CALLING ALL GROWN UPS! Listen up, because this article is all about opportunities for you to take a fulfilling break that can also enhance your career. Volunteer work abroad does not have to be reserved only for students or new graduates – there are so many service adventures worldwide, and now it’s your turn.
Career Breaks and Volunteer Vacation Trips
Too often we get so caught up in our jobs and career aspirations – and in keeping up with friends and family obligations – that we forget to take time for ourselves. By taking a volunteer trip abroad, whether it’s for a week or even for a career break, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to make a difference, break out of your 9-5 routine, and have fun.
While shorter trips tend to focus more on tasks that are easier to train volunteers in – like planting trees or painting classrooms – traveling for a month or longer on a career break can be an amazing way to put your hard-earned skills to direct use for a community in need overseas. If you’re a medical or healthcare professional, consider volunteering in a rural clinic. If you’re a social worker or child care provider, there are lots of wonderful volunteer programs where you can lend a hand in a school, daycare, or community center. If you work in IT, project management, marketing, or other business-related services, your assistance as a volunteer can be invaluable to NGOs and community development programs all over the world.
Team Building and Company Volunteer Trips
Looking for an opportunity that won’t cut into your annual leave? Get your business involved and take a group trip! Many volunteer organizations – including a few of the ones featured below – offer corporate volunteer excursions where you can take your team on a volunteer adventure overseas. While volunteering and helping people in need, you can build camaraderie with your team, make a positive impact in an underserved community, and develop skills and tactics that you can bring back to your day job.
From wildlife conservation, to school construction, to teaching English or other subjects, there’s no limit to the amazing volunteer trips that you can take worldwide. If you have reached a point in your career where you want a small break, or if you have decided to just quit your job and start anew, there is an amazing and impactful opportunity waiting for you to jump in.
Ready, set, VOLUNTEER!
Global Vision International (GVI) offers a wide variety of meaningful volunteer and intern abroad programs in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and beyond. More than 24,000 volunteers have signed up with GVI, which offers projects ranging from teaching, to community building, to conservation, to women’s empowerment, and much more. By volunteering with GVI, you will make a difference: this award-winning organization partners with NGOs across many different focus areas to provide the best possible solutions with help from international volunteers.
On this volunteer trip, you will travel to the islands of the Seychelles to earn your PADI Advanced and PADI Coral Reef Research Diver qualification while working alongside marine researchers on conservation initiatives. Most of your time will be spent scuba diving, and you’ll learn to identify fish and coral in the Indian Ocean, learn to survey coral reefs, visit breeding areas for sea turtles, and much more. A few of the project objectives include providing long-term and consistent collection of data to assess the overall health and development of the reef system, increasing scientific output and awareness of the project through publication, increasing in-country capacity by providing environmental education and training, and much more. Click here to sign up!
Another excellent volunteer program you can sign up for right now with GVI invites you to Fiji, where you can take part in a sustainable community development initiative. There are five focus areas on this project, including WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), health and nutrition, income generation, education enrichment and empowerment, and environmental management and protection. GVI’s Fiji expedition also includes optional side trips, where you can visit world-class dive sites, watch dolphins, or just relax at an island resort. Learn more and register here!
Since 2003, Maximo Nivel has provided volunteer, intern, study, and teach abroad opportunities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. To date, 25,000 travelers have signed up with Maximo Nivel, which works alongside local organizations to make sure you will be involved in a sustainable, impactful initiative. Maximo Nivel’s volunteer trips also are very affordable, starting from just $625 for your first week in Latin America, depending on the project you sign up for.
One of the best ways to make a difference for communities in need is through education – and teaching English is a fantastic way to help people build bright futures, enhance their educational opportunities, and pursue better careers. Right now, Maximo Nivel offers English teaching volunteer placements in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru – through these programs, you’ll work with students who want to learn English, but who do not have the means to pay for a higher-level education within their community. For one week or longer, you will be placed in a public school, community center, after-school program, or a shelter for street children, where you will lead English lessons, create lesson plans, tutor students who need extra help, and much more. You also will assist with other day-to-day activities, such as cleaning and fixing up teaching areas, fundraising and collecting donations, and much more. If you don’t have English teaching experience, don’t worry: Maximo Nivel will provide an ESL crash course to help you learn basic English teaching strategies, create lesson plans, and get comfortable working in your classroom. Learn more and sign up here!
