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Why not do more than just visit a bunch of old temples and ruins when you travel? It is possible for travellers to improve the lives of people during our trips.


A few ideas are:

  • Take books to drop off at schools in villages you pass through.
  • Rather than bringing back all your clothes, medical supplies and equipment, leave what you can with locals - this also frees up space in your luggage for bringing back other stuff!
  • "Packing for a purpose" - you can search by location before going abroad and find out from local charities what is needed, and then pack those items in your suitcase and bring them to the charity on arrival [1]
  • make sure that the things you give make sense for the locals. Don't dump your "rubbish".
  • Support local enterprise.

Consider whether supporting beggars is the best directed form of assistance, or if there is a better organisation to support. If you decide to give something to beggars, consider giving them food.

See also Teaching English.


Volunteering whilst travelling is a great way to make new experiences. It is not about "making a difference" and go humble bragging afterwards. You should do your homework and do extensive on-line research to make sure to end up in a responsible project. Living and volunteering in a foreign country is a great way to get to know a different culture and meet new people, open your horizon. It is not about to learn about yourself, or to gain new skills. There is no 1 day or one week volunteering. You need at least one week in a different culture to understand things and to be able to contribute. The time needed for a proper volunteering is at least 3 weeks, better 3 months or longer. It is an amazing experience to really live in a place, have friends, take part in the everyday life of a project. Time will fly by.

Volunteering is not about you, it is to give a hand and to be respectful and to learn every day.

Basically every organization, which runs an office in your country, has somehow to finance this and this will be done with your fee. A small amount will be passed down to the project. It is much more complicated and risky to organize your volunteering yourself, but you can make sure that your money really benefits the project. You should make sure there is a child protection policy in place. You should try to find independent reviews. Why should volunteers paint walls, if there are skilled locals, who can do that much better? Create a job and help a whole family instead. Ask yourself, what skills you have and how you can contribute actively to a project without having a negative impact. Consider that many things can be done totally different in an another country and that there are maybe much better ways to do things than you know it. Go on an adventure with yourself. Asian people think it is disgusting to use toilet paper and bizarre to use hot water for washing dishes and hands. You have arrived when the squat toilet has become normal and the bathroom in the hotel during the visa run seems foreign. Volunteers are usually in a transition phase, be it after school or university or a life phase. Volunteering will shake you up and it is not for "finding yourself" or an subconscious self-healing attempt. You are at least in the first week a burden for your project. They had to clean your room and you need help and care. Be fair and make a generous financial contribution directly to your project. Free volunteering is an illusion, 90% of the volunteers lack the skills, that are needed to make a proper contribution. Washing dishes and cleaning floors are very important contributions. Why would the people in the project need to do that every day and you do the fancy project? Construction is very popular with volunteers, did you ever think about the materials and how they are financed? if you want to build and learn how to do this and gain new skills from locals, coordinate with your host and pay the local skilled worker and material. If you tell a project that you come at a certain date and stay for a certain amount of time, please come at that date and stay this time or make a financial contribution that pays someone else for this time. Projects need to plan their volunteers. They don't fall from the sky and especially for very small projects without NGO or government funding, your volunteering fee is an important income.

There are several ways to combine travelling and voluntary work:

  • In Europe, young European citizens (legal inhabitants, you need at least a residence permit) can participate in the EVS program ("European Voluntary Service") [2], which allows you to work abroad for 3 months up to a year, funded by the European Union at some kind of charitable organization.
  • If you would like to combine travelling and working on an organic farm, the WWOOF-ing - Willing Workers on Organic Farms [3] - might be something for you. You can be sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, making mud-bricks, harvesting, fencing, building, packing, milking and feeding livestock any of 80 countries.
  • Another organization with opportunities beyond the scope of just organics is HelpX [4].
  • Workaway [5] has a large database of options for those wishing to travel and volunteer in exchange for lodging and food. They have a worldwide selection of hosts from over 100 countries with a wide variety of opportunities including gardening, babysitting, art projects, language learning and animal care.
  • Volunteers Base [6] is a website where users can add volunteer opportunities themselves, with different kinds of opportunities.
  • If you would like to work in an international work camp for two weeks as an alternative holiday, contact your national branch of SCI [7].
  • WorkingAbroad [8] has a comprehensive database of over 2,000 different volunteer opportunities that you can search from all over the world. It includes teaching, wildlife conservation and community development programmes all over Africa, Asia & Pacific, the Americas and Europe.
  • NICE-Network for InterCultural Experiences [9] is a specialist for voluntary work projects in Argentina. Participants can assist in 12 different project areas: Animal Care, Community Development, Disadvantaged Children, Healthcare, Homeless Shelter, Disability Care Program, Arts & Culture, Conservation and Wildlife, Education, Human Rights, Recreation or Youth Development.

If you pay US or Canadian income taxes, you may be able to take a charitable deduction for some or all of your trip expenses. The IRS is very strict on which organizations' trips qualify, and if you combine volunteer work with vacation, you will have to prorate the deduction on your airfare.

Various agencies of Western governments send volunteers abroad: the US Peace Corps [10], British VSO [11], Canadian CUSO [12] and so on. These are among the best volunteer jobs. All expenses — immunizations, travel, lodging, etc. — are normally covered and there is support — training, medical insurance, emergency evacuation if needed — and some sort of small salary. When you come back, these organizations look good on a resume. On the other hand, these positions are harder to get and usually require a heavier commitment, typically two years.

As an alternative, or to complement the working holiday, many people have chosen to embark on volunteering experience. These meaningful experiences allow individuals the chance to give back to the international community, whether this is teaching in underprivileged schools, working with animals in Africa, or helping with a community development project. Typically there will be a fee to participate in these programs, and participants are not paid. Most famously, Prince Harry embarked on a volunteering Gap Year in 2004 when he went to South Africa.

There are many organisations offering gap year placements. A few of these are:

  • ETIV do Brasil [13] offers meaningful, low cost volunteer opportunities in the stunning tropical surf town of Itacaré, Brazil. Volunteer with projects such as Youth Development, Environmental Conservation and Women's Empowerment whilst spending your free time on one of Itacaré's many breath taking beaches or immersing yourself in the local culture by taking capoeira, samba and Portuguese classes.
  • Lang Tengah Turtle Watch [14] - help save sea turtles from extinction whilst living in the jungle behind their private beach on a paradise island in Malaysia
  • Frontier Conservation [15] specialises in scientific and conservation projects in locations such as Tanzania, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Fiji and Madagascar.
  • Global Vision International[16] is an award winning volunteer abroad organization running projects all over the world.
  • Gap Year Diver [17], specialists in gap year and career break scuba diving trips. Marine Conservation initiatives, learn to dive, become a Divemaster, teach in local schools, community work, Instructor training, language learning and much more.
  • The Mathieson Music Trust[18]. You can help teach at a trust run school on the outskirts of Kolkata that gives deprived indian children a rounded education and a future through music. Here you also get the chance to learn indian music.
  • Rainbow Voluntours India [19] Join in Kerala or Kolkata and enjoy responsible volunteering and bespoke tours that give you an experience of India. Its more than just volunteering and Rainbow provides a perfect balance of living in India like a local and contributing to community projects that are hand picked and vetted by their experienced team in India. You can teach in local schools, help orphans, disabled children, women empowerment, education and literacy and even school renovations. Check for more details

  • The Great Projects [20]. Beginning life as the multi award winning 'The Great Orangutan Project', the Great Projects now offers a wide collection of projects, used to showcase working models of animal conservation tourism around the world and promotes the importance of setting standards in endangered animal welfare and conservation in the tourism sector.
  • Yomps[21], Gap year, career break and adventure specialist, from volunteering in Africa to learning to surf in Ecuador, Yomps has it all.
  • Shumba Experience [22] Specialists in conservation and veterinary projects in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.
  • Xtreme Gap [23] The adventure travel and extreme sports gap year company
  • Global Vision International [24], Specialists in gap year expeditions such as marine expeditions in the Indian Ocean and exploration in Patagonia. GVI also has over 150 volunteering projects around the world.
  • Gap Medics [25], Specifically aimed at students looking to go to medical or nursing school - Work experience and volunteer opportunities in Tanzania, Poland, Croatia and Thailand.
  • Africa & Asia Venture (AV) [26] - a founding member of the Year Out Group [27], offering 5 week to 5 month group volunteer projects in the developing world with 24/7 support throughout.
  • RealGap UK [28], Specialists in gap years, career breaks & adventure travel holidays. RealGap are experts in providing unique & exciting volunteer projects, working holiday programmes & backpacking packages across the world.
  • VentureCo Worldwide [29], specialists in South America Gap Years. Combining language courses, volunteer projects and adventure travel.
  • The Leap [30], a family run British organisation that offers gap year placements in Africa, Asia, South America and Australia.
  • Gap Year Ghana [31], a small organization specializing in volunteer placements in Ghana, West Africa.
  • Raleigh [32] Youth and education charity offering challenging environmental, community and adventure programs for 17-75-year-olds in Borneo, Costa Rica & Nicaragua, and India
  • Projects Abroad [33], Global organizer of overseas voluntary work placements. Projects Abroad run placements like Teaching, Care, Conservation & Environment, Medicine & Healthcare, Sports, Culture & Community projects, and Journalism.
  • Volunteering Solutions [34] International Volunteer Programs Abroad. Volunteering Solutions provide volunteering placement in different projects such as teaching, orphanage, conservation, medicine and healthcare, cultural exchange programs as well as internship opportunities.
  • EDGE of AFRICA [35], Small organization that offers volunteer and internship placements in Southern Africa. Conservation, community and sports volunteer placements available as well as family and tailor-made positions.
  • VAE Kenya [36], a small UK organization that organizes challenging teaching placements in rural Kenyan schools.
  • Rainbow Voluntours [37] offers some truly rewarding, unique and enjoyable volunteer opportunities in India. You can work in educating slum children, orphans, disabled children, helping youth and women from disadvantaged communities. They assist grass root organizations and local initiatives in India
  • Skills Venture [38], a new company that runs short sabbaticals for US and UK business professionals, spent providing mentoring and consultancy support to entrepreneurs in Kenya.
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions(CCS) is a non-profit organization that offers 1-12 week volunteer abroad programs in 12 countries, where you work side-by-side with local people, stay in a CCS Home-Base, and learn first-hand about local customs by participating in Cultural & Learning Activities.
  • Praktikawelten [39] offers more than 300 volunteer projects in 17 countries as well as work and travel programs in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
  • World Unite! [40] World Unite! arranges volunteer projects, internships, Working Holidays (Work & Travel), and cultural learning opportunities in various countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

There are also various organizations that recruit volunteers. These may not cover the major expenses such as airfares and travel insurance. Some charge a fee for placement. A few of these are:

  • International Volunteer HQ has placed over 110,000+ volunteers globally, in over 50 destinations. Most trusted and affordable.
  • Global Nomadic offer serious and professional placements around the world, all have been personally visited. [41]
  • PoD Volunteer- non-profit organisation arranging ethical volunteering opportunities around the world since 2001. [42]
  • Treetop Country offers affordable and unique volunteer/living opportunities in a north Thailand village. [43]
  • Action Volunteer Alliance (AVA)offers affordable volunteer opportunities abroad. [44]
  • AFECT offers volunteering opportunities to assist Burmese refugees in north Thailand [45]
  • Akha Asia has volunteer placements with Tribes and Indiginous Peoples [46]
  • Center for Children in Need (Thailand) offers short and long-term volunteering in a grassroot orphanage for abandoned Burmese children. (
  • Ikando Volunteer & Intern in Africa [47]
  • Global Vision International (GVI) has worldwide volunteering opportunities [48]
  • Volunteers and Interns for Balinese Education [49]
  • Gap Year and Volunteer in India Opportunities [50]
  • Year Out Group [51], a British organization promoting gap year volunteering
  • Overseas Working Holidays [52], an Australian organization that offers guaranteed placements in regions such as Africa and India.
  • Thai-Experience [53] specialized in placements in Thailand.
  • Travel to Teach [54] with jobs in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
  • Volunteer Abroad [55] offers volunteer programs in Latin America, Asia, and Africa
  • Mundo Exchange [56] non-profit organization for volunteering in Guatemala and Thailand.
  • Earthwatch [57] lets volunteers work on scientific field research projects all over the world for 1 - 3 weeks.
  • Projects Abroad offers a diverse range of volunteer placements in 26 different developing countries - for students, gap years, grads and qualified professionals from 2 weeks and up. [58]
  • The International Humanity Foundation [[59]] works in Indonesia, Thailand and Kenya and is always looking for volunteers.
  • Intiwawa [60] offers free volunteering in Peru. Opportunities mainly include social and educational projects as well as nutrition and water.
  • Mozvoluteers [61] offers affordable volunteer projects and medical elective placements in South Africa and Mozambique.
  • Mijn Bestemming Peru [62] Dutch organization focusing in volunteering free, internships, work and support to communities all over Peru.
  • Himalayan Park in Panauti, 32 kms from Kathmandu Check this out for more information on out-of-box , flexible & non-conditional volunteering experience.
  • Natucate [63] offers wilderness experience, internships and voluntary service abroad and concentrate on the domains nature conservation, environmental and animal protection.
  • Volunteer Abroad Programs offers a wide range of volunteering and internship opportunities across the world.
  • International volunteer programs Abroad [64] Explore over 12000 volunteers and more then 1500 hosts connecting worldwide with services like animal care, eco projects, farming, teaching, language practice and much more. Join for absolutely free.

To compare all the opportunities worldwide, you can visit Volunteer World. Volunteer World is the world's leading comparison platform for international volunteer opportunities. The website compares more than 1,300 volunteer projects in over 75 countries.

Germany and Switzerland[edit]

  • Go with the Bergwaldprojekt (Mountain Forest Project) ( to work in forests in German and Swiss mountains or in Austria, Catalunya or the Ukraine.


  • People from all over the world can potentially contribute towards the objectives of the Kalamos and Kastos sustainable development project run by the non governmental non profit organisation Terra Sylvestris through their participation in their field volunteer program . All program activities are in the inner Ionian archipelago islands of Greece (
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