South Asia Volunteer Programs: Nepal, India, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh
Have you always wanted to travel to South Asia? We don’t blame you; for scenery alone, this area of the world - comprised of countries like Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh - is one of the most geographically diverse, with gorgeous beaches, bustling cities, and of course the Himalayas. Indian river valleys are home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations, and Hinduism - the world’s oldest surviving religion - was born here, as was Buddhism.
But rapid modernization and extremely high population growth (South Asia accounts for 3 of the world’s 10 most populous countries) means that this region also has dramatic levels of poverty and a growing demand for education, economic development, and community building resources. That’s where volunteers like you come in: by lending your time and skills to communities in need, you can make a real difference while exploring one of the most dynamic areas of the globe.
A few ways you can help include:
Teaching English as a second language, which is needed in many communities to support local tourism and business
Supporting women with education to fight poverty and learn about their rights in the workplace and within their community
Restoring ancient and beautiful Buddhist temples - and helping to build new schools and community centers to support education, health, and development
Even though you may find yourself in a culture that’s very different from your own, the volunteer organizations below have your back and will provide you with all the resources you need - all while encouraging you to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
So, are you ready to find an adventure that will let you do good for a community in need in South Asia? Check out these great volunteer abroad programs - just a few of the many available to you right now!
Image via IVHQ
One of the many wonderful volunteer opportunities IVHQ offers in South Asia is a Medical Elective in Nepal, starting from just $350 for your first two weeks in the program. This is a great chance for medical and nursing students around the world to get experience working in their field, and see firsthand the contrast of Western medical practices to the realities of how it’s practiced in developing countries. That being said, you will be paired during your stay with experienced and fully-qualified physicians and nurses at hospitals in Kathmandu, Chitwan, or Pokhara.
If you’re volunteering for the short-term, your tasks may include:
Observing the operating room to become familiar with a variety of procedures
Working with children in the physical therapy department to move and exercise their limbs
Examining and changing the dressings on burn wounds
Participating in emergency room rounds, including shadowing the main emergency room physician
Learning about family planning and helping mothers with newborns
If you choose to stay longer or have a more in-depth experience with IVHQ’s Nepal medical elective, than you may be able to participate in more hands-on tasks, be placed in a more rural location, and take part in medical campaigns within your host community. And despite the busy work schedule during the week, you will have time on the weekends to explore the area or relax. To sign up, you must be able to stay at least two weeks, have at least two years’ training at a medical or nursing school, and be able to present a copy of your qualifications and certificates to IVHQ’s Nepal team.
Another impactful volunteer opportunity you can take on with IVHQ is the Temple Restoration program in Sri Lanka. Through this project, you’ll learn about Sri Lankan culture and basic construction methods while assisting with Buddhist temple restorations. This includes restoring paintings and sculptures inside the temples, repainting and cleaning the buildings, and more. And if wildlife interests you, IVHQ also offers a wild elephant conservation opportunity in Sri Lanka, where you’ll observe elephant behavior and help with research and activities in biodiversity, sustainable rural livelihood initiatives, and much more. And just like with IVHQ’s Nepal volunteer placement, you will have plenty of time on the weekends to travel and explore the area, even taking part in treks and tours arranged through IVHQ’s staff.
For more information about volunteer opportunities in South Asia, visit www.volunteerhq.org.
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM MORGAN
The volunteer program was one the best trips I have done. It opened my eyes to the world with getting to know the locals and meeting people from across the states and world!
Ever wanted to visit the Himalayas? Well, GVI has an amazing chance for you to experience Himalayan life while helping the children of Nepal. You will travel to Pokhara with GVI’s international team to provide education and personal development to children, all while immersing yourself into the country’s culture. Unfortunately, Nepal is full of children who end up on the streets because their families can no longer support them - though by volunteering with GVI, you can help to create a nurturing and positive environment for these children. Plus, your program fee will help provide funding to numerous centers in Nepal run by GVI to give children a place to turn when they are out on the streets, fending for themselves.
Monday through Friday each week during your program, you will spend the mornings helping with homework or playing sports, while your evenings are free for relaxation at your homestay and getting to know your fellow volunteers. This project ranges from two to 20 weeks, and the price of the trip is dependent upon how long of a program you choose, starting from $1,700 for your first two weeks abroad.
If women’s rights is an issue you find important, check out GVI’s women’s empowerment program in India, where you’ll contribute to gender equality initiatives. GVI’s women’s empowerment program focuses on providing education, health care, life skills development, and income opportunities to help women become more independent financially while ensuring they know their rights. And your work will have a great impact on long-term efforts such as decreasing infant mortality, helping children stay in school, assisting women with finding better employment opportunities, and much more to help break the cycle of poverty. As with GVI’s other volunteer abroad opportunities, you will be able to travel and explore during your free time. You’ll stay in dormitory style accommodations along with your fellow volunteers, and have authentic dishes for lunch and dinner. This program starts from $1,700 for your first two weeks, and you’re invited to stay several months to gain the most from your placement in India.
If either of these programs sound like the right fit for you, visit www.gviusa.com to learn more and to sign up.
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM ROSIE
I was a 6 month intern on the Thailand elephant conservation project and it was just amazing. I got to live with a family and learned their language which let me communicate with them and see how funny and amazing they are. I got to actually make a difference and see beautiful elephants in the forest! I taught English and conservation at the school, played with the nursery children, make some amazing friends, and live in the middle of a beautiful forest! It was the best experience of my life!
Love Volunteers is an amazing organization that has a huge number of volunteer abroad opportunities worldwide. One of Love Volunteers’ many programs in South Asia invites you to India, where you can teach in schools, work in an orphanage, help promote women’s empowerment initiatives, support street children, and even take part in a medical internship. Depending on the placement, you can stay for at least one week, though some of Love Volunteers’ programs in India require a longer minimum stay to gain the most from your experience and to make the greatest impact in your host community. One-week volunteer opportunities in India through Love Volunteers start from just $310, and you’ll stay in a shared volunteer house throughout your stay.
Another meaningful volunteer option you may want to check out is a trip to Nepal, where you can teach in schools or monasteries, assist with childcare, help with school renovation, and take part in medical and healthcare initiatives. Love Volunteers invites you to stay one week or longer, with an affordable starting cost of just $195 for your first week in Nepal - this covers housing, orientation, some in-country transportation, and support throughout your stay. And of course during your free time, you’re encouraged to travel and learn all about the culture of your host country.
For more information on Love Volunteers and their trips to India, Nepal, or their many other volunteer abroad opportunities, visit www.lovevolunteers.org.
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM DELANEY AND JORDAN
Love Volunteers is such an amazing organization. I can't stress enough how kind and helpful they were doing the whole trip process. They were happy to answer any question I asked, and made the process as smooth as possible. I would recommend Love Volunteers to everyone. I can't thank them enough for helping give me this opportunity. It easily was the greatest experience of my life, and I can't wait to do it again.
Volunteering Solutions is another impactful organization that’s offering multiple opportunities to serve in South Asia. If you’re on a gap year or have a bit of time to serve abroad, you may be interested in teaching in Sri Lanka. Through this program, you’ll teach in a school that’s dedicated to providing a proper education to children who come from poor family backgrounds. A few tasks you might take on include:
Helping teach art, music, drama, English, woodworking, or home economics courses
Conducting your own classes, depending on your background
Assisting young adults with vocational training so they can become self-sufficient
Providing extra lessons for students that may need help with homework and coursework
Helping to make lesson plans more interactive, engaging, and challenging
During your stay, you’ll work Monday through Friday each week, with weekends free to explore the area and truly get to know the Sri Lankan people and their culture. You must be at least 18 years old to sign up, and should be able to stay at least one week - also this program is very affordable, starting from just $365 for your first week in Sri Lanka.
