Updated for 2023-2024
According to UNHCR, there are more than 100 million forcibly-displaced people in the world, driven newly in part by 7.9 million refugees from Ukraine who have been forced to leave the war due to the invasion of their country. This displacement follows the recent deluge of people fleeing Afghanistan when the Taliban re-took the country and before that Syrians. The international spotlight sits squarely on the refugee crisis, but it isn’t just Ukrainians, Afghans, and Syrians who need our help: there are millions of other refugees coming from Somalia, 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 Greece and Spain) as well as other locations such as Mexico 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 all over the world. Since its founding in 2007, IVHQ has placed more than 130,000 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. With program fees starting from $20USD a day, 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 the country, IVHQ’s local team provides orientation and training sessions, as well as 24/7 support.
If you want to volunteer with refugees abroad, IVHQ offers five programs for volunteers to work alongside support programs and NGOs in Europe and the Middle East. The goal of these programs is to help them restart their lives by providing them with the resources they need to succeed. Volunteers will help in improving access to education, job opportunities, food, and other support services.
For example, travel to the Roman countryside to work alongside migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in a sustainable farm community to increase their food sources. The tasks will be hands-on such as planting, cultivating, harvesting vegetables, taking care of farm animals, or planning workshops for the children but also empowering these displaced people with sustainable farming skills.
Travel to Barcelona, Spain to volunteer in a migrant and refugee support center that helps young adult refugees and migrants from North Africa. For this program, volunteers will go to a local host center and informally socialize with them through cooking, eating, and learning English. Share your knowledge and work with adults interested in learning English, a skill that opens new career opportunities. This rewarding experience places you with refugees from poverty who are currently unemployed. While socializing with them in English, these displaced people will also gain knowledge of different cultures, new perspectives, and experiences.
Another impactful program to help refugees and asylum seekers is the community support program in Athens. You will work in a community center that is a safe space for them to improve their job seeking skills and integrate into the Greek community. Your work will consist of the center’s operational and administrative tasks as well as helping in workshops and lessons planned by teachers.
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. Currently, GoEco is offering a special travel grant where you can stay for the 3rd week free! Check out the qualifying programs here!
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.
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 Mexico.
Want to help address the refugee crisis in the Americas? Then sign up for this refugee volunteer program in Mexico. You’ll serve at an aid shelter in Guadalajara, a city with gorgeous cathedrals, beautiful surrounding scenery, and an excellent food scene. As a migrant and refugee support volunteer, your duties will include providing refugees and migrants with warm meals, distributing clothes and necessities, keeping the facilities clean, and assisting lawyers, social workers, and staff. You’ll also work to sensitize the community to the refugee situation. Your service will help make the journey for many folks easier, and you’ll help the region cope with the rising number of refugee and migrant caravans. This project has a truly amazing mission, and you can be a part of it. Learn more and register here!
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.
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.
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.
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: