-i’s Thailand TEFL Experience, which invites you to teach English in a rural village and explore Thailand’s gorgeous cities and beaches. As with the paid China TEFL internship, you’ll start with i-to-i’s 120-hour online TEFL training course. After that, you’ll travel to Ayutthaya for orientation, training, and an introduction to the history and culture of Thailand. Over the next seven weeks, you’ll teach basic English to beginner students in Kanchanaburi – and after that, you’ll have the chance to travel to the island of Koh Samet to relax on the beach before heading back home. This program costs $1,099 and includes TEFL qualification, practical teaching experience, and full support from i-to-i staff for the duration of your stay.
To learn more about teaching English overseas, check out i-to-i at: www.i-to-i.com
Global Vision International (GVI) is an amazing organization you should check out if you want to travel the world and make a positive impact. Since 2007, GVI has sent more than 2,000 volunteers overseas each year on projects ranging from construction, to teaching, to environmental conservation, and much more. GVI’s award-winning volunteer and intern abroad programs are perfect for travelers of all backgrounds, whether you want to travel to Africa, Asia, Latin America, or elsewhere. GVI is particularly well-suited for younger travelers through its Under-18s programs that invite teens to volunteer on adventurous and sustainable projects all over the world. And if you’re looking for a group program or even an internship abroad, GVI has lots of placements to help you find exactly the trip you’re looking for.
GVI offers several alternative break programs for students who are under the age of 18, including Marine Conservation in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. For this project, you’ll have the opportunity to spend your spring break learning to dive and discovering amazing marine life in the second-largest reef in the world. You will start a PADI Open Water diving course before heading out to the ocean and practicing basic techniques and getting used to the equipment used by GVI’s marine conservation team. Once you’re comfortable with diving, you’ll spend the rest of your one-week trip in gorgeous Caribbean waters learning practical skills in marine conservation, helping to gauge the ecological health of the reef, determining the species and breeding success of turtles in the reef, and educating the local community on the importance of conservation. This adventure costs $2,350 for a week of amazing experiences and insight into marine conservation.
If marine conservation isn’t for you, GVI also offers a two-week construction program in Thailand that is specifically designed for students between 15 and 17 years old. Through this project, you’ll help with various renovation projects in the Phang Nga province of southern Thailand – an area surrounded by beautiful beaches and filled with adventure that regular tourists often miss out on. As a volunteer, you’ll be able to make a difference in the community by improving infrastructure at a community center, or giving students a better learning environment by assisting with construction and upkeep at a local school. Outside of the volunteer work, you’ll have plenty of time to make new friends, explore the area, and even embark on a cultural weekend with GVI, where you’ll see the world’s oldest evergreen rainforest, huge limestone mountains, the Cheow Larn lake, and Khao Lak’s beaches. This two- to four-week opportunity starts at $2,590.
Costa Rica is one of the safest, yet most adventurous places you can travel to as a volunteer or intern. For the past 10 years, GVI has worked hard to develop positive relationships and sustainable community and environmental programs in Costa Rica – one of which invites you to learn about and help with local wildlife conservation initiatives. The exact types of work you’ll take on will depend on the time of year you travel and the needs of the program you’ll work with, but can include:
- Monitoring and helping with conservation of sea turtles
- Investigating the impact of jaguar populations on sea turtle populations
- Setting up camera traps and conducting transects
- Helping to monitor 30 species of aquatic birds to collect long-term seasonal trend data
- Participating in GVI’s Leadership Course
This program lasts six weeks to six months, and starts from $4,240.
For more information about these three opportunities and all the other adventures that GVI offers worldwide, please visit www.gviusa.com
If you can’t enter the Peace Corps, a great place to look for alternative volunteer and intern programs is Abroadly, a booking platform created by Volunteer Forever. On the platform, you can enter your background, skills, interests, budget, and other preferences, and suitable results will quickly appear. How convenient is that?
If you find a volunteer, intern, or teach abroad program you like on Abroadly, don’t hesitate. Apply today—because not only is the application fee 100% refundable if you’re not accepted, you’ll also be entered for the chance to win a $500 scholarship. Additionally, you’ll get free access to Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform, where you can raise money for your dream trip.
So, don’t wait any longer. Search for a Peace Corps alternative program on Abroadly today!
IT and computer skills are necessary for success in the digital age. By helping high school students in Koforidua, Ghana learn such skills through uVolunteer’s program, you can improve their future prospects. Your main duties will be to teach students basic computer literacy, including how to use Microsoft Office and email, and how to research on the internet. If you have a specialty skill, like knowledge of animation or programming ability, you’re welcome to teach that as well. During free time, you can do everything from go on a safari to see the heritage sites at Cape Coast.
The program costs $935 for three weeks. See all the details here!
Looking for a volunteer program where you can just ride the waves? Check out this surf and sports program offered by Khaya Volunteer Projects. It’s perfect if you love children and like hanging out by the ocean. During the project, you’ll teach children how to swim and surf, as well as play soccer and other games with them. You’ll be working closely with a local school, and can even teach computer literacy and serve as a teaching assistant. You can also give talks to educate children about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and HIV/AIDS. As you can see, this is a very rewarding program. And you get to surf a lot!
The cost is $520 for one week, with stays up to six weeks available. See all the details here!
Abandoned, injured, and/or abused animals need proper care in order to rehab and live healthy, happy lives. You can be a part of providing such care through Maximo Nivel’s program in Cusco, Peru. You get to choose to work at a dog shelter or the Cusco University Zoo. At the dog shelter, you’ll do things like groom and walk the dogs, and administer medical treatments. At the zoo, you’ll do things like clean up cages, feed animals, and construct enclosures. The city of Cusco is only 75 kilometers from Machu Picchu and has many other historical sites, so you’ll have plenty to do during free time as well.
The program fee is $645 for one week, with stays up to 12 weeks available. See all the details here!
Plan to work in the medical field? Gain valuable international experience through SAVE Volunteering’s program in Cape Town. During the internship, you’ll check vital signs, help out in the pharmacy, administer tests in the HIV/AIDS department, and more. The clinic you’ll be working in sees more than 500 patients daily, so you really have the chance to make a difference with your support and expertise. When you’re not busy helping patients, you’re free to explore Cape Town. Hike Table Mountain, visit Robben Island, and hang out at Boulders Beach.
The internship costs $2,888 for 12 weeks. You can intern for up to 24 weeks. See all the details here!
Whether you’re looking to build a career in ESL teaching and education, or simply want to teach children, TeachPTY’s program in Pedasi is a great choice. You’ll get the wonderful opportunity to teach underprivileged third-grade students English in an after-school program. By using games and activities to improve their conversational English, you’ll be helping them build a skill they can use for a lifetime. TeachPTY will provide you with lesson plans, but you’re free to add in your own ideas and methods. During free time, you can explore Pedasi, which is near sites like Isla Iguana, a wildlife refuge, and Playa del Toro, a beautiful beach.
You must be either a native English speaker or qualified English teacher to join the program. Fees start at $1,501 for two weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks available. See all the details here!
If you’re looking for an exotic volunteer experience that’s totally off the beaten track, check out Fronteering, which offers volunteer programs and internships in 14 different countries throughout North and South America, Australasia, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Fronteering offers a variety of impactful and adventurous programs that make a positive difference in environmental conservation, wildlife research, indigenous communities, and more. Volunteer and intern abroad opportunities start at just $695 for your first week, and you’re invited to stay up to six months. As a Peace Corps alternative, Fronteering is a wonderful way to visit countries where Peace Corps doesn’t currently operate, and even take on adventure travel and expeditions where you can learn about some of the world’s most exotic locations and the amazing work being done by professionals and volunteers like you to protect the environment, support indigenous communities, and much more.
Even if you’ve never thought about traveling to Mongolia, Fronteering should be on your radar: with their wild takhi research program there, you’ll work with researchers and biologists to learn about one of the world’s most endangered horse species. During your stay, you’ll collect information about the horses and weather, provide data to the biologists that are reintroducing these horses into the wild, collect information about flora and fauna in the area, monitor horse behavior, and more. A truly immersive experience, you’ll live in a traditional Mongolian ger, and during your free time, you can go horse riding, exploring the area, and much more. This program starts at $895 for your first week, and you’re invited to stay up to four weeks on the project.
Based in Guyana, this program lasts four weeks or longer and invites you to assist with math, English, and computer skills lessons in a primary school. If you have previous experience in teaching or childcare, there’s also plenty of opportunities for you to support children with additional learning needs throughout the community. Other projects you can take on during your stay include eco-tourism, construction, and marketing. As a volunteer in Guyana, you’ll live with a host family or in a community house with meals provided every day. This program starts from $1,795 for your first four weeks, and you’re invited to stay up to three months.