If you’re ready for a summer adventure, check out Volunteering Solutions’ Summer Volunteer Program in Nepal, where you’ll learn about Nepalese culture, history, cuisine, religion, and so much more. Throughout your three-week journey, you’ll participate in multiple volunteer opportunities including teaching English to children, or taking care of mentally disabled children, with weekends free to explore Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, the royal city Patan, and the mountain views of Nagarkot. You’ll also be able to visit Chitwan National Park, which is home to more than 700 species of wildlife. This program costs $999 for the full three weeks, and includes orientation and support, accommodation at a shared volunteer house, some meals, tours, and more.
For me information on these two experiences and more opportunities to travel and volunteer in South Asia, visit www.volunteeringsolutions.com.
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM KATHRYN
I loved it! The kids were so cute and eager to learn. They loved having fun and were respectful. I will never forget them, and I am grateful to have met each one of them. The accommodation was good. I loved having AC at night! I also liked all the bolts on the doors cause it made me feel safe. The meals were amazing! Wow! I looked forward to every single meal! Great cooks!
I can’t say enough good things about the staff. All of them were friendly, helpful and made me feel at home. I know that if I had a problem I could go to anyone and they would help. Thank you so much! There were so many highlights! The biggest was the people. Getting to know Shankar and Ramesh and the other staff members was a pleasure. The kids were so amazing! It was so fun to work with Shmita and Rajiv at the School.
Of course I will recommend this program! this program was life changing! Thank you so much for this opportunity. I enjoyed it so much and will never forget all of you! Thank you and I love you all!
Since 2011, Plan My Gap Year has provided volunteer trips throughout Asia, with programs including conservation, childcare, teaching, and more in Bali, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. Traveling with PMGY is also extremely affordable, with trips starting from only $225 for your first week overseas - and with recognition 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 is a great choice for sustainable volunteer experiences.
Based in Ambalangoda, the Southern province of Sri Lanka, Plan My Gap Year has many different volunteer placements such as child care, English teaching, medical care, turtle conservation, and more. As PMGY’s most popular travel destination, Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination for travelers who want to explore a beach paradise while doing good for communities in need. This program starts from two weeks at just $400, and you can stay in Sri Lanka up to six months as a volunteer.
Another South Asia volunteer opportunity that’s available right now with PMGY brings you to India, where you will be able to help disabled children, teach English, volunteer in a hospital, work with women’s empowerment projects, or even take guided tours combining adventure with volunteering throughout India’s Golden Triangle and the southern city of Kerala. Plan My Gap Year’s India volunteer programs start from two weeks at $330.
Projects Abroad offers many different volunteer opportunities for travelers who’d like to explore the world and do good for the communities they visit - including many programs in South Asia. One project you may want to check out invites you to Sri Lanka, where you’ll teach for at least four weeks in classrooms with students aged 3 to 16. English has become a priority among Sri Lankan schools, as the country has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, and has had a great deal of economic progress. In order to develop students’ conversational English skills, schools need English-speaking volunteers - so, you won’t need previous teaching experience to participate, as you’ll work alongside a trained local teacher who can guide you during your placement.
The schools Projects Abroad offers volunteer teaching placements in are located in small town along the western coast, only a couple hours from Colombo, the country’s capital. You may even have the opportunity to teach in one of the temples, offering a beautiful and peaceful place for you to teach English to monks of all ages, and to learn more about Sri Lankan culture while gaining more insight into Buddhism and meditation. As a volunteer, it’s your job to improve your students’ confidence and fluency when they speak English - something that takes them a step forward in communicating with businesses and tourists who visit the area. You’ll teach 18 hours per week for four periods per day, and spend the rest of your work time grading papers and preparing the lesson for the next day. The local staff is there to help you along the way, and any skill you have will be put to good use during your volunteer program.
To learn more and to sign up for a volunteer opportunity in South Asia, visit www.projects-abroad.org.
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM SIDRA
Volunteering with Projects Abroad was the best decision I made in 2015. The wide range and diversity of work to do was amazing. I went from volunteering in orphanages to leprosy camps to community out reaches. Any concerns or questions I had were addressed immediately and the host family was very warm and welcoming. I have also shadowed doctors at the hospital and they are very open to answering questions. It truly was a life changing experience and I cannot wait to go back.
