Even after traveling to some of the most beautiful places around the world, some of my fondest memories include the trips in which I’ve volunteered abroad.
I have had the opportunity to be a part of Team USA for the Paralympic Games in London, Biblioworks in Bolivia and Global Water Brigades while abroad. These experiences have opened my eyes up to so many important issues and allowed me to connect with incredible people from around the world.
While I do consider volunteering abroad a beautiful way to experience a country, not all charities are created equally. It’s great to help out, but researching the charitable organization before committing is essential.
Ready to do your part? Here are 10 ways to volunteer abroad.
How to Find the Right Program
The first step is deciding which type of volunteer project is right for you. While working on construction projects, farming and working with kids are popular choices, they aren’t the only options.
There are a dizzying array of volunteer opportunities around the planet, and there is something for anyone and everyone. Search until you find something that resonates with you!
Research is so important when it comes to finding the perfect gig for you. Google is your best friend and sites like Go Overseas and Go Abroad are a perfect source of inspiration. Start with an open mind and sift through all of your options.
Another great resource is Grassroots Volunteering; a volunteer database that organizes opportunities by type, destination, duration and cost. If you are just beginning your search and looking for a place to start, browse Grassroots for a while!
As you start to get a feel for what is out there, determine your budget. You’ll often have to cover your own travel and living costs, so decide what makes sense for you. With that number in mind, decide which countries you’d like to visit and how long you would stay.
Once you have a few potential volunteer opportunities in mind, Google the heck out of them to see if the organization is reputable. Also, I recommend getting first-hand details from previous and current volunteers.
You will find a massive number of construction projects taking place around the world. Pencils of Promise builds schools in areas lacking infrastructure and creates life-changing education programs. Habitat for Humanity is another incredible option that build homes for people from Boston to Bangkok and everywhere in between.
Find other building and construction opportunities here.
Teaching and Educational Volunteering
Every nation around the world has a need for proficient English speakers looking to teach kids and adults. While having a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) qualification can be helpful, it’s far from necessary. Native speakers, especially those with a university education, are always in demand.
This can be an especially cool opportunity if you speak another language. You can practice your skills while helping others improve their English proficiency.
Organizations, such as Room to Read, are dedicated to improving literacy around the world. I volunteered with Biblioworks in Bolivia and helped fundraise to host their first ever book fair in the city of Sucre.
Find more teaching and educational volunteer opportunities here.
One of the biggest global issues is access to clean water and is something I highly consider supporting as your first international volunteer experience. Organizations like Global Water Brigades, whom I volunteered with in Honduras, help improve water quality and bring clean water access to developing parts of the world.
Find other environmental volunteer opportunities here.
If you are trained in a medical field, there are countless volunteer opportunities out there for you. From educational programs to on-site healthcare, you can be a true lifesaver for people in need.
Those with medical qualifications such as dentists, doctors and nurses are particularly valued, and can either help with general programs, or can be sent in as aid with organizations like Red Cross for medical emergencies like hurricanes and earthquakes.
Find other health care volunteer opportunities here.
There are so many conservation programs around the world that need volunteers. Since starting on my mission to find the most amazing safaris in Africa, I have learned about countless programs that are in need of assistance.
Work with elephants, tortoises and endangered animals that are in peril all around the world.
Find other wildlife volunteer opportunities here.
There are non-profit organizations like Movement Exchange that organize “international dance exchanges”—they bring down students to the country of Panama to teach dance classes, take dance classes themselves, and discover the history, culture, and beauty that is Panama! The goal is to exchange movement, knowledge, culture, ideas, and beliefs and do it through the medium of dance.
While it may not be something tangible, such as a house, dance provides kids the tools they need to be creative, self-confident, and feel supported by their community. Dance is a non-invasive resource that can build community.
Find out more about Movement Exchange here.
As an avid diver, I have seen so many breathtaking seas around the world. Along the way, I have learned about the devastating conditions far too many bodies of water face. For our planet, it is so important to get out there and do everything that you can for our coast lines and oceans.
Find other conservation volunteer opportunities here.
There is a variety of cool programs that allow you to not just help people around the world, but to enable them to help themselves. By educating would-be entrepreneurs on how to set up a small businesses, you can help make someone’s dreams a reality.
Find other business volunteer opportunities here.
If you’re looking for a fun and rewarding experience, then volunteering for a particular event can be very exciting. Volunteering your time as staff for events such as charity concerts and charity fun runs can all help these organizations to raise money.
I had the honor of serving as a volunteer for Team USA in the 2012 Summer Paralympics. The long hours I worked over the week leading up to the Opening Ceremonies were tiring, but the experience touched my heart in a way that I still can’t fully describe.
Read More: The Paralympic Opening Ceremonies
Provide Disaster Relief
Providing disaster relief is one of the greatest ways to lend a hand while traveling. After a major disaster, there is usually an urgent need for volunteers.
Knowing first aid is a major plus, but you’ll find a wide array of opportunities available after disasters. And, you’d be surprised as how many disasters happen in far-flung destinations that we don’t hear about, so do some research to see where you can do the most good.
Get Involved in Farming Abroad
Another great volunteering option involves getting your hands dirty with farm work. You can even help plant trees and tend to community gardens. Both large-scale and local projects need year-round help!
One of the biggest volunteer farming and agriculture organizations is WWOOF. WWOOF gives volunteers the opportunity to live on and work for different farms around the world.
Find other farming volunteer opportunities here.
Keep in mind, volunteering isn’t just about traveling abroad or getting your hands dirty either. Many non-profit organizations need administrative, fundraising, marketing and legal help more than anything, which people can volunteer their time from remotely.
When it comes to fundraising, there are a variety of different platforms that can be helpful for receiving donations and keeping track of money raised. But, many charge fees of 5-10% to cover their expenses.
The best and lowest cost online fundraising platform that I’ve found is You Caring, which has 0% fees. The only fees are from Paypal (typically, 2.9% + $.30) when donations are made by credit card or debit card.
Coding and Programming Volunteering
One of the best gifts you can give is education and something like coding, digital skills, etc. gives people opportunities outside of their economic location.
A great organization to look into for this type of volunteering is Programmers 4 Peace which helps equip the future generation with the tools and skills they need to create innovative solutions using technology.
Taking a volunteer trip may not be the first thing when you think of family vacation, but it can actually be one of the best trips you ever take together. Working collectively on a project that impacts others can really bond families together and create unique memories.
There are lots of family-friendly volunteer organziations to choose from, just be sure to discuss details with the program directors and make sure it’s the right fit for your family.
Find family-friendly volunteer opportunities here.