Whether you’re philanthropically inclined or just looking to change up your next vacation, volunteering overseas is a great way to see the world while making a positive impact. While working abroad may not be for everyone, it offers up an opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes for a while, and to observe the realities of life in the farthest corners of the globe. Here’s a list of 13 best places where you can volunteer and do your bit to make the world a better place.
Conservation is the name of the volunteer game down under. With programs like Conversation Volunteers, eager travelers with a love of the outdoors can join a conservation team in any territory across the continent. For just a small fee to cover accommodation and food costs, volunteers can sign up for a residential program and serve for week-long blocks planting trees, constructing trails and assisting with heritage restoration.
Despite having one of Africa’s largest economies, South Africa also has one of the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate. Whether it’s working with the children of families affected by the disease or the victims themselves, volunteer programs here are established and in need of help. For a small program fee, choose to work at centers for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS through International Volunteer HQ or assist with adult HIV education programs through African Impact.
While riding on an elephant’s back may seem like the perfect adventure, the dark truth behind the treatment and abuse of these gentle giants is horrific. However, there are plenty of compounds across Thailand working to combat the tourist business and promoting the natural and healthy treatment of elephants. Join the cause and help to rehabilitate elephants at ethical sanctuaries in Chiang Mai with programs through GVI or Volunteer Solutions.
Home to over 1.3 billion people, 22 different languages and a whole host of different cultures, India is quickly gaining attention globally for its artistic and economic influence. Nevertheless, the country is also home to widespread issues concerning gender inequality and poverty, particularly in rural and low-income areas, where women can be subject to domestic violence and oppression when it comes to education, employment and even healthcare. Join forces with programs like Kaya Volunteer and Volunteering Journeys and assist in empowering these women through confidence building, education, and other key skills.
Topping lists for best beach destinations, this small Indonesian island has been inundated with tourists in recent years. In an effort to catch the local population up with the growing tourism industry, volunteers are needed across the country to teach English to children. Experience Bali’s local treasures while teaching through programs like Volunteer in Bali or Volunteer Programs Bali.
Peru is home to some significant social reform volunteer programs, so community development, healthcare and education are all options for volunteers looking to help out in the land of the Incas. Work in education or social work sectors in Cusco with Proyecto Peru Center. Alternatively, choose to take the off-the-grid approach, fully immersing yourself into indigenous, Quechua-speaking communities high in the Andes mountains through programs with Maximo Nivel.
With nearly 300 beaches along both its Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, turtle hatchings are a year-round phenomenon in Costa Rica. However, with poaching, fishing nets and pollution, precious sea turtle populations are declining. La Tortuga Feliz offers volunteers affordable experiences manning hatcheries, patrolling beaches and assisting within turtle rehabilitation centers.
Europe’s southernmost country has arguably been heavily impacted by the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Having seen over 1.3 million Syrian, Afghani and Iraqi refugees pass through its shores, the Mediterranean nation doesn’t have the infrastructure to absorb the population influx. Confined primarily to the Greek islands, the number of refugees stranded in the country has risen to a staggering 62,000. To join the efforts, check out Greek Island Volunteers or GreeceVol for volunteer positions on the mainland. If you’re looking to provide support to women and children, you might want to consider Nurture Project International, who work to provide pregnant women with antenatal and prenatal care within refugee camps.
Bordering the Black Sea is the robust and historic nation of Romania. But despite all its natural beauty, the country has a tragic past relating to the mistreatment of children in orphanages. While such appalling conditions have been brought to the world’s attention and progress has been made to improve conditions, even today volunteers are needed to nurture neglected and abandoned children. Check out United Planet or Go Inspired to find programmes which will allow you to live on-site, teach English and organize activities.
With its unparalleled significance across a myriad of religions, Israel is a treasure trove for any history or religion buff. What better way to delve into the nation’s past than to literally to dig into it? Get your hands dirty and sift through history by volunteering on archaeological sites across Israel. Usually linked to a university and operating during summer months, these projects often require little to no qualifications and provide housing either on-site or with a host family. Scour through available dig sites at Archaeological Institute of America or Find a Dig.
Considered to be one of the best places in Africa to witness wildlife in its natural habitat, Zambia’s main draws – African elephants, hippos and lions – are vulnerable and endangered, according to the IUCN red list of threatened species. The illegal poaching of these animals for ivory and bushmeat is driven by an economic demand coming out of the capital city, Lusaka. With programs like GoEco’s, you can join wildlife rehabilitation and conservation efforts, or for a more local flavor, create your own volunteer experience through wildlife protection group Conservation Lower Zambezi.
This Central American country has a range of incredible volunteer opportunities from rainforest conservation projects to social advocacy. However, one program through GVI stands out. In partnership with Mexican NGO Amigos de Sian Ka’an, this GVI’s Marine Conservation Expedition tackles the issue of the destruction of the Mesoamerican coral reef, the second largest in the world. Located in the Caribbean Sea, volunteers will assist with coral reef monitoring and data collection, all while becoming PADI certified.
The plight of Native Americans in the United States is often overlooked, and they continually face challenges when it comes to keeping their culture alive. From the high plains of northern Montana to the red rocks of Arizona, volunteer with these communities by teaching, assisting with cultural and language preservation, providing medical care, or helping with conservation and construction. The experience will allow you to learn about the country’s past from a different perspective.