Directory of Overseas Volunteer Programs
One of the most popular options for volunteering abroad is to enroll in a volunteering program or placement. Types of programs run the gamut of types of jobs, price, and region, but what they have in common is that they pretty much do the work for you. Instead of finding an NGO or government organization and carving your own volunteer job, volunteer abroad programs place volunteers into predetermined roles, offer ongoing support, and generally operate on a set schedule of volunteer arrivals throughout the year.
Volunteer abroad programs offer structure and support systems for volunteers. With some exceptions, major volunteer programs usually welcome volunteers in groups or cohorts, so if you decide to join a program you'll have built-in access to a group of peers that can help you adjust to your life abroad. Read on for more information and links to some of the leading volunteer abroad programs!
Quick Fact: Volunteer program costs range from $0 - $6,000 for four-week programs abroad!
General Information and Volunteer Program Search Engines
The ideal starting point in any volunteer abroad search is a comprehensive search engine that will allow you to find and opportunity that suits your needs. The volunteer search engines listed below allow you to search by region, country, job type and length of stay.
- Volunteerabroad.com: This is a terrific search engine for long- and short-term opportunities, and also includes information specific to teach abroad opportunities and paid jobs, in addition to volunteer programs.
- Idealist.org: Idealist is the go-to source for all things having to do with nonprofit work, and its job listings include many volunteer opportunities abroad. Be sure to search under both the jobs and volunteer categories to get the most comprehensive results.
Short-term Placement Agencies
- Cross-Cultural Solutions: CCS has a truly broad range of both long and short-term placements in countries around the world, and an excellent reputation for meaningful, short-term volunteer placements. Fee-based.
- United Planet: United Planet has a fantastic reputation for highlighting the cultural immersion and understanding components of the volunteer abroad experience. They offer both individual and group quests. Fee-based.
- i-to-i: i-to-i combines volunteering, internships and adventure travel tours in its offerings. They also have programs for those looking to obtain TEFL certifications to teach abroad. Fee-based.
- InterExchange: InterExchange focuses on volunteer abroad placements working with children - primarily teaching and au pair jobs in South Africa, Namibia, Costa Rica and India. Fee-based.
Did you Know? Volunteer programs generally send volunteers abroad in groups or cohorts.
Long-term Programs Worldwide
- WorldTeach, Inc.: Started at Harvard University, WorldTeach places volunteers as teachers in programs throughout in Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Marshall Islands, Namibia, South Africa, and Bangladesh. Program fees and time commitments vary.
- Volunteers for Peace: VFP is a workcamp-based organization that brings volunteers together to live and work communally. Low fee.
- Foundation for Sustainable Development: FSD International places volunteers within small NGOs and nonprofit organizations around the world to help provide resources to improve their capacity to serve the local community. Fee-based.
- Responsible Travel: The site is not devoted exclusively, but the volunteer abroad section has lots of listings for eco-lodge placements. Fee-based.
- Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity offers two options for international volunteers. Long-term placements are available for people with professional experience and skill (Architects, fundraising professionals, marketing experts, etc.), and the Global Village program offers two-week volunteer vacation options. No fee.
- Peace Corps: The original long-term volunteer-abroad program, the Peace Corps is a two-year commitment sponsored by the U.S. government. It is a paid opportunity, and returned volunteers also receive a repatriation allowance. No fee (expenses covered).
- UN Volunteers: Designed with working professionals in mind, UN Volunteers places experienced volunteers with local government and NGO groups to complete specific programs. There are also virtual volunteer opportunities for people who want to help but cannot travel. No fee (expenses covered).
Featured Programs by Region
- VE Global: One of the few no-fee volunteer organizations, VE places international volunteers in Santiago, Chile's children's homes, community centers and schools while empowering them to develop and implement their own educational and recreational programs. Volunteers arrive on a rotating class format every three months.
- Amigos de las Americas: A leadership skills-building program for high school and college students, Amigos places volunteers in Central and South America. Fee-based.
- The God's Child Project: Volunteers work with underprivileged children in Guatemala, El Salvador, India and Malawi. No-fee.
- Casa-Alianza: Casa Alianza (affiliated with Covenant House) provides programs for street children in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua. Volunteers are needed for a minimum of 6 months at a time. No fee.
- Gaia Ecolodges: Gaia offers short- and long-term volunteer opportunities in sustainable agriculture and natural construction in Argentina. Volunteers must complete an educational course to qualify for a work placement. Low fee.
- i-to-i Kenya: Look into their "work with children" or "building with underprivileged communities" programs.
- Students Travel and Exposure South Africa: Volunteer and internship placements for students in 15 African countries, with a relatively low fee.
- Amazwi: Women's group in South Africa, seeking many specialized volunteers; most placements including housing and a small stipend.
- Invisible Children, Inc.: Organization devoted to the location of children kidnapped by in Uganda, teaching and internship opportunities.
- Volunteer Society Network Nepal: Volunteer programs in all areas including health, construction environment and women's issues.
- InfoNepal: Placements working with children in a variety of settings.
- Unite for Sight: Brings professionals to India and Thailand to provide basic eye care and prescribe glasses to those suffering from blindness.
Read on for more general resources about living and volunteer overseas!
- Never choose a volunteer program that doesn't offer you the opportunity to connect with a former volunteer. That is a red flag!
- Large volunteer placement organizations like Cross Cultural Solutions, United Planet and i-to-i send have placement options in as many as 40 countries.
- Volunteer programs provide extra support for those volunteers who want to have the planning stage built into their volunteer experience.