37 Ways to Volunteer While Traveling

3 Mar


There are a lot of volunteer opportunities out there, but sometimes doing the research can be painful and very time consuming. Listed below are volunteer ideas that either require pre-arrangement or can be arranged once you arrive at your destination. Some are free and some require money. Whatever your preference is, I hope these ideas help inspire you as you look for ways to give back while traveling.

  • An Orphanage- Most need to be arranged in advance & require a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Teaching English in a refugee camp- there is a lot of grass roots organizations in refugee camps looking for volunteers to teach English. Some even offer a small stipend to help with room & board during your time.
  • Visit an Immigration Detention Centre -Visits are usually arranged by a grass roots organization. Some cities may allow you to go on your own.
  • Become a farm hand -this can be a lot of fun, but requires very early mornings and a lot of hard work.
  • Harvest Rice -It’s a hard job. BUT apparently you get your very own sickle! Hit up Sally from Unbravegirl. She’s done it and can give you her thoughts.
  • Work on a coffee or tea farm/plantation- Akha Ama Coffee in Northern Thailand is a great example of this type of work.
  • Help build a school -This is generally pre-arranged through an organization and may have costs attached to it.
  • Help build homes -This is also usually a pre-arranged program and may have costs.
  • Visit refugees in their homes- Contact a local grass roots organization when you arrive to help with arrangements/introductions.
  • Work in the office of a grass roots organization -may not sound glamorous, but it’s still important and can open up more volunteer opportunities should you be looking for them.
  • Visit a local hospital- Most people in the hospital enjoy visitors. Contact  the hospital prior to your visit and ask if they’ll allow you to come visit children, seniors etc.
  • Join the Peace Core- Definitely for serious volunteers only
  • Disaster Relief- natural disasters are harsh in many ways. If you know you’re going to be in an area that has been hit, seek out the Red Cross of other organizations and ask how you can help. Every available hand is needed.
  • Child trafficking Aid- work with children who have been trafficked. There is an organization in Pattaya that helps girls who have been sold into prostitution. It’s heavy. Be mentally prepared for this one.
  • Help Sea Turtles- I had to put it. You know you want to spend money to sit in the dark and babysit sea turtles. Actually, I would probably do it.
  • Autism Art Therapist- Something like this would require education and pre-arrangement.
  • Work at a UNESCO site- Yes, they take volunteers!! Should be pre-arranged.
  • Help with an NGO fundraiser -this can be arranged once you arrive at your destination.
  • Archeological Projects- should be pre-arranged and would require at least a few weeks commitment.
  • Work with children or adults with disabilities- Depending on where you are, you may be able to arrange this once you arrive at your destination.
  • Join a conservation project- can be either pre-arranged, or found once you arrive.
  • Work at a Hospice- this may require some medical experience. Depends on the clinic. Definitely worth looking into.
  • Crabbing- work on a crabbing boat! Maybe you can score so super yummy seafood.
  • Ranching -oh come on, you know you want to go on a cattle drive!!
  • Help preserve the culture of hill tribes in Northern Thailand- this requires a pre-arrangement and costs 7500 baht.
  • Work with the red cross- may require some medical experience. Can be pre-arranged or secured on site. It depends on your location.
  • Help renovate hiking trails -may require pre-arrangement.
  • Therapeutic activities with the Elderly- it can be highly rewarding.
  • Summer camp counselor- needs to be pre-arranged
  • Teach English to street kids- this can usually be arranged after you arrive.
  • Plant trees – can be pre-arranged or found once you arrive.
  • Animal rescue- same as above.
  • Join the Green Army in Reykjavik- help clean streets, clean up graffiti etc. Costs 120 Euros
  • Work at a youth center- can be pre-arranged or found once you arrive.
  • Help organize a rock festival- oh yes, they exist!!
  • Olympic or World Sporting Events- needs to be pre-arranged.
  • Work with the blind- can be arranged on arrival

Finding an opportunity to volunteer while you’re on the road doesn’t have to take a lot of time. If you’d prefer to wing it, simply reach out and contact some NGO’s once you arrive, ask around at your hostel and ask locals. There are opportunities to give back in every city, town or village. It’s up to you to find the one that best suits you.


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12 Responses to “37 Ways to Volunteer While Traveling”

  1. Tania @ Passport2Design.com March 3, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    Thanks for all the suggestions! I am planning to travel through Central America for 6 weeks starting in April and want to find some volunteer opportunities :) Your post has inspired me to dig a bit deeper!

    *Tania @ Passport2Design.com

  2. Amy March 3, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    Great ideas! I’ve taught English for a day at a small village school in Romania, helped around the CouchSurfing offices in Turkey and volunteered for a youth hostel in Montenegro. All were great and I learned different things from them. It was worth it even just for being able to unpack my bag for a while on a long trip. When people think they don’t want to travel with their kids, I always suggest the sea turtle thing or an eco camp- they’d be great things to do with kids!

  3. Sally March 4, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    Great list, but, ahem, I am sad to report I never harvested rice… I only got to weed it. This is what happens when you show up to the rice farm during the not-so-exciting rice-weeding season!

    • SpunkyGirl Monologues March 4, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

      Ah, nuts! My brain was a wee bit slow while writing this post and YOU were sleeping. The nerve!!
      Thanks for clearing up my error. ;)

  4. Ceri March 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Some great ideas there. Exactly what I needed to inspire me to volunteer when I go. :D

  5. wandering educators January 12, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    What fantastic suggestions – many I’d not thought of before. Thanks!

    • Pamela January 12, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Thank-you, and thanks for sharing this post! There are so many ways to volunteer, and I am sure I have missed many of them! Hopefully readers will add some ideas here in the comments. :D

  6. Tim Moon January 15, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    I’d love to help sea turtles or work on hiking trails. So many great ideas but do you have some resources (links) to find these kinds of opportunities?

    • Pamela January 15, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

      I’m going to work on an updated version of this post next week, and include some links.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Best International Volunteering Articles - March 3, 2011

    [...] 37 Ways to Volunteer While Traveling A very comprehensive list by @spunkygirllogue on all the ways one can volunteer. Read it and picture yourself volunteering at a refugee camp or helping those little sea turtles make it to the sea. I recommend reading this list in conjunction with the book Volunteer Vacations to find out more details on how to make these ways happen. [...]

  2. Monday Spotlight: Being Creative When Donating Time or Money – Kinecting with people country wide - January 24, 2012

    [...]                                         Spunky Girls Monologues: 37 Ways to Volunteer While Traveling [...]

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