Updated for 2023-2024
Winter break is approaching again, and with it the promise of weeks of free time away from your busy school schedule. Now, you could spend quality time with your Netflix account during December and January, feasting on leftover Christmas cookies and generally reveling in the unstructured time, but why not do something more meaningful with your break and return to school or work with fresh perspective and energy?
There are dozens of acclaimed volunteer abroad programs offering travelers the chance to make a difference in countries all over the world. After a few weeks abroad, you’ll be ready to take the New Year by storm with riveting stories about your experiences volunteering in a faraway place. Bonus: many of these programs double as the perfect escape from frosty winter days. There’s no better way to escape the winter blues than by jetting off to places such as Bali, Thailand, Costa Rica or Ghana.
It’s quite common for volunteer abroad programs to offer flexible start dates. While some programs do have fixed dates, many others will work with you to find the most convenient timeframe for your schedule. This often means you can maximize your time off and spend more of it engaged in rewarding volunteer activities.
Here is just a small sampling of some of the incredible international volunteer experiences offered in December and January.
If you’re on a tight budget for your winter break travels, International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) offers lots of affordable volunteer opportunities starting from only $20 per day! Since 2007, IVHQ has placed more than 130,000 volunteers all over the world on programs ranging from child care, to medical care, to teaching, to environmental conservation and much more.
One program that you can sign up for right now with IVHQ brings you to Bali, where you can help out with a variety of meaningful volunteer projects. Based in Lovina on the northern coast of Bali, a few initiatives that you can help with include construction and renovation, environmental education, healthcare education, teaching, and kindergarten. During your weekends and free time you can go snorkeling and diving along the coast, go on a cycling tour, and visit temples and waterfalls. This program starts at $385 for one week. Learn more here!
For another island adventure, travel to Fiji with IVHQ, where you can take part in a construction and renovation project for a local school. This program aims to renovate classrooms and build libraries and resource centers for students. A few tasks that you can help with include painting, cleaning, repairing fixtures, and gardening or landscaping. During your free time, you’re invited to visit the beach, go shopping, and even try out adventure sports like whitewater rafting and shark feeding in Pacific Harbor. This trip starts from one week at $450 – click here to sign up!
Tired of the snow? Spend two weeks in the tropical Amazon jungle, living and working at a conservation camp as an IVHQ volunteer in Peru, one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth. Peru has the largest number of bird species in the world and the third-largest number of mammals. While there, you’ll participate in reforestation projects, trail and home-base maintenance, basic research, and taking inventories of native animal species. Based upon field conditions and need, you’ll be placed at one of three different locations. Accommodations are in rustic bungalows or dormitory-style rooms. Orientation in Cusco will introduce you to Peruvian customs, language lessons, rules, safety, travel opportunities, and in-depth information about your project and placement. Program fees for one week start at $275. Learn more here!
Spend your winter break in Athen, Greece, situated in the Aegean Sea. You can choose from multiple IVHQ projects, including Ethical Fashion, Homeless support, Community Support, and Special Needs Care. IVHQ volunteers with School Support, Special Needs, and Kindergarten projects work under the supervision of teachers, assisting with administrative tasks and playing with the children during break time. Accommodations are in a sustainable hostel in the heart of Athens. IVHQ’s Greece program starts from $605 for the first week. Click here to read more!
Since 2006, GoEco has offered affordable volunteer abroad programs and internships in over 45 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. With more than 170 different programs, GoEco is a great organization to check out if you’re looking for a variety of impactful trips to choose from, from wildlife conservation to teaching English. GoEco was recently recognized as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization from GoAbroad, Top Eco-Enthusiast by Greenmatch, and has been recommended by Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and more. As a volunteer, you will have 24-hour support from the GoEco team, from start to finish.
Escape to a warm, beach destination for your winter break! This program also welcomes families with children from 5 years old and up. Volunteer to teach English to children ages 6-18 years old with local teachers in primary and secondary schools, while immersing yourself in Thai culture. You will plan lessons and fun activities to engage the children to learn English, as well as assisting local teachers as needed. There are no formal requirements to teach as long as you have intermediate English, even teenagers are welcome to assist teaching (with parental consent)! Known for being a beautiful beach destination, this coastal town has golden beaches for swimming and snorkeling during your free time. To learn more about this program, click here!
How about spending your winter holiday volunteering in a tropical island? Then check out this program that aims to rescue, treat, and rehabilitate sea turtles back to the ocean. You will assist the marine biologist and on site veterinarian with feeding, cleaning, and other general tasks for the sea turtles. In addition, you will help maintain the center’s coral garden, as well as helping in beach clean ups. There are many opportunities for snorkeling, fishing, dolphin watching, and other marine activities.
Or, combine a beach vacation with volunteering as a teacher’s assistant in the beautiful island of Zanzibar. Recommended age to for this program is 25 years old and up, with exception to mature young adults subject to their selection. It is one of the more affordable programs starting at $920 for 13 days. You will gain teaching experience by helping the local teachers with preparing lessons or teaching English, math, or the other subjects as appropriate to primary and secondary school students. The volunteer work is usually 4-5 hours so you will have plenty of free time to tour the city. Located in Stone Town, it is the biggest city in the island, and filled with numerous mixed cultural influences and architecture.
As one of the largest volunteer abroad organizations that you can be a part of right now, Projects Abroad sends more than 10,000 volunteers overseas every year, with projects ranging from medicine and healthcare, to teaching, to environmental conservation, and much more.
Make the most of time off on a Winter Break Trip with Projects Abroad. They have been offering volunteer projects for over 25 years so you will be assured an eventful and impactful holiday season. Their volunteer projects run all year round but they have several trips that run over your winter break. These two-week fixed-date projects have a set itinerary and include all accommodation, in-destination transport and meals. This means you can spend your time in the Philippines making a difference and enjoying yourself instead of worrying about all the planning and logistics.
Head to Asia to enjoy the tropical climate of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where you’ll spend your days organizing educational activities for the children at a local daycare center with Projects Abroad. If you want to work with children in another country overseas, Projects Abroad also offers similar projects in Nepal and Sri Lanka.
These placements provide children from disadvantaged communities with a safe and affordable place to learn while their parents are at work during the holidays. You can offer English lessons, play games, read books and conduct other activities that encourage their learning creativity. When you aren’t at the Cambodia daycare center, you can visit the Royal Palace, walk through the markets and sample fish amok in Phnom Penh. During the weekend, you might even choose to take a trip to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Learn more here.
While everyone is indoors cuddling on the sofa, you can get a head start on your future medical career in San Remigio, Philippines. You’ll learn basic health checks,which you can put into practice at community outreaches. Under supervision, you’ll measure blood pressure and blood sugar levels, monitor heart rates and record heights and weights. Doctors and nurses will use the information you gather to diagnose and treat patients, or refer them for further treatment. You’ll even talk to families in their homes about making healthy lifestyle choices.
San Remigio has plenty to offer during your free time too. It is a stunning location for diving and offers some of the prime spots for beachgoers. You can spend your days island hopping, grabbing fresh food at farmers markets or visiting the more modern malls. Learn more here.
Join another well-established volunteer organization to make a difference during your winter break. Involvement Volunteers International (IVI), established in 1989, is a non-profit volunteer abroad organization that beckons individuals to be part of 25,000 volunteers who’ve positively impacted 112 projects in 23 countries. Many of IVI’s projects are located in tropical environments such as Thailand, Costa Rica, and Bali. A few highlighted programs are below.
Escape from the cold, and consider volunteering in Hua Hin, a beautiful beach town, where November to February is the best time to go for dry, sunny days! For this project, you will take part in beach conservation, education on environmental conservation, and help in a mangrove nursery. Specific tasks include watering the plants, preparing seed and soil, planting mangroves in the nursery, cleaning up the beaches and community, and educating the community on effects of climate change, the need to protect the environment, as well as sustainable environmental habits, such as recycling. Hua Hin is a fisherman beach town, with lots of water activities to keep you busy in your free time. You will stay in a volunteer house with AC, with 3 meals a day. It is highly recommended to add an orientation week to understand your project, as well as the local culture and town. Click here for more specific information!
Or, travel to Costa Rica, to make a difference in a local community by teaching children and adults English. Knowing English is quite important for Costa Ricans as it increases more job opportunities and getting out of poverty for the lower socioeconomic class. This program is free for the students. There are many places where you can volunteer including schools, community centers, after school programs, and different types of shelters for both children and adults. If you do not have experience with teaching, IVI will prepare you with an introductory course for teaching English with techniques for effective teaching and other support. The project will be based in either Manuel Antonio or San Jose city. Accommodations will be staying comfortably with a Costa Rican family. For information such as costs, duration, and other specifics, click here to get started!
Check out this unique experience helping alpacas and llamas! Animal lovers will find this project fun and interesting! Alpacas and llamas have been domesticated for thousands of years and are native Peru. For this project, you will be working on a family run farm in a small village in the Andes, 30 mins from Cusco. You will be helping to care for these furry animals on tasks such as feeding, grooming, and maintaining the farm. You will also assist in the textile production of the wool sheared from the alpacas and llamas. Accommodation will be with a verified and experienced Peruvian host family. On the weekends, there are many activities to do in the city of Cusco. For more details about this project, click here!
For 20 years, GVI has committed to providing high-quality conservation and community development initiatives worldwide for travelers who want to make a difference. Every year, more than 2,000 volunteers participate in GVI’s award-winning projects in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and beyond. GVI also has a variety of great opportunities for volunteers looking for somewhere to go during winter break!
On this trip, you will head to the city of Luang Prabang – a UNESCO World Heritage site – in Laos to teach practical and conversational English to Buddhist novice monks as well as to other local students. As a volunteer, you will have the opportunity to plan and carry out English lessons, which will help these students find future employment opportunities and build a better socio-economic status within their community. There are two temple schools and a local library where you may be teaching during your stay, and in your free time, you’re invited to go to the Kuang Si waterfall, visit the Pak Ou Caves, tour the Royal Palace Museum, and much more. This trip starts from two weeks at $1,900 – learn more here!
Another wonderful volunteer opportunity you can take on this winter with GVI brings you to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where you will work with elephants in a local rehabilitation center. During your stay, you’ll volunteer alongside mahouts to care for elephants that have been rescued from the tourist industry by bringing them back to their natural habitats and letting them live a full, healthy life. A few ways that you can help include conducting health inspections on the elephants, walking the elephants through the forest to help them socialize, and collecting data on elephants’ social interactions and food preferences. This trip starts from one week at $1,840 – learn more and sign up here!
Travel to Africa with Agape Volunteers and contribute to humanitarian efforts, including teaching, sports coaching, medical volunteering and HIV counseling, and environmental conservation. Founded in 2011, Agape Volunteers is a UK registered charity that offers high-quality volunteer abroad experiences in Africa. Its low-cost program fees include administration and support, orientation, housing and meals, and even travel insurance and tours, making Agape Volunteers the most affordable option if you want to volunteer in Africa.
Spend your winter break with Agape Volunteers, teaching music to youth in Ghana. You’ll support established musicians at the JayNi school, helping to plan and run music classes for students of all ages, and work with full-time instructors in order to make use of resources available. Small classes focus on basic keyboarding, singing, and music theory. Old or secondhand instruments are always welcome, so consider bringing one along with you. Program fees start at £510 for one week. Sign up here!
Support endangered species on an animal conservation program in South Africa. This meaningful and educational experience places you at Marakele National Park, monitoring the movements and behaviors of lions, elephants, rhinos, and more. Take part in anti-poaching activities, such as looking for suspicious tracks, reporting low-flying aircraft, and camping out overnight. Daily tasks include game capture, invasive plant removal, road restoration, trash removal, fire control, and bush clearing. Spend two weeks or longer on the project starting at £1,530. Read more and apply here!
Teach youth the value of teamwork and help them develop their skills in soccer when you volunteer as a sports coach in Kenya. Your presence and coaching ability can help foster in your players a sense of family and identity. Soccer’s popularity in this region is a result of its accessibility – it does not take much money or great resources to play, but direction is needed to help children become strong players and learn teamwork. If you have experience, you also can help to coach older players on community leagues and be a positive role model. Program fees start at £590 for one week. Learn more here!
If you’re looking for a winter break volunteer experience that’s exotic and off the beaten path, look no further than Fronteering. With volunteer projects located in 16 different countries worldwide, Fronteering offers wonderful trips for those who want to visit unspoiled locations and get involved in environmental conservation, wildlife research, indigenous community development, and more.
Head down under for your winter break with Fronteering! On this trip, you will visit Northern Queensland, Australia and volunteer with a bat hospital that rescues sick, injured, and orphaned bats and flying foxes. Volunteers are needed year-round for this trip, though demand is especially high between October and February – perfect for a winter break trip. Your day-to-day tasks can vary depending on what’s needed, but a few ways that you can help include preparing food for adult and orphaned bats; feeding, cleaning, weighing, and measuring the orphan bats; cleaning cages, doing laundry, helping to release bats into the rainforest, and more. This program starts from one week at $1,095 – click here to sign up!
Another trip that you can sign up for during your winter break with Fronteering brings you to Brazil, where you’ll learn Portuguese, teach English, educate locals about rainforest conservation, and more. On this program, you will volunteer as part of an ecotourism organization that educates travelers and the public about the importance of protecting and preserving the rainforest during overnight survival trips – where you can serve as a guide. This program starts from two weeks at $1,595 – learn more here!
For over 25 years, Frontier has sent volunteers on impactful trips that combine community development, capacity building, ecosystem protection, economic growth, and the development of civil society. From their first volunteer project – a marine park in Tanzania – Frontier has expanded to include over 400 different initiatives in more than 60 countries worldwide. A nonprofit scientific research organization, Frontier’s staff have been published in over 450 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Whether you’d like to volunteer for a week or for your whole winter break, Frontier has amazing opportunities for adventurous travelers all over the world.
Looking for an island getaway for your winter break? Apply for Frontier’s marine conservation and diving trip to Fiji, where you will volunteer with an initiative that enables Fijian communities to sustainably manage their coastal ecosystems. During your stay, you will learn about marine research skills and techniques such as conducting an underwater visual census of fish and coral, determine the extent of coral bleaching, record observation of marine feeding habits and behavior patterns, and much more. This is a wonderful way to see a wide variety of sea life, such as rays, starfish, octopus, flying fish, sharks, and dolphins while learning all about marine conservation. This trip starts from one week at $2,095 – learn more here!
Another meaningful volunteer adventure you can take on your winter break brings you to Laos, where you’ll help out with a variety of community development initiatives while also exploring the backpacker town of Vang Vieng and the Nam Song river. While tourism has been steadily developing in this area, there’s also a need to sustainably manage its natural resources while growing the livelihood of its locals. During your trip to Laos, you will be able to get involved with organic farming, sustainable building, environmental awareness, teaching, and much more. This trip starts from two weeks at $1,245 – learn more here!
Since 2011, Plan My Gap Year has provided affordable placements for travelers who would like to volunteer in childcare, teaching, wildlife conservation, community projects, medical care, and mental health in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Plan My Gap Year prides itself on transparency and accountability, with all programs personally inspected and vetted by the team to ensure safety and to be sure that you are matched with an initiative that complements your skills and interests. And with recognition such as the Shell LiveWire Grand Idea Award, Thailand Green Excellence Award, and Special Recognition from the United Nations in Sri Lanka, Plan My Gap Year is a wonderful organization to check out if you want to make sure you’re helping with sustainable, impactful initiatives.
Spend your winter break in sunny, beautiful Fiji! With more than 750 primary schools in this island nation, there’s a need for assistance from volunteers, especially those who speak English. Volunteer in Suva with Plan My Gap Year where the children are eager and excited to learn about your culture and life experiences. Volunteers assist a local teacher, but will occasionally have an opportunity lead lessons throughout the day. Younger students enjoy a relaxed and informal teaching experience, so be creative and include singing, storytelling and dance in your lessons. Fees start at $390 for a for a two-week stay.
Travel abroad during winter break for a whirlwind Mini India Experience. You’ll appreciate the diversity and beauty of India when you take on Plan My Gap Year’s two-week adventure and volunteer program. You’ll spend five days in Kerala volunteering to teach English to India’s poorest children, and then you’ll explore the rolling countryside and tea plantations. Highlights of this trip include learning yoga, seeing a Bollywood movie, sleeping on a houseboat drifting on the backwater, trekking through Munnar’s tea-growing countryside, learning about the iconic Mahatma Gandhi, trying exotic foods, and wandering through the seaside town of Kochi. This enriching, inspiring program is a two-week journey with fees starting at $435.
Another excellent program with Plan My Gap Year brings you to South Africa on a Marine Conservation volunteer program – here, you will monitor southern right whales, bottlenose dolphins, great white sharks, and seals in Plettenberg Bay. Boat trips on the bay are spent observing and recording marine wildlife and taking fin profile photos. While in South Africa, other conservation tasks include alien vegetation removal, bird ringing (a catch-record-then release activity), river health assessments, elasmobranch egg case collection (shark, skate and ray eggs), beach cleanups, and community education. Program fees begin at $525 for one week.
For another African adventure, travel north and teach English in Morocco! As a volunteer, you’ll work with disadvantaged children from communities with the highest dropout rates in the world. Due to a decline in governmental spending, the public education system is failing, and literacy rates for Moroccans ages 15-24 are as low as 87%. You can help reduce this rate by volunteer work with students in the primary school system, where attendance is high and steady. Your presence can influence younger children to stay in school and continue their education. Program fees are $225 for one week.
With more than 20,000 volunteers placed overseas since 2009 (and 4,000 just in the past year), Love Volunteers is one of the fastest growing volunteer abroad organizations in the world. Love Volunteers works in 34 different countries worldwide, and hosts more than 120 projects – a few of their most popular destinations include:
Love Volunteers’ trips are affordably-priced, starting from only $199 for your first week abroad, depending on where you go. Most of Love Volunteers’ projects start from one to two weeks, giving you the perfect amount of time to volunteer during your winter break.
If you’re looking for an active and impactful adventure abroad this winter break, check out Love Volunteers’ construction volunteer trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia! On this program, you will help build a home for a family in need – you don’t need experience in building or do-it-yourself projects, as you’ll work with a local team that will guide you throughout the whole program. During your weekends and free time, you can hang out at the shared volunteer house or explore the area. Learn more here!
Travel to Europe on a different style of winter break by volunteering with children in Albania – on this placement, you will work with a care center that provides educational and social support to disadvantaged Roma children facing racial segregation and neglect. As a volunteer, a few ways you can help include teaching basic English, helping students build their computer skills, arranging lessons in arts and crafts, organizing sports activities, and planning games and excursions. With your help in building their confidence and skills, the youth of Albania will have a better chance of a successful future. Learn more and apply here!
Founded in 1995, Cross-Cultural Solutions offers internships, gap year experiences, volunteer trips, and high school volunteering programs in 9 different countries worldwide. Projects include child development, girls’ and women’s empowerment, and global health, and to date, nearly 35,000 volunteers have traveled with Cross-Cultural Solutions. CCS holds a 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.
And with a 99% approval rating from participants, Cross-Cultural Solutions truly strives to make an impact, having 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. CCS currently offers a variety of volunteer trips starting in December, perfect for winter break volunteering.
For a timely and unique experience, consider Cross-Cultural Solutions’ Syrian Refugee Program in Greece, where you will help bring renewed dignity and sense of purpose to displaced people living in refugee camps near Chalkida, a town just north of Athens. A few ways that you can help include distributing food and supplies, developing camp infrastructure, providing structured activity and lessons for children, and working in female-friendly spaces to provide health information and other services. You also will have the opportunity to become an Advocate for Refugees – a position where you will put your photography, writing, and marketing skills to good use by telling these people’s stories to the world, dispel myths, and share the realities of their plight. Learn more and apply here.
If you are interested in global health initiatives, Cross-Cultural Solutions has a wonderful opportunity for you to volunteer in Ghana. For 20 years, CCS has worked in Ghana to alleviate poverty and help people build brighter futures for themselves and for their families. While important advances have been made in healthcare, hygiene, and other areas of public health throughout Ghana, there’s still much to be done to combat malnutrition and disease. As a global health volunteer, you will take part in malaria prevention campaigns, vision screening for children, oral health campaigns, and promotion of hygiene in schools. Learn more and sign up here.
Ready to Travel?
If you’re ready to plan your next adventure, sign up for a Volunteer Forever account here and begin fundraising for your winter break overseas!
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