Visit Victoria Falls in Zambia as a responsible traveler – and while you’re there, lend a hand as a volunteer! From projects that have you teaching at a rural village with International Volunteer HQ, to shadowing medical professionals at hospitals with Love Volunteers, to romping with chimpanzees at Chimfunshi with African Impact, you’ll have tons of possibilities to plan an amazing African adventure.
As a volunteer traveler in Zambia, you’ll gain valuable insight into global issues while giving individual attention to people and animals in need. Some of the shocking statistics from Zambia focus on its health crisis: more than 1.2 million people there live with HIV, yet fewer than half understand the illness and how to prevent it. As a volunteer, you can make a difference in this country’s health sector.
In addition to health care, you can provide educational support when you volunteer as a tutor or to help teachers in their classrooms. Many schools in rural Zambia suffer from a shortage of resources and formally trained educators, resulting in a “hot-seating” system that only allows children to attend school part-time. Some families can’t afford the school fees, so their children can’t complete primary education.
Wildlife also suffers in Zambia – most notably chimpanzees. Adult chimps are targeted as bushmeat by poachers, leaving the infants unprotected. You can help at a chimpanzee sanctuary, interacting with the primates and inventing social enrichment activities that are fun and encourage socializing.
Whatever project you choose, your time in Zambia will be gratifying and can make a long-lasting contribution to the betterment of this nation.
But it’s not all work! Since you’ll be at Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can add weekend adventure trips to your itinerary, or travel around the area before or after your volunteer placement. Between guided safaris, hiking, whitewater rafting, and bungee jumping, you’ll have no shortage of amazing places to see.
A Little About Zambia
The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country, located in southern Africa. Its capital is Lusaka, but most programs you’ll find in this article are located in Livingstone, a small city on the border of Zimbabwe. Zambia became an independent nation in 1964 and is governed as a unitary presidential republic. Its official language is English.
Historically, Zambia was settled by the hunter-gathering people known as the Khoisan until AD 300, when the Bantu migrated into the area. Throughout the next millennia, other tribes migrated into the region, and kingdoms were established. The Portuguese explorer Francisco de Lacerda was the first European to lead an expedition in Zambia, claiming it for Portugal.
Zambia’s most prominent early visitor was Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone, who hoped to end the slave trade through the “3 Cs“: Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization. He was the first European recorded to see Victoria Falls, and he named it for his monarch, Queen Victoria, in 1855. The British South Africa Company, led by Cecil Rhodes, purchased mineral rights from the Lozi people in 1888. Copper was discovered, which eventually resulted in the establishment of British Colonial rule and the naming of the country Northern Rhodesia. Independence from Great Britain came after a campaign spearheaded by Harry Nkumbula of the African National Congress (ANC), with help later from Kenneth Kaunda of the United National Independence Party (UNIP).
Until the mid-19th century, Zambian people lived in independent tribes, with unique cultural identities. British rule resulted in the urbanization of the region with many ethnic groups moving into cities and influencing each other. There is a movement to introduce what is now called “Zambian culture” into the rural villages, which could diminish traditional cultures. You can still see many of these traits in ceremonies, pottery, basketry, wood carvings, and copper crafts.
Zambia made sports history in 1964 when it declared its independence on the day of the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympics. It became the first country to enter the games as one country, and then leave it as another.
Explore a few unique volunteer programs in Zambia and start planning your itinerary today!
Featured Volunteer Programs in Zambia
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International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) offers purposeful volunteer experiences worldwide. Founded in 2007, IVHQ partners with NGOs and organizations in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. A trusted, low-cost volunteer organization, IVHQ fees start as low as $180, and it has placed more than 80,000 volunteers on worldwide programs that provide support for community building, medical care, education and childcare, conservation and wildlife, and more. Participants are encouraged to stay abroad from one week all the way up to six months to gain the most from their experience.
When you volunteer with International Volunteer HQ in Zambia, you’ll work alongside local medical professionals, helping residents of low-income communities and gaining an understanding of the country’s healthcare system.
Based in Livingstone, this medical volunteer program is open to doctors and nurses, as well as to students in nursing or medical school. You’ll be placed in a clinic according to your interests, your experience, and training, shadowing medical personnel. Your role on this project is as an observer, so it’s important to have realistic expectations, plenty of enthusiasm, and a willingness to work in basic facilities with limited resources. Communication with patients may be limited because of language barriers.
Areas of work may include laboratory testing, pharmacy, maternity, gynecology, and family planning. You may have a chance to learn more about optometry, nutrition, pediatrics, and HIV/AIDS as well.
This program begins on the first and third Monday of each month. Arrive at Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (LVI) in Livingstone, where you’ll be greeted by a member of the team and escorted to the volunteer house. Orientation begins in the morning, with an emphasis on Zambia culture and customs, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities, and more.
Accommodation is in a dormitory-style volunteer house, sharing a bedroom with other volunteers of the same gender. The house has running water and electricity, as well as Western-style bathrooms. There are a communal lounge and garden area for socializing. You can access wifi from cafes and restaurants, but it’s recommended you purchase a SIM card.
During the weekends, you can enjoy an endless list of recreational activities, including trips to Victoria Falls, as well as adventures like zip-lining, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, and micro flights. Or, explore Livingstone and visit the curio markets, restaurants, and shops. Program fees are $270 for one week and include transfers, meals, and accommodation. There is a one-off surcharge of $100 for supplies and additional supervision.
Read more about this opportunity here!
If you are an aspiring teacher or if you have a passion for education, consider a volunteer teaching project in Zambia! This country has a rapidly growing population, but limited resources for its schools and community centers, especially the facilities that offer free admission or reduced fees. Volunteers are needed to teach English, help with math and science, and to tutor students needing extra assistance. Tasks include supervising exams, marking assignments, writing reports, and even planning lessons.
You’ll work with local teachers, helping inside and outside the classroom on extracurricular activities such as sports, music, dance, art, gardening, and nutrition. No experience is necessary to sign up.
Arrive at the Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (LVI) on a Sunday for your Monday morning start. Transfers are included to the volunteer house, where you’ll receive an orientation on the following topics: Introduction to Zambia, Culture, and Customs, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities, and Introduction to Project and Placement.
Accommodations are dormitory-style, and you’ll share a room with up to seven volunteers of the same gender. The house has electricity, running water, Western-style bathrooms, a lounge, and a garden. Your fee includes three meals per day, a mix of Western and traditional Zambian food, prepared by an onsite cook. You may want to purchase a SIM card for wifi. If you choose the rural village placement, you’ll have a homestay with basic accommodations and no electricity. Fees begin at $270 for this experience. Learn more here.
Love Volunteers is a dynamic and fast-growing organization, sending more than 20,000 volunteers abroad on beneficial projects since 2009. They work directly with local charities on grassroots, community development projects, with an emphasis on providing support where and when it is needed. With programs starting at $280 for your first week volunteering on a medical or educational support program in Zambia, you’re invited to stay longer and create more of an impact. Love Volunteers works in 34 countries worldwide, with more than 120 different projects to choose from, and dedicated in-country teams for 24/7 support.
If you’re a healthcare professional or if you’re a medical or pre-med student, you have the opportunity work with some of the most vulnerable people in the world with the Love Volunteers’ medical internship in Zambia. You’ll work at the Yeta Community Hospital, a 100-bed facility established in 1968 to serve the residents of Sesheke District and rural communities beyond.
The hospital staff consists of two doctors and 55 nursing staff, who struggle to meet the disadvantaged community’s needs in the areas of general surgery, managing a maternity ward, children’s ward, an outpatient department, HIV clinic, the pharmacy, dentistry, optometrist clinic, and a mother and child clinic. Be prepared to be resourceful and expect basic conditions – some of the tasks you’ll perform including providing basic care as well as lending a hand with a construction project.
Depending upon your background and experience, you can give presentations to the staff in nutrition, hygiene, addictions, counseling, HIV/Aids, sexual and domestic abuse, tropical diseases, building self-esteem in children, or working with children with special needs. Knowledge of the local language is helpful, but not necessary. Your workday lasts from four to six hours, but you should try to be flexible.
The goals of this medical internship in Zambia are to:
- Improve the future prospects of the people of Zambia
- Provide quality medical care to the impoverished people of Sesheke District
- Offer practical medical experience to volunteers
- Create a cultural understanding between volunteers and local people
- Assist with day-to-day medical care, as appropriate for experience and training
- Network with program staff and medical staff
Fly into Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (LVI) on a Sunday, where you’ll be met by a representative of the staff. Learn about local and regional customs, traveling, rules and recommendations, and what to expect as a volunteer. You’ll stay in the traditional Lozi village of Mwandi, where the residents have retained many of their customs. You’ll stay in a purpose-built dormitory-style chalet, or you’ll be housed in a large canvas safari-style tent. The tents have wooden doors, mosquito nettings, beds, and electricity. Western-style bathrooms with outdoor hot and cold showers are available. You’ll provide your own bedding. Mosquito nets and fans are provided. Wifi is not available, but you can purchase a SIM card in the village.
The program fee begins at $280 for one week and includes airport pickup and transfer, orientation and safety briefing, accommodation, food and meals, onsite supervision, and 24/7 local support. Read about this internship here!
African Impact offers volunteer opportunities in 12 countries throughout Africa and has placed nearly 13,000 travelers since its start in 2004. Its goal is to provide volunteers with a humanitarian experience while in-country on responsible, sustainable projects. African Impact ensures community buy-in by working with local stakeholders and forming partnerships with local governments.
Care for rescued chimpanzees at one of the world’s largest sanctuaries, Chimfunshi, once called “the most wonderful place on Earth,” by Jane Goodall, noted British primatologist and anthropologist. This award-winning, innovative program puts you in Zambia, one of the last true wildernesses in Africa, next to the Kafue River. Chimfunshi cares for more than 120 chimps rescued from the bushmeat trade, zoos, circuses, and bars. The primates here are allowed to live out their lives in safety, having fun and interacting with each other and with human visitors. Some of the tasks that you’ll take on as a volunteer include:
- Bush Walks: Go on bush walks with chimpanzees, interacting them in their natural habitat.
- Behavioral Enrichment: Another important part of the work is behavior enrichment activities, essential to keeping the chimps physically and mentally active. Be creative and make toys and puzzles for them to use and play with.
- Farming and Gardening: You’ll work in the gardens since Chimfunshi has its own farm for growing crops, fruits, and vegetables to feed everyone at the sanctuary. You join in the fruit picking, harvesting, and even cattle work.
- Food Preparation: In addition to helping with harvesting, you’ll work in food preparation, delivering fruits and vegetables around the sanctuary, and making nshima, a local staple diet that the chimps love to eat.
- Enclosure Cleaning and Maintenance: Roll up your sleeves and help clean enclosures, keeping the chimpanzees’ home clean and safe. You’ll also help improve general infrastructure and repair fences.
- Veterinary Assistance: You can assist the on-site veterinarian, who looks after the chimpanzees, as well as the cattle, dogs, cats, monkeys, baboons, parrots, and other animals around the complex. You’ll clean lab equipment, sort supplies, and care for animals.
- Community Work: In addition to volunteering at the sanctuary, you can lend a hand in the community as a teaching assistant at the primary school. You can facilitate kids’ clubs that involve arts and crafts, reading, games, and sports.
You’ll stay in a rustic cottage, surrounded by beautiful gardens. The dormitory-style cabin has a tiny carbon footprint, using solar paneling and locally sourced firewood for energy. After an invigorating day spent with the chimps, you can relax on the large veranda and read a book, or catch up on email. Dine outdoors under a thatched Lapa, and enjoy movie nights, play cards, or socialize with other volunteers. Gather around the fire pit and share stories, toast marshmallows, and stargaze.
Program fees start at $2,122 for two weeks and include airport collection, transfers, accommodation, and all meals. You’ll also have 24/7 support with onsite staff. Read about this award-winning project here.
Bring hope and help to a community where healthcare resources are limited when you volunteer on a medical program with Africa Impact in Zambia. Work alongside professionals in Livingstone, where you’ll gain an understanding of the local healthcare system and help provide care for low-income communities. If you’re already a qualified medical/healthcare professional or a student in the subject, you can shadow personnel and provide basic patient care under supervision, complying with the Zambian Medical Council requirements. Go on home-based visits with local caregivers, and assist in the clinic. Local clinics need your assistance in outpatient care, HIV/TB services, pharmacy, maternity, and pediatrics.
Arrive on a Sunday at the Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (LVI) in Livingstone, and be transferred to the private volunteer house within the Livingstone Backpackers compound, voted the No. 1 Hostel in all of Zambia. It’s a five-minute walk from Livingstone’s town center. You’ll have access to a swimming pool, hot tub, lounge and bar area, a well as a full climbing wall. Bedrooms are dormitory-style and accommodate up to eight people. The house has 24-hour security and individual lockers for your valuables.
Livingstone is home to many stores and restaurants, and on weekends, you can visit Victoria Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world, or any of the nearby national parks. Choose a safari and view the wildlife. Program fees begin at $1,372 for 10 days, and you may stay up to 12 weeks. Learn more here.
Travel where you are needed with A Broader View, a US-based nonprofit charity that organizes humanitarian volunteer experiences worldwide. A Broader View offers 245 work- and study-abroad placements in 25 countries throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Founded in 2008, ABV focuses on affordable programs that connect with locals on a grassroots level, giving participants the opportunity to learn a new language and gain work experience while immersed in a new culture. Its mission is to provide developing countries with programs that aid the neediest communities and forge a bond between those volunteering and those they have helped. In the past decade, ABV volunteers have raised and distributed more than $3 million in donations worldwide.
Volunteer on a medical project in Zambia with A Broader View and help people with limited access to healthcare. This opportunity is open to experienced medical professionals as well as enrolled students in health or medical college programs. Work on a team, providing clinical assistance as well as community outreach, including nutritional education and immunization drives.
Depending on your experience and qualifications, your work can be hands-on or observation-only, anywhere from one to eight weeks. As a volunteer, you’ll have to provide your own medical equipment, including scrubs, lab coat, gloves, and appropriate shoes. You can expect to work six hours per day, Monday through Friday, with weekends off.
Right now, A Broader View offers two medical programs in Zambia: The first is in Livingstone, at clinics and hospitals and working under the direction of the District Health Office. There is an additional $100 fee for supervision for this project.
The second option is volunteering for medical/HIV care at a busy clinic in the Chelston area of Lusaka. Your tasks in Chelston may also include pain management, basic nursing care for terminally ill patients, teaching family members how to care for the ill, counseling, and HIV education. There is an additional $70 fee for supervision for this project.
You’ll arrive at the airport, either Livingstone Airport (LVI) or Lusaka Airport (LUN), and be greeted by local staff, then transferred to your accommodation. You’ll stay with a host family, enjoying an immersive experience. Meals are included. Spend your free time sightseeing, hiking, or visiting Victoria Falls.
A Broader View is a nonprofit charity, so your program fees may be tax-deductible if it’s related to your profession. Program fees begin at $820 for one week. Learn more about the Livingstone program here, and about the Lusaka program here.
A Broader View offers a teaching program in Zambia that places you in a rustic community school on the outskirts of Livingstone, assisting the teacher with lesson plans and other activities. The school is free for the children of the village, most of whom are orphans. Students range in ages from 3 to 14 years old, and your primary tasks will be writing and reading English as well as helping the older students with lessons in math and science. You’ll work for six to seven hours per day.
Fly into Livingstone Airport (LVI) and you’ll be greeted by A Broader View team members, who will provide you with transfers and orientation. Accommodations are with a host family, and breakfast and dinner are included. You’ll need to be enthusiastic and open to the living in a rural village – weekends can be spent exploring the area, taking a guided safari tour, sightseeing Victoria Falls, and visiting nearby Livingstone. Program fees begin at $820 for one week. Learn more here!
Volunteers of all ages enjoy meaningful travel experiences with Frontier, a nonprofit NGO with more than 400 projects in 72 countries around the world. Founded in 1989 by Eibleis Fanning, Frontier offers invaluable opportunities that focus on ecosystem protection, economic growth, community development, and capacity building. Frontier’s earliest project, creating the world’s first multi-user marine park in Tanzania, still hosts volunteers today. It is a testament to Frontier’s policy of collaborating on sustainable ventures and protecting biodiversity.
Travel to an award-winning animal sanctuary in Zambia and work with animals impacted by the bushmeat trade as a volunteer with Frontier’s Chimpanzee Conservation Project. This cultural adventure calls out to the animal lover and eco traveler, as you follow the mighty Zambezi River, the fourth-longest river in Africa, to one of the largest chimpanzee conservation centers in the world.
Your assistance with orphaned animals will help to alleviate some of the damage the cruel bushmeat trade is having on the wildlife of this part of Africa. The bushmeat trade is the commercial hunting, harvesting, and selling of non-domesticated mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds, and is a serious threat to biodiversity. In addition to poaching and the illegal bushmeat trade, activities such as logging and habitat destruction have reduced the primate population to the point of endangerment. This project attempts to rescue and rehabilitate as many orphaned and injured chimpanzees, including other impacted animals, as possible.
Project highlights and tasks include:
- Collecting data on chimpanzee behavioral interactions
- Assisting with rehabilitation of endangered chimpanzees
- Helping to conserve some of Zambia’s most spectacular habitats and wildlife
- Maintaining enclosures and feeding the animals
- Working in the agriculture project to help produce fruit for food and revenue
An important creative component of your duties will be to design enrichment activities, such as puzzles, games, and toys for the chimpanzees to keep both physically active and mentally stimulated.
Fly into Ndola International Airport (NLA) and be picked up by a staff member, who will accompany you to the sanctuary, where you’ll have a chance to relax and learn more about your project.
You’ll stay in dormitory-style housing within the sanctuary, sharing bathrooms with hot running water. Accommodations are basic but clean and comfortable. All meals are provided, with breakfast served buffet-style, and a packed lunch for you during working hours. Dinners are a cooked meal in the evening, incorporating traditional vegetables and fruit, as well as maize-based dishes.
The project begins every other Monday. Fees start at $2,195 for two weeks and include airport pickup and transfers, project orientation and training, meals and accommodations, in-country emergency support, and 24/7 headquarter backup. Learn more about this program.
Ready to Travel?
Zambia has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, according to the World Bank, but that doesn’t mean it has solved all of its problems. It is still a nation in its infancy, having gained independence fewer than 60 years ago. Whether you decide to volunteer as a healthcare professional or student, a teaching assistant, or a wildlife conservator on a chimpanzee sanctuary, you’ll help contribute value to a new country as it forges its identity.
Robin Van Auken · Writer
Robin is a researcher, writer, and a registered professional archaeologist, a skillset she uses every day as a cultural communication specialist with Hands-on Heritage. Her projects connect communities with an emphasis on interpretation and education and conserve cultural and environmental legacies.