The top 16 volunteer abroad programs for 2022
Volunteerism is a powerful way to expand your world views, gain new skills, strengthen communities, and build empathy and understanding. So by choosing to undertake a volunteer abroad program, not only will you get to experience the thrill of traveling abroad, you’ll also be able to contribute to creating a better world.
Upon your return, your friends and family will love hearing more about your volunteer experience, creating a ripple effect as you inspire others to get involved with global volunteering.
Which are the best volunteer abroad programs?
The best volunteer abroad programs are those where you can really make a difference in the community, and learn something along the way. We think the best volunteer abroad programs should be focused on a key global issue, and also something you are interested in. For that reason, choosing a program that focuses on one of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals is a good place to start. The 17 goals aim to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
If you’re not familiar with the goals, they are listed below, or learn more here.
1: No Poverty
2: Zero Hunger
3: Good Health and Well-being
4: Quality Education
5: Gender Equality
6: Clean Water and Sanitation
7: Affordable and Clean Energy
8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10: Reduced Inequality
11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
12: Responsible Consumption and Production
13: Climate Action
14: Life Below Water
15: Life on Land
16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Is it possible to volunteer abroad for free?
Yes, it is absolutely possible to volunteer abroad for free. Apart from paying for your flights and accommodation, many volunteer opportunities abroad don’t have any further associated program fees. These free international volunteer programs include Peace Corps, Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO), or United Nations (UN) Volunteers. However, while they are generally free to join, they do require a significant time commitment – for example, 27 months for Peace Corps and six months for UN Volunteers, ruling out many potential volunteers.
You may also want to simply pick up some local volunteering work while you are traveling, such as at a local school or farm, in which case there wouldn’t be any fees, and you may even get free accommodation or meals in return for your service.
However many of the best volunteer abroad programs do have a program fee, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This can help them organize the program, pay for marketing and recruitment and other service fees. It’s worth investigating further to find out exactly what your fee buys you, and how much of it will be going to the community with which you’re volunteering. Usually the longer you stay, the cheaper it works out to be each week. You’ll also make such a bigger impact if you can give more than one week to your volunteering trip.
Where is the best place to volunteer abroad?
The best place to volunteer abroad is somewhere that offers a program that matches your interests, goals and values.
If you don’t want to travel too far from the U.S., somewhere like Costa Rica is a great option as it’s an incredibly beautiful country with plenty of volunteer programs related to nature and the environment.
Or, if you are looking for an opportunity to work with animals in their native environments, why not travel to Malaysia and care for orangutans.
There is no shortage of different types of volunteering programs abroad who would love your passion and expertise to help them increase their impact. So let’s take a look at the best volunteer opportunities abroad this year.
Best volunteer opportunities abroad
Angloville run language immersion camps for adults or kids that are held throughout Europe all year long. At the week-long camps on this volunteer trip, native English speakers spend time with locals who want to improve their English speaking skills. Through a mix of casual conversations, workshops, role plays, games and fun-packed activities – all in English – you really get to help the participants improve their English skills and discover the local culture.
All volunteers receive free accommodation and meals for the week-long camp, in beautiful hotels in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Malta and Slovakia.
- Minimum commitment one week
- No fees, but you need to pay your own travel expenses.
- Minimum age 18 years old
- Must be a native English speaker, no other qualifications needed
More info: https://angloville.com/
2. WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms)
WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic and self-sufficient lifestyles. Volunteers, or WWOOFers as they are known, give a helping hand with the daily activities on the farm or in the home, and in return hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic and self-sufficient farming.
Volunteers spend about 4-6 hours helping on a host farm while learning about organic agriculture and sustainability. No previous volunteer experience is required, as it is a learning opportunity. The length of stay is flexible from a day or weekend on a local farm, up to a week, full semester or even longer. Host farms are located all around the world, across all industries so you can volunteer around the world as a WWOOFer.
- From one day to one year
- Annual membership is $40
- Minimum age is 18
More info: Each country runs its own website, so check out http://wwoofinternational.org/ to find national groups.
Workaway is a volunteer platform that lists over 50,000 global volunteering opportunities in 180 different countries, ranging from teaching English to local families, to working on sustainable farms to training sled-dogs in Norway. Volunteers create a profile, then they can search through all the opportunities and apply for any that interest them. While you need to pay for your own travel, the host will normally offer free meals and accommodation in return for 4-5 hours work per day, and some do offer a small stipend as well.
- Programs run from one day to one year
- Minimum age is 18, however kids can participate with their parents
- A membership to Workaway costs $44USD a year.
More info: https://www.workaway.info/
Best summer volunteer programs for high school students
4. Volunteer Girls Teaching Program Ghana
Source: Volunteering solutions
Global volunteers working in the Girl's Education Project work in Tamale in Northern Ghana aim to help educate young disadvantaged females living in urban villages around Tamale. As well as teaching English, Mathematics, Computers and general knowledge, volunteers will help with renovation work of the school and fundraising activities.
- Minimum one week commitment
- Cost from $399
- Minimum age 17
- Accommodation with local host family
More info: https://www.volunteeringsolutions.com/ghana/volunteer-girls-teaching-program
5. Animal care in Costa Rica
This animal care volunteering experience in Costa Rica sets volunteers up to assist in local veterinary clinics and animal welfare organizations looking after abandoned and stray cats and dogs. Volunteers gain experience in animal care while helping get neglected creatures off the streets, nursing them back to health and finding them new, loving homes.
- New programs start every Monday
- Cost from $380 for 1 week
- Includes meals, accommodation and airport pickups.
- Minimum age 16 without a parent or guardian
More info: https://www.volunteerhq.org/destinations/costa-rica/animal-care-in-san-jose/
6. India Medical Volunteer Program
This is one of the best volunteer abroad programs for college or University medical students or student nurses to gain hands-on experience in the real-world.
The main project for India medical volunteers focuses on supporting medical camps and pop-up clinics within slum communities that don’t have good access to healthcare. As a medical volunteer in India, you will have the opportunity to experience a variety of different medical facilities. This can range from shadowing in surgeries to sitting in on GP consultations.
- Costs from $360 for 2 weeks
- Includes accommodation and meals at a volunteer house
- Minimum age 17
More info: https://www.planmygapyear.com/india/india-medical-volunteers
7. Volunteer as a sports coach in Kenya
As an outdoor volunteer on this Kenya sports program, you will engage in two primary activities: helping with sports education in a local school, and assisting a community team with training and coaching. Many local football teams meet up for afternoon or evening sessions and are often desperate for a little coaching. Even if you are not a professional coach, your willingness to share coaching tips, drills or fitness training will be of great benefit. The training sessions on this volunteer trip are always great fun, and you can always join in for a kick as well.
- Costs start at $775 for 2 weeks
- Includes meals and accommodation at a volunteer house
- Minimum age 18
More info: https://www.agape-volunteers.com/programmes/sports-coaching-in-kenya
8. Desert Wildlife Program in Israel
Join this unique wildlife conservation program in the spectacular, desert landscape of the Arabah, and help to re-populate the nature reserve with the region's native species! Volunteer tasks may include preparing food and feeding animals, cleaning and maintaining reserve facilities, accompanying & assisting park rangers on daily rounds and assisting with construction of animal enclosures. This is a great volunteer travel opportunity!
- Minimum 3 weeks, max 10 weeks
- Costs from $1180 for 17 days
- Volunteers will stay at a hostel in Eilat
More info: https://www.goeco.org/area/volunteer-in-the-middle-east/israel/long-term-wildlife-program
9. Childcare and development in Nepal
Source: Photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash
As one of the poorest countries in Asia, Nepal is crying out for volunteers intent on making an impact on their fellow humans’ living conditions amid a distinctly different culture. This volunteer experience works with society's most vulnerable - children. Based in the mountainous city of Kathmandu, volunteers will be working with children to provide the care, support and attention that is desperately needed. Volunteers will help children get ready for school and sanitation, complete daily chores at home, collect children from school, help them with their homework and teach English.
- Minimum 2 week duration
- Costs start from $539 for 2 weeks
- Meals and accommodation with a host family included
More info: https://www.lovevolunteers.org/destinations/volunteer-nepal/childcare-development-kathmandu
10. Environmental Sustainability Project in Puerto Rico
Global volunteers in Puerto Rico will assist with a wide range of tasks that contribute to the recovery and protection of San Juan’s beautiful natural environment. Volunteers gain conservation experience, learn about the challenges climate change presents for island nations, and help to create a sustainable future for Puerto Rico. This includes beach clean ups, coastal restoration, outdoor beautification and education sessions.
- Volunteers must be aged 14+ and accompanied by a guardian, or 18+ alone.
- Costs from $600/week
- Stay in a hostel
More info: https://www.volunteerhq.org/destinations/puerto-rico/environmental-sustainability-in-san-juan/
11. Orangutan Wildlife Center in Borneo
One of the best volunteer abroad programs for animal lovers is at the Matang Wildlife Center in Malaysian Borneo where they can aid conservation and protection of one of the world's most fascinating and enchanting species: the orangutan. Alongside the sanctuary staff, you will help to improve husbandry standards, provide enrichment for the orangutans, and assist with construction tasks.
- Stay 1, 2 or 3 weeks
- Costs from $1089 for one week
- Minimum age 18
- Accommodation is in a volunteer house, and a weekly allowance to purchase and cook your own meals
More info: https://www.volunteerworld.com/en/volunteer-program/orangutan-wildlife-center-in-malaysia-sarawak
12. Teach English in South Korea
Dip your toes into teaching during summer break on this volunteer teaching placement in South Korea. On this volunteer experience, you’ll stay with a local host family, with whom you will spend 15 hours a week teaching English. When you’re not teaching, you’ll have plenty of time to explore Seoul, Korean culture, food and K-pop with your new friends.
- From $1,890 for two months stay
- Host family accommodation and meals included
- Great for teaching students 18+
More info: https://greenhearttravel.org/program/adult/teach-homestay/south-korean
13. The Summer Volunteering Program in Cambodia
If you’re looking for summer volunteer programs abroad, there are four meaningful projects available in Cambodia. You can choose the one that aligns with your interests and preferences: NGO support, teaching English, childcare and medical volunteering. All the projects are organized in collaboration with local organizations.
- 2-24 week duration
- Costs from $400 for 2 weeks
- Minimum age 18
- Accommodation in guest house or home stay
More info: https://www.volunteeringsolutions.com/volunteer-in-cambodia
14. Community support in Lima, Peru
Global volunteers will gain experience in schools, childcare, community soup kitchens, a women’s refuge and any other community projects which have an urgent need for help and support. The work will be varied, meaning you may be cooking soup one day, gardening the next, and teaching sports workshops the day after that.
- Costs from $180 for one week
- Stay in a homestay or volunteer house
- Optional Spanish lessons
- Age 16+ if accompanied by a parent or guardian
More info: https://www.volunteerhq.org/destinations/peru/community-support-in-lima/
15. Conservation volunteers in Australia
There are a range of conservation projects in Australia that volunteers can get involved with- supporting flood affected communities, bushfire recovery, rewilding coastal areas, cleaning up ocean litter and animal conservation. Simply register on the platform, then apply to get involved with any of the projects.
- No costs associated
- Varying programs starting from 1 day
- No minimum age if accompanied by parent or guardian
More info: https://conservationvolunteers.com.au/
16. Support refugees in Moldova
Source: United Planet
With the invasion of Ukraine, many European countries are seeking volunteers to support Ukrainian refugees, primarily women and children. This program in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova, currently needs volunteers to provide crisis support and assist with relocation and training. Support is needed with relocation, packing goods, administrative, and physical labor. Healthcare volunteers and trauma psychologists are also needed. This is a volunteer experience desperately needed at the moment.
- From $895 for 2 weeks
- Minimum 2 weeks
- Stay in a central apartment
More info: https://www.unitedplanet.org/volunteer-for-ukrainian-refugees-in-moldova
Learn more about where to find volunteer opportunities and get involved today:
- Virtual volunteering: how to volunteer online
- 10 Reasons Why Students Should Volunteer
- 12 Different Types of Volunteering Work You Can Try
- Volunteering Outdoors - 7 Different Ways To Get Involved
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