Also based in Costa Rica, Peru, and Guatemala, Maximo Nivel’s medical and healthcare volunteer program gives you the opportunity to work with local medical professionals in hospitals or clinics. If you’re a medical professional or in your third or fourth year of medical school, you may volunteer alongside local doctors and nurses, and depending on your experience and Spanish language ability, as well as the project needs at the time, you can assist with check-ups, medical campaigns, triage, taking vitals, organizing patient records, and other tasks. This program lasts a minimum of one week, and you can expect to work three to four hours each day, Monday through Friday. Learn more and apply here!
If you’re looking for an affordable and impactful volunteer trip, International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) is an excellent option with a great track record of sustainability. Since 2007, this organization has sent more than 75,000 volunteers all around the world, on over 150 projects in more than 35 different destinations. IVHQ’s volunteer abroad programs start from just $180, and include a registration fee, airport pickup, orientation, supervision, accommodation and meals, 24/7 in-country support, and administrative costs.
One of IVHQ’s many different travel opportunities is their Corporate Volunteering program, where you and fellow coworkers can work together to “amplify innovation, develop critical skills and embed a culture of sustainable development in your organization.” Through IVHQ, you can choose from more than 35 locations around the world – including Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific – to grow as a team, build new skills, and make an impact abroad.
Corporate volunteering is a wonderful way to recruit talented staff, reward those who are excelling in their work, and even build skills in problem-solving, resilience, teamwork, and cross-cultural communication. You can choose to volunteer for one day or longer, with a very affordable program fee starting at just $220 per participant. Through IVHQ’s Corporate Volunteering program, you will work alongside local organizations to make a lasting contribution to community projects, all of which align with environmental needs of each location – whether you take on construction and renovation, NGO support, wildlife conservation, sports and arts education, and beyond. At the completion of your program, you will receive a comprehensive Impact Report summarizing the specific contribution made by your company. Learn more and get started here!
If you are looking for a solo travel opportunity, and if you have a background in medical care, check out IVHQ’s medical volunteering program in Ghana. Open to medical students and practiced professionals, this program gives you the opportunity to provide basic healthcare and medicine to a community in need. While these services are plentiful in larger cities throughout Ghana, those living in rural areas encounter a great deal of difficulty finding adequate medical and health services. As a volunteer, you will be placed at a local clinic to assist staff with their day-to-day practice. You also may be able to work in a children’s home providing medical care and support. This program starts from $270 for your first week in Ghana, and you’re invited to stay up to six months to gain the most from your experience. Click here to learn more!
If you’re looking for adventure, Love Volunteers is one of the fastest-growing, affordable volunteer organizations in the world, with more than 20,000 travelers placed on meaningful programs globally since 2009. Love Volunteers currently offers more than 120 projects in 34 countries – in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas – and just in the past year, they sent more than 4,000 travelers abroad.
One of Love Volunteers’ many different adventures abroad is their Amazon Environmental Protection project in Pastaza Province, Ecuador. On this trip, you will work at a biological station that performs field research on 2,000-hectare reserve – the research center also helps to improve the health, nutrition, and livelihood of its surrounding communities through education and support. As a volunteer, a few of your tasks can focus on gardening and forestry, educational programs, rural school construction, and research projects. You will stay in a dormitory-style cabin with meals included – this volunteer program starts from one week and you’re invited to stay for three months. Learn more and sign up here!
For a less remote location – and as a great opportunity for zoologists, veterinarians, and other travelers interested in caring for animals – check out Love Volunteers’ animal rescue program in Buenos Aires! On this program, you will volunteer at a sanctuary that cares for 150+ rescued animals, including pigs, goats, rabbits, cows, horses, parrots, dogs, and cats. Project goals include providing a safe place for mistreated or injured animals, delivering medical attention and rehabilitation, offering a home for animals, and giving the opportunity for volunteers and locals to engage in cross-cultural exchange. A few of your responsibilities can include feeding, cleaning shelters, gardening, yard work, fixing fences and other structures, grooming and playing with dogs, and much more. During your free time, you will be able to explore Buenos Aires, learn to tango, and enjoy Argentinian culture. Click here to apply!
For more than 20 years, Projects Abroad has offered volunteer placements and internships in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean. With more than 100,000 volunteers placed in over 30 countries worldwide, Projects Abroad is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the world. With a wide variety of programs available, some of the many different trips offered can be customized for travelers aged 19 and over, 50 and over, and even for professionals who want to enhance their careers and lend their skills to sustainable and impactful programs overseas.
Volunteering abroad isn’t just for students. Projects Abroad offers a wide range of programs ideal for you, whether you’re volunteering on a career break, as a work trip, or after retirement. Trips include:
- Flexi Trips, for volunteers 16 and older, with flexible start dates and durations, and free time for independent activities.
- Grown-up Specials, for volunteers 50 and older, with set start dates and durations, and an itinerary of social activities with your group.
- Team Trips, with fixed start dates and durations, and an itinerary of social activities with your group.
- Bespoke Group Trips, which are completely customized, ideal for a team building trip with your colleagues, friends, or family.
A top program to do during a career break is Projects Abroad’s Sea Turtle Conservation Project in Mexico. This is the perfect opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and do something different to your day job. On this project, you’ll play an important role in protecting endangered sea turtles. Depending on the time of year you volunteer, you will:
- Go on night patrols along the beach to identify turtle nests and collect eggs
- Relocate the eggs to protected corrals
- Release hatchlings and watch as they scuttle to the sea
- Help with biodiversity studies in different coastal ecosystems
- Do beach clean-ups to protect marine animals from harmful plastic waste
When you’re not actively involved in marine conservation volunteering, you’ll enjoy living near a beautiful black sand beach in the town of Cuyutlan. Learn more and get started here!
Projects Abroad’s Childcare Grown Up Special in Nepal is the ideal way to use your life experience to help children in disadvantaged communities. With a group of volunteers your age, you’ll work on fun games and activities to promote early childhood development. You can also get creative and help with light renovation work, like painting colorful educational murals.Prepare to revel in gorgeous views of the Himalayas while you live and work with people your age in Kathmandu. Learn more and apply here!
Projects Abroad’s bespoke group trips are perfect for your team building work trip! If you have a group of five or more, you can chat to our staff about arranging your tailor-made trip. You can choose the country you’ll volunteer in and the kinds of activities you’d like to do, and Projects Abroad will take care of all the logistics for you. The organization offers great flexibility and variety, and projects run year-round. This means you can choose your start date and project duration. Read more here.
Naturally Africa Volunteers is another excellent organization to check out if you want to take a break and do good during your travels. Programs run from two weeks to three months, with placements in Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, and South Africa. NAV is a wonderful option if you’re considering a career break in particular: you can work toward enhancing your skill sets before returning to the everyday grind, or you can pick up new skills to enhance your career once you return home.
From four weeks to three months, you’re invited to improve the standard of primary care and support to rural communities in Lake Malawi – this program has a major focus on education and awareness as well. As a volunteer, your tasks will depend on your level of experience, but can include:
- Home-Based Care: Conducting home visits to chronically-ill patients, and leading lessons on HIV/AIDS prevention, malaria prevention, personal hygiene, recording information, first aid, wound care, sexual health awareness, and more
- Wound Care: Part of the Home Based Care program, you will clean wounds, dress and bandage them, and make referrals to hospitals for more serious injuries and infections
- HIV/AIDS Awareness: Providing support and counseling to community groups, increasing awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS to reduce stigma and provide better prevention and treatment
- Local Community Primary Health Care Center: Best suited to volunteers with medical experience, this program allows you to shadow local doctors and nurses, help with outpatient treatment or in different areas of the hospital, assist with everyday duties such as midwifery or cleaning and dressing wounds, and much more
- Malaria Prevention and Awareness: Assisting with prevention techniques and education, conducting project data collection and collation, and distributing mosquito nets
- Nurseries for Orphans and Vulnerable Children: Assisting nurses with their duties, teaching in a pre-school, and promoting health and nutrition
Through each of these programs, you will play a role in creating a healthier environment and bright futures for children and adults in Malawi. Learn more and apply here!
Ready to Travel?
Traveling and volunteering as an adult in many ways can be more rewarding than a trip you’ll take as a student: through your acquired skills and knowledge, you have the potential to make a greater and more lasting impact on sustainable community initiatives. Whether you’re traveling with your company for a few days, or taking a career break or sabbatical, or just spending a week volunteering on a project that’s near and dear to your heart, there’s no limit to the ways you can make a difference and truly enjoy your travels.
If you would like more information about the many different volunteer abroad opportunities available to you, check out these articles:
2017 Best Volunteer Abroad Programs, Organizations & Projects
Medical Volunteer Abroad Programs for Doctors, Nurses, Pre-Med Students
Volunteer Abroad for Disaster Relief Projects
Volunteer Abroad Opportunities for Seniors and Retirees