Volunteer Abroad

Through volunteering and travel, we can grow to understand ourselves, the world, and the people we share it with.

Have you ever wanted to experience a different culture through the eyes of a local? If you volunteer abroad with us you will get that chance! All of our programs are completely immersive. You will be living, eating, working, and laughing with those you are helping. It can be an eye opening experience that brings lasting friendships and increased awareness about the world around you. So what are you waiting for? Volunteer abroad with Build Abroad today!

Now is the time to volunteer abroad!

There has never been a better time in human history than right now, in this moment to do something meaningful for others. It’s the perfect chance to take that trip you’ve always talked about – to leave the office behind and trade that keyboard for a shovel. Volunteering abroad affords you the opportunity to take a leap outside of your comfort zone and encounter something new. During your volunteer journey, you will experience unique values and traditions and come away with a new perspective on the world – and possibly yourself!

View Destinations

Billions of people need your help

1 billion +

People live in slums.
That number is growing. Fast.

⅓ of children

In developing countries live without adequate shelter.

4 million +

Classrooms are needed in the world’s poorest communities.

2.6 billion

People lack basic sanitation. 1/3 of which lack clean water.

Construction Volunteering

Here at Build Abroad, we feel that construction volunteering is the best way to give back to a community. Construction projects provide a physical impact in a community that will last for years. Over a month of volunteering, a team of volunteers can construct a school that will serve an entire generation of students. Likewise, in just a couple weeks a team of volunteers can turn a piece of land into a home for a needy family. Our building projects vary at each of our locations because each community has their own unique needs. Where as a community in Cusco, Peru might benefit from a new classroom, another village in Guatemala may be in dire need of a public toilet facility.

We focus on the following types of projects

Water and Sanitation

One of the biggest health concerns in the world is inadequate sanitation and lack of clean water. This is an urgent global issue that must be addressed in order for people to live longer, healthier lives. On some of our projects, construction volunteers venture into rural villages to help construct toilets, dig for sanitation lines, or assemble water tanks for rainwater collection.

Why You Should Volunteer Abroad on Your Next Vacation

Traveling is always a transformative experience, introducing your to diverse cultures that you may never have had exposure to and a completely different way of life. You will perhaps witness landscapes that you never thought existed and push your own boundaries by embarking on activities that you wouldn’t back home. But there is something special about volunteering abroad and the impact it has on not only your life, but also the lives of others, that makes it a really special experience.

It’s easy to just head off on a vacation and spend a week soaking up the sun or partying in an all-inclusive resort. If you’ve been studying or working hard throughout the year, then perhaps all you really want to do is relax or really let your hair down. But if you want your holiday to be a little more meaningful or are looking for an opportunity to really broaden your horizons and improve your skills, then volunteering abroad is ideal.

Yes, you may have to work hard for a few hours each day and will more than likely break a sweat. But there will also be plenty of time to meet like-minded travelers from around the world (and lifelong friends), together with members of the local community. You’ll be exposed to a completely new culture and way of life, and for those that leave with an open-mind, it’s bound to make a mark on yours.

Why Volunteer Abroad in General?

Volunteering abroad is a rare opportunity to work alongside local communities and get a first-hand insight into the challenges they face. Rather than watching on as an outsider during cultural village visits (as you normally would as a tourist), you’re right in there, getting a perspective that others don’t. Experiences like these teach tolerance and understanding, and you’ll leave with a greater awareness of the diverse conditions in which people live throughout the world, and the richness of culture.

Rather than sending money from overseas or hoping that your tourist dollars reach the people who need it most, the work you do as a volunteer will directly impact the communities in which you work. In addition to assisting them, chances are that their approach to life will shape you, making you more appreciative of everything you have and the people around you.

For those wanting to improve their language skills, it’s also the perfect opportunity, with day-to-day interactions that will force you to converse and listen to native speakers. Even if you only speak a few words when you leave home, you’ll more than likely return with a far greater vocabulary.

Who Can Volunteer Abroad?

The short answer is – anybody! There really are no limitations to who can join a volunteer program abroad. Whether you’re a high school student wanting to take a Gap Year or a family looking to do something meaningful on your next vacation, there are volunteer organizations designed to assist you in finding a placement and securing the necessary visas and travel arrangements.

High School and University Students

There are volunteer programs designed specifically for students wanting to work in a field related to their studies, gaining skills that can be used for future employment. Embarking on a volunteer abroad program always looks great on your resume as employers will immediately know that you have worldly experience and a broader perspective of your industry’s application in different countries.

Young Professionals

This can also be said for young professionals wanting to get out of the office and explore the world, without compromising the future of their career or getting “out of practice”. There are numerous organizations that cater to professionals looking for a short period or year abroad, allowing them to see a little of the world before they start a family or get tied down by work.

Teachers

For teachers it is a great opportunity to get classroom experience in a completely different environment, and will expose you to the challenges of education abroad. There may be far fewer resources available if you’re working in remote schools or developing countries and there will be cultural considerations that will give you a unique insight into local communities. You can also play an influential role in ensuring the younger generation get the best education possible and inspire them to dream big for their futures!

Families

For families this is an opportunity to give your kids the vacation of a lifetime, and a far more exciting adventure then lazing poolside at a resort. They’ll see from a very early age that not all kids grow up in equal circumstances, and it’s a great way to bond as a family as you work towards a common goal. Your kids will make friends with those from the local community you’re working alongside, and may discover a greater appreciation for living with far less than they have back home.

While many opt to head abroad to volunteer alone, knowing that they will make lifelong friends along the way, it’s also possible to organize volunteer placements with friends. If you’re feeling a bit of trepidation or it’s your first time overseas, then having a close friend with you will help to ease your worries and it’s an adventure together that you will never forget! Once you grow old and start your own families, you’ll always look back on the time you spent volunteering abroad with fond memories and it may just be the catalyst for a lifetime of travel.

The idea of living and working with people you have never met and in a completely different country might seem daunting, but that’s where volunteer abroad organizations come in. They have years of experience finding safe placements that directly benefit the communities involved, and make it as easy as possible for you to get any necessary visas, find accommodation and survive away from your family and friends. Whether you want to build houses in impoverished communities, work in a remote area school, or head off to assist in disaster-hit regions, there are volunteer abroad organizations out there that can make it happen!

Volunteer Abroad Blog Posts

Group Volunteer Trip

How to Plan an Unforgettable Group Volunteer Trip

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For most people, a volunteer abroad placement is something they embark on solo or with a close friend to fit in with their individual work or study schedules. But with some careful planning,…

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Catching the Travel Bug on a Budget Can Be a Good Thing!

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Wanderlust. Travel addiction. Whatever you want to call it, once you have the travel bug, it’s incredibly hard to shake! It can lead to hours researching your travel “bucket list” destinations and saving every last penny…

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Helping Others: The First Step in Making the World a Better Place

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Helping others is the first step in making the world a better place and improving the lives of those who aren’t as lucky as you. But it’s also shown to bring about a…

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7 of the Most Powerful Volunteer Quotes of All Time to Inspire You

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It’s hard to argue with the wisdom of Gandhi, the Dalai Lama or Martin Luther King, Jr. who know a thing or two about making the world a better place. These are just…

Best places to volunteer

The Best Places to Volunteer Around the World to Make the Biggest Impact

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When you start searching for volunteer abroad placements, it can be difficult to know where to go. There are projects in so many destinations around the globe, so how do you decide where…

Study abroad after graduation

Service Learning: One of the Most Engaging Ways We Can Learn

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There is ongoing research into the way we learn and retain information, whether it’s as children, students or adults. Older methods of rote learning have been replaced by critical thinking models and active…

Social Impact

Why is Volunteering Important? See for Yourself! You Might be Surprised

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Why is volunteering important? When you look at the reasons why volunteering is important, it’s not only about the impacts we can make in the lives of those less fortunate but the role…

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Corporate Social Responsibility is Helping Create a Better World

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Gone are the days when businesses can do whatever they like and consumers will keep buying. With the rise of social media, corporations and businesses that abuse the environment, their workers or society…

Best Places to Volunteer Abroad: Everything You Need to Know

If you don’t want to volunteer abroad in construction with Build Abroad, there are still other options. We’ve put together this helpful list of the best places to volunteer abroad today. From paid volunteer abroad organizations to free volunteer initiatives, here’s our pick of the best ways to go about it.

Paid Volunteer Abroad Organizations

You might be wondering “if there are free volunteer abroad opportunities out there, why would I pay hundreds of dollars to do it?” First and foremost, it takes the hassle out of planning a volunteer abroad experience for you. The organization will plan everything from accommodation to food and in-country transport (and even sometimes visas), so you don’t have to worry about it. They’ll also offer significant support in the lead up to your volunteer placement and throughout, so you know that you will have someone to contact if anything goes wrong or you just need a shoulder to lean on.

Paid volunteer abroad organizations do significant ground work to find long-term and meaningful projects in collaboration with local communities, ensuring they meet their needs. It’s easy to just go into a community and start doing whatever you think is right, but when it comes to taking into consideration local regulations, cultural sensitivities and religious considerations, it can be a whole lot harder. That’s where volunteer abroad organizations really shine, in negotiating the logistical labyrinth of creating sustainable projects and securing experienced local staff to support their operations and volunteers.

For those who are heading overseas for the first time, paid volunteer abroad organizations are ideal and you know you won’t be going it alone. Most programs bring together like-minded individuals from around the world and you’re bound to make life-long friends along the way. You’ll not only have the support of the organization’s staff but also your peers as you work towards a common goal that will help improve the lives of others.

For school and university students, some paid volunteer abroad organizations also offer credit or certifications that will be recognized by your institution back home. This means that the work you do while away will be officially acknowledged and will be an impressive addition to your CV one day.

Each organization on this list has found its own niche, whether it be geared towards those with no experience or volunteers with particular skills, and from first-time travelers to those with extensive experience looking for an off-the-beaten-track adventure. But they all ensure that the project you are part of will have a positive and sustainable impact on the community you are working with into the long-term future.

IVHQ (International Volunteer HQ)

In operation since 2007, New Zealand-based International Volunteer HQ is one of the leaders in volunteer travel across the globe. They offer both solo and group volunteer programs in childcare, teaching, medical and health, wildlife and animal care, environment and conservation, construction and renovation, arts and music, sports, elderly care, special needs care, community development and NGO support. They work in 35 destinations across Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America, South America and the Pacific, with one of the largest ranges of volunteer abroad projects available from any organization. IVHQ will create customized itineraries for high school or university groups, as well as community organizations who want to make a difference together.

Their extensive experience shows in the way they organize and operate their programs, starting with a bottom-up approach where they work with independent local organizations and stakeholders to come up with programs which are of most value to the communities. By working with in-country organizations, they try and keep their fees as low as possible and they aim for affordability and financial transparency so you know exactly where your money is going.

That being said, you are paying more to go through a program provider like IVHQ to participate in a locally-run program than you would if you found one independently. Staff salaries in New Zealand are generally higher than those across the developing world and it’s your program fees that help pay for them. But in return, you are getting significant support in the lead up to your program and priceless peace of mind that the program is legitimate, well-conceived and for the benefit of the local community or ecosystem.

IVHQ prides itself on creating volunteer programs that are responsibly run and have a positive impact that is sustainable over the long-term, not just in the immediate future. They ensure that their participants understand their responsibilities, particularly when working with vulnerable people and adhere to the standards the organization upholds.

Their staff take a really hands-on approach to volunteering abroad and have all participated in one or more programs, which assists them when offering advice to others and helps structure their programs so that they meet volunteer needs. By visiting the placements first-hand, they can also see what isn’t working and needs to be changed, acting like a quality-control and ensuring that in-country organizations are up to standard.

IVHQ provides plenty of support both before, during and after volunteer abroad expeditions. This includes interactive online training and information booklets, as well as program preparation and travel arrangements with a dedicated IVHQ Program Manager. The safety of volunteers is also of utmost priority, with clear risk management standards outlined and careful vetting of in-country organizations.

All of this shows in the reviews that IVHQ get online and their rate of returning volunteers, which is probably the biggest tick of approval that a volunteer abroad organization can get.

GVI (Global Vision International)

Established in 1997, Global Vision International has significant experience in the volunteer abroad market and it shows. They offer both volunteer placements and internships in 12 countries across Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America and North America in fields ranging from education to wildlife care and construction programs. Teach English to novice monks in Laos, participate in wildlife research in South Africa or join a marine conservation expedition in Fiji. Their focus is on community service mixed with a global and cultural awareness that inspires learning and service long after the trip has ended. Projects range from a week up to an entire year and you can also organize multi-destination combination trips if you want a more broad-reaching experience.

One of the unique features of GVI’s programs is that they operate their own projects, rather than outsourcing to local organizations. They generally use their own staff rather than in-country personnel, which may be a drawback for some, with fees not being used to fund local salaries. But that’s not to say they don’t work hand-in-hand with local communities to structure programs that are beneficial to them and empower their needs. It’s often GVI alumni that are leading the expeditions, having been in the volunteer shoes before and with the academic qualifications to back up their training. The opportunity to work as a staff member with the organization after completing your volunteer abroad placement is also a big allure for some participants.

For students looking to do something specific to their field or young professionals, they also run internship programs. These focus on enhancing your leadership and teamwork skills while doing meaningful work in your area of expertise. If you are at university, then the work you do on your GVI internship placement may also be eligible for credit towards your degree program back home. Tackling real-world issues hands-on in a remote country is an invaluable experience that you just can’t get in the lecture theater at university and will look impressive on your CV. GVI internships include a leadership training course, one-on-one staff mentorship sessions, and confidential professional recommendations at the completion of your course to help you secure long-term employment in your field.

GVI also offers specialized programs for those aged 15-17 to learn about global citizenship and community engagement while being immersed in a new culture. These are offered as spring break programs or gap years, blending cultural awareness with adventure and an added level of support. In addition to their programs geared towards individuals, GVI can also organize group volunteer abroad placements with customized itineraries.

Volunteering Solutions

In operation since 2007, Volunteering Solutions now offers programs in more than 20 countries across the globe, with 120+ volunteer projects to choose from. They pride themselves on being one of the most affordable volunteer abroad organizations out there, with projects starting from just $200USD per week.

Volunteering Solutions offers programs in childcare, teaching, wildlife and conservation, as well as NGO support and human rights. Delve into local social and political issues or lend your skills for women’s rights, gaining a first-hand insight into the challenges of everyday life around the world. Their sports coaching program gives participants the opportunity to teach life skills and encourage healthy eating habits in communities that need it most, while their childcare programs will see you working with some of the world’s most vulnerable citizens. Help improve the lives of those with mental and physical disabilities, or team up with a local NGO to help them achieve their goals through administrative office duties and practical on-site support.

Volunteer Solutions also runs internship programs, including medical projects in Nepal, India, Peru and Thailand. Whether you want to focus on nursing, dentistry, physiotherapy or medical care, you will gain vital hands-on skills working in a developing country. You can opt to work in government-run or private hospitals and work alongside local medical professionals to get a different perspective on the industry. The internships can be customized to meet your university requirements and you’ll receive a certification upon successful completion to add to your CV portfolio.

Volunteer Solutions’ programs can be booked as a solo traveler, a couple, groups of friends or family, with dedicated support from their experienced staff both online in the lead up to your trip and on location. They offer special summer programs for those still studying, as well as 2-3 week volunteer/travel programs for those who want the best of both worlds. These combine time spent working on a dedicated project with excursions to take in the local sights and experience as much of the country as possible.

Love Volunteers

Another New Zealand-based company, Love Volunteers operates around 120 projects across Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australasia, in fields ranging from childcare to construction, disability assistance, medicine, teaching, wildlife work and women’s empowerment. It’s only been around for a few years but was established to fill what its founder saw as a gap in low-cost volunteer abroad experiences.

Love Volunteers dubs itself as one of the most affordable volunteer abroad organizations out there, putting it down to low overheads and no downtown office rents. They work alongside local organizations to ensure that their projects are based where assistance is really needed and that money and skills get to communities that need it most.

Careful vetting of these partner organizations ensures that they live up to their commitments and that volunteers are kept safe throughout their placements. While they don’t have on-the-ground Love Volunteers staff at projects themselves (with only a few staff handling the administrative duties of the organization), they do provide a dedicated contact for the duration of your stay in case things don’t go 100% right.

Love Volunteers also sets itself apart by offering Specialized Placements in fields such as law, human rights, urban planning and architecture for those looking for a project that fits their study niche. They also offer much-needed arts and sports programs in communities where funding for these extra-curricular activities is lacking.

You can volunteer as an individual, as a couple or with a group of friends/family, with no age limit for their programs. But you should be specific in your application if you want to be around lots of other volunteers as the numbers at their placements vary throughout the year. On the flip side, you can also request a placement with a smaller group of volunteers if you want to be more immersed in the local community.

ITTT (International TEFL and TESOL Training)

ITTT (International TEFL and TESOL Training) is basically an English language training institute and certification program that has a worldwide reputation. The certification programs cover a broad range of teaching settings, including school tuition or private language schools in a foreign country, as well as teaching non-native speakers English in your home town. They offer both online and face-to-face classes for those wanting to teach English using their method, then access to paid job placements in different countries after you receive your qualification.

There’s a few different TEFL/TESOL certification courses to choose from, each of which varies in length, study style and cost. You can select to do an online course with no classroom or face-to-face tutor time which is ideal for those with time constraints or other commitments (it’s also more affordable). Alternatively, you can do in-class courses at one of their international training facilities which are more expensive but best for those who need motivation or practical guidance. They are full time and normally last around four weeks, including experience teaching to real students and getting feedback from tutors.

You can also do courses which combine both online and in-class lessons for the best of both worlds, and are ideal for those who can’t commit to the intense nature of the residential courses, but want some practical experience and guidance. Whichever option you choose, you will be eligible for the same qualifications and job opportunities upon completion.

Many countries require that you have a TEFL/TESOL qualification before teaching in private English language schools, while others want to see that you’ve completed a certain number of teaching hours, showing that you have the practical experience to back up your qualification. ITTT offers access to a number of job opportunities worldwide upon completion and comprehensive training in how to secure positions.

Newly certified participants should expect entry level jobs and pay levels, but the more experience you have, the more money you can earn. China, South Korea and Japan are among the countries with the highest demand and best pay conditions for English teachers, as are a number of countries across the Middle East.

If you’re looking to work in the EU, competition is tough for those who are not EU residents as instructors from the UK and Ireland tend to meet their demands. There are a few relatively low-paid positions across Africa (although they mostly employ bilingual local teachers), while Latin America is another popular choice for ITTT graduates, particularly in Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Chile.

ITTT is an individual qualification, but there’s nothing to say you can’t complete the course at the same time as a friend and motivate each other along the way. If you are doing in-class lessons, then you’ll invariably meet other like-minded students along the way and can apply for job positions in the same cities if you want to stay together upon completion.

Global Volunteers

Global Volunteers has been in operation for over three decades, with projects across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, North America, South America and the South Pacific. Their projects focus on improving the lives of children around the world through access to education, health care services and sanitation. They build schools, support teachers, counsel mothers, equip libraries and establish gardens, working alongside locally-run community partnerships.

You can volunteer as an individual, with your family or significant other, as well as part of a group, with some projects geared specifically towards students and skilled professionals. Participants’ skills are matched to local needs and volunteers are placed in genuine development projects under the direction of local leaders. Global Volunteers aims to create sustainable programs which protect the host community’s independence and autonomy while honoring their wisdom and resourcefulness.

Global Volunteers have an impressive track record of achievements since beginning in 1984, including the immunization of more than 7,000 children, around 10,000 hours of teacher training and HIV/Aids education for around 9,000 individuals. But they’re not the cheapest organization out there, with a large team of highly skilled staff working behind the scenes in management and administration.

The flip side of this is that their programs are carefully targeted at community needs and are often highly specialized, with a clear long-term sustainability goal. They clearly set themselves apart from what they deem “voluntourism” (an escape or travel experience for participants with a dash of volunteer work thrown in) and are looking for hard-working individuals willing to apply themselves to making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children around the world.

Global Leadership Adventures

Global Leadership Adventures is dedicated to summer volunteer programs for high schools students, creating what they have titled “Service Learning Adventures”. Set within non-touristic destinations, these programs focus on community service and the opportunity to develop hands-on skills, with a good dose of adventure thrown in.

They aim to foster future leaders with a global outlook, as well as empower students to learn and build confidence while creating meaningful relationships with other cultural groups. It exposes them to real-world challenges and solutions, working alongside local communities to achieve sustainable, long-term goals.

Global Leadership Adventures offers programs in Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania, as well as across Central America and the Caribbean, together with Peru, Argentina, the Galapagos Islands, Bali, Fiji, Thailand, China and India. Projects center around healthcare, economic and political issues, children’s rights, animal protection, the environment, indigenous and women’s rights, with the aim of not only immersing students in global issues but also discussing the outcomes of their work and breaking down barriers at the same time.

But their programs are also about adventure and each combines sightseeing, adrenalin-pumping activities or once-in-a-lifetime encounters. Head out on safari in Tanzania, zip-line through the rainforests of Costa Rica or witness the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Incan ruins of Peru’s Machu Picchu.

Global Leadership Adventures operates its projects from a “Home Base” where students stay and eat together, accompanied by highly trained staff who provide supervision at all time. They guarantee a 6:1 student-to-staff ratio which is one of the best in the volunteer abroad industry, with many of the staff having been Peace Corps members in the past who understand the challenges and rewards involved. They work alongside in-country staff who have an in-depth knowledge and connections with the local community, as well as medical professionals should anything go wrong.

For first-time overseas travelers, this is a great way to do it, with extensive pre-departure support and an online GLA Travel Portal where you can connect with other students (and parents) before you head abroad. Staff will be waiting to meet you at the airport on arrival in your destination and there’s a 24-hour emergency hotline for students to call. Evacuation and secondary medical insurance are also provided, adding an extra level of security.

You can apply as an individual to their volunteer abroad programs around the world or customize a group expedition through GLA Group Travel.

Fronteering

With a mission to get you off-the-beaten-track, Fronteering sets itself apart from other volunteer abroad organizations out there. It offers projects based in more remote locations for those that want a little more adventure. You might be living alongside Amerindian communities in the Amazon or conserve wild horses in Mongolia. They also offer programs in the developed world with a difference, such as working on a family-run husky ranch in Canada and learning all there is to know about dogsledding.

They have exciting projects based in Brazil, Guyana, Belize and Panama, as well as Scotland, Indonesia, Jordan and Mongolia. If you want to head to Africa, then you can select a program in Ghana, Madagascar or South Africa, or head “Down Under” to experience the wild landscapes of Australia and New Zealand. Projects include working on environmental conservation projects in conjunction with indigenous communities, as well as wildlife rehabilitation schemes.

Fronteering also offers an Amazon internship where you’ll work alongside local communities in developing their eco-tourism initiatives and be eligible for credit towards your study back home. Their projects tend to be a bit more extreme than placements with other volunteer abroad organizations and they aim to create experiences for individuals or friends looking for a real sense of adventure.

Safety is still of utmost priority, although you should be aware that working in remote locations often comes with a small element of risk involved. They are, however, equipped with well stocked medical kits, first aid trained staff and evacuation systems in place should an emergency situation occur. Satellite and HF radio communications are used to stay in touch and the latest safety equipment is used in activities such as rock climbing.

But the rewards of venturing further afield with Fronteering is the opportunity to work in the heart of real wilderness areas (not a small patch of forest on the edge) and experience indigenous cultures that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to. Their staff all have experience living in remote areas and countries other than their own, with some having been involved in the UK Special forces and others in the UN Peace Corps, ensuring you are in good hands at all times.

They are quite upfront about the extra costs involved with accessing and sustaining projects in remote destinations and transparent about exactly where your money will go. They provide all accommodation (which may range from eco-friendly resorts to a hammock in the jungle) as well as all meals (which are based on your own gathering abilities on their “survival” programs).

i-to-i

I-to-i is one of the leading TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) providers out there, offering their own qualifications that meet international requirements and standards, together with a few unique “experiences”. They’ve been in operation for more than 20 years and have educated over 175,000 teachers since 1994.

I-to-i’s interactive online training courses mean that you can do the course no matter where you are in the world and they’ll provide a dedicated tutor to give you support throughout the course. Their training packages are quite flexible too, so you can choose the amount of training that you need, or opt for one of their classroom courses in 65 locations around the world.

In addition to their TEFL courses, you can also opt for a “TEFL Experience” which includes full online training, together with practical teaching experience in a country of your choice. They’ll provide you with orientation and an in-country placement, as well as accommodation and meals throughout the placement. You’ll also get to participate in a range of excursions, allowing you to see as much of the destination as possible in between teaching commitments. It’s a great way to hone your teaching skills in a real-life setting before you start applying for paid TEFL jobs and will probably improve your chances of getting the one you want.

At the end of your certification with i-to-i, you’ll be qualified for paid TEFL teaching positions and can use their online database to find jobs in your preferred destination. The opportunities are similar to those doing courses with ITTT, with Asia and the Middle East usually having the biggest demand for English teachers.

Agape Volunteers

UK-based Agape Volunteers is dedicated to Africa, offering placements in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania in areas that include conservation projects, orphanage work, sports and music education, as well as hospital/clinic placements for medical students. They also offer a unique Maasai-land program where volunteers will get to spend time living with this iconic tribal community and get a first-hand glimpse into their culture away from the tour groups.

Rather than providing what they deem to be a “fun and fake” volunteering experience, they focus on important aid projects that are really making a difference on the continent and require hard work from their volunteers. Placements range from one week to one year and unlike many volunteer projects, you can start and end whenever you like. You’ll be living alongside local people, offering a real insight into their culture and lifestyle, and working with them to build a better future. You can opt to go solo, with a friend or part of a group, with peer support there if you want it.

They try and keep their fees down as much as possible, with a small proportion used to support the projects that volunteers work on, while the majority goes to fund your accommodation, food and transport needs within the country. There are no registration fees and they receive donations to help support the administrative activities of the organization.

One of the great things about Agape Volunteers is that they assign you a personal trip advisor who carefully guides you through the booking process, choosing the right placement for you and helping to prepare you in all aspects. They will also refund all your volunteer program fees up to 30 days before you travel in case your situation changes. Agape Volunteers also provides a customized travel insurance policy for all participants at no extra cost. It covers the situations and activities you may encounter as a volunteer, as well as insuring you against the standard risks involved with traveling abroad.

A Broader View Volunteers

Family-owned organization A Broader View has been in operation since 2007 and now offers more than 240 volunteer placements around the world. They focus on social welfare, gender issues, health care and environmental conservation, with customized placements which can last anywhere from one week to three months.

Participants can travel to a range of countries throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia and put their skills to work in orphanages, sea turtle conservation projects, animal rescue centers, elderly care, museums, midwifery and youth rights projects. You can volunteer as an individual, with a friend or group, and live and work alongside local communities to achieve positive outcomes, usually committing around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

One of the great things about A Broader View is that they will assist you to raise the money needed for your placement through their website. After you confirm your volunteer placement and pay your deposit, they will provide a link to create a Fundraising Page. Sample letters for prospective donors, tax receipt coupons and handy hints are all provided through their ABV Fundraising account, helping you overcome the financial hurdles of paid volunteering.

Global Works

Global Works is the brain-child of Pam and James Houldin who previously operated a summer camp, Stone Mountain Adventures, at their farm in Central Pennsylvania. But in 1989 they dreamed of something on a more global scale that combined community service with adventure travel. Their first project was in Puerto Rico helping to rebuild homes after the devastation of Hurricane Hugo and has now grown to include projects from Martinique to Morocco and New Zealand to Nepal.

Global Works operates two programs: Summer Service Adventures which are specifically designed for high school students and Custom Group Travel which is geared towards groups of either high school or university age. Their philosophy is to work WITH villages and not FOR villages, with students working in partnership with local communities in projects of conservation and ecology, history and culture, social justice, art, music, dance and language immersion.

Experience Life in Andalusia on their Spanish placement, head to the idyllic Fiji Islands on a service initiative or work on healthcare programs in Nicaragua. In addition to the projects themselves, Global Works runs service learning and reflection meetings to debrief about the impact the project has had on the community and its sustainability, as well as the challenges and accomplishments of participants.

Each student is eligible for a Community Service Certificate which documents their work and the number of hours completed and can be used towards school or civic community service requirements. They also encourage participants to continue volunteer work into the future (whether at home or abroad) and help them map out a plan to do that.

NAV (Naturally Africa Volunteers)

Although relatively new, Naturally Africa Volunteers was created by a couple who had extensive volunteer abroad experience working with another organization before stepping out to do their own thing. NAV’s focus is exclusively on Africa, with projects geared towards both skilled and non-skilled volunteers. Fields include sports education, wildlife conservation and medical services, in destinations across Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana.

Naturally Africa Volunteers works with local organizations that have an in-depth understanding of the needs of the communities where they work, ensuring the projects are of benefit and provide local employment. They are needs driven, meaning that they don’t just create projects to give volunteers something to do, but create them in areas where they are required and welcomed by local communities. Self-sufficiency is the long-term aim of their projects, rather than dependence on aid, donations or volunteer workers in the future.

Naturally Africa Volunteers bases itself in regions where skills or manpower is lacking, so you won’t be taking the jobs of local workers. You might be teaching computer literacy in Malawi, coaching kid’s sports in Ghana or assisting on marine conservation projects in Tanzania.

NAV also prides itself on keeping volunteer abroad costs as low as possible, with only a small proportion spent on operational and marketing costs, while the majority is sent overseas where it is really needed. Some money goes towards the operational costs of their partner organizations while most is used to ensure your comfort and support while abroad, and they are willing to be transparent about exactly where your money goes for each and every project.

Frontier

One of the longest-established NGO’s out there, UK-based Frontier began operations in 1989 with a Tanzanian partnership with the WWF. It has since gone on to become an innovator in the volunteer abroad industry and a leading research and development organization. Today they offer Gap Year, volunteer abroad and internships in wildlife and marine conservation, as well as animal care, TEFL courses and teaching abroad placements. They work in more than 60 different countries with volunteers from over 30 nationalities, asserting their place as a truly international organization with a global outlook.

Environmental and wildlife conservation is the core focus of the organization, with close partnerships with World Wildlife Fund and the Department of International Development in the UK. They aim not only for ecosystem regeneration and animal protection in their destination countries, but also economic and welfare gains, as well as the all-important transfer of skills.

They work alongside local, national and international conservation agencies, NGO’s, governments and universities to create alternative forms of income in the communities where they work, particularly where there is a resistance to conservation measures. They aim to create social stability and build the confidence of local stakeholders and also conduct environmental education and capacity building workshops.

They offer exciting conservation programs in Botum Sakor National Park in Cambodia, on Fiji’s National Turtle Conservation Strategy, on marine research projects with Madagascar National Parks and wildlife surveying with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Costa Rica.

Practicing what they preach, Frontier’s environmental commitment extends to their offices, with the organization striving to reduce its paper consumption through predominantly electronic correspondence. They also minimize their heating, cooling and lighting requirements and offset the carbon emissions for their business travel through a Carbon Management Program.

Frontier is a standout organization for those wanting to be involved in important environmental research programs as part of their volunteer abroad experience. Their staff are leading professionals in their field of natural sciences and the organization has produced more than 450 journal articles detailing the findings of their research programs. These have influenced the establishment of national parks in both Tanzania and Mozambique, as well as helping to create community-based conservation organizations around the globe.

Frontier’s volunteers have gone on to work at the United Nations, World Wildlife Fund and Action Aid, and it’s a great stepping stone for those looking for a career in the conservation sector.

Projects Abroad

Since it began operations in 1992, Projects Abroad has gone on to become one of the world’s largest volunteer abroad organizations, with around 10,000 people embarking on their service projects and internships each and every year. Their programs are scattered in countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America in diverse fields that include teaching, conservation and environment, medicine and healthcare, journalism, law and human rights, international development and business.

Choose from one of their high school programs (“Alternative Spring Breaks” or “Global Gap Year”), embark on an internship aboard with “Project for Professionals” or select an intensive language course. They offer participants the flexibility to select their own start date and have full-time staff available in each and every destination to ensure your safety and satisfaction.

Project Abroad has offices around the world and employ around 700 full-time staff, which is great for logistical planning and support, but also adds up when it comes to project fees. The advantage, however, is that many of these staff members are former Project Abroad participants, so they have real-life experience and insights to offer and can answer all your questions and concerns.

Project Abroad also helps to create much-needed employment in many of their destination countries with staff who are there to lead projects and provide on-ground support. Having local staff allows them to really understand where volunteers are needed and establish meaningful projects. “Worthwhileness” is the driving factor behind their programs with Project Abroad believing that “busy, constructive volunteers are happy volunteers”, which translates to happy host organizations too.

They are committed to long-term, sustainable impacts for the communities they work with and are constantly establishing new initiatives in response to their need, such as street children shelters in Senegal, human rights advocacy in South Africa and conservation projects in Cambodia.

Rather than only being geared towards young people, Project Abroad participants range in age from 16 to 75 and increasing numbers of professionals and retirees are choosing to take time out to volunteer on their projects. They place volunteers with carefully selected host families who are there to provide comfort and security while abroad, together with home-cooked meals. It’s an ideal opportunity to learn about the local customs and exchange a little of your own culture.

ISL (International Service Learning)

In operation since 1994, International Service Learning’s philosophy is to offer its participants practical experience in their chosen field while exploring another culture at the same time. Their community enrichment programs focus on ecology, education and photojournalism in destinations across Central and South America, the Caribbean and Africa, some of which are open to those with no experience and others requiring certain skills.

They also offer adventure programs including a Hike for Humanity initiative and Sports Without Borders placement, and you can either opt to join one of their established teams as an individual or customize your own group adventure.

ISL is particularly renowned for its health and medical programs, delivering vital services to poor communities who are otherwise lacking. It is the only NGO authorized by the Nicaraguan government to provide healthcare experience for students from the United States, as well as being the only provider in many areas of Belize. The organization also collaborates with local, regional and national government health agencies across Mexico.

All medical-based students are supervised by licensed health professionals, gaining invaluable, hands-on experience, and many are inspired to continue their humanitarian health work after. Numerous universities throughout the United States also offer credit for students who participate in ISL’s programs, meaning your hard work will be recognized back home.

ISV (International Student Volunteers)

In operation for almost 30 years and certified by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, International Student Volunteers is one of the most popular volunteer/travel abroad organizations out there. They support sustainable development initiatives as part of their responsible adventure travel programs, combining both work and play. Their aim is to create global citizens from a young age through cultural immersion, education and inspiration.

Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand and the Dominican Republic are just some of the destinations covered by International Student Volunteers, with projects in environmental management, wildlife protection and education programs for underprivileged kids.

Their most popular program is the “Ultimate 4 Week Program” which includes two weeks working on a meaningful volunteer project, followed by two weeks traveling with your group on an adventure tour around your chosen destination. For those who don’t want to go it alone, this is a great way to do it, but group sizes can be large (25-50 people). Having so many other volunteers around you can detract from the cultural immersion experience, but you will get the opportunity to meet other students from around the world who share your passion and make life-long friends along the way.

Volunteer projects might include sustainable development in rural communities, organic agriculture initiatives or monitoring of endangered species, while the adventure tours include whitewater rafting excursions, surfing instruction, ocean kayaking, zip-lining and horseback riding. You may also be eligible for university credits after completing your volunteer placement, depending on your chosen project and your institution back home.

ISV has been named one of the “Top Ten Volunteer Organizations” by the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy and partners with more than 100 volunteer organizations around the world to make things happen. For those wanting to volunteer abroad, but also want some adrenalin-filled adventures along the way, then International Student Volunteers is a great choice.

IDEX

Idex is quite unique in the volunteer abroad industry in that it started out as a regular tourism company operating group tours for a predominantly European clientele. But after discovering that most of their travelers craved interaction with local people and culturally immersive experiences, they evolved into a volunteer abroad organization in 2003.

They now offer around 45 projects in five countries – India, Nepal, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam – working alongside grassroots organizations to make positive changes in terms of social development, while offering their participants unique cultural interactions at the same time. Projects include animal welfare, women’s empowerment, orphanages and elderly care, as well as HIV/Aids support, teaching and health care.

You can either opt just to volunteer or combine your volunteer placement with weekend excursions and more extensive travel through your destination upon completion. Their projects are not only designed for students or individuals but couples, families and groups of friends of all ages who want to bring about change.

Free Volunteer Abroad Initiatives

Paid volunteer opportunities are ideal for those who haven’t traveled much before, just want to do a short, one-off placement, or don’t want to deal with the logistics of arriving by themselves into a foreign country. But if money is a limiting factor, can you still get onboard and volunteer around the world? The answer is most definitely yes, and there are some great organizations out there helping people do just that.

While some are government-run, others are basically online platforms that you just pay a small fee to access, while others will actually pay you for your time and effort. These are ideal for independent travelers and globe trotters or those who feel confident enough to organize things like visas and in-country transport themselves. Some are geared towards graduates or those with particular expertise, while others are open to anyone with the motivation to work and learn at the same time.

They can range anywhere from a week to a couple of years and are great for travel addicts who want to see the world but may not have the funds to do it long-term. Whether you want to really immerse yourself in one country or travel the world going from one project to the next, there are free volunteer projects to suit.

WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), Worldwide

Rather than a single organization, WWOOF is a network of national organizations that help place volunteers on organic farms within a particular jurisdiction. Hosts can advertise a project on their online platform and volunteers can peruse them to find suitable projects that fit their travel plans and/or itinerary. The host will normally offer accommodation and food in return for a certain number of hours work per day (normally 5-6 hours) and placements can range anywhere from a few days to multiple months. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn all facets of organic farming or ecologically sound growing methods, as well as experience rural living and connect with like-minded individuals from around the world.

Australia has the largest number of host farms and enterprises, followed by New Zealand and the United States, but there are WWOOF hosts in 99 countries around the globe. Unfortunately, there is no central international organization and you need to join the organization of your destination country if you want to get involved. For countries with no WWOOF organization, WWOOF Independents is the place to head to find opportunities. All WWOOF-associated organizations do follow the same principles, however, with a commitment to creating global sustainability.

After you sign up, you’ll have access to a list of host farms within your country of choice, then it’s up to you to get in contact and arrange the dates and duration of your stay. Projects might include gardening, sowing seeds, fencing, feeding animals, wine making or composting, while at the same time getting a first-hand insight into the local culture. For those interested in organic or sustainable farming, it’s a great way to get hands-on experience while you’re on the road and apply it in your own backyard once you get home.

Conservation Volunteers, Australia

Dedicated to environmental restoration projects across Australia, Conservation Volunteers is a not-for-profit that conducts work in both urban and regional locations. It includes tree planting and weed control, as well as trail maintenance, wildlife surveying and heritage restoration projects. It’s popular with young Australian residents but is also open to international volunteers wanting to experience this vast island from a different perspective.

The organization provides training and experience in environmental and heritage conservation, making it ideal for those looking to go into a career in conservation management. It involves working in teams of up to ten people (including a team supervisor), and you need to be physically fit and willing to roll up your sleeves and get a bit dirty. But it’s an opportunity to connect with young Australians and learn about pressing issues regarding the country’s natural environment while being immersed in it.

Their volunteering programs run weekly from Fridays to Fridays and you can select a time frame that suits your needs. Packages include all food, accommodation and transport to and from the project and in return, you will volunteer your time and effort as part of their project needs. There are 25 different locations around the country where projects depart from, as well as two in New Zealand. If you are traveling from abroad, you can register to volunteer from one of their booking agencies or directly with the organization.

Sudan Volunteer Programme, Sudan

Dedicated to raising the standard of English amongst Sudanese, the Sudan Volunteer Programme is based out of London and Khartoum. It sends graduates to various locations throughout the country to teach English at higher education institutions, with the language a vital tool for locals to access good jobs and a better standard of living. While most young Sudanese learn English in school, there is little opportunity to talk with native speakers and develop their oral communication skills. SVP is also aimed at cross-cultural communication and the opportunity for people from around the world to better understand Sudan, rather than just what is reported in the media.

One of the main perks of the Sudan Volunteer Programme is that unlike many English teaching opportunities, there are no application or administration fees. You will receive accommodation and the equivalent of a local teaching assistant salary for the duration of your stay, as well as support throughout the placement.

Contrary to popular believe, the country is relatively safe and there are good standards of personal security in the regions where SVP volunteers are placed. You might work at one of the leading universities in Khartoum, in the cultural heartland of Omdurman, along the banks of the Blue Nile in Wad Medani, the ethnically diverse town of Kassala, or the commercial export hub of Port Sudan. You will also have the opportunity to learn Arabic and hone your skills in a fascinating and culturally-rich country that is considered where the Middle East and Africa meet.

You don’t need to have any teaching experience, although a TEFL certification, experience in foreign travel in developing countries and knowledge of Islamic culture is highly looked upon. They prefer graduates or near-graduates and those who are patient, culturally sensitive and with a good sense of humor.

You’ll have the freedom to come up with your own lesson plans for English conversation classes or follow semi-structured courses using SVP’s available resources. For those with previous teaching experience, you may also be able to teach full courses based on syllabuses or train local English language teachers.

You need to commit for a minimum of six months and be prepared to work for 20-25 hours per week, with around one-third of those hours dedicated to lesson preparation and student/teacher interactions outside of the classroom. You’ll also need to fund your own return flights, medical and criminal records check, as well as any required vaccinations. The organization will secure visas free of charge and conduct orientation programs to assist you in the lead up to your placement.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy, United States

Formerly known as the Appalachian Trail Conference, this non-profit is dedicated to the conservation of this legendary hiking trail which runs from Maine to Georgia in the United States. It’s not just the 2,000+ miles of trail, but also the surrounding greenery that requires long-term preservation, with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy committed to environmental education and awareness about the area’s natural resources.

Because of the sheer size of the trail, the conservancy organizes itself into around 30 hiking clubs which perform maintenance duties along its reach. Joining one of these clubs is a great way for outdoorsy types to be immersed in an inspiring natural destination and meet like-minded individuals while doing vital conservation work at the same time. Their on-the-ground stewardship includes clearing the trails of natural overgrowth and blowdown material, rebuilding sections of the trail and repairing shelters, as well as maintaining overnight camp sites. It also includes educational awareness of hikers about how to minimize damage to the natural environment with a “Leave No Trace” principle

In addition to its trail maintenance work, the ATC is also conducting a MEGA-Transect scientific study, with data collected from across the trail used for global preservation projects. It also runs a “Trail Towns” program which highlights the communities through which it passes, as well as “A Trail to Every Classroom” school program which helps teach kids about environmental conservation and ecology.

To become a volunteer on one of their Trail Crews, you need to be prepared to commit to week-long stints at base camps along the trail between May and October. Some remote backcountry locations will require you to carry in a full backpack with all supplies to your base camp, which may be without showers, toilets and running water for the entire week. In other situations, you may be based at established cabins or more developed campgrounds which are accessible by vehicle. You’ll be provided with all food, transportation to and from project sites, tools and safety equipment, but you do need to bring your own camping gear for backcountry locations.

Volunteers on the Appalachian Trail need to be physically fit and willing to get sweaty and dirty, with 8-9 hour-long days in all sorts of weather and subject to mosquitoes, black flies and other creepy crawlies. Crew members share all cooking, cleaning and tool care duties and you need to be able to cooperate and live in close confinement with others.

Trip Leader for HF Holidays, Europe

Operating guided walking and outdoor activity tours across the UK and Europe, HF Holidays is always on the look out for enthusiastic Trip Leaders to take charge of their small groups. It’s a great way to experience the region at a fraction of the cost of staying in hotels, hostels or even campgrounds, and you’ll meet people from around the world at the same time.

It’s really geared towards those who have some overseas travel under their belt and are experienced walkers, with good navigation skills and a passion for the outdoors lifestyle. You’ll be working in teams of two or three (so there is always someone there to support you), but you need to have good communication skills, confidence and a social personality to be able to engage with guests.

You’ll need to have (or acquire) a good knowledge of the region in which you’ll be guiding walking trips, including a little about its history, culture and flora/fauna, and must be willing to organize social activities in the evening in partnership with staff at the country house or lodge. They also require that you have done first aid training (and can assist in certification courses if you need) and would be able to handle an emergency situation in a remote area.

Most walking holidays run from Saturday to Saturday, with a free, non-walking day on the Wednesday, and you should be prepared to be spending most of your time dedicated to the guests. It’s not a position for introverts or those who need a lot of time to themselves but is really designed for those who thrive in social situations and making others happy.

In return, you’ll get comfortable full board accommodation in one of their country houses or partner hotels and ongoing travel opportunities throughout Europe. The minimum commitment is three weeks, which is long enough to decide if it’s for you, without being too long if it’s not. You won’t have the flexibility to go off sightseeing like you would on a European vacation, but you will get to experience regions in more depth (and there’s always time for a sightseeing holiday afterward).

Help Exchange, Worldwide

HelpX is an online database of hosts looking for willing volunteers on a huge diversity of projects around the world. They may range from organic farming to working in a backpacker’s hostel and assisting with construction work. It’s an opportunity to stay with local people and experience the culture of your destination while gaining invaluable practical experience in whichever field you choose.

It only requires a small fee for you to join the site which will give you access to hundreds of projects in all corners of the globe. Most of the placements require you to work for around four to five hours a day in exchange for accommodation and meals. Each host arrangement is different and some include free activities, local sightseeing trips and other perks, while other will require you to work longer daily hours for a regular weekend off.

It’s similar to WWOOF in that you need to contact the hosts directly to organize dates which suit both of you, but the scope of projects is far greater. Most hosts clearly outline the kind of people they are looking for and you can always discuss exactly what the placement will involve before committing. There’s also a review system so you can see what other travelers said about the host and how the host responded to them.

To be involved with HelpX, you really need to be a motivated and independent individual, willing to make all you own travel plans and wake up each morning with a “can do” attitude. Subscriptions are for two years, giving you plenty of opportunity to take advantage of various placements and travel the world affordably and uniquely.

Peace Corps, Worldwide (US-citizens only)

Run by the United States Government, the Peace Corps is a volunteer initiative which operates social and economic development programs based in more than 140 countries around the world. It was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 for the promotion of world peace and friendship. It was designed not only for Americans to better understand other cultures but also for people outside of the US to have an insight into American culture and its philanthropic nature.

Peace Corps work is generally a two-year stint, with a few months of training in the lead-up. Placements include government offices, schools, NGOs and entrepreneurial activity in the business, agriculture, environmental protection and information technology sectors. You might be working towards equal education for girls or the eradication of malaria and HIV in Africa, contributing to developing more efficient farming methods in Latin America, or working on wildlife protection and small business creation projects in Asia.

You need to be at least 18 years of age to apply and most opt to join the Peace Corps after completing their tertiary studies. There is an interview process to go through and you should apply at least nine months before you want to leave, meaning that it can’t be a spur of the moment decision.

You will receive a small allowance to cover your living expenses while abroad, as well as medical care and round-trip transportation. As part of your training, the Peace Corps offers language resources to help you communicate with local communities and there is a good support network every step of the way.

Because of the long serving time (two years) and often basic conditions of living in sometimes very remote areas, Peace Corps volunteers need to be emotionally ready to handle the situation thrown their way. You will more than likely be placed alongside other volunteers, but in some situations will need to be able to work independently. But the rewards of working with the Peace Corps include time to really understand the culture and community you are living with, the challenges facing third world countries, and the opportunity to see the long-term difference that you can make as an individual.

United Nations Volunteers, Worldwide

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program is specifically geared towards professionals who want to volunteer their expertise on projects that the international organization supports. They are looking for individuals who demonstrate adaptability, emotional stability and cultural sensitivity, and can thrive in often remote or challenging destinations. They must be committed to the United Nations principles of ethics and integrity and illustrate a positive attitude towards creating change in the world.

United Nations volunteering is not for everyone and you will need to have at least a university degree or higher technical diploma before they will consider you. Only those 25 years or older are eligible to apply and you should have at least a couple of years work experience under your belt. You also need to be relatively fluent in at least one of their three working languages (English, French and Spanish), although more than one is looked upon favorably.

They look for people with previous volunteer experience in a developing country, illustrating that you can work in a multi-cultural environment and perhaps in difficult living situations. You must also be able to demonstrate strong interpersonal and organization skills which will enable you to work in cooperation with the relevant in-country host agency.

Most international assignments are six to 12-month renewable contracts (although they expect that you will serve for at least a year) and may involve community-based initiatives, humanitarian relief, peace-building or technical cooperation with governments.

If you’ve volunteered before and have some qualifications and work experience to your name, then volunteering with the UN could be for you. Not only will it look great on your CV, but you know that you’ll be contributing to worthwhile projects as part of a leading international organization.

Kibbutz Volunteer, Israel

Kibbutz have long played a role in Israeli society, with the first having been established back in 1909. They were created as utopian communities, combining both social and Zionist ideals and functioning according to principles of communal ownership, social justice and equality. They still play an important role in the country’s agricultural output and a few weeks spent on a kibbutz offers a glimpse into a different, more communal way of living.

Today there are around 270 kibbutzim in Israel which range in size from 80 to more than 2,000 people. Kibbutz volunteer programs generally extend from two to six months, allowing you to really immerse yourself in the society, and you will receive food, board and a modest stipend in return. Meals are normally eaten in a communal dining room and prepared by the community together, and you’re expected to work six days a week for roughly 7-8 hours per day.

On a kibbutz, the jobs are generally rotated between people so you get experience in different agricultural areas, with the jobs depending largely on the season. One week you might be planting in the fields, the next working with livestock and the following in one of the on-site factories. Gender equality is a strong focus of kibbutz ideology, so female volunteers will be doing the same job as the males, rather than being confined to the kitchen or home.

Before deciding to volunteer on a kibbutz, participants should carefully research the contentious issue of Palestinian occupation. It’s important to be aware of exactly where you will be located and how the land on which the kibbutz is situated was obtained.

Work Away, Worldwide

With everything from building projects to farm work, wildlife care and nannying, Work Away is a platform that promotes the fair exchange of volunteer labor across the globe. Whether you want to teach another language, work as an interpretive guide or keep house, there are projects here to suit absolutely everyone.

It is very similar to HelpX (and many hosts advertise on both sites), but you can have a look at the type of projects on offer before signing up to either one or the other. It’s a fantastic opportunity to travel the world for very little while gaining lifelong skills in different fields.

Basically, you pay a small annual fee and create an online profile that tells others a little about you and your interests. Then you can search thousands of volunteer job opportunities around the world and apply to be hosted. In exchange for a few hours work each day (normally five or six days a week), you will probably be offered accommodation and sometimes food. Work Away has a review process where travelers and hosts can both leave feedback, creating transparency and security when meeting and staying with complete strangers.

The only drawback is that you need to organize everything yourself, from visas to flights and in-country transport to your destination. But for savvy independent travelers, it’s an ideal way to go and an opportunity to immerse yourself in different cultures and meet inspiring people along the way.

Get your hands dirty!