A Broader View offers dozens of sustainable, meaningful volunteer placements worldwide, with many in South Asia. One volunteer opportunity to get you started in your search for the perfect placement: Construction and Renovation in Udaipur, India. On this project, you’ll work together with other volunteers and local counterparts to create a more positive and healthy environment within the community. A few tasks you’ll help with include:
Restoration and decoration of health care centers, primary schools or middle schools, and children’s homes
Artistic decoration of school interiors
Renovating sports facilities
Repairing houses for families that need urgent support
Developing recycling facilities
This project lasts from two to four weeks, and if you’re able to organize a group of five or more travelers, A Broader View will customize a volunteer project specifically for your group. Throughout the program, you’ll work Monday through Friday for four to six hours a day, and will be able to explore the area on weekends and in your free time. Your program fees are dependent upon the length of your stay - starting at $1,020 for your first two weeks - and includes accommodation in a shared volunteer house, meals, airport meet and greet, project overview and orientation, pre-trip written guide, in-country staff available 24/7, escorted airport transfer, and five days of Hindi lessons.
A Broader View also offers a unique experience in Kathmandu, Nepal for travelers interested in teaching: through this program, you’ll teach Buddhist Nuns. In Nepal, there is a high population of Buddhist families, and it’s tradition to send their daughters to the monastery to become nuns, allowing for better living conditions and education opportunities than they may have at home. In the monastery, there are about 50 girls between the ages of 4 and 18, with very poor English skills - and your help as a native or fluent speaker can make a real difference. This program is only open to female volunteers, and you are welcome to bring along books, maps, and any other materials that might help with your teaching. A Broader View recommends that all volunteers take Nepali language courses to help them communicate with the staff and students before traveling overseas. This program lasts one to 12 weeks, starting at $890 for your first week, and you’ll stay with a local host family throughout your placement.
To learn more about volunteering in South Asia with A Broader View, visit www.abroaderview.org.
WHAT VOLUNTEERS SAY: REVIEW FROM OLIVIA
I chose A Broader View Nepal with little knowledge of the country previous to this experience, but I am extremely glad because I was given the opportunity to embrace so many people, places, culture in short amount of time I was there. The coordinator was extremely helpful. I was never scared to ask a question, and he even provided me with a new perspective of the country. I had many people supporting & caring for me.
Global Nomadic offers career- and degree-related volunteer programs and internships to travelers worldwide - and one program you may want to take a look at right now is a one- to five-month medical internship in Nepal. With this project, you will have the opportunity to work right next to local doctors and support staff, have a flexible placement based on your own interests and abilities, and be able to learn about the Nepalese health sector and increase your own medical specialty skills. As a medical or nursing student or professional, you can work in an area that suits you best, such as gynecology, pediatrics, general medicine, nursing, emergency, pharmacy, occupational therapy, dentistry, and much more. And if you’re interested, you can be provided with more than one placement during your stay in Nepal in different areas of the country.
You must be between 18 and 65 to sign up, and you must be currently studying medicine or have a medical background. It’s also important that you be able to work at high altitudes (as you’ll be in the Himalayan Mountains), be reasonably in shape physically, have good English skills, and have travel and medical insurance as well as all required vaccinations for this program. During your stay, you’ll be placed with a local host family no further than a 30-minute walk from your project site, with two meals provided each day. This program starts from $910 for your first week, plus about $330 for each week thereafter, covering your project and placement fees, food, accommodation, airport pickup, orientation, in-country support, and project activities.
If you are interested in learning more about this medical internship in Nepal, or the other programs that Global Nomadic offers, visit https://globalnomadic.com.
READY TO TRAVEL?
If you’re ready to make a positive impact on communities in great need of volunteers like you, click here to sign up for an account on Volunteer Forever, and start planning and fundraising for your trip to South Asia!
And if you’d like some more inspiration, check out these articles to get started: