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.
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 are initially pulled to Sri Lanka by its native healing system – Ayurveda – as a place to meditate and explore Buddhism, drawn by the prospect of snorkeling or surfing, or to the people who wait with smiles and local cuisine to share, there are multiple projects you can take on within its many different communities for a powerful 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 the field that is unlike any other, Sri Lanka is for you! If you want to learn about Buddhism, temple restoration, or wildlife 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
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, in over 35 locations 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.
Temple Restoration: While working to restore ancient Buddhist temples, volunteers will also have the unique opportunity to learn about Buddhism in sacred places. Oftentimes the work includes cleaning and repainting, always being mindful of the importance of these temples to the surrounding communities, who are very much engaged with the monks and the temples themselves.
During your stay, you will live either in a volunteer house with others who are, like you, working in communities and enjoying the splendor of Sri Lanka, or in a homestay in Kandy for an additional fee. Three meals a day are provided for you throughout the week and twice a day on the weekends, and feature typical Sri Lankan cuisine.
Volunteers must be at least 18 years old or be volunteering with a parent or guardian, obtain adequate volunteer travel insurance and pass a criminal background check.
Fees start at $285 for one week, plus a registration fee, and cover airport transportation, program orientation, and volunteer training, accommodation, meals, the different perks of being an IVHQ member—such as membership to the alumni network—and more.
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.
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.
Support development through ongoing efforts in disadvantaged communities. 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.
Medical Internships in Sri Lanka
Gain medical work experience learning directly from doctors in hospitals and doing health checks. An international medical internship is a great way to boost your resume for medical school applications. You’ll also be involved with hands-on outreach work where you’ll help bring basic healthcare services to communities in need. Projects Abroad offers internships in Sri Lanka in several healthcare fields including:
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 or physical education.
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 are ready for a volunteering adventure that will delight all your senses including that internal pull to give back and make the world a better place: Sri Lanka is for you! Sign up for an account on Volunteer Forever here, and amazing food, beautiful elephants, historic temples, and eager English language learners all wait for your arrival.
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Rebecca Lucas · Guest Writer
Rebecca Lucas is a guest writer with Volunteer Forever.