Having the opportunity to travel and discover new places, cultures and people is known to be an experience that changes the person from different points of view. Have you ever thought about volunteering abroad though? Volunteering both locally and internationally is a great experience not only for providing helpful resources but also for knowing new cultures and traditions across the globe.
If you are still young and you are searching for an opportunity to travel and have a unique experience, we will help you with the right guide to choose the right volunteering organization.
Avoid the so-called issue of Voluntourism
Before choosing where and what kind of volunteering experience you would like to be part of, it is better to be aware of the so-called issue of voluntourism. Have you ever heard of it? If your answer is no, that is pretty understandable and here we will give you more details about it.
What is Voluntourism?
Voluntourism combines two words- volunteering and tourism. Although at first glance may sound like something really interesting, in the last few years it has been labeled with a negative connotation especially by the media and social media.
Voluntourism is a pseudo volunteering experience or project organized by some volunteering organizations which takes advantage of volunteers and causes more harm than good to local communities. Voluntourism is primarily linked to child exploitation and child institutionalization, where young volunteers are sent to make a positive impact, but they are unawarely part of a rather scary profit system.
How does voluntourism negatively affect the local community?
Everything involved in voluntourism is led by economics and profits that mainly go in the hands of the organization that arranged the project. The money received from volunteers is used to improve the quality of the volunteering experience but not to reduce poverty, social disequality and especially to grant local children the right environment to grow and to fulfill their dreams and aspirations as they claim to do in their websites or advertisements.
According to Lumos (an organization advocating against the institutionalization of children), 80% of the children living in orphanages have at least one living parent. Parents of developing countries choose to send their kids to orphanages because they see it as an opportunity for their children to have better opportunities and better care, but none of that is granted and in many cases, children face sexual abuse, kidnapping or simply they do not receive the needed and primary affection and care.
How can you avoid voluntourism?
Voluntourism should not stop you from your plans of going abroad and still making a real impact in local communities.
The fundamental keys to avoid voluntourism are:
- Be aware of voluntourism and know what it entails to local communities and how it can be avoided by getting informed about the local economic and social situation;
- Before applying to any type of volunteering project, do a lot of research regarding the volunteering organization and the city/country you will visit;
- Understand your abilities and experience and compare it to the project you are going to apply for: are you skilled enough to be part of it? Asking yourself this question is very important because it will ultimately avoid delivering low-quality projects, therefore, decreasing the quality of life of the local community.
- Choose only volunteering organizations that act in the best interest of the local community.
In this post, you will find the most known volunteering organizations that provide different types of projects, according to your interests and passions. It is in no way our intention to promote voluntourism organizations.
1) African Impact
Have you always dreamt of making a big impact in tropical Africa? African Impact is the best organization for you to fulfill that dream! You will have a real impact in countries like Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zanzibar, and Zimbabwe. The focus of your volunteering experience can range from education to wildlife conservation and even sports coaching. All you have to do now is choose your favorite project, sign up and pack up your luggage and get ready for a one-time life experience.
2) Agape Volunteers
This UK-based volunteer organization operates mainly in Africa: the focus of its programs and projects is to make the most important impact in the African communities that most need help.
The fields you can choose from are medical, education, wildlife conservation, and childcare.
AIESEC is among the most known volunteer organizations providing projects and volunteer programs to young people aged 18-35. Become a Global Volunteer and take part in one of the various projects around the world. Most of the programs have a minimum stay of 4 weeks and once you pay a fee you can get free accommodation, meals, and transportation. Every AIESEC program is designed to follow the guidelines of the UN Sustainable development goals. Put your knowledge and experience into practice to help local communities and meet new people from all over the world.
4) Bright Light Volunteers
Keen to make a real impact and have the best experience abroad? Bright Light Volunteers provides students with specific volunteer programs based on social work and community empowerment. You can decide to start your volunteer experience in Peru, Cuba, Thailand, and more!
5) Bunac – Working Adventures Worldwide
If you’re a young student and looking for an experience that allows you to travel and work at the same time, Bunac is the perfect place! Their success is due to the combination of their global volunteer programs and the expertise they accumulated over the last 50 years. Bunac allows you to choose from a wide range of programs in more than 16 countries spread across the continents.
6) Connect 123
Would you like to have a chance to tailor your own volunteer experience and decide your dates of departure? Thanks to Connect 123 you will have the opportunity to do that and more! Among the destinations you can choose from, there are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Shanghai, and Sydney.
7) Geo Visions
Do you like speaking in different languages and you are into the educational field and can’t wait to have a career in it? This is the perfect association for you! Geo Visions delivers different programs for those young people who are into teaching the English language to children.
Below you can find different types of volunteering options:
Teaching abroad with Geo Visions
You can become a volunteer teacher to many students, choosing to teach English in different countries. How can you become a teacher though? There are different types of positions and programs you can apply to:
- Volunteer to teach
- Teach in a “cram” school
- TEFL Teacher
- English language camp counselor
- Conversational partner
- Classroom teacher
Become a Language Tutor
Since most of the previous volunteer experiences require you to spend at least one year abroad, you can opt for a shorter period and become a language tutor around the world from one to three months.
8) Global Volunteers
This international volunteering organization started its volunteer programs in the 1980s and since then it has been operating in more than 35 countries. They encourage young people to take new experiences and to learn more about the local communities they volunteer with.
Global Volunteers aims mainly at developing and improving the social and economic situation of less fortunate people especially children, teaching the English language, and helping with the establishment of essential services such as schools, clinics, and water systems. Their ultimate goal is to enhance and improve the lives of local young people.
Among one of the best-rated travel organizations for students, GoEco will allow you to choose any field that interests you in any country across the globe. GoEco provides eco-friendly volunteer programs in different fields but mainly wildlife and animal conservation, Marine and coral reef conservation, medical and healthcare.
10) Good Hope Volunteer
This Volunteering organization delivers projects in three main African countries: South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. They aim to preserve the natural environment and to provide help to the local people who are in need such as children, women, and elderly people. If you’re passionate about helping others and spending time for a good cause, you might have a look at the variety of the programs they organize.
This volunteer organization has been active since the late 1990s and since then it has been delivering projects to students and to young people who are eager to make an impact, travel, learn and meet new people. All the projects that you can apply for are created following the guidelines established by the UN Global Goals. They have various projects which are extended to different fields: health, sports, animal and nature conservation, construction, and also teaching and education.
12) HIBISCUS INITIATIVES
Hibiscus is an organization that operates in the voluntary sector. They have been active for 30 years and they mainly deal with injustices related to women and gender discrimination in general. All of their works focus on different areas: prisons, community, international, resettlement, and human trafficking.
Their work is extended to 119 countries and they mainly provide welfare and advocacy in prison, practical and emotional support for people in prisons, community resettlement for ex-offenders, and raising awareness of trafficking.
Do you believe that travel matters? If your answer is yes, then this organization may be the perfect one for you because it’s also their motto! Traveling to make a real impact in the world can be a rewarding experience, specifically if you choose the right program with the right intent. Idex delivers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities across 35 countries including India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Nepal. You can decide the field that interests you the most: child care and education, women empowerment, healthcare programs, and more.
14) Instituto Hemingway
Does Spanish culture fascinate you? That’s great because if you’re looking for an opportunity that allows you to live in Spain doing volunteer work, the Instituto Hemingway is the perfect one! Thanks to this organization you will have the chance to enrich your knowledge about Spanish culture and help the Spanish community as well.
Among the fields of their volunteer programs, you can find social work, education, tourism, cultural work, and restoration work.
15) ITTT- International TEFL and TESOL Training
This international volunteering program is perfect if you’re interested in teaching the English language abroad. To get hired you need to have a TEFL certificate that proves your language level. The ITTT is the perfect volunteer program to practice your teaching skills abroad and still travel and discover different cultures! The ITTT is based in more than 30 locations worldwide and you can choose the one that you like the most!
16) IVHQ International Volunteer HQ
IVHQ is a worldwide known volunteer organization that has more than 300 volunteer programs in more than 50 countries all over the different continents. By paying a fee starting from £180, you will get free accommodation, transportation, and pick-up from the airport. At IVHQ you can decide the field you want to volunteer in, starting from one up to 24 weeks: education, medical and health, sports environment, sea turtle and marine conservation, construction, wildlife, and animal conservation.
In 2019 IVHQ announced it would stop sending its volunteers to orphanages to fight against the issue of voluntourism.
17) Loop Abroad
Are studying veterinary medicine and are looking for the perfect volunteering experience abroad? Loop Abroad offers you destinations to Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, Thailand, Australia, The Amazon, South Africa, and The Galapagos to live the best experience of your life doing Veterinary service!
18) Love Volunteers
Love Volunteers is a relatively young volunteer organization that was created to reduce the price of fees for young volunteers who want to have a unique experience while still making an impact in the world.
Founded in 2009, Love Volunteers provides young students volunteering experience abroad, in more than 35 developing countries. You can apply to different types of volunteering opportunities, such as childcare and development, women’s empowerment, and also teaching and education.
19) Maximo Nivel
This travel and educational organization delivers projects in Latin America in countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Among the various travel programs they have, you can also find the opportunity to volunteer abroad making a great impact on the local communities. The fields you can choose from are education, medical and healthcare, animal care, eco-agriculture construction, sea turtle conservation, and jungle or beach conservation.
20) ORCA Foundation
The ORCA Foundation is part of a volunteering community that aims at protecting marine species in South Africa. They believe in the power of volunteers and in particular in protecting the environment through targeted programs made for young volunteers. To sign up for one of their projects you don’t need any previous experience, it’s enough that you are motivated, enthusiastic, and positive!
21) Pacific Discovery
Are you a student thinking about taking a gap year or semester and are considering an experience abroad? With Pacific Discovery you will be able to be part of one-of-a-kind programs specifically made for students who are doing a gap year or semester or are looking for a temporary, unique experience abroad. Their tropical and dreamy destinations like Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Bali, and more are the perfect places to discover wild places, cultures and to get involved in finding solutions for local communities.
22) PMGY- Plan My Gap Year
This volunteer organization provides projects all over the world, it is known by young people as delivering high-quality volunteering projects, in different fields such as child care, English teaching, medical and healthcare, wildlife and elephant conservation, mental health, and psychology.
With PMGY you can choose the duration of your stay abroad, as a matter of fact, projects normally last between 1- 40 weeks.
23) Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad is among the largest, most important and best volunteer organization which helps students to find the right type of volunteering project related to your field of studies! Starting from 1992, Projects Abroad provided experiences for young people who are eager to learn more about new local communities, their culture, and making a difference in the world.
All of their projects aim at tackling social and environmental challenges in different fields such as childcare, wildlife conservation, marine conservation, archeology, and teaching. Starting from 2019, to avoid the issue of voluntourism and deliver high-quality projects, Projects Abroad stopped doing projects in orphanages.
24) Raleigh International
This volunteer, Uk-based organization is known for its diversity and inclusion of its programs all over the world. Being active for more than 35 years, and owning the right expertise in managing projects for young people, signing up with them will allow making real-life changes and meeting other young people from all over the world. The available programs focus on different fields such as youth economic empowerment, climate conservation, youth in civil society, water, sanitation, and hygiene.
25) SCI- Service Civil International
This volunteering organization might be among the oldest volunteering organizations: it was founded in the 1920s by a Swiss man after WW1 as an aim to rebuild the houses that were once destroyed by the war. Nowadays SCI provides volunteering projects for young people who are interested in helping disadvantaged communities. You can apply to any volunteering opportunity worldwide, through social works that aim at promoting peace and equal justice for all peoples.
26) VSO- Volunteering Service Overseas
Volunteering Service Overseas has lots of volunteers who join their programs yearly: millions of young people consider this volunteering opportunity as fulfilling, helpful, enriching, and unique. VSO operates mainly in Africa, Asia, and Oceania where lots of people still fight for equal opportunities and primary services such as schools and hospitals.
You can apply to any of their volunteering projects if you’re aged between 18-35 years in any kind of field that interests you. All projects aim at enhancing the life and the living conditions of less fortunate people, providing them with basic services, helping them in their needs, and helping communities through social work.
27) WWOOF- Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms
Are you a nature lover and are looking for a volunteer experience that allows you to travel and discover local communities around the world? WWOOF is the perfect global volunteering organization if you want to give a hand in eco-friendly farms for half a day choosing from different countries all over the world! Sign up with them and get involved in learning more about eco-friendly agriculture and more!
28) World Visions
World Visions is an advocacy, relief, and development organization that tackles issues of poverty and injustices partnering with local families, children, and people in need. The focus of their projects is children and their well-being. That is why they are careful at proposing projects that are all about avoiding voluntourism.
Here you have it! 28 of the best-rated volunteer organizations for young people and students. Our only tip is that you choose the volunteer program that catches your interest, plan with a positive attitude, and get ready for a life-changing experience!
Soukaina Chouaib is a polyglot and is currently enrolled in her second-year master’s course in Languages for Communication in Enterprises and International Organizations at the University of Modena (Italy).