According to UNHCR, there are more than 65.3 million forcibly-displaced people in the world, 21.3 million of whom are refugees who have left their countries of origin. With the recent deluge of people fleeing Syria, the international spotlight sits squarely on the refugee crisis. But it isn’t just Syrians who need our help: there are millions of other refugees coming from Somalia, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, Kenya and dozens of other countries, driven away because of civil war or persecution for their political views, ethnicity, or religion.
NGOs and volunteer programs around the globe are constantly looking for people willing to volunteer for refugee relief, as there is still much work to be done to help these migrants find peace and stability. You can travel to Europe (in countries such as Belgium and Spain) as well as other locations to assist with on-the-ground support for people desperately in need.
A few ways you can help as a volunteer include:
- Teaching English and other subjects to children and adults
- Counseling individuals and families and helping them to find education and job opportunities
- Caring for children and providing basic support services for families
- Providing medical care and health check-ups
- Collecting and distributing food and supplies in refugee camps
There are so many ways you can make a difference, both large and small, for families and individuals in great need. To get started, here are nine great opportunities to volunteer abroad with refugees around the world.
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) provides affordable volunteer programs in 45+ countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, the USA, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Since its founding in 2007, IVHQ has placed more than 85,000 volunteers around the world on a variety of projects, ranging from elderly and special needs care, education, wildlife, environmental conservation, construction and renovation, medical care, community development and social enterprise, and more.
If you want to volunteer with refugees abroad, IVHQ offers the opportunity to work alongside NGOs promoting better health and wellbeing outcomes for refugee communities in Belgium and Italy, and there are also opportunities to support an organic farming project in Spain, providing work for young immigrants living in Madrid.
With program fees starting from $180, IVHQ is a trusted, low-cost volunteer program that prepares its volunteers for travel through email and phone correspondence and a series of online training modules. When volunteers are in country, IVHQ’s local team provide orientation and training sessions, as well as 24/7 support.
Travel to Brussels and provide support to disadvantaged youth and young adults, including refugees seeking temporary asylum in Belgium. There are several IVHQ projects to choose from that focus on assistance to homeless people, and the community centers that serve them. As a volunteer for the Educational Support project, you’ll provide valuable assistance to local teachers, with an emphasis on teaching basic English and math. IVHQ’s Food Outreach project in Brussels places volunteers within soup kitchens, preparing and serving meals, and cooking and cleaning. A Mobile Library travels throughout Brussels, serving the homeless and refugee population with books and coffee, and a chance to receive informal education through loaner books. Volunteers with the library manage the checking-in and checking-out of books and resources, stocking inventory, maintaining order in the library van and helping with informal educational workshops.
Pack your laptop and spend a month with an NGO in Naples, the capital city of the Campania region in Southern Italy, working with refugees to provide immigration support. This IVHQ opportunity is perfect for motivated individuals with an interest in administrative support and research. Because of their limited resources, many NGOs depend upon international volunteer support to operate their programs. You’ll gain professional experience with an NGO abroad as you work organizing and running workshops, conferences and outreaches, as well as networking, communication and English language support. You need to be at least 18 years of age, bring your own computer, and spend a minimum of four weeks on this project.
Travel to Spain to volunteer with an IVHQ project that focuses on teaching English to immigrants from Latin America and South America. Share your knowledge and experience as a Spanish-speaking teaching volunteer and work with adults interested in learning English and French, a skill that opens new career opportunities. This rewarding experience places you with refugees from poverty who are currently unemployed or stay-at-home parents. Volunteers assist predominantly in teaching English, however you may also teach other subjects, such as mathematics and computer skills. In addition to teaching adults, you may consider a teaching opportunity with youth from migrant communities who attend community centers during the months of July and August. This summer camp teaching project combines teaching English and French along with sports and play in an outdoor environment.
With more than 20,000 volunteers placed on meaningful programs overseas since 2009 (and 4,000 within in the past year), Love Volunteers is one of the fastest growing volunteer organizations that you can be a part of right now. Right now, Love Volunteers works in 34 countries worldwide, with more than 120 different projects – some of their most popular destinations include:
- Asia: Nepal, Thailand, Bali
- Latin America: Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador
- Africa: South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania
Love Volunteers’ trips are affordably-priced, starting from only $200 for your first week volunteering on one of their programs that support refugees.
In the outskirts of Nairobi, Love Volunteers runs a program for volunteers interested in helping out at a Kenyan refugee camp. This program focuses on supporting the hundreds of thousands of Kenyan families who fled their homes after the 2007 election, eventually becoming Settled Internally Displaced People. Today, Love Volunteers works toward bettering the lives of these migrants in a variety of ways. During your volunteer program, you can expect to get involved with construction projects, teach schoolchildren, help to develop sustainability programs (such as agricultural projects or water sanitation initiatives), assist with the daily operations of a medical clinic, or even dive into fundraising activities.
On this program, you will make a difference at one of several different refugee camps near Nablus in Palestine’s West Bank, or in a neighboring village. Children are affected the most in refugee camps, so your efforts are needed to help them build confidence, self-esteem, and a bright future for themselves through education and social services. As a volunteer, you can create activities and events, design fun games for the children, support and assist with Community Development initiatives, and much more. While you do not need a background or education in Social Services or related fields, this is a wonderful opportunity for volunteers who would like to pursue a career in anthropology, Social Work, social entrepreneurship, or economics.
Since 1995, Cross-Cultural Solutions has provided international internships, gap year experiences, volunteer trips, and high school volunteering programs in 9 countries throughout Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. CCS’ programs focus on child development, girls’ and women’s empowerment, and global health, and to date, nearly 35,000 volunteers have traveled with Cross-Cultural Solutions.
Right now, the organization holds a 99% approval rating from past participants, and offers year-round presence their host communities, a full-time team of local expert staff to support their volunteers, and among the highest standards of safety and well-being in the volunteer travel industry. As well, Cross-Cultural Solutions has received recognition including Special Consultative Status with the United Nations, GreatNonprofits’ top award for the third year in a row, and is accredited by the American Gap Year Association.
Cross-Cultural Solutions offers volunteers the opportunity to work with migrants and refugees through their Syrian Refugee Program in Greece. You’ll be volunteering in refugee camps near Chalkida, a town just north of Athens, and this program places an emphasis on bringing a sense of purpose and renewed dignity to the hundreds of displaced people within temporary camps.
As a volunteer, you will have opportunities to immerse yourself in all aspects of refugee support, including distributing food and supplies, developing camp infrastructure, providing structured activity and lessons for children, or working in female-friendly spaces to provide health information and other services. You’ll also have the opportunity to become an Advocate for Refugees, a position in which you’ll have the opportunity to put your photography, writing, and marketing skills to good use by telling the stories of these refugees to the world in order to dispel myths and share the realities of their plight.
For more than 25 years, Projects Abroad has offered volunteer trips in Africa, Asia, Europe, the South Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean. As one of the world’s largest volunteer abroad organizations, Projects Abroad sends over 10,000 volunteers on meaningful programs each year, ranging from archaeology, to teaching, to child care, to medical assistance, and much more. Right now, Projects Abroad offers an impactful opportunity to volunteer with refugees in Italy.
Projects Abroad operates a volunteer refugee program in Italy, which focuses primarily on supporting the refugee children of Calabria, many of whom arrived in Italy alone. As a volunteer, you’ll be working to help these children adapt to their new circumstances by teaching English or Italian, providing child care, helping to run cultural workshops, and leading activities such as sports, music, theater, and computer skills training. You may even have the opportunity to work at Reggio Calabria, a port where boats arrive from Africa. Here, you would help to distribute food, water, clothing, blankets, and other urgently-needed items, and serve as one of the first points of contact for arriving refugees.
Agape Volunteers is an excellent choice if you are looking for a reputable and affordable volunteer abroad trip to Africa. Founded in 2011, AV is a registered UK charity that supports humanitarian efforts and environmental conservation – with volunteering, tourism, and development work in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, and Maasai-land available, projects range from medical volunteering, to teaching abroad, to volunteering at a wildlife refuge. Program costs include registration and administration fees, tours and excursions, housing and feed, and even travel insurance, making Agape Volunteers the most affordable option for volunteering in Africa.
For more than a decade, Kenya has staggered under the humanitarian crisis that followed the 2007 election that declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner. Targeted ethnic violence resulted in casualties of more than 1,300 people, and the displacement of half a million more.
Even after the violence that displaced so many Kenyans ended, they were unable to return to their homes and communities. In response, the Kenyan Government and the United Nations established Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps to house these internal refugees.
In 2012, Agape Volunteers and its partner Marifiki began supporting refugees at one of the larger IDP camps in Mahi Mahu. Agape Volunteers provide weekly food deliveries, help to construct fresh water supplies, and construct numerous buildings, including houses and schools. The IDP continues to be one of Agape Volunteers’ primary initiatives for funding and volunteers to this day.
International travelers who choose to work in Kenya will spend part of their time at the IDP, volunteering assistance with medical outreach work, distributing supplies, or helping with the building and maintenance of ongoing construction projects. Learn more about volunteering in Kenya and refugee work at an IDP camp.
Abroadly is Volunteer Forever’s new booking platform that helps you choose from more than 150 different volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide.
By vetting and partnering with reputable international organizations, Abroadly showcases impactful trips where you can lend a hand and learn about child and youth development, construction and community development, education, health and medicine, human rights, sports and recreation, and wildlife and environmental conservation.
When you apply for a program through Abroadly, you’ll also have free access to Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform, which can help you fundraise for your trip overseas. And you can use your application to enter for the chance to win a $500 scholarship – your application fee is 100% refundable if you are not accepted into the program of your choice.
Help refugee children whose families have crossed the border from Cambodia, seeking employment and a better way of life, by joining uVolunteer at a Buddhist Temple in Trat, Thailand. Language is a barrier for children who don’t attend school, and the monks at Wat Klong Phet offer an alternative to school through its community education program to help children develop skills they need to succeed, including conversational English. This is where you’ll be able to assist – you’ll also interact and engage students in sports, games, and show them life skills such as preparing food and practicing proper hygiene.
Spend your free time visiting sacred and religious sites, specialty museums, and cycling tours of the area. Trat lies along the Cardamom Mountains, with a coast on the Gulf of Thailand – and there are numerous islands nearby with white-sand beaches and coral reefs. Program costs start at $935, and you’re invited to stay three to 12 weeks. Learn more and apply here.
Join Abroadly’s partner Khaya Volunteers on the Cape Town Community Project, working to provide quality care and support to alleviate poverty in South Africa. Working in Lofdal, this community nonprofit responds to the diverse needs of the people in this desperate village. Some of the tasks they oversee include helping with food preparation and delivery, helping with foster care of abandoned babies and toddlers, assisting at the crèche, looking after very young children while their parents are working during the day, organizing games and exercise at the a local school and at the aftercare facility, and working in community gardens.
Your primary focus is helping the children of the community, especially in the area of of school absenteeism, which impacts a child’s education and future careers and financial prospects. As a volunteer, you’ll guide and support the children through social support to end this cycle of poverty. This program costs $405 per week, with stays up to eight weeks. Learn more and apply today.
If you’re up for a challenging but immensely rewarding opportunity overseas, take a look at Abroadly’s partner in New Delhi and its work with vulnerable street children. Volunteering Solutions offers placements in India that allow you to get directly involved in making a difference in the lives of marginalized children.
There are more than 175,000 street children in Delhi, with a great portion living in and around the train stations. Many of these frightened children are on the streets because they ran away from home, and have nobody to look out for them. They scavenge for food, they don’t go to school, and shelters and daycares are their only hope. Your presence can bring a smile to their faces, and help to create a positive environment that encourages them to become part of mainstream society.
Volunteer activities here include:
- Teaching basic English, math, and geography to the children
- Helping to prepare and serve nutritious meals
- Creating a fun environment through songs, stories, and other creative activities
- Decorating and painting the shelter homes
Program fees start at $500, with stays lasting from one to nine weeks. Read more and apply here.
If you’re interested in healthcare – particularly physical therapy – take a look at Global Vision International’s healthcare project in Cape Town, South Africa, that has you providing support, stimulation, and therapy for children with physical and intellectual disabilities. You’ll also assist with educational workshops on general health and hygiene practices for child care providers, teachers, children, and their parents on this placement. Your involvement in setting up and implementing these workshops will help to create a fun, informal, and interactive environment.
More than 75,000 children in South Africa die before the age of five, due in part to a lack of education in general healthcare practices. With a goal to prepare the people of poor communities to better protect their children, this project has long-lasting impact and importance. You’ll contribute to the long-term objectives of improving the quality of education, promoting gender equality, increasing health and wellbeing of less privileged people, and increasing in-country capacity by providing training.
Fees for this program start at $2,090 for two weeks, with stays up to 12 weeks. Click here to learn more and register.
Founded in 2006, Connect-123 offers customized internships, volunteer programs, and study abroad placements in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia. Through tailor-made travel opportunities, you can focus on healthcare, human rights, social work, education, sustainable development, marketing, entrepreneurship, fashion, and much more.
Connect-123 offers tailor-made programs based on your specific interests and abilities. One of their five locations is Cape Town, South Africa, where you’ll have the opportunity to take on a human rights internship. Through this internship, you’ll work in partnership with a local NGO to support migrants and refugees through work at refugee centers, orphanages, legal aid clinics, and other organizations that provide much-needed assistance.
A leading ecotourism company, GoEco is known for their great selection of affordable, ethical volunteer abroad projects. Founded in 2006, they offer more than 150 projects throughout the world, including community aid initiatives that aim to help society’s most vulnerable, such as homeless people, refugees, families in need, and abandoned children. For their incredible work, GoEco was recognized as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization in 2015 by GoAbroad. Learn about some reputable GoEco programs below.
Travel to Costa Rica, where you’ll get the chance to assist disadvantaged communities. Some responsibilities include caring for abandoned children at a group home, giving out warm meals at a soup kitchen, and teaching at a public school. It’s truly a life-changing experience, and you’ll get to help those who in need it most in San Jose. During free time, you can also explore San José, which includes bustling places like San José Central Market, and the surrounding rainforests. Interested? Program fees begin at $990 for two weeks.
This is a wonderful project if you want to lend a helping hand to needy families. Held in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (you can choose where to go), the program involves preparing food baskets for distribution to impoverished families and displaced people around the country. The organization, who partners with the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture, hands out more than 3,000 baskets per week. They do a lot to combat food insecurity, and you can be a part of that. Sound like the right program for you? Know the program fee starts at $720 for one week.
Launched in 2004, Global Leadership Adventures offers teen and high school trips abroad that combine community service with hands-on learning and adventure. With an emphasis on safety – outlined in GLA’s five-point safety system – this organization sends thousands of travelers to 23 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America each year.
Global Leadership Adventures offers a comprehensive program in which you’ll not only sharpen your Spanish language skills, but also explore many of the complex immigration issues facing Spain. On GLA’s Spanish Service Adventure, you’ll engage in projects that promote intercultural understanding and respect for diversity while helping immigrants assimilate into Spanish culture. You’ll help run a local school’s youth summer camp, reinforcing English curriculum through games and activities and promoting concepts of inclusiveness and cross-cultural understanding throughout.
For more than 25 years, Frontier has offered volunteer trips that combine community development, capacity building, ecosystem protection, economic growth, and the development of civil society. From their first volunteer project in Tanzania, Frontier has expanded to include more than 400 initiatives in over 60 countries worldwide. This nonprofit scientific research organization employs dedicated staff who have been published in more than 450 articles in peer-reviewed journals – and whether you’d like to take on an internship abroad, volunteer project, gap year, or teach abroad / TEFL program, Frontier is a great way to travel the world and make an impact.
On this program through Frontier, you’ll be volunteering at an Israeli refugee health clinic in Tel Aviv that was founded to provide free or subsidized medical assistance to African refugees primarily from Sudan, Eritrea, and the Ivory Coast. While Frontier is primarily in need of volunteer doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, there are a variety of other tasks for those without medical training, including running workshops, creating newsletters, working in reception, and possibly even working alongside doctors to administer healthcare.
Volunteering Journeys is a fast-growing organization that offers meaningful placements in Asia and Africa. Volunteering Journeys strives to bring together travelers who want to explore the world, give back to the communities that welcome them, and learn more about themselves along the way.
With Volunteering Journeys, you’ll have the opportunity to work with Burmese migrant children on their Volunteer Teaching English in Thailand program. This program works in conjunction with the Burmese Migrant Project and will afford you opportunities to assist in the integration and education of young Burmese migrants.
Ready to Travel?
If you’re ready to make a positive impact and help some of the world’s most vulnerable people, sign up for an account on Volunteer Forever today and begin fundraising for your service trip abroad. For more information about meaningful travel, take a look at these posts: