Volunteer in Sri Lanka: Sea Turtles, Medical, Teach English & More

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Just under India lies one of the great spaces of natural beauty, vibrant culture, and adventure in the world. Though it may be a small island, Sri Lanka is certainly mighty when it comes to biological diversity and welcoming people. Also known as the “nation of smiling people,” this 25 thousand square-mile nation boasts one of the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world, both on land and in the ocean surrounding.

But Sri Lanka’s allure isn’t just in its natural wonders; it’s also a premier destination for surfing enthusiasts. The island’s vast coastline offers a plethora of surfing spots that cater to both beginners and seasoned surfers, making it a must-visit for wave chasers from around the globe.

A predominantly Buddhist country and the oldest democracy in Asia, Sri Lanka’s history and culture are steeped in different religious traditions and an ever-interesting political system. The food is likewise dynamic and intriguing: traditional dishes including curry, string hoppers, wattalapam—coconut pudding with cashew, spices, and more—kottu—the main dish of vegetables, eggs, and spices—and more, often served on plantain or lotus leaves.

Whether you’re drawn to Sri Lanka for its surfing waves, the healing touch of Ayurveda, the depths of Buddhist meditation, the vibrant underwater world of snorkeling, or the open arms of its people ready to share their cuisine and smiles, the island offers a multitude of avenues for exploration and impact.

The volunteer opportunities available in the area are as varied as the diversity of Sri Lanka’s native plants and animals. If you are currently studying dentistry, medicine, physical therapy, teaching, or beyond, and are looking for an internship or experience in a field that is unlike any other, Sri Lanka is for you! If you want to learn about Buddhism, temple restoration, or elephant conservation efforts, Sri Lankan lands are the space and place.

If you are eager to offer your time and enthusiasm in communities that are excited to meet you, the following volunteer organizations are looking for people just like you.

Volunteer Opportunities in Sri Lanka

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Volunteer with International Volunteer HQ

International Volunteer HQ has been working for a decade placing tens of thousands of volunteers in positions where each can make impactful changes in their host communities globally. Values-based, IVHQ strives to provide safe and ethical programs for both volunteers and host communities. Within Sri Lanka, they offer eight different projects to choose from, all around the vibrant city of Kandy, including:

  • Medical: You will be placed at a hospital in Kandy, observing and working alongside the hospital staff to perform and learn many medical procedures with minimal resources is an experience you cannot find elsewhere. As this is a training hospital, only medical students can volunteer for this program, and specializations are welcome! Placement depends on your experience and availability. Requirements include proof of study, resume, letter of recommendation, and letter of intent.
  • Construction and Renovation: Help repair and upgrade community buildings like Buddhist temples, schools, and preschools. No experience needed — just a willingness to contribute to the local infrastructure, gaining unique cultural insights and building maintenance skills. Open to volunteers aged 16+, it’s a chance to make a tangible difference while immersing in Sri Lankan culture and learning construction techniques.

IVHQ’s Sri Lanka programs offer an all-inclusive package from $380, covering accommodation, meals, airport pick-up, and more. Volunteers can also earn a Certificate of International Volunteer Service. Stays range from 1-12 weeks for individuals aged 16+ and families, in volunteer houses or homestays, ensuring deep community engagement.

GoEco

GoEco’s volunteer programs in Sri Lanka offer a unique blend of cultural immersion and impactful service, providing volunteers with opportunities to contribute in areas like education, childcare, community development, and wildlife conservation. With inclusive packages, volunteers are accommodated in shared rooms within a volunteer villa, enjoy three meals a day, and benefit from airport transfers and orientation. Explore their range of programs like: 

  • Women’s English Literacy Program: Empower local women in Galle, Sri Lanka, by teaching English, boosting their confidence and employability. Open to all proficient in English, especially beneficial for women seeking to make a significant impact.
  • Environmental Conservation Program: Join environmental efforts, engaging in reforestation, waste management, and mangrove restoration to protect the island’s natural beauty. With a minimum one-week commitment, this project in Galle caters to individuals aged 17 to 65, aiming to make a positive, eco-friendly impact.

Volunteer Programs in Sri Lanka with Projects Abroad

Since 1992, Projects Abroad has prided itself in making your gap year incredible: originally started by facilitating English teaching in Eastern Europe, it now has expanded to sending students, gap year travelers, and any-age volunteers all over the world for a variety of different programs.

Projects Abroad has a wide range of options available, so you’re sure to find something that interests you. You can gain valuable experience on a global internship, or help address an issue you are passionate about.

Teach English in Sri Lanka: You can gain practical classroom experience and work with disadvantaged students to help improve their English conversation when you volunteer to teach English in Sri Lanka. You’ll encourage children to practice speaking with you, so they can gain more confidence, and learn to express themselves in English. This is a wonderful way to get practical classroom experience for your resume, and give back at the same time. You can also teach technology.

Involvement Volunteers International (IVI)

With over 30 years of experience, this Australian non-profit has placed more than 20,000 volunteers in missions worldwide, emphasizing affordable, safe, and responsible volunteer travel. Involvement Volunteers International (IVI) offers an unparalleled opportunity to contribute to Sri Lanka’s vibrant communities through nine diverse projects located in culturally rich Kandy, beachy Ambalangoda near Galle, and rural Hanguranketha.

  • Ancient Temples Restoration Project: Contribute to the restoration of ancient temples in Kandy. This project includes renovation, painting, and creative work like murals, alongside community improvement tasks. Open to volunteers 16+, a criminal background check is required.
  • Kindergarten Teaching: Assist in teaching kindergarten to offer education to underprivileged children. Your role involves supporting local teachers with English, reading, and creative activities like drawing and sports. Volunteers can also teach village kids and adults to enhance their English skills, contributing significantly to their future opportunities.

IVI ensures a comprehensive experience with included accommodation, meals, airport pickup, local transportation, an orientation day, project materials, and a certificate upon completion, alongside pre-departure advice and preparation tools.

IVI’s orientation introduces volunteers to Sri Lankan culture, customs, and safety, enhanced by a city tour of Kandy, a cultural show, and a Sinhala language lesson, setting the stage for a meaningful engagement. Optional extended cultural orientations are available for those seeking deeper immersion.

Volunteering Solutions

Volunteering Solutions provides a gateway to an enriching volunteer experience in Sri Lanka, offering a diverse array of programs ranging from 1 to 24 weeks throughout the year. Volunteers can engage in meaningful projects located in Galle, Kosgoda, and Wasgamuwa National Park. Volunteering Solutions boasts 11 volunteer and internship options, all supported by a local team to ensure a safe and enriching experience. Accommodations are provided in a tropical villa near the beach, facilitating a community environment with volunteers from across the globe.

  • Wild Elephant Conservation & Research Program: Join the Wild Elephant Conservation & Research Program in Wasgamuwa National Park and immerse yourself in wildlife monitoring and conservation efforts. Volunteers work closely with researchers to track and observe elephants in their natural habitat, contributing to vital conservation work without interfering with the animals. This program offers a unique chance to live amidst nature, learn about wildlife conservation, and work towards resolving human-elephant conflicts. 
  • Pre Medical & Nursing Healthcare Volunteer Program: Ideal for those exploring a medical career, this program offers insights into Sri Lanka’s healthcare system, involving work at hospitals and health centers. Volunteers receive project-specific training and participate in observation-based learning in various medical wards. No prior medical background is required, making this an enriching experience for all interested in the medical field.

Suitable for individuals aged 16 and above, these programs not only promise impactful work but also the chance to earn a certificate upon completion. Additionally, volunteers have the option to partake in a 7-day Culture and Adventure tour to explore Sri Lanka’s rich heritage and landscapes.

Turtle Conservation in Sri Lanka with Plan My Gap Year

Plan My Gap Year was created by volunteers for those who love volunteering, giving the opportunity to embark on an adventure while making sustainable impacts on communities in the developing world. PMGY’s experiences range from 1 to 24 weeks, so you don’t necessarily need to be taking a gap year to participate!

Plan My Gap Year’s turtle conservation program allows volunteers to help with rehabilitating sea turtles through conservation efforts and engage in different community development projects. Along with ogling over baby turtles, by the end of the experience, you will be able to identify different kinds of turtles and learn how to collect eggs and keep them safe until hatching, help the turtles to return to the sea, treat injured turtles and much more. Volunteers will train and work with staff before being hatched, so to speak, to be able to work on their own, feeding the turtles, cleaning their tanks and shells, and more.

You must be at least 17 by the start of the program, undergo a background check and have a good level of English. Your accommodations will be at the volunteer house just outside of central Ambalangoda and transport will be provided to and from the project. Traditional dishes will support your three meals a day provided in-house.

Fees begin at $300 for 1 week plus a registration fee.

Educational Support in Sri Lanka with Love Volunteers

Love Volunteers aims to ensure their volunteers have a life-changing experience while making a meaningful difference in diverse cultural settings. In Sri Lanka, they have chosen to work with the town of Badulla to allow volunteers like you to help students build their English and IT skills. As English is becoming an increasingly important skill for people to obtain all over the world, your help here is crucial. Depending on your skill set, activities could range from basic computer skill lessons to more intensive courses of English. Working days include 4-6 hours of activities followed by a relatively free time that may include sporting events, cultural shows, or awareness programs.

You need to be only 18 to volunteer, though it helps if you have experience in education or childhood development and have completed a TEFL course, however, this is by no means necessary. Most of all, your fresh energy and excitement is warmly welcomed and encouraged!

Volunteers will be staying either in the Volunteer Center or with host families and three meals a day of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine are provided daily.

Fees start at 1 week for $229 and include airport pick up, accommodation, orientation, meals, and more.

Renovation Project in Sri Lanka with Global Nomadic

Global Nomadic, founded in 2009, has been connecting people to volunteer opportunities that have a lifelong impact, for individuals and communities alike, in over 40 countries with a variety of projects. In Sri Lanka, you can find yourself in Hanguranketha, a sacred place previously inhabited by the Kings when they were pushed out of Kandy, the royal capital city. Thus, this city is brimming with historical vibrancy and temples that once housed kings – and they need your help keeping the temples in good shape. Tasks can include many basic renovation activities, painting, artwork restoration and teaching English to young monks at a nearby school.

Volunteers will stay in the volunteer center, 2 kilometers from the center of Kandy with amenities including linens, hot showers, safety lockers, and more, but without wifi. Meals include three a day on the weekdays and two on the weekends.

You must be at least 18 years old and be able to commit at least two weeks, have the necessary vaccinations, clean background check, and willingness to dress and behave in a respectful manner while working in the temples, including removing piercings and covering tattoos.

2-week minimum stay is required, as the first week is a required introductory week, at $350 per week.

Ready to Travel?

If you’re eager for a volunteering journey that not only satisfies your desire to contribute positively to the world but also indulges your senses and passions, Sri Lanka is your destination. By participating in the above programs, you’re stepping into an adventure filled with amazing food, majestic elephants, serene temples, enthusiastic English learners, and the added thrill of surfing on some of the most inviting waves. All of these experiences await your arrival in Sri Lanka, promising a truly holistic and unforgettable experience.

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