To learn more about volunteering abroad and embarking on adventurous expeditions with Fronteering, please visit: http://fronteering.com
Since its start in 2007, A Broader View has placed volunteers in more than 20 countries throughout Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Volunteer programs range from one week to three months, with placements customized to your interests and background. A Broader View partners with local NGOs, private institutions, and community organizations to support and guide volunteers on carefully-selected projects that provide a positive impact for their communities. As a volunteer, you can choose from programs including education, healthcare, wildlife, childcare, and much more. This is a wonderful opportunity if you want to volunteer with a nonprofit organization in countries Peace Corps doesn’t currently serve, if you’re on a tight travel schedule, or if you’re a student or traveling with a group.
A Broader View offers multiple volunteer opportunities in Honduras, including a Pre-Dental/Dentist Program in La Ceiba. As a volunteer on this project, you can help to provide dental services to adults and children who lack proper oral healthcare. You’ll work alongside local staff in the dentist clinic at a large hospital, with your level of involvement being dependent upon your educational background and skill level. If you’re an undergraduate student, you will have the chance to observe and provide hands-on assistance with cleanings, checkups, extractions, and restorative care. If you are a professional dental hygienist, you’ll be able to offer oral hygiene education and perform first-time cleanings for children. And if you’re a pre-dental student, you will have the chance to shadow the local dentist and help with record-keeping, instrument preparation, and more. You’ll also have the option to participate in A Broader View’s Spanish language immersion program to help boost your speaking skills – through this program, you’ll spend half of each day at the dental clinic, and the other half in Spanish language lessons. You can expect to work for eight hours each day, Monday through Friday, and will live with a local host family. This one- to 12-week program starts from $895.
Another option you can sign up for right now through A Broader View invites you to volunteer with an elderly care center in La Serena, Chile. Unfortunately, most of the residents of this center have either been abandoned by their families, or they have nowhere else to live. This home provides a caring, supportive environment, giving these men and women a place to live, meals, clothing, therapy, and medical treatments. As a volunteer, you will help with many different tasks, such as:
- Planning recreational and cultural activities
- Helping to prepare food and feeding some the patients
- Being available to provide company to the patients by talking with them, reading, playing cards, or going for a walk in the park
If you’re a healthcare provider, you can also assist with caring for medical and physical therapy needs for the patients, such as checking blood pressure and sugar levels, administering medication, and helping with physical therapy. This program lasts one week to two months, and starts from $895.
If you’re interested in healthcare or therapy volunteering, A Broader View is looking for volunteers with physical or behavioral therapy skills to participate in their program in Hanoi, Vietnam. Through this project, you’ll work with children afflicted by physical and mental disabilities – a very important initiative in a community that’s lacking in resources and training in how to support children with these disabilities. A few ways you can help are through physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, speech therapy, or other assistance, if you have a background and qualifications in an area that can be helpful for these children. The work you’ll take on each day will be dependent on the program needs at the time, but will be immensely helpful for the well-being of children in need. During your stay, you’ll work five to eight hours each weekday. This program lasts two weeks or longer, and starts at $1,180.
To learn more about A Broader View and the many different ways you can make a difference overseas, please visit: www.abroaderview.org
Founded in 1989, Global Works combines community service, cultural exchange, language immersion, and adventure for an amazing travel experience for students and for group travelers. More than 10,000 travelers have trusted with Global Works for summer service adventures for high school students, as well as custom group travel for educators, schools, and private groups. Trips range from 8 to 21 days, and focus on community development, conservation, language immersion, and pre-med or public health. And with destinations such as Cuba, Fiji, Spain, Nepal, and many more, Global Works has no shortage of travel opportunities for adventurers who want to have fun and effect positive, impactful change in the communities they visit.
On this 13-day program, you’ll have the wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in Fijian lifestyle, take an eco-adventure, and be part of a local community service project. Once you arrive to Fiji, you’ll stay at an eco-resort on the Sunshine Coast, where you’ll meet your fellow volunteers and volunteer at a school. After that, you’ll stay in a mountain village with a host family who will teach you about their culture – you’ll also be able to volunteer with other community programs, with tasks like building nurses’ stations, restoring classrooms, teaching English, or planting trees. To end your trip, you’ll travel back to the Sunshine Coast where you’ll take a SCUBA course, a waterfall hike, and much more.
If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in medicine, public health, or a related field, take a look at Global Works’ pre-med and public health program in Nicaragua. On this 17-day trip, you’ll be able to gain practical experience and shadow local medical professionals. Your volunteer work will take place in Los Muñoz, where you’ll assist with sanitation and hygiene projects, health center construction, and health visitations alongside local professionals. After that, you will visit Matagalpa and learn about the city’s healthcare challenges and how physicians and other professionals are bringing medical attention and support to those in need. Later, you’ll visit the mountains of Las Peñas Blancas en el Norte for a homestay, a volunteer project in permaculture, water, and sustainable agriculture, and you’ll finish your trip with a visit to Granada and Laguna de Apoyo for a zip-line tour, kayaking, and lots more.
To learn more about volunteering abroad with Global Works Travel, please visit: www.globalworkstravel.com
Founded in 2004, Global Leadership Adventures provides teen and high school programs abroad that combine community service with hands-on learning and adventure. With an emphasis on safety – outlined in Global Leadership Adventures’ five-point safety system – this organization sends thousands of travelers every year to 23 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. If you’re under 18 and want to try out an experience like Peace Corps, but can’t apply for Peace Corps yet, Global Leadership Adventures is one of the very best organizations you can sign up for to volunteer and travel.
Right now, Global Leadership Adventures is offering a Global Health Initiative in Bali, where you’ll have the amazing opportunity to study public health in the developing world by learning about Western convention as well as indigenous practices. During your trip, you will assist at a primary care health clinic for a local village, observing how care is provided and assisting with small tasks such as recording data, administering pulse checks, scribing information for doctors, or restocking clinic supplies. You’ll also be able to help design and present a health education workshop for local youth. Outside of your service work, you’ll embark on temple visits and a rice paddy walk, listen to live gamelan music, and even have dinner at the Royal Palace. You’ll stay in Ubud for this 14-day program, which has a tuition of $3,699.
If you love animals and want to help preserve their natural habitats, check out GLA’s Preserving Nature’s Wonders program on the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. You’ll travel to Isabela Island and San Cristobal Island, where you’ll volunteer in a tortoise breeding center and clear invasive plant species in order to encourage tortoises and birds to re-inhabit the area. During your adventure in the Galapagos, you’ll also be able to go swimming, kayaking, hiking, and snorkeling. This two-week program has a tuition of $4,599, with six different start dates open right now for the summer.
To learn more about the many different service opportunities abroad through Global Leadership Adventures, please visit: www.experiencegla.com
Since 1989, Frontier has invited travelers of all ages to work with researchers and communities in capacity building, ecosystem protection, community development, economic growth, and the development of civil society. This nonprofit scientific research organization got its start with a marine park in Tanzania – created in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, and still in operation today – and more than 25 years later hosts more than 400 projects in 72 countries. Frontier is a wonderful way to embark on a volunteer program, gap year, internship abroad, or a teach abroad / TEFL program that will let you engage in valuable and meaningful work worldwide.
If you want to work in a nearly-remote part of the world with animals you can’t find anywhere else, look no further than Madagascar: 80% of this island’s species are unique to this island! Through Frontier’s conservation adventure in Madagascar, you’ll help research wildlife and the environment while teaching the local government and communities about preservation. You’ll have the chance to study different animals and their habits, assess the extent of human disturbance on their habitats, and determine which species are most vulnerable to human interaction so that conservationists can aid in their long-term survival. This program starts from one week at $1,545, and you’re invited to stay 20 weeks or longer.
Right now, Frontier is offering a turtle conservation project in Malaysia perfect for travelers who want to explore a tropical paradise while doing good for the animals that live there. Through this program, you’ll conduct surveys to identify animals, record turtle nesting habits, protect nests from other animals and poachers, and raise awareness about turtle protection within the local community. A few of your tasks can include taking photos of the nesting turtles, determining turtle populations and numbers of male and female turtles, identifying conservation area hot spots, and recording nesting activity. This project starts from one week at $695, and you’re encouraged to stay longer.
To learn more about Frontier’s many different volunteer adventures around the world, please visit: https://frontiergap.com
Global Nomadic offers affordable, impactful volunteer and intern abroad placements for travelers who’d like to expand your education and get a head start on your career while also helping communities in need. With Global Nomadic, you’ll work alongside local NGOs on projects relating to your degree or career goals, with placement costs as minimal as possible in keeping with a student, gap year, or career breaker budget – covering your support before, during, and after your program abroad. This is a great way for students to gain valuable experience overseas, as well as for travelers who want to volunteer or intern in countries such as Italy, Honduras, Spain, and other areas where Peace Corps does not serve.
Based in Alonissos, Greece, Global Nomadic offers a dolphin research internship each year between June and October. Throughout your stay, you’ll learn about important issues in protecting these animals, such as how competition between dolphins and humans for fish has been forcing them out of their natural habitats, or how they are being injured by fishing equipment and boats. All four dolphin species that live in the Greek Seas are threatened, so your assistance is vital in helping to learn more about the dolphin population as well as how to protect them. A few tasks you’ll take on include conducting daily field surveys at sea, database entry, and much more – as well, you’ll be able to attend lectures and seminars on marine animals and local ecology. This program starts from one week at $950.
Another option to travel through Global Nomadic is their medical internship in Nanyang Village, Laos. As an intern on this program, you will help to provide medical support while gaining a unique insight into rehabilitation centers that serve those who have physical and neurological disabilities in poorer communities. Throughout your stay, you’ll shadow local doctors and nurses and observe their traditional practices, share medical knowledge, and assist with medical treatments. You’ll also have the chance to learn local expressions while teaching doctors and nurses medical English and English conversation skills. You’re asked to stay at least three months on this program, which comes with a $500 weekly fee.
A third option to travel abroad with Global Nomadic is their photography and journalism internship in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As an intern, you’ll work with a local NGO’s communications and marketing team to produce, film and edit videos, and take photos. You’ll also interview other volunteers within local organizations, create video testimonials, edit pictures, and translate subtitle text – an excellent way to gain hands-on experience in digital media and much more. You can expect to work 20 hours per week, Tuesday through Friday, and you’re invited to stay up to six months. This program starts from two months at $450.
To learn more about volunteer programs and internships abroad through Global Nomadic, please visit: https://globalnomadic.com
International TEFL Academy (ITA) is a great organization to check out if you would like to teach English abroad – whether it’s for a gap year, career break, or for a globetrotting adventure. Since 2010, ITA has offered internationally accredited online and in-person TEFL courses in 25 locations that open you up to English teaching placements globally. To ensure that you’re matched with the best program for you and your interests, ITA provides extensive pre-enrollment guidance from expert advisors, after which you’ll receive high-quality TEFL training from a university-level professor. ITA also offers tons of resources for students and alumni, including a job search manual, cover letter and resume workshops, contact info for more than 20,000 schools and employers worldwide, and lifetime job search assistance. Over 5,000 people will be certified to teach English this year, click here to learn more about being one of them!
Through ITA, you will have the chance to earn an online TEFL certification before traveling abroad. This 170-hour course spans 11 weeks and includes training in basic principles of teaching, grammar, classroom management, error correction, lesson planning, use of visual and audio aids, and much more. You’ll begin with 150 hours of online lessons, including lectures, webinars, and chats with your professor, and then you will move along to 20 hours of live teaching practice with ESL learners. Once you’ve completed your certification, you will be qualified to become a full-time, paid English teacher abroad – learn more here!
If you’d like to travel and teach in a country outside of Peace Corps’ range, check out ITA’s Barcelona TEFL class, where you can earn certification to teach English in Spain, Europe, or the rest of the world. On this four-week, full-time program, you’ll visit one of Spain’s most gorgeous and historical cities and take courses each weekday covering topics in basic principles of teaching, classroom management, lesson planning, and much more. You also will have the chance to practice teaching with local ESL students, and during your trip, you can take Spanish language courses, embark on wine tasting tours, or even go on Barcelona city tours. Learn more and register here!
Ready to Travel?
As you can see, there’s no limit to the opportunities you can pursue if you want to volunteer abroad and explore the world. Peace Corps is the “toughest job you’ll ever love,” but it’s not for everyone – or maybe not for you just yet. (And I know plenty of Peace Corps volunteers who went on to volunteer with organizations just like these – or even build their own NGOs abroad!) To learn more about volunteering, teaching, and interning abroad, check out these articles on Volunteer Forever: