Shuffle through the bustling streets of New York City, lose yourself in Banff National Park of Canada, and wander around the pyramids Teotihuacan, Mexico. From the Rocky Mountains to the Caribbean shores, North America has it all.
With so much to offer, it shouldn’t surprise you that North America welcomes more than 272 million international tourists each year (World Bank data). Few regions can deliver as epic of an adventure.
That makes the continent the perfect location for your volunteer abroad adventure. Whether you want to volunteer in Mexico as an English teacher or volunteer in Jamaica to build houses, you have all the choices you could want.
In this article, we’ll highlight what you can do and where you can volunteer in North America. We’ll also cover reputable volunteer programs in North America.
Where Can I Volunteer in North America? And What Can I Do?
Before we discuss volunteer programs in North America, let’s define the region. North America spans from the Arctic Archipelago in Canada all the way through Central America. To the east, it’s bound by the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. To the west, it’s bound by the Pacific Ocean. North America has a total of 39 countries and territories.
The region has a lengthy history. According to a National Geographic report, some research suggests that Native Americans have been in the region for 20,000-40,000 years. That’s incredible, isn’t it?
Today, North America has a wonderfully diverse mix of peoples, cultures, religions, nature, and cities. The region has a vital role in world politics and economics. Moreover, much of its natural beauty, especially in countries like Costa Rica, remains intact and vital to global environmental health.
That’s why volunteering in North America is so popular. You have a variety of options. And you can make a huge difference. Fight poverty in the United States, protect the environment in Central America, work as a healthcare volunteer in the Caribbean, and more.
Main destinations for volunteering in North America include:
- Mexico: Through International Volunteer HQ, you can teach English or volunteer in sustainable agriculture in Mexico.
- Costa Rica: Maximo Nivel, a leading provider of volunteer programs in Latin America, has a variety of service projects in Costa Rica, from eco-agriculture to beach conservation.
- United States: Read our guide on volunteering in the USA.
- Jamaica: Read our article on volunteering in Jamaica. You can teach, construct houses, do a medical internship, or volunteer to advance human rights.
- Canada: Fronteering, a leader in wildlife volunteering, runs all sorts of volunteer programs in Canada.
- Guatemala: Maximo Nivel has plenty of volunteer projects in Guatemala, including childcare, healthcare, and construction projects.
- Cuba: Read our guide on volunteer programs in Cuba.
- Belize: Get all the info on volunteering in Belize here.
- Dominican Republic: Global Leadership Adventure, a specialist in educational travel, manages lots of projects in the Dominican Republic.
- Honduras: Love Volunteers runs a great community development project in Honduras.
Volunteering in North America: Featured Organizations and Programs
Now that you know where you can volunteer in North America and what you can do, let’s highlight the best projects.
Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel is the most trusted provider of educational travel, study abroad, and volunteer programs in Latin America. Maximo Nivel is a local organization with four institutes in the region. They partner with community groups, schools, hospitals, and other organizations to ensure programs make a real difference.
For volunteering in North America or Central America, Maximo Nivel has two destinations: Costa Rica and Guatemala. In each country, you’ll discover a variety of service initiatives. Learn more below!
Volunteer in Costa Rica
Price for San Jose: $695 for 1 week; $1,495 for 4 weeks
Price for Manuel Antonio: $1,325 for 3 weeks
Want to volunteer in Costa Rica with Maximo Nivel? You won’t have trouble finding a program that suits you. Interested in helping the environment? Join Maximo Nivel’s sea turtle conservation project or their beach conservation initiative. Hope to uplift disadvantaged communities in Costa Rica? Volunteer to build houses, schools, and community centers. Or join a healthcare volunteer program and care for the country’s most vulnerable.
Other great volunteer projects in Costa Rica are:
- Eco-Agriculture: Head to Monteverde Cloud Forest and work in every step of coffee production, from planting and picking to roasting and packaging. How awesome does that sound? You’ll learn all about sustainable farming and get to sample the product!
- Childcare: Children living in poverty in Costa Rica need greater attention, support, and resources to reach their full potential. Help with homework, teach basic hygiene to the kids, play games, and offer companionship. Your care will improve their current lives and future prospects.
Projects take place in San Jose, Manuel Antonio, and elsewhere in Costa Rica. You can spend your free time wandering the rainforests, visiting the beaches, and hanging out in happening San Jose. It’s entirely up to you!
Register to Volunteer in Costa Rica
Volunteer in Guatemala
Price: $645 for 1 week; $1,255 for 4 weeks
As a volunteer in Guatemala, you can help people better face inequalities, such as lack of economic opportunities and inadequate access to healthcare and education. From childcare placements to healthcare volunteering to eco-agriculture work, you can make a positive difference in many different ways. Other notable volunteer programs in Guatemala include:
- Exotic Animal Rescue: Assist with the rescue, recovery, and relocation of exotic animals that are sick or injured. You’ll work mostly with reptiles. Duties include feeding, cage cleaning, and hosting guests at the rescue center.
- Mayan Immersion: Want to immerse yourself in an ancient way of life? Then join this Mayan immersion program. You’ll live with a Mayan Kaqchikel-speaking family and participate in everyday life. That includes farming, cooking, and making handwoven textiles. It sounds like a life-changing experience, right?
Each program takes place in or near Antigua, Guatemala. When you touch down in Antigua, you’ll realize you’ve arrived in a special place. The whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ruins and colonial monuments will take you back in time. Take it all in when you’re not volunteering.
Established in 2009, Love Volunteers has committed themselves to making the volunteer abroad industry transparent and affordable. With strong relationships with local organizations, they oversee impactful projects in more than 34 countries worldwide. Past volunteers rate Love Volunteers highly, giving them an average rating of 96%. That shows they take care of communities and volunteers.
If you want to volunteer in North America, Love Volunteers has you covered. Specifically, if you want to volunteer in Jamaica or elsewhere in the Caribbean, they have lots of choices, including community development projects and dental internships in Jamaica. You can even volunteer in sports development in Grenada. Look over some other programs below.
Childcare and Development in Grenada
Price: $1,439 for 2 weeks; $2,099 for 4 weeks
Travel to St. George’s, Grenada, the beautiful capital of this gorgeous Caribbean nation. There, you’ll help address challenges disadvantaged children in the country face, such as neglect, abuse, and abandonment. As a childcare and development volunteer in Grenada, you’ll improve the future prospects of children by offering them compassion, quality care, and a sense of hope. Tasks include arranging games and activities for the children, teaching proper hygiene, offering basic education assistance, and doing general maintenance. The centers where you’ll work are understaffed and underfunded, so your help goes a long way.
When you’re not volunteering with children, enjoy Grenada. Relax on Grand Anse Beach, visit the historic Belmont Estate, and taste all the spices (this is the Spice Isle!). Already thinking of a volunteer adventure to Grenada?
Volunteer in Grenada with Love Volunteers
Construction and Renovation in Jamaica
Price: $1,439 for 2 weeks; $2,099 for 4 weeks
Want to get your hands dirty? Then volunteer to build houses in Jamaica. You’ll work in Mandeville, a town and commercial center in the beautiful hills of Jamaica. As a construction volunteer, you’ll improve the quality of housing for impoverished families. Duties include building foundations, laying blocks, painting, and repairing furniture. Your work will help enable Jamaican families to live happier, healthier lives.
If you’re studying engineering, carpentry, construction, or a related subject, this program could boost your resume. When you’re not busy, explore Jamaica! From the Bob Marley Museum to Dunn’s River Falls to all the beaches, the country amazes.
Featuring numerous award-winning projects, Projects Abroad began in 1992 and has placed more than 120,000 volunteers abroad. Projects Abroad has been featured in major publications, including CNN, Time, and the San Francisco Chronicle. That shows they’re doing good work and are a leader in volunteering abroad.
Want to volunteer in North America with Projects Abroad? You can make a positive difference doing everything from volunteer teaching in Mexico to a psychology internship in Jamaica. Learn about two other great projects below!
Sea Turtle Conservation in Mexico
Price: $2,470 for 1 week; $3,460 for 4 weeks
Have a passion for the marine environment? Then protect one of the ocean’s most vital animals; the sea turtle. As a conservation volunteer in Mexico, you’ll work in Cuyutlan, a laid-back beach town on the Pacific Coast. Unfortunately, coastal erosion and poaching threaten the turtles’ future. Each day, you’ll work with expert conservationists to collect scientific data and implement measures to protect the olive ridley sea turtle, such as moving nests to safe areas and releasing hatchlings into the ocean. Sounds amazing, right?
During off-hours, you can enjoy local cuisine, sit on the beach, and venture to other parts of Mexico. If you’re ready for a volunteer adventure to Mexico, click below to apply!
Volunteer Sports Coaching in Jamaica
Price: $3,100 for 2 weeks; $3,860 for 4 weeks
Promote healthy lifestyle habits as a sports coach in Jamaica. As a volunteer, you’ll work with disadvantaged children and teach them important life skills, like teamwork and discipline. You’ll help boost their self-esteem and give them a healthy activity they can do outside of school. Sports you’ll teach include basketball and soccer. You also can help in the classroom if you’d like.
You’ll volunteer in Mandeville and stay with a host family. Immerse yourself in the culture and make lasting connections! And do take time to enjoy the local coffee. It’s terrific!
Global Vision International (GVI)
Founded in 1998, Global Vision International focuses on ethical volunteering across the globe. Each of GVI’s 150+ projects advance United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. For many projects, GVI partners with highly respected international organizations, such as Save the Children and World Wildlife Fund. The organization gets great reviews from past volunteers, with a 95% approval rating overall. GVI places more than 2,500 volunteers and interns in projects annually.
If you want to volunteer in Mexico, put GVI at the top of your list. For instance, you can join one of the following programs in Mexico:
- A marine conservation expedition that aims to preserve the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (teen-specific options available)
- A childcare project in the Mexican Caribbean (uplift children in need)
- An international development internship in the Riviera Maya
Want a volunteer program that packs the action? Considering getting PADI divemaster certification as you serve as a marine conservation intern (details below!).
Mexico Marine Conservation Expedition and PADI Divemaster Internship
Price: from $11,010
This program begins with a 12-week marine conservation expedition, during which you’ll earn PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification and potentially a Biological Survey Techniques Certificate (if staying 8 weeks or longer). During that time, you’ll learn and implement underwater monitoring techniques, including species identification and coral reef surveying. You’ll also assist with coral reef restoration efforts.
After that 12-week program, you’ll get a three-month work assignment at a dive center. You’ll learn how to pick dive sites and lead diving expeditions, and even get to teach classes. How awesome is that?
Perfect for those interested in a career in marine conservation, diving, or a related field, this program offers you the experience of a lifetime. It’s perfect for a gap year, post-graduate travel, or summer holiday. And during free time, you can explore Mexico’s spectacular Caribbean coast. From the food to the beaches, you’ll get swept off your feet.
Specializing in affordable, ethical volunteer projects, GoEco has more than 160 wildlife, environmental, and community initiatives around the globe. They began in 2006 and have become a leading voluntourism company. In 2018, GoAbroad recognized GoEco as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization—a testament to the quality of their work.
For those looking to volunteer in North America, GoEco runs several programs, including a volunteer project in Cuba. Read more below!
Coral Conservation in Cuba
Price: $990 for 1 week; $2,280 for 4 weeks
Hope to volunteer in Cuba? Consider this marine conservation project in Cuba. As a volunteer, you’ll help protect one of the country’s most beautiful islands (Isla de la Juventud). Daily tasks include snorkeling to collect data on fish and seagrass, removing invasive species, and cleaning up coastal habitats. Ready to do your part for Cuba’s natural environment?
Previous participants give GoEco’s volunteer program in Cuba wonderful reviews, like Jamie:
“I had such an incredible, life-changing experience on my trip to Cocodrilo. Pre-trip communication was clear, and my pre-trip questions were answered quickly. I felt extremely prepared and well-informed for my trip. During my trip, I felt well taken care of and supported by the Cuba staff.”
Throughout the program, you’ll have the exciting chance to experience Cuba. Relax on Bibijagua Beach, learn about history at the Presidio Modelo, take a trip to Havana, and more!
Jaguar Jungle Conservation in Mexico
Price: $880 for 1 week; $2,150 for 4 weeks
Love wildlife? Make your way to southern Mexico, and volunteer to protect jaguars. You’ll work with highly trained researchers, which makes the program a great learning experience. Duties include tracking jaguars, assisting with data collection, and promoting environmental awareness in local communities. All your efforts will ensure jaguars have a better chance at a brighter tomorrow.
What’s also great about this jaguar conservation project is volunteers have free time to explore the Yucatán Peninsula. Visit Mayan cultural sites such as Calakmul, an archaeological site, and Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a Mayan city.
Seek a unique and very affordable volunteer experience? Consider Fronteering, an organization that delivers real, raw experiences. Focused on uplifting indigenous communities and preserving wildlife and the environment, Fronteering works in more than 15 countries, including throughout North America.
