Volunteering abroad can be an enriching experience. Not only do you have the opportunity to travel but you also get to work with impactful organisations and contribute within local communities.
With so many volunteer organisations offering diverse programmes abroad, it can be overwhelming to navigate this vast list of options. To help you out, we’ve assembled information about the best volunteer abroad organisations, their available programmes and how you can apply to them successfully.
1. Plan My Gap Year
Considered to have some of the most affordable volunteer abroad programmes, Plan My Gap Year is among the most well-established organisations out there.
With numerous travel, volunteer and immersion opportunities available in 15 countries across four continents, PMGY’s high-impact programmes can span between 1 and 40 weeks. You also have the option to sign up for multi-destination programmes.
Meanwhile, PMGY’s projects focus on childcare, English language teaching, healthcare, wildlife conservation, community development and mental health. Some projects are specifically designed for those under 18 years of age.
To apply, you’ll need to first select the country you would like to volunteer in and the project that interests you the most. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to provide your details and select your travel dates.
Founded in 1998, GVI is devoted to running sustainable development and experiential education programmes, all of which are aligned with the United Nations’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Spread across 13 countries and 5 continents, GVI’s volunteer projects are focused on economic and social development and contribute towards:
- Climate change research
- Wildlife conservation
- Environmental conservation
- Women’s empowerment and gender equality
- Global public health
GVI also offers online volunteering opportunities, as well as multi-country volunteering options, all of which you can apply for through their website.
MaximoNivel is an internationally accredited organisation focused on delivering high-quality study abroad programmes in Latin America. The three primary countries their programmes take place in are Peru, Guatemala and Costa Rica but they also offer online opportunities!
As a volunteer, you can choose between numerous options, including:
- Teaching English
- Medical and healthcare
- Marine life conservation
- Indigenous communities
- Jungle conservation
Along with your volunteer programme, you’ll also have access to walking tours, salsa classes, cooking classes and Spanish language tutoring, among other things.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the few organisations that offer academic credit and official transcripts for their volunteer abroad programmes.
4. Love Volunteers
Love Volunteers is an organisation that prides itself on its cost-effective and transparent volunteering opportunities, offering placements across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and America.
Their programmes revolve around animal welfare, environmental conservation, childcare, community development, disabilities and special needs, as well as healthcare.
The application process is quite simple: first, you must pick your destination and what you would like to do, and you’ll then to pay the registration fee once your application is reviewed by the Love Volunteers team.
5. Projects Abroad
With 25 years of experience and over 120,000 volunteers, Projects Abroad is an award-winning organisation focused on offering responsible volunteer travel. This means that Projects Abroad is aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals but has also implemented its extensive monitoring and evaluating tools to ensure that their programmes are impactful, sustainable and safe.
Their volunteer programmes include law and human rights work experience, animal conservation, building, sports, archaeology, teaching, and medical work.
6. Agape Volunteers
Agape Volunteers is a UK-registered non-profit charity offering volunteer opportunities within humanitarian projects across Africa.
Whether you want to teach, offer medical support, coach sports teams or work in wildlife conservation, Agape Volunteers offers all-inclusive packages at affordable prices. Other than the project you will be working within, you will also have the opportunity to sign up to a range of adventures like safaris, mountain climbing and city tours, which will enrich your time as a volunteer and allow you to explore Africa.
GoEco is an ecotourism company that offers affordable and ethical volunteer abroad programmes in over 40 countries.
Their volunteer projects are mainly focused on offering humanitarian aid in local communities, and wildlife rehabilitation and ecological conservation within local parks and reserves.
As for destinations, you will have the opportunity to pick between countries across five different continents.
Fronteering offers volunteering opportunities related to wildlife, indigenous people, environment, sustainability and local communities across Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and America.
Along with your volunteer experience, you will have the chance to take part in extreme activities including heli-diving in Belize, dog-sledging in Scotland, wildlife watching tours in Canada, and many more!
9. Via Volunteers
Via Volunteers is focused on providing ethical volunteering experiences in South Africa. With multiple opportunities available, you can apply for short-term placements, combine projects for a longer stay, or do a full gap year in childcare and community projects or wildlife and conservation.
What’s great about this organisation is that you have the option to tailor your experience and take part in different initiatives, such as African penguin and seabird rehabilitation, homeless feeding, reptile conservation and education, big cat sanctuaries, and caring for children with disabilities.
10. International Volunteer HQ
With 300+ projects taking place in over 50 destinations, International Volunteer HQ offers the world’s largest range of fully hosted volunteering abroad programmes.
As a Certified B Corporation, IVHQ is devoted to making a positive environmental and social impact and is the only volunteer travel organisation to boast this distinguished certification. IVHQ has also aligned with the UN and its 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
As a volunteer, you can pick from a wide range of projects and choose from different trip types, including solo travelling, family volunteering vacation and medical volunteering.
11. Volunteering Solutions
Volunteering Solutions, also known as VolSol, currently operates in more than 26 countries and offers over 160 different volunteering options. From sports coaching and environmental conservation to animal care, you will have numerous projects to pick from.
VolSol offers one-week programmes, two-week specials as well as more extensive opportunities, based on your availability and goals.
While their main focus is on providing international internships, Connect-123 also develops and administers volunteer programmes in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Dublin, Shanghai, and Sydney.
Unlike other volunteer organisations, Connect-123 offers tailormade programmes based on your individual requirements such as when you’re available to start and how much time you want to spend volunteering.
13. Global Leadership Adventures
Global Leadership Adventures wants to inspire student travellers and help them have a positive impact on their communities through meaningful volunteer efforts.
GLA incorporates community service, immersive learning as well as adventure in all its available programmes, which are spread across over 20 countries and 5 continents.
Virtual programmes and opportunities are also available for age-eligible students.
14. Peace Corps
Perhaps one of the most well-known organisations on this list, the Peace Corps offers volunteer opportunities to US citizens over the age of 18, giving them the chance to integrate themselves within communities across 60 countries.
The Peace Corps offer two programmes to choose from: the Peace Corps Volunteer programme (which lasts two years, plus three months of training, and is designed for college grads, career changers and anyone in between), and the Peace Corps Response Volunteer programme (which lasts between 3 and 12 months and includes high-impact, short-term assignments ideal for seasoned experts and returning volunteers).
15. UN Volunteers
The main mission of the UN Volunteers is to contribute to peace and development by mobilising qualified and highly motivated volunteers.
UNV makes it possible for you to contribute your existing skills and knowledge to become an international, national or online volunteer. For you to volunteer abroad, you must meet UNV’s minimum requirements and sign up on their Unified Volunteering Platform, where you can apply for high-demand, specialised roles.
Meanwhile, to work as a national volunteer in your home country, there are usually no specific requirements, but you will need to be over 22 to qualify for available assignments.
16. Lead Adventures
Whether you want to volunteer at a research station in the Galapagos Islands, work with children in Ecuador or concentrate on animal welfare and rescue in the Amazon, Lead Adventures offers diverse opportunities across South America, with programmes spanning between 2 and 12 weeks.
It’s worth mentioning that the organisation ensures that their excursions and trips are tailored according to their zero environmental impact policy and are designed with the aid of Environmental Impact Assessments.
17. A Broader View
Based in the US, A Broader View is a nonprofit charity organisation offering 345 volunteer programmes in 32 countries across 4 continents.
The main areas of focus of their initiatives include:
- Community development building
- HIV/AIDS prevention
- Language teaching
- Environmental and wildlife conservation
- Museum assistance
- Dance and theatre
Most of their programmes are available all year round, so you’ll be able to choose the dates that work best for you when signing up!
18. Greenheart Travel
Greenheart Travel aims to help others travel for change by allowing them to become global citizens through cultural exchange.
For teens and high school students, Greenheart Travel offers a range of options such as gap years, language camps, summer programmes and even high school study abroad. Meanwhile, adult volunteers can sign up for teaching placements and homestay opportunities.
The organisation also offers scholarships to first-time volunteer travellers helping everyone access their initiatives.
19. Raleigh International
Raleigh International is a youth-driven organisation that aims to mobilise young people to create an inclusive, fair and greener world by helping them tackle the world’s most urgent problems.
Their volunteer programmes include expeditions to Costa Rica and Nepal, regreening missions in the Scottish Highlands and the rest of the UK, and expeditions for medics. Those who live in Nepal, Tanzania and Central America also have the opportunity to take part in volunteer initiatives in their home countries.
20. Naturally Africa Volunteers
Naturally Africa Volunteers offers responsible volunteering opportunities including teaching, medical, sports and wildlife conservation in Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana.
The main objectives of their projects are the promotion of sustainable development and health, relief of poverty, and the advancement of education in Africa.
If you plan on taking a gap year to volunteer abroad, then these organisations and their available programmes are worth considering.
Before you reach a decision, though, make sure to conduct thorough research and weigh the pros and cons of each programme — each comes with its own merits, but it’s important to pick one that matches your own goals, aims and objectives if you want to make the most out of this incredible experience!
Have you ever volunteered with any of these organisations? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 15 January 2017.