Local Impact. Global Change.

Volunteer Abroad

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Why GVI?

You’ve been thinking about how you can give your time to something bigger than yourself. You’re wondering what the best ways are to volunteer abroad, and how you can make sure that it ticks all the right boxes – ethics, sustainability, impact, sustainability and fun.

If you’re searching, dreaming and yearning to do something that is truly meaningful – to be part of a proven program that will have a long-lasting impact – welcome to GVI volunteering.

We’ve spent the last two decades running successful volunteer abroad programs in more than 20 different locations around the world. All the data, feedback, learnings and testimonials that we’ve gathered, continuously help us to refine and improve our programs. This enables us to achieve our shared goals and ensure a maximum, measurable social impact.

GVI volunteer abroad guarantees

Contribute to solving critical global issues

As a GVI change-maker, you will donate your time to projects that are climate-conscious, advocate for equal rights, and actively try to make the world fairer and more just.

Collaborate with global partners

We don’t believe in working individualistically. GVI partners with over 600 non-profits and governmental organisations to support our communities’ initiatives holistically.

Sustainable, evidence-based impact

All of our volunteer programs have qualified impact managers to implement detailed sustainability plans for each community project. They also oversee the monitoring, evaluation and reporting of the projects on the ground to ensure we achieve, and deepen, our impact.

Aligned to the UN SDGs

GVI supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and all our volunteer programs and community projects are directly aligned to these specific universal goals and targets.

Follow ethical practices 

Our ten ethical practices are at the centre of everything we do. Our volunteer abroad programs adhere to strict ethical codes, and we’re guided by principles to empower our partners in the long run.

Advance your career

By working as a volunteer, you’ll be gaining invaluable skills to add to your CV and improve your employability. Not only will you learn practical and technical skills to help you shine in your field, but you’ll also get a range of soft skills that will make you contend for employee of the month too.

Travel safely and support

Volunteering abroad should be fun and stress-free. That’s why GVI provides extensive support throughout your entire journey: from booking your volunteer program until you arrive back home again. Our stringent support and safety operations – which are compliant with British Standards 8848 – ensure that our participants receive the highest standard of care on their trip abroad.

Pre-program orientation

We’ll make sure that you know exactly what you can expect, before you arrive at your GVI base. 

You will be invited to join an orientation call on Zoom a few weeks before you leave where you’ll be able to connect with GVI staff and the other volunteers who will be joining your program. In this session, we’ll go through all the arrangements, and give you the chance to ask any questions that you may have.

We’ll also send you a presentation where you can learn more about GVI and our volunteer abroad programs before you pack your bags.

Free online course and coaching

When you join a GVI volunteer program, you get complimentary access to a brilliant online course called “Leading Teams for Impact”, which is certified by the University of Richmond. This course is not compulsory, but it’s a valuable opportunity to learn new skills that you can add to your CV.

Explore volunteer abroad options

Whether you are passionate about working with children, teaching, construction, women’s rights, or equality, or are drawn to Nepal, Ghana, Thailand or Fiji (to name only a few). GVI has a place for you.

Browse through our community programs or conservation programs or talk to us to help you find a volunteering opportunity that’ll make your heart beat a little faster.

The best places in the world to volunteer abroad

How do you decide where in the world to volunteer? What is that feeling inside of you that says “this place instead of that place”? 

GVI is lucky to have many hubs and teams on the ground on five different continents offering a great diversity of volunteer abroad projects for you to choose from.

No matter which location you pick, you’ll get introduced to a new culture and have an immersive experience that will change the way you view the world, and your place in it, forever.

You’ll get to taste and share interesting foods with new friends, connect with inspiring locals, and contribute to sustainable community projects that will have a social impact in the long run. You’ll be part of something profound and memorable.

GVI hub locations

 

Peace of mind when you volunteer

Getting on a flight to volunteer in a country that you had to find on Google just a few weeks ago can be daunting.

If you’re worrying about the risks and safety concerns when travelling and volunteering abroad, you can rest easy. GVI only operates in countries where we’ve done our risk assessments and have deemed them safe to set up our hubs.

We also have dedicated health and safety compliance officers to ensure that all of our programs around the world maintain the highest level of safety standards.

We know that travelling internationally can be stressful, and that’s why our team is available to offer our support every step of the way – from finding and booking the right volunteer program, supporting you while you’re volunteering on base, up until you arrive back at the airport in your home country again. We’ll even stay in touch afterwards, giving you the option to join our network of GVI alumni to connect with past and potential participants and share your input and ideas with us.

Still not sure? Talk to an expert

It’s so hard to choose just one location, right? 

We’d be happy to talk you through the volunteer location options and answer all your questions. Talk to our friendly team of volunteer experts to help you match your passions to your interests and timeline.

Hop on over to the next tab to take a look at our list of volunteer abroad community programs.

Volunteer abroad programs

Community development

Volunteer with children

If you’re passionate about helping children, you’ll love our volunteer abroad programs that specifically focus on early childhood development and teaching English. 

On these programs, we support local educators in helping children reach their development milestones. We also assist with literacy and numeracy, and support a range of other learning areas like computer literacy as well as healthy eating and physical activity. 

When you decide to contribute to these projects, you will join forces with millions of change-makers globally to achieve UN SDG 4: Quality Education

The most effective and ethical way to volunteer with children is to support our partners who are doing impactful educational development work on the ground at these locations:

 

Ethical volunteering with children

It’s important to note that GVI doesn’t offer, directly support or endorse volunteering at orphanages. Learn more about our stance on orphanage volunteering here.

You also don’t necessarily need to join a volunteer abroad program focused on children to make an impact in the lives of these young people. Why not join one of our women’s empowerment volunteer programs, where you can support parents by teaching them skills that will help to increase their employability and household income.

Teaching

Supporting education is one of the best ways to ensure the development of individuals, families, communities and nations. Not only does education increase an individual child’s future ability to earn an income, but it is also linked to greater health. Educating girls specifically supports gender equality within a country. 

Teaching abroad volunteer locations:

 

On most of these programs volunteers support local educators in teaching English abroad, although you might also support the teaching of other subjects if you have the necessary expertise. English is an important skill in many of these countries as it is the main language of tourism, which is a large part of the country’s economy and job opportunities. 

All our volunteer education abroad programs are aligned to UN SDG 4: Quality Education.

In Costa Rica and Thailand you can also earn your Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate by joining one of our teaching internships abroad. If you’re looking to learn Spanish while volunteering abroad, join our programs in Costa Rica or Peru

Sports

Playing sports during the primary years of a child’s life encourages students to follow an active lifestyle throughout their lives, and teaches valuable social skills that will assist them in their future careers. 

You can help learners cultivate these valuable skills by volunteering with GVI as a sports teacher in South Africa. The sports you might teach include everything from soccer to American football. 

Introducing students to sports unique to your country and having them introduce sports unique to their country is a great way to discuss cultural differences and helps you gain experience in intercultural communication. 

Business

Applying theoretical business knowledge and skills while volunteering abroad, might not be the obvious choice. But business volunteering is growing in popularity. 

The reason for this is that one of the biggest drivers of social change is business growth. In fact, the first UN SDG is No Poverty

Becoming a business intern with GVI offers you an alternative to gaining an office-based experience. You’ll get the chance to learn industry specific skills directly from the field. 

Business internships offer you the chance to improve your skills in the following areas:

  • project management
  • workshop design and delivery
  • communications and social media
  • lesson planning

 

You’ll also have the opportunity to complete GVI’s Foundations in Sustainable Development online course, after which you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.

Participants on other volunteer abroad projects can still work on improving their business skills while contributing towards a positive impact. For example, you might work on your cross-cultural communication skills while teaching English to adults looking to improve their ability to engage with international visitors. This helps them to access greater employment opportunities and assists them in building or growing their own businesses. 

Our women’s empowerment volunteers will also be helping to directly support local business growth. As one of GVI women’s empowerment volunteers, you’ll assist women with developing additional vocational skills like being able to complete administrative work on a computer. They also work to develop professional skills like creating a great resume and impressing prospective employers during a job interview. Depending on the needs of the women in the community, you might also assist them with creating their own small business plans and solving micro-business challenges. 

Construction

All GVI construction programs are closely tied to local community development objectives and aligned to UN SDG 3: Health and Well-being, 4: Quality Education, and 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.

As a result of our stance on construction, volunteers on our construction volunteering programs abroad won’t be building houses but will rather be helping to renovate, repair or build structures such as vegetable gardens and jungle gyms at local schools.

All construction materials used on the project are included in the program fee. On-site training for all construction volunteers is also included, and the specific construction project volunteers will complete is overseen by local experts. 

Women’s empowerment

Research in international development suggests that women’s empowerment can lead to many other benefits for the country. This includes increasing the income of the nation and improved health statistics for both mothers and children. 

GVI volunteers support gender equality initiatives in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Nepal, Peru and Thailand. All GVI women’s empowerment programs are aligned to UN SDG 5: Gender Equality.

During these programs you will support women and girls in increasing their access to education, growing their income, discussing gender norms they find restrictive, and developing greater health for themselves, their children and communities. Gender equality workshops might also be held with the greater community, including boys and men. 

Global public health

If you are looking for healthcare related volunteer programs that allow you to ethically volunteer abroad without a medical degree, we suggest our global public health volunteering programs. These programs allow you to gain experience in global public health, international development and education. 

During these programs you’ll support preventative health education by teaching lessons at local schools or running workshops with adults in the community. All GVI health promotion volunteer programs are aligned to UN SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being

GVI operates under the principle of primum nonnocere, first do no harm, which is why we don’t offer any hands-on medical or veterinary volunteering programs.

For those wondering, “How do I volunteer abroad without a degree?” – GVI focuses on providing ethical options for those looking for unskilled volunteer work abroad. This allows for a wider access to a greater number of participants. 

We train volunteers to perform tasks without any risk of causing harm and without putting strain on local staff. 

Types of volunteer abroad programs

Teens

If you’re between 15 and 17 years old, you’re welcome to volunteer with GVI.

In fact, we have created a variety of volunteer abroad programs specifically aimed to suit teenagers best. When you join a GVI under-18s program, you’ll get the opportunity to contribute to community projects that are age-appropriate, and enjoy experiences and activities that are guided by an adult.

One of the greatest aspects of joining a GVI volunteer program is that you get to do it with a group of like-minded young change-makers who are all eager to make a difference. You will volunteer together, travel together and form special bonds that will last a lifetime.

A great time to join a volunteer program is during your long summer break. All of our teen programs run during this time (June, July and August), coinciding with the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months. Summer volunteer abroad programs are a wonderful way to make the most of your free time by contributing to something meaningful.

All of the under 18 volunteering programs are led by passionate GVI team members who provide excellent support and guidance to young participants. We guarantee a high staff to participant ratio (one to six), but on most teen programs the ratio is usually even higher to increase our support. 

If you’d prefer that a responsible chaperone accompanies you on your flight, we’d be happy to organise this for you. Please note that this will come at an additional cost. 

We know that you might be keen to learn more about sustainable development while you’re on a volunteering program. So aside from the experiential learning you’ll be receiving during your project work, our experts on the ground will also share their knowledge and present interactive lessons. 

We’ll also invite you to complete an online leadership course, six weeks before you depart. The course is optional and comes at an additional cost, but we highly recommend it as it will provide you with valuable leadership skills that will help you to excel both during your chosen volunteer program and after in your career.  It’s conveniently self-paced and will take about 10 hours to complete; once completed, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond. 

At the end of your volunteer program, you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding of some of the world’s greatest challenges and solutions. You’ll get a new perspective that will positively influence the rest of your life, and perhaps even your career path one day.

Students

The most popular programs that we run here at GVI are aimed at students. 

This is because the period between finishing school and starting your first professional job is a critical time that will greatly influence the direction of your life.

As a student, you’ll love joining one of our volunteer programs because you:

  • Get practical experience by supporting impactful community projects.
  • Increase your employability by adding volunteering to your CV.
  • Get to immerse yourself in another culture by connecting with locals.
  • Become part of a network of global change-makers.
  • Can apply to receive academic credit through their academic institution.

 

Unlike the teen programs that only run during summer break between June and August, all our other volunteer abroad programs are available to join throughout the year. Our programs also have different durations – varying from one week to six months of volunteering.

This means that you have the freedom to pick and choose a program that suits your schedule, needs and interests best. If you’re unsure about the different options, browse through our community volunteering program options, or talk to our team of experts.

Working adults

If you’re already working and want to use your annual leave days or sabbatical to do something more meaningful, a volunteer holiday might just be the thing for you.

Maybe you’re feeling stuck in your job and need to feel inspired again? Volunteering abroad will get you out of your comfort zone and help you feel that sense of adventure, freedom and purpose that you long for.

It’s a win-win situation. Not only will you get to explore a beautiful destination, go on adventures and experience new cultures like you would on a holiday, but you’ll also contribute to locally-led community projects that will have a positive impact on others, and within yourself.

Volunteering will also give you the opportunity to discover potential career paths – new opportunities that could help you do what you love while making a difference

Over 50s

At GVI, we believe that age is only a number. If you’re 50 or older, you’re welcome to join any of our volunteer abroad programs. As long as you are physically fit, open-minded and passionate about contributing to a better future, we’d love for you to join us.

You don’t need any specific experience or qualifications either. The GVI team will give you all the training that you need on the program. Many retirees offer valuable skills that they’ve accumulated over their careers that can greatly contribute to the success of our community projects – please let us know if you would like to support us in a specific way.

Not really keen to stay on base and share accommodation with other participants? No problem. At most of our locations, we can easily organise an upgrade to a private room at a tried and tested establishment.

Families

Volunteering as a family is a wonderful way to bond while you contribute to meaningful projects together. You’ll be telling stories about your shared experiences for years to come – and leave a lasting legacy in the process.

Why not consider a special trip with your children or take your parents or siblings along? Or check out these eight reasons to volunteer as a couple

The festive season in December is a particularly popular time for families to travel together and use the time off to give back, by supporting local community programs. As long as your children are older than 14, you are welcome to join our Christmas volunteering programs. And for every child (under 18) joining you, you’ll get 25% off.

Get in touch with our team who will be happy to talk to you about our multi-generational volunteering options.

Groups

If you’re looking to book a volunteer abroad experience for an entire group, we have a range of programs that will meet your collective needs.

GVI can help you organise high school trips abroad, take a group of college students, incentivise team members or book a corporate group to volunteer internationally. 

If you belong to a society, club, community group or organisation who want to contribute to a meaningful cause together, we would be happy to have you join one of our volunteer abroad group programs.

People of all faiths are welcome on any of our volunteering programs, but because GVI is not affiliated to any specific religions, we don’t run mission trips or faith-based programs. 

Please let us know how many people you are and when you’d like to go, and we’ll get back to you with a list of inspiring volunteering ideas.

Gap years

If you’re not sure what you do next, it’s usually wise to pause and reflect before you make an important decision. 

Taking a gap year is a fantastic way to travel to extraordinary places, discover more about yourself, develop your skills and make a valuable contribution to the world. When you sign up to volunteer abroad, you’ll tick all of these boxes. 

Although some people volunteer for an entire year, most of our participants only take a gap for a semester or two, booking programs from between one month and six months.

If you go for a longer period of time, you have the exciting opportunity to mix and match different volunteer programs, locations and durations to create your own tailor-made gap year experience. Our team of program experts will be happy to help you create your dream itinerary.

By going for an extended period of time, you’ll get the unique opportunity of experiencing a great variety of sustainability challenges and community projects. This will empower you with a deeper understanding and a broader range of skills to use throughout your life.

Aside from our volunteer abroad programs, GVI also offers gap year internship programs where you can work alongside community leaders and social impact professionals to advance your sustainability studies and boost your career path.

Volunteer abroad funding

You’re eager to join one of our volunteer programs, but you have some questions about the financial side of things.

Maybe you’re wondering why you even have to pay to volunteer in the first place, or you’d like to know exactly where your money is going to? Perhaps you don’t currently have the funds to pursue your dreams but you’re determined to make it happen somehow.

At GVI, we’ll do everything we can to give you access to the right resources so you can sign up for the experience of a lifetime.

Paying to volunteer

Your time, skills and hard work are valuable and will greatly help to support our social impact initiatives. But like with any other organisation, community projects need funds to run effectively and sustainably, beyond your visit. The operational costs, as well as your own overheads – meals, accommodation and training – also need to be factored in.

Although there are companies that offer free volunteer abroad programs, they are scarce. They most likely don’t offer ethical practices that empower local communities, or offer the same level of support, health and safety and training that we do. 

Credible volunteering organisations will always require adequate financial support to ensure that the volunteer programs meet international sustainability standards.

For a more in-depth look at these reasons, take a look at our article: Why pay to volunteer abroad.

Getting paid to volunteer

A volunteer is someone who does something to help others, because they want to, not because they expect anything in return. At GVI, and most other volunteering organisations, we don’t pay our volunteers, precisely for this reason.

Although you won’t get compensated for your volunteer work, we have seen many of our alumni secure jobs because of the training and experience that they gained on our programs. Take a look at the testimonials

Our unwavering ethics

There are many volunteer abroad organisations out there, each of them offering something different. From low budget options, to programs only focusing on certain age groups or working in specific development sectors.

At GVI, we decided from day one that our volunteer programs will be focused on impact, ethics and quality. In fact, that’s the reason we were founded back in 1998 – read our inspiring origin story here

We won’t compromise our values, and that’s why GVI will never offer cheap volunteer programs. We focus on high value, high quality programs to create the best possible experience for everyone involved – from the volunteers, to the local organisations that we partner with and the community members.

When you volunteer with GVI, we can guarantee that you will contribute to lasting sustainable impact by partnering with locally-led organisations. We also offer the highest safety and security standards, and we have a team of passionate volunteer experts that support you every step of the way.

Many of our participants prefer to come to GVI because they know that they will receive top quality training, relevant experience and receive references that will greatly benefit their careers

Where your money is going

The majority of GVI’s funds, a total of 65%, go directly towards ensuring the sustainability of our projects. 

We are proud to have full-time GVI-employed team members working at all our bases. This ensures that we are immersed in the communities that we serve, and that we can continuously contribute to community projects and make an impact, despite the number of volunteer bookings that we receive.

The rest of the funds (35%) go towards central office operations, overheads and participant recruitment. Our GVI support team is critical to the success of your program, ensuring that you are safe, satisfied and supported during your volunteer program. We also give a portion of the funds to support projects through our GVI Charitable Programs.

If you would like to see a more detailed breakdown of how your funds are allocated, take a look at our Where does your money go? page.

We want you to have complete peace of mind. So if you still have any questions about volunteering, or the finances involved, please reach out to us.

GVI program inclusions

Your GVI program fees include the following:

  • in-country travel
  • in-country accommodation
  • three meals per day
  • all training needed
  • all equipment needed
  • selected GVI Experiences

 

Our under 18 programs also include guided activities.

GVI programs don’t include the following:

 

Raising funds to volunteer abroad

Many of our volunteers join GVI programs by raising funds. Contributing to impactful community projects is a worthy cause and many people would be keen to help you realise your dream, while playing their part to make a difference.

To make it easy and fun, GVI has created our own fundraising platform. Here you can get fundraising ideas, refer friends (who get a special discount when they book) and create your own GVI fundraising page. You can also read our article with 15 of the best fundraising ideas for volunteers or download our fundraising manual to guide you through the process.

You can also investigate funding opportunities through your government or by applying through private organisations. There are often travel grants available to help students who want to volunteer abroad. Reach out to your university or college education office to ask about international scholarship or bursary opportunities.

Over the last two decades, we have worked hard to establish ourselves as one of the top international volunteering organisations in the world. 

GVI is honoured to partner with hundreds of remarkable organisations and institutions that help us achieve our shared goals. And through our collaboration, we are proud to have received numerous international awards and accolades over the years. Our work has also been showcased in international newspapers and magazines, some of the articles are featured on our page – in the media

More than 35,000 participants have joined GVI programs since 1998, and the reviews speak for themselves. Take a look at some of the heartwarming testimonials we’ve received from our community of change-makers.

This is what makes volunteering with GVI different:

  • Systems and models that ensure measurable and sustainable impact.
  • Programs that are aligned to the UN SDGs.
  • Collaborations with more than 600 partners worldwide.
  • Award-winning, immersive and adventurous volunteer abroad programs.
  • Top operational health and safety standards, compliant with British Standards 8848.
  • Personalised 360 degree service and support.
  • Quality training, work experience and qualifications.
  • Access to experts, scientists and community leaders.
  • Making friends and becoming part of a united force for good.
Planet

Conservation

Marine Conservation
Marine Conservation
Help restore damaged marine ecosystems, protect endangered marine species, and ultimately contribute to the overall health of both marine and terrestrial environments.
Wildlife Conservation
Wildlife Conservation
Help preserve endangered animal and plant species and educate local communities so they can implement long term, impactful approaches to conservation.
Animal Care
Animal Care
Work with animals such as elephants and turtles and make a direct impact on the conservation of these species by providing options of alternative livelihoods to local communities.
People

Community development

Teaching
Teaching
Teach English to help improve academic and employability opportun[...]
Public Health
Public Health
Educate communities on healthy eating, personal hygiene and disea[...]
Women's empowerment
Women's empowerment
Support women and girls with meaningful access to equal opportuni[...]
Sport
Sport
Help children develop a variety of beneficial life-skills through[...]
Construction
Construction
Help communities build essential and sustainable infrastructure.
Volunteer with Children
Volunteer with Children
Help improve children’s education, health and well-being.