If you want to volunteer in Canada or the United States, few organizations boast the breadth of programs Fronteering does. We’ll summarize all the opportunities Fronteering provides in those two countries.
Volunteer Programs in Canada
Want to volunteer to save wildlife? Then Canada, with its vast remote wildernesses, is calling your name. Fronteering has more than 20 wildlife volunteer programs in Canada, so options abound. Notable ones include:
- Volunteering on an Arctic Husky Ranch ($1,595 for 8 weeks): Live off-the-grid in the Arctic North Pole of Canada. Care for the huskies and go dog sledding! How fun does that sound?
- Wildlife Rehabilitation in Ontario ($1,195 for 4 weeks): Care, feed, and administer medication to injured and orphaned native wildlife. You’ll stay by Canada’s Great Lakes and near Toronto.
- Volunteering on a Horse Ranch in Alberta ($695 for 4 weeks): Gain firsthand farming experience as you groom horses, clean stables, garden, and do other work. This program fits those interested in Canadian ranching culture.
As you can see, when it comes to volunteering in Canada, Fronteering has all sorts of programs. To see all opportunities to volunteer in Canada with Fronteering, click the link below.
Volunteer Programs in the United States
Looking to volunteer in the USA? Know Fronteering comes to please with their variety of high-quality volunteer projects in the United States. From mustang care in Maine to farm animal rescue in California, you have a wide selection of service opportunities. Other top-notch programs include:
- Raptor Rehab in Oregon ($2,595 for 8 weeks): Fascinated by birds of prey? As a volunteer in this program, you can help injured owls, eagles, hawks, and other amazing birds get back on their feet (or on their wings!). You’ll feed and care for the birds as they recover, and even assist with their release back into the wild.
- Florida Wildlife Care ($1,995 for 6 weeks): Work at a wonderful rescue center right next to the Everglades. Meet the world-famous Florida alligator and other native species. Duties include preparing food, cleaning cages, educating the public, and assisting with medical care.
As you can see, when it comes to volunteering in the United States, Fronteering offers ample choices. Even better, most programs are either in incredibly beautiful destinations or near world-class cities. Click below to see all Fronteering’s opportunities to volunteer in the USA.
Frontier has successfully placed more than 103,000 people in volunteer, intern, and travel abroad programs since beginning in 1989. With more than 400 projects throughout every continent, including Antarctica, Frontier boasts unlimited adventures. See what project attracts you!
When it comes to volunteering in North America, Frontier features everything you could want. Choose among a coral exploration program in Cuba, an environmental internship in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a farmstay volunteer program in Canada, and more (read below).
Animal Rescue Volunteering in the United States
Price: $2,195 for 4 weeks; $3,095 for 6 weeks
Head to an animal rescue sanctuary in Florida, where you’ll rescue and rehabilitate wild animals. Animals you’ll help include wolves, big cats, bears, bats, and more. These creatures had been previously held in abusive captive situations. Your work involves feeding the animals, cleaning and maintaining enclosures, building and setting up animal enrichments, and educating the sanctuary’s visitors. It’s a great experience if you love animals or seek a career in animal science.
During free time, Florida awaits. From the wild Everglades to the beaches of Miami, the Sunshine State impresses.
Volunteer in Florida with Frontier
Indigenous Community Experience in Canada
Price: $2,395 for 4 weeks
Want to volunteer in Canada for indigenous communities? Then venture to British Columbia, and help the Secwepemc people build a better quality of life. You’ll live on the reserve and can learn the traditions, language, and culture of Secwepemc Nation. As a member of the community, you’ll assist with daily tasks, such as daycare, farming, kitchen work, and gathering firewood. You’ll also offer career guidance to members of the community.
This program can truly transform the way you look at the world. You’ll live among the Secwepemc people and support their way of life. It can be an incredible experience if you come with an open mind and heart.
Global Leadership Adventures (GLA)
Want to volunteer in North America but still in high school? Then look at Global Leadership Adventures’ programs. With a history in global education, GLA aims to deliver meaningful teen travel. Designed for those aged 13-18, programs combine travel and education with community service work. The goal of each program is to empower participants to enact positive change and transform the way they look at the world.
GLA operates across the world, including in North America. For example, teens can volunteer in the Dominican Republic or Guadeloupe through GLA.
Note: These programs are held during the summer. They make for perfect summer volunteer trips.
Dominican Republic: Caribbean Service Adventure
Price: $2,499 for 10 days
When it comes to volunteer travel to the Dominican Republic, few programs match this one. The action-packed itinerary includes:
- Hiking Mount Brison and exploring rural life
- Building homes and community centers for underserved communities
- Snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea and swimming in the Dudu Lagoon
- Learning about the Dominican Republic’s history and complex division with Haiti
As a volunteer in the Dominican Republic with GLA, you can do good, learn, and have fun. That’s what volunteer vacations are about, right?
Register Here to Visit the Dominican Republic with GLA
Guadeloupe: French Caribbean Adventure
Price: $4,499 for 14 days; $5,799 for 21 days
Guadeloupe, a French island, wows with gorgeous nature, Creole cooking, and diverse communities. In this fun-filled program, you’ll:
- Study French in class and through immersion activities
- Work on community development projects that serve Guadeloupe’s marginalized communities
- Engage with local youth at a camp and teach them English
- Visit a plantation and explore the island’s agri-tourism
- Snorkel in the crystal-clear waters
So, are you ready to volunteer in Guadeloupe? The time of your life awaits.
Register Here to Visit Guadeloupe with GLA
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
Established in 2007, International Volunteer HQ has placed more than 110,000 volunteers in projects abroad. IVHQ features affordable programs in 50+ destinations. Known for their transparency and impactful initiatives, major institutions and companies, such as UCLA and Microsoft, have chosen IVHQ for their volunteer abroad adventures. They’re absolutely a trusted name in the industry.
If you want to volunteer in North America, IVHQ has numerous high-quality projects, including opportunities to volunteer in the United States and Puerto Rico. You can even volunteer in Belize for marine conservation. Read over some other great opportunities below!
Volunteer in New Orleans, USA
Price: $520 for 1 week; $1,375 for 4 weeks
Greet the New Orleans (aka “The Big Easy”), a city known for its delicious Cajun cuisine, jazz music, and nightlife (Bourbon Street, anyone?). As a volunteer in New Orleans with IVHQ, you can join one of several projects, including:
- Environmental Sustainability: Beautify communities by constructing community gardens, cleaning public parks, assisting with recycling programs, maintaining drainage areas, and building urban trails.
- Community Development: Support disadvantaged people by working at homeless shelters, food banks, churches, and other places that help the most vulnerable.
- Construction and Renovation: Construct, repair, and update shelters for people in need.
- Youth Support: Work in a school, church, or community, and help disadvantaged children and teens. You’ll do everything from tutor the kids to play sports to serve as a positive role model. The goal of the project is to give the youth a safe space to develop positively.
Previous volunteers give the New Orleans program great reviews, such as Kathleen:
“It was a great experience! I learned a lot while volunteering in a new part of the country and got to know the community in a way I otherwise would not have.”
Interested in any of these opportunities to volunteer in the USA? You’ll get to explore New Orleans during free time.
Register to Volunteer in New Orleans
Volunteer in Puerto Rico
Price: $590 for 1 week, $1,650 for 4 weeks
Journey to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and join one of IVHQ’s excellent volunteer programs. For instance, you could serve as a community development volunteer and work in schools, community centers, urban gardens, and neighborhood organizations. You could also volunteer for youth support and assist with childcare and after-school programs. If you want to help Puerto Rico rebuild from Hurricane Maria, you can do that too. IVHQ has two relevant projects:
- Environmental Sustainability: Support environmental initiatives designed to make the island more resilient. Take part in education projects to raise awareness too.
- NGO Support: Local NGOs play a crucial role in revitalizing Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Unfortunately, many NGOs need more staff and resources. Use your skills to fill in the gap, whether that be through IT, research, fundraising, marketing, or another type of work.
Is Puerto Rico calling your name? During free time, San Juan offers beaches, nightlife, and plenty of culture. Visit sites like El Morro, a 16th-century citadel, and San Juan Bautista Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas.
Volunteer in North America Today!
You have lots of great ways to volunteer in North America. When choosing a program, consider your budget, skills, interests, and location preferences. This will ensure you make a positive impact and have a life-changing experience.
To streamline your program search and make your trip more affordable, take advantage of Volunteer Forever’s resources, such as:
- Volunteer Abroad for Free: Learn how to reduce volunteer abroad costs.
- Volunteer Abroad Grants and Scholarships: This detailed list covers all the money that’s out there for you.
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.