Change from the ground up

Volunteering for teens

Duration: 2 weeks
Age: 15-17
25+ years experience
25+ years experience
+30,000 participants
+30,000 participants
1:6 participant to staff ratio
1:6 participant to staff ratio
British standards compliant
British standards compliant

At GVI, the core mission of our volunteering for teens offering is based on creating, supporting and empowering each other and our communities. Join us across a diverse, safe, one-of-a-kind and award-winning range of opportunities for teens aged between 15 and 17 who are keen on exploring educational or community development volunteering in beautiful and diverse locations across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Under 18s brochure
We've got amazing programs tailored for young adults.


Build a better world by contributing to vital, locally-led project work that strives for a more just and equitable future.


In line with the UN’s SDGs, we are committed to ethical and sustainable engagement with our local partners and communities.


Learn from the world’s most unique and significant cultures, in breathtaking remote locations.

Health & safety

GVI sends thousands of teenagers abroad every year through our specially designed teens community development volunteer projects. Youth volunteering opportunities overseas are an invaluable opportunity for high school students to gain hands-on experience and to immerse themselves in a new culture and environment. We have redefined volunteer work for teens with a strong emphasis on both making a difference in the world and learning new skills and gaining knowledge through field experience. 

Volunteering for teens is an invaluable experience that offers: 

  • A chance to change the world: Using the UN’s SDGs as a framework, we’ve made a commitment to positive, ethical and sustainable impact across all our programs. Gain a better understanding of what it means to be a global citizen and help make the world a better place. 
  • A chance to change yourself: Push yourself out of your comfort zone with a life-changing adventure, or leap ahead of your peers by turning your passion into practical skills with extensive field experience. Develop your interpersonal, leadership and communication skills, while forging friendships with like-minded people that will last a lifetime. 
  • Community development volunteering experience: Gain on-the-ground, in-depth, practical experience in the sustainable development sector by working with locally-led community projects with a proven track record for creating and maintaining support. Get first hand experience of the practical and ethical challenges of making a sustainable impact. 
  • Unparalleled support: Your safety is our top priority. Our programs and experiences meet the highest possible standards of care, with any necessary support always on hand. 


Additionally, volunteering for teen programs will give you: 

  • A cultural experience like no other: deep dive into the heritage, history, customs and cuisines of extraordinary culture around the world. 
  • A once in a lifetime adventure in remote, breathtaking locations off the beat and track. 
  • A chance to set yourself apart on university and job applications with real-world, hands-on experience. 
  • An introduction to international sustainable development and talks by local subject area experts 
  • Accommodation in one of GVI’s base camps.
  • Three meals a day.
  • All transport, including airport pick-up and drop-off.


Volunteering for teens – summer programs

If you are an educator looking for volunteering opportunities for teen groups, you can always opt for our group summer volunteer programs for high school students. Summer volunteering also allows teens a chance to receive the University Award by ASDAN, for partaking in one of our programs for two weeks or longer, which gives students an edge in their UCAS applications for university. 

Have a look through some of our best summer abroad volunteer programs in this article: The best summer volunteer programs for high school students

For a more educational high school volunteer trip that incorporates teen service projects, take a look at our service learning group programs. These volunteering work experience projects aim to give teens:

  • a perfect blend of volunteering and practical experience 
  • cultural and language immersion
  • skills training
  • adventure activities.


To read more testimonials from other high school students about their volunteering for teens community service abroad, view our high school testimonials.

Volunteering for teens – gap year programs

For those teens who have graduated high school, and who are looking for a new adventure as well as extensive personal and professional development before committing to a four-year institution, we also offer teen volunteer opportunities across our gap year programs. 

South Africa 

Volunteering for teens in Cape Town

Find adventure, do meaningful work dedicated to the fight for a better future, and spend time exploring one of the most exciting cities, situated among breathtaking natural landscapes unlike any other on earth.

Our community development volunteering for teens programs in Cape Town centre on childhood education projects. You’ll assist teachers and run sports programs in local communities. These programs are aimed at developing children’s physical and creative skill sets.

Cape Town is a cultural and historic centre, and you’ll have plenty of opportunity in your off time to:

  • explore the city’s many food markets and restaurants
  • hike across the world famous table mountain 
  • surf some of the best swells in the world 
  • enjoy the local beaches
  • visit heritage sites like Robben Island, District Six and the Cape of Good Hope Castle.



Volunteering for teens in the Himalayas 

Volunteering for teens in Nepal is for those with an adventurous spirit, who want to trek through snow-capped mountains and connect with the rich Nepali culture. 

Your trip starts with a community development volunteer project in Pokhara, where you’ll assist local staff with improving the learning facilities at local schools and work on a range of community development projects including education, women’s empowerment and public health. You’ll also attend workshops run by SASANE, our local community partenr organisation, a surivor-led anti-human trafficking organisation. 

The adventure portion of your teen volunteering expedition will include:

  • a Himalayan trekking route, complete with stays at local teahouse lodges and views of the snow-capped mountain peaks.
  • visits to local Hindu temples
  • lessons in traditional Nepali cuisine, including how to make momos, traditional Nepali dumplings. 



Volunteering for teens in Southern Thailand 

Our volunteering opportunities for teens in Thailand welcome an international group of like-minded teens to learn about and contribute to crucial environmental sustainability project work. You’ll volunteer at a sea turtle conservation centre, cleaning the tanks and providing medical treatment to green sea turtles and tracking their growth. You’ll also collect plastic pollution from local beaches and help renovate classrooms at local schools. 

Adventure activities include: 

  • hiking through tropical jungles to view spectacular waterfalls
  • kayak tours through mangrove forests
  • visits to some of Thailand’s most beautiful temples 
  • a guided tour of sacred Buddhist sites
  • a trip to tourist hotspot, Phuket.


Costa Rica

Volunteering for teens in the Caribbean

Live and work with a team of international teen volunteers in the Central Valley city of Cartago in beautiful, tropical Costa Rica. 

You will assist local community development projects by:

  •  building or renovating local classrooms
  • assisting primary school students with English language lessons.


Adventure activities on this volunteering for teen exertion include:

  • visits to the jungle region of Turrialba
  • white-water rafting in one of the most adventurous commercial rivers in Latin America
  • hikes in the Irazu National Park with views of volcanoes
  • immersive day trips or workshops focused on Latin American cuisine and history.



Volunteering for teens in Accra 

Another volunteer opportunity for teens in Africa takes our teen volunteers to the palm-lined beaches and abundant forests of equatorial Ghana. Here, teen volunteers have the chance to contribute to our ongoing community development projects in the town of Kokrobite, about an hour from the capital of Accra. 

You will learn the true meaning of hospitality, solidarity, and generosity while assisting with community education and gender equality initiatives.

Adventure activities include:

  • surfing on local beaches
  • trips to national parks, where African forest elephants can be spotted 
  • an introduction to the history and consequences of the slave-trade
  • culinary tours of the fragrant and spicy local cuisines.


Build on your professional development 

There are many advantages to the volunteering for teens experience – adventure, friendship, personal growth, making an impact. But you also have an invaluable chance to upskill your interpersonal skills. These are skills like communication, project management and most fundamentally – leadership. 

At GVI we know a thing or two about leadership, and we’re very proud to be leaders in our industry, and to be able to forge ethical, passionate and dedicated leaders through our work. 

Academic knowledge is very important, but equally important when making your way in the world, is developing the essential skills needed to become an industry leader in your own right – teamwork, cross-cultural communication, creative problem solving and so much more. 

Our mission across our volunteering for teen experience is to help you develop and practise these skills, setting you up for future success no matter what path you choose to take. 

Take a look at our article to find out more: What are soft skills and why are they important?

Health and Safety – General FAQs

How safe is volunteering for teens with GVI?

GVI are experts at managing teen volunteers programs in international destinations, and have been running volunteering for teen programs successfully since 2012. 

Our track record has secured us British Standards 8848 compliance, which protects anyone booking adventure travel packages outside the UK from both safety and financial risks. 

In addition, we make sure that:

  • All staff employed in all our locations are our own. Each is recruited, vetted and trained by us. In many cases, they are GVI alumni whose dedication, enthusiasm and skill particularly impressed us. Ensuring that all staff are our own enables us to supervise a safe and secure environment for participants at all times. 
  • All on-the-ground GVI staff are required to complete child protection training, to enable them to spot and respond to any potential threats according to internationally accepted standards. 
  • In all of our locations, appointed staff members take on the role of assigned child protection officers. They maintain contact with in-country professionals employed by local child protection services.
  • Each and every one of our on-the-ground staff is emergency first response (EFR) certified. Many are also certified EFR instructors. A fully stocked EFR medical kit is available on each base. 
  • Before any GVI staff member is allowed onto a project, they must first undergo an off-site safety training course designed according to internationally accepted safety practices. 
  • All staff members have been thoroughly vetted with background checks and references from all previous employers. 


What are your health and safety guidelines?

Our health and safety guidelines are award-winning. But due to the vulnerability of teen volunteers, we apply further, stringent health and safety regulations: 

  • Each teen volunteer is assigned an enrollment manager when applying for a GVI program.
  • Teen volunteers are supervised by our chaperones throughout their stay. 
  • All our volunteering for teen programs have a staff to volunteer ratio of one staff member to every six teen volunteers, but this ratio is often much higher and more like one staff member to every three teens.
  • Flight chaperones can also be arranged for teen volunteers. The service can be booked by speaking to one of our enrolment managers. 
  • To effectively manage airport arrivals, we set up groups on instant messaging applications that facilitate communication between teens, parents and GVI staff members. 
  • GVI staff members meet teens at the airport upon arrival. 
  • Volunteers are then transported to their accommodation and their parents will receive a confirmation email. 
  • All transport during the project, as well as the final airport drop-off, is provided by GVI staff members. 


Volunteering for teens – Parent FAQs

There are a number of resources available on our website that’ll describe what our summer volunteer opportunities are all about – like our parent pack, which will fill your parents in on everything they need to know about our volunteer abroad summer programs. You’ll also find parent testimonials that can give your parent or guardian a taste of how safe and beneficial GVI’s summer volunteering programs abroad really are.

And if your parents or guardian is still unsure about letting you participate in a summer volunteering program, you can show them this article: Should I let my teen volunteer abroad?

As a parent of a teen volunteering abroad, you’ll also have access to our 24-hour emergency desk. 

Do GVI programs include flights and flight chaperones?

While flights and flight chaperones aren’t automatically included in a GVI program fee, these services can be selected when booking a GVI program. Excellent flight prices can be secured through our flight partner, Student Universe. Parents can also book a flight chaperone to accompany their teen from their home-country departure to their on-location arrival. 

Do you offer airport pick-up and drop-off services?

All GVI teen programs include on-location airport pick-up and drop-off services. To manage arrivals we set up an instant messaging group connecting teens, parents and GVI on-location staff. 

Upon arrival at the on-location airport, teens are greeted by a GVI staff member holding a GVI sign. They’ll also usually be wearing a GVI T-shirt. Teens travel with the GVI staff member to their accommodation. 

Some teens will meet their fellow teen volunteers at the airport, while others will meet their teammates upon arrival at their lodgings. When everyone is settled in, parents will receive a confirmation email. 

Transport to and from the project as well as throughout the adventure portion of the trip is also provided by GVI. At the end of the trip, GVI on-location staff escort teens to the airport in time for their departure flight home. 

What are the on-the-ground medical facilities like?

All accommodation, project sites and adventure activity locations are risk assessed to make sure medical facilities are nearby. All our on-location staff are also trained in emergency first aid and always have fully stocked medical kits on-hand. 

What if there’s an emergency while my teen’s volunteering abroad? 

We have crisis management plans as well as Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) in place at each of our locations. Our 24-hour emergency desk is also available to parents and guardians. Generally we encourage teens to unplug during their trip abroad and benefit from a digital detox, but if you’d like to get in touch, you’ll have access to the phone numbers of on-location staff members. 

What supervision is there?

GVI has, arguably, the highest staff to participant ratio of any international teen volunteer abroad program provider. We guarantee that there will be at least one GVI staff member for every six teen volunteers, but this ratio is often much higher and more like one staff member to every three teens. Unlike adult volunteers – who use their evenings and weekends to explore the local area – teens are supervised by GVI staff throughout their stay. 

Who are your on-location staff?

All our on-location staff are selected, vetted, trained and managed by GVI. They all undergo a police background check, as well as training on our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy. Many of our staff were once GVI volunteers and interns, so they know exactly what it feels like to volunteer abroad as a young adult and can effectively guide teens through the experience. 

What is the accommodation like?

Teen volunteers have separate accommodation to our adult volunteers. On-site risk assessments are performed before we agree to use any accommodation provider. The exact type of accommodation we offer differs depending on the location. Accommodation might be a little more basic than what teens are used to, but we always ensure that our health and safety is always of the highest calibre. 

Does my teen need a visa to travel abroad? Do they need to get vaccinated?

All visa and vaccination requirements are dependent on your teen’s nationality, their current residences and the location to which they wish to travel. While we won’t personally give any specific visa or vaccination recommendations, we can put you in contact with experts in your location so that you can learn more about your specific requirements. Your assigned travel support coordinator will also assist you with documents and packing lists in the months leading up to your teen’s trip. 

Do you offer travel insurance?

Travel insurance isn’t automatically included in our program fee, but it can be purchased through our insurance partner, CISI.

So you’d love to join a GVI program. You’re ready to click ‘apply now’, pack your bags and jump on a plane. But you have one burning question – how do you fund your GVI program?

If you feel like money’s a little too tight to travel at the moment, we’ve got good news – it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker!

GVI has helped many eager participants like you raise funds and get access to grants and special offers to make your dreams come true. In fact, you can:


Volunteering for teens – funding FAQs

Why should I pay to volunteer abroad?

While many still assume that volunteering abroad should be free, providing funds to an organisation like GVI in order to manage your volunteer abroad experience is usually the most contentious choice. If you, or your parents, would ever like to know more about this, be sure to browse our article on the subject or speak to one of our enrolment managers. Maybe you or your parents would like to know more about how GVI spends funds to maximise impact on the ground. See our financial graph for details.

Do you have scholarships for teen volunteers? 

Every so often, we offer volunteer and intern abroad scholarships to candidates meeting certain criteria. To see if we currently have scholarships available, see our scholarships page or ask your enrolment manager when applying for a GVI program

See what other parents & participants say

Read reviews and recommendations from all over the world.

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Under18 Participant
Under18 Participant
Under18 Participant

Download our parent pack

Parent info pack

GVI is a parent-run organization – family is at the heart of what we do. We’re incredibly serious about child protection, health and safety, and we care deeply about making learning more engaging. After over two decades of experience, we have discovered that if you give young people age-appropriate challenges and support, they quickly start to forge a path that is uniquely their own, personally fulfilling, and aligned to the well-being of our global community.