Volunteer opportunities abroad are a great way to contribute to the global community and also foster personal growth. You can learn a lot about yourself by volunteering to help others. There are a wide range of opportunities available, with many different programs and organizations.
Why Volunteer Abroad?
- Get international experience in a field of interest
- Learn a lot about development issues
- Learn about another culture, language and way of life, while making a positive contribution
- See a part of the world in a different light
- Increase your personal marketability
What Kind Of Opportunities Are Available?
There is more variety than you would expect. You may be interested in doing conservation work, volunteering with children, doing health promotion or humanitarian work. You can go for a long or short term placement, individually or with a group. You can pay for the experience, but sometimes some of your travel or living expenses will be covered. If you have development experience, you can apply to be a project leader or for a grant to fund your own project. Whatever your experiences, in most volunteer positions you will find yourself presented with a wealth of possibilities beyond those outlined in the job description, and you will be able to stretch your ingenuity and creativity. Do be aware that most volunteer opportunities come with a cost to you so you’ll need to budget ahead for this.
Where Can I Go?
Almost anywhere, although there are obviously some areas of the world with more development opportunities than others. Look around. There are opportunities everywhere if you have the time to donate to an organization and the funds available to be out of the workforce for a while. The up-side is that you gain fantastic experience.
Resources For Finding Volunteer Opportunities Abroad
- Got a great idea that you would like to turn into reality? An Ocean Path Fellowship might be the option for you!
- Check out student-run initiatives right here on campus: Queen’s Project on International Development and Queen’s Health Outreach.
- Check out Verge Magazine and Transitions Abroad for great ideas on volunteering.
Useful Volunteer Abroad Research Links
Alliance for African Women Initiative (AFAWI) – AFAWI aims at empowering women and children economically, politically, and socially and to provide a forum for educators, women in leadership positions, youth leaders, and community organizers to discuss issues affecting women and children.
Blue Ventures – A non-profit marine conservation organization which runs research expeditions to Belize, Madagascar or Malaysia during which students learn about the region’s ecosystems and work with local communities on environmental programmes and management plans. The research undertaken on the expeditions is then made available to local people, government departments and universities with the aim of formulating strategies to improve and protect these habitats and an ancient way of life.
Canadian Alliance for Development Initiatives and Projects (CADIP) – Organizes mainly short-term volunteer service projects and international workcamps in Canada and overseas. Currently offers over 200 short-term opportunities in France, Germany, Bulgaria, India, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Peru, Spain and Turkey in the field of environmental protection, social and recreation activities for children, charity work with orphans, restoration and conservation work, archaeological excavations and more.
Canada World Youth (CWY) – Provides young people with an opportunity to learn about other cultures and ways of life, to explore community and international development issues first hand and to acquire practical work experience.
Canadian Crossroads International – Fosters global understanding and cross-cultural awareness by coordinating volunteer exchange programs between Canada and more than 20 countries worldwide.
CANFAR – Canada’s only independent charitable foundation dedicated to ending AIDS through research. They offer a variety of exciting ways to get involved. Whether it is supporting one of their cutting-edge campaigns, volunteering at their award-winning events or participating in their national programs, you will be supporting the incredible work Canadians researchers are doing to end this pandemic.
Companeros – Offers volunteer service and cross-cultural programs in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and in New York City.
Connect-123 Volunteer Programs – Facilitates community service and social work-related volunteer projects for undergraduate and graduate students in Cape Town, South Africa and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Opportunities include mentoring street children, teaching English, caring for infants and toddlers at orphanages, working with youth regarding issues related to HIV/AIDS, sexuality and adolescence, helping to build schools and houses for disadvantaged communities and assisting with the overall operations of education and social work programs.
Child Family Health International (CFHI) – CFHI provides 20+ Global Health Education Programs, internship-style programs alongside local health experts for students of all levels. CFHI participants are placed in clinics and public health facilities, attend health information lectures, and become immersed in the healthcare system of the community. Programs run for 1-4 months, year-round, throughout Latin America, India, and South Africa. Over 50% of CFHI program fees go back to underserved communities abroad. CFHI is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations.
Cross-Cultural Solutions – Volunteer abroad programs for people interested in short-term experiences in a variety of settings (from schools to health clinics) in 12 different countries.
CUSO-VSO – Works internationally for global social justice by sending Canadians on two-year volunteer placements with partner organizations in developing countries.
Doctors without Borders Canada – Site for medical students who are looking for international volunteer opportunities and possible medical electives.
Engineers Without Borders – The EWB Student/Youth volunteer program is designed to offer opportunities for students and youth to get involved in the application of appropriate technology in the developing world.
Experiential Learning International – ELI partners with hundreds of local organizations in countries on five continents to provide volunteer opportunities to meet the goals of anyone looking for an international volunteer experience.
Fair Trade Learning – This volunteer organization is based out of the United States with a variety of placement options for individuals, groups, faculty-led and health care programs. They operate in 9 countries including Ghana, Bolivia, Jamacia and Brazil. Projects emphasize work with local partners and in-country staff. Many projects are social development based, with experiences like working with at-risk youth and with women’s rights.
Gap Medics – A specialist company that is dedicated to arranging hospital work experience placements for students who are applying to medical or nursing school.
Global Service Corps – Provides opportunities for adult volunteers to work on short-term projects in Cambodia, Tanzania and Thailand.
Go Volunteer Abroad -A leading review site for volunteer abroad programs. This community site includes listings and reviews for every study abroad, volunteer, teach abroad and intern abroad program. The network of sites also includes authoritative articles, resources, interviews and more.
HorizonCosmopolite – Educational programs overseas, providing opportunities to work and live in other countries.
Idealist.org – Linking people and organizations in 140 countries, the site provides databases of volunteer opportunities.
International Partnership for Service Learning and Leadership – Program provider that unites study abroad in various countries with voluntary service, giving students a fully integrated study and volunteer abroad experience.
NGOAbroad – Provides frugal, customized international volunteer options and helps people enter international humanitarian work.
Pacific Discovery – Summer, semester and gap year programs blend adventure education, cultural immersion, volunteer and community service projects, sustainable travel, and personal and leadership development, largely in Australasia and Asia.
Projects Abroad – Organizes volunteer placements across five continents, offering a diverse range of teaching, care, conservation, medical, journalism and work experience projects.
ProWorld – Provides customized faculty-led volunteer programs, hands-on volunteer work, internships, and fully immersive semester programs around the world. At the heart of all of our programs are experiential volunteer projects that match the skills and interests of students and faculty with the needs of the local community.
Queen’s Project on International Development – Non-profit, student-run volunteer-based initiative operating out of Queen’s University with the mandates to act as an interactive educational resource for the Queen’s and Kingston populations on issues facing developing communities and to implement and carry out sustainable, community-initiated, small-scale development projects in partnership with well-established organizations.
Right to Play – Humanitarian, non-governmental organization committed to improving the lives of the most disadvantaged children and their communities through Sport for Development. Right To Play sends teams of volunteer coaches into communities to implement their sport and play program known as “SportWorks”. In addition to the core SportWorks program, they are expanding their projects to include an additional communications component that uses the convening power of sport to provide health education and encourage healthy lifestyles behaviours — specifically, to teach the importance of vaccination, HIV/AIDS prevention and physical fitness.
Service Canada Youth Employment Resources – Government site for Canadian youth that provides links to various volunteer opportunities abroad, jobs abroad and other international resources related to employment and travel.
Transitions Abroad.com – Portal for paid and volunteer work abroad, study abroad, living abroad, and cultural travel overseas. Provides links to volunteer work and vacation work programs abroad, an advisor, and database of opportunities by region and by country.
UNICEF Canada – Various volunteer opportunities in Canada from fundraising, educating children and adults about global issues, selling greeting cards and gifts, encouraging youth involvement and providing leadership.
Unite for Sight – Empowers local communities in African, Asian, and Latin American countries to develop sustainable solutions to local health needs. Volunteer opportunities are available in rural villages, urban centres, and refugee camps in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.
Verge Magazine Program Directory Are you interested in travelling with purpose? Use Verge Magazine’s Program Directory to search hundreds of volunteer organizations and opportunities around the world.
Visions in Action – Offers mostly 6-12 month programs for university graduates or graduate students in the areas of project management, community development, research, health, housing, the environment, youth coordination and in journalism. Some short-term summer opportunities are also available. Volunteer postings are usually in parts of Africa, as well as in Mexico.
VolunteerAbroad.com – Directory for international volunteer programs where you can search through thousands of volunteer programs around the world.
Volunteer BaseCamp – Volunteer BaseCamp was started by three students from Queen’s University in 1998 and is based in Kingston, Ontario. Since that time, they have established centres on the ground in each of their operating countries that act as a home base for international volunteers. The program places volunteers with small community groups and not-for-profit organizations looking for assistance in a wide range of fields including medicine, education and social programs.
Volunteer Bolivia – Bolivian non-profit association that provides volunteer positions with a wide variety of humanitarian and ecological organizations in Bolivia. Positions are available in the areas of children’s services, human rights, environmental protection, health services, and education.
Volunteer Eco Students Abroad (VESA) – A volunteer travel organisation whose aim is to provide people with the opportunity to fully immerse themselves within a country through programs of community based volunteer work and adventure tourism in Ecuador, Fiji and Africa.
Volunteering For Free – A website that helps you cut the cost of volunteering by providing access to direct links of local projects and hostels worldwide for no extra fee. Hostels owners help their guests to contact local organisations prior to arrival, or during their stay, to connect with project coordinators directly and cut out the administrative expense that other volunteer organizations include.
Volunteer Kilimanjaro – Volunteer Kilimanjaro is a humanitarian volunteer tourism organization in Tarakea, Tanzania, on the East Coast of Africa. As a socially-responsible business, Volunteer Kilimanjaro is dedicated not only to offering visitors a unique and personal volunteer experience, but also to sustainably supporting the local community.
Work the World – The largest specialist provider of overseas healthcare placements in the world. Their placements revolve around working in the fields of international health, education, conservation and social welfare projects.
World University Service of Canada (WUSC) – Non-profit, non-governmental organization that enables volunteers, professionals and students to participate in development projects in Canada and abroad.
World Endeavors – Volunteer opportunities are available in 11 countries ranging from Brazil and Costa Rica to India and Nepal. Through village-based programming, volunteers can be involved in wildlife and environmental conservation, health care, community development and working with children – some countries offer specialized programs for teaching children who are deaf or have special needs.
Youth Challenge International (YCI) – Supported by CIDA, the program combines community development, health work and environmental research in projects conducted by international teams of volunteers aged 18 to 25.
Youth International – Experiential learning program that combines international travel, inter-cultural exchange, adventure, volunteer community service work, and homestays. Teams of up to 14 people between the ages of 18 and 25 travel together with two group leaders. For a full 12 week semester, they explore three different countries in one region of the world.