Volunteer abroad programs are a great way to create valuable social impact while traveling to even exotic places. It is wonderful opportunity to give back in a structured, sustainable way which is beneficial to everyone involved. These volunteer positions are typically referred to social projects, non-profit organizations and charity jobs and they differ from short-term “voluntourism” trips.
What is Volunteering Abroad?
Volunteering abroad usually means working on long-term (min. 6 months) social or environmental projects in a developing country. With your volunteer work you will have a a positive social impact on the local communities while having a chance to travel, discover an exciting new country including its people and culture. Popular destinations include: Africa, India, China, Brazil, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, Mexico etc.
You will be expected to work on your project, but there is going to be plenty of free time for you to explore and enjoy your staying. Many of these projects take place in remote areas. You may find yourself among hidden beaches, rain forests and mountain peaks. As a volunteer abroad you will meet people from all nationalities and you will learn a lot about how to cooperate with someone coming from a different cultural background. Long-term volunteering allows you to immerse yourself in the true local culture as well.
Expenses Associated With Long-Term Volunteering
Usually, volunteer abroad programs aren’t exactly cheap. Majority of these programs require you to pay the program fee on the top of your travel and visa expenses. The fees vary from project to project but generally it can cost anywhere from $100- $2000 for a week. The fee you pay covers not only your accommodation and food but also to covert the expenses associated to run these programs. This is because volunteer organizations do not get any external funding or Government support to run their projects.
FREE Volunteer Abroad Programs
While free volunteering programs are less common than pay-to-volunteer programs, you do have options available! Below you will find a few amazing organizations and NGOs which offer free programs to volunteer abroad.
Casa do Caminho is a Brazilian nonprofit organization which develops social, cultural and sports projects and helps poor families. The main goal is to improve education for children living in the underdeveloped rural areas. The volunteer program is completely free. Volunteers will receive food, housing, and an introductory briefing when they arrive. You will have the opportunity to work with a mix of Brazilian and International team, and even have the opportunity of creating your own projects. Minimum stay is 6 months, but 1 year is preferred.
This NGO is located in the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile. Their goal is to protect the wildlife of the Island and its surroundings. There are various activities where volunteers can help such as animal rescue and rehabilitation, research and education. They offer free accommodation but food isn’t included. However, you can grow and harvest plants from the center’s garden. Minimum stay is 2 weeks, although longer commitments are preferred. You must be able to communicate in basic Spanish. Some of the staff speaks a bit of English as well.
It’s a catholic non-profit organization that seeks to provide a quality education and clean drinking water in Honduras. They run two volunteer abroad programs: the traditional volunteer program and the specialist volunteer program. Traditional volunteers serve in roles within the Foundation as needed, most often in either the bilingual (English/Spanish) high school or elementary school. The specialist volunteer program is targets professionals and experts in their field who will work to fill a specific, immediate need in the Foundation. The minimum stay is 2 months. Volunteers who serve at least 4 months receive a monthly stipend (approx. $300) that is sufficient to cover food.
It is a social enterprise which forms a unique model of learning, cultural exchange and sustainable fundraising. The program’s goal is to help raise money for social projects in rural communities and it is recognized by the the Interior Ministry of Cambodia. They are looking for international volunteer English teachers who are willing to teach local students. This no-fee volunteer abroad project requires participants to stay minimum 3 months.
This non-profit organization needs a lot of volunteers to teach English and help with the children’s education in the rural areas of Thailand. Volunteers have to be fluent in English, have minimum a BA degree or undergoing college studies. The participants need good knowledge of computers. A positive and children friendly attitude is required, as well. The participants are hosted by local families who provide food and accommodation. Other experts such as web developers, fundraisers, writers etc are also welcome. Minimum stay is 2 months.
This non-profit organization is located in Hanoi, Vietnam. They are building a community though English education and cultural exchange. They are looking for young people who can teach English 4-5 hours a day. In exchange they provide free accommodation and 3 meals a day. They even can help with the visa process, offer airport pickup and organize trips for the volunteer team. They require a minimum of 2-3 months, depending on the center.
The Mission empowers victims of sexual and domestic violence and their children heal from their trauma and help them become self-sufficient. They are looking for volunteers on an ongoing basis with various skills (such as project coordination and management, farming, handyman-ship, cooking, house keeping, health and hygiene, education, advocacy, fundraising etc.) in exchange for food and accommodation. Minimum stay is 1 month. Both women and man are welcome. Ladies can live at the shelter. Guys have to live offsite and pay for housing between (usually $10 -$50 per month).
This projects is building a school for children living in the area. Children and youth educators are welcome to volunteer all year round, although, they urgently need support in marketing, online communication and fundraising. Meals and accommodation are covered, the minimum stay requested is 2 weeks.
If you are looking for more Volunteer Abroad opportunities you can browse volunteer opportunities on GivingWay.
If you are interested in learning more about “work and stay” opportunities, read our article on How to find work in exchange for accommodation