The best volunteer abroad programs for adults

    Article by Zaytoen Domingo

    Zaytoen Domingo

    Posted: August 6, 2019

    Volunteering isn’t only for ambitious teenagers and university students. The best volunteer abroad programs are suitable for all adults, so you can make an impact at any age. 

    Altruism is ageless. All you need to volunteer abroad is a desire to contribute to positive change in the world. 

    Whether you’re looking to add new skills to your CV, experience travel differently, or find for a meaningful way to spend your retirement, volunteering abroad is an adventure at any age. 

    GVI has some of the best volunteer programs for adults looking to make a contribution. 

    Why is volunteering important?


    Volunteering is a chance for you to contribute to a meaningful cause and connect with like-minded people doing the same thing. 

    On a personal level, volunteering can help you make new friends, improve your empoyability, and has even been shown to increase your happiness.

    On a global level, volunteering helps to drive positive, sustainable change. With GVI, all programs work toward objectives aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This means volunteer impact is measurable. 

    When you volunteer abroad with GVI you can feel secure in the knowledge that your skills and program fees are going toward sustainable, ethical, and impactful initiatives. 

    Why volunteer abroad as an adult?


    There are many reasons to volunteer as an adult.

    Volunteer abroad programs often benefit from participants who have well-established skills to offer. If you’ve already been working for years, you most likely already have a catalogue of useful skills, so you can roll up your sleeves and get stuck in quickly.

    If there are gaps in your knowledge, volunteering is also a chance to upskill. GVI’s comprehensive training will make sure you graduate from your volunteer program with new skills you can take back into the workplace with you. 

    The best volunteer abroad programs for adults will also push you outside your comfort zone and introduce you to new ways of thinking. If you feel like you’ve been stuck in the same routine for some time, volunteering abroad could be the challenge you need to shake things up.

    Ten of the best volunteer abroad programs for adults

    With durations from one week all the way up to six months, you can choose to volunteer abroad during annual leave, or when taking a career break between jobs. 

    Here are ten of the best international volunteer programs to broaden your horizons and help you have a genuine impact. 

    1) Women’s empowerment project in India


    As an adult volunteer, you can make a meaningful contribution to women’s empowerment initiatives in Kerala

    In India, poverty and gender inequality mean women struggle to receive even a basic education. On this program, you will help to increase educational capacity, so women and young girls have better access to education, healthcare, and employment. 

    2) Volunteer with children in Nepal


    The Himalayas are one of the world’s greatest trekking destinations. Head to these high hills to live and work with Nepali people. As a volunteer, you’ll support teachers in a local primary school, helping children to develop their literacy and numeracy skills. 

    This program is a great way to make a contribution in Nepal, as you explore the beauty and culture of the Himalayas. 

    3) Volunteer healthcare project in South Africa


    Hone your leadership skills and practise managing a class at a local primary school when you volunteer on GVI’s healthcare project in South Africa. Based in beachside Gordon’s Bay, close to Cape Town, you’ll help with physical education lessons, or health and nutrition workshops to teach children the importance of a healthy lifestyle. 

    In your free time, you’ll be kept busy exploring iconic destinations such as Table Mountain and the District Six Museum. Before or after your project, book a visit to the Kruger National Park, which is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. 

    4) Rainwater harvesting and water security in Fiji


    Step into life in Fiji and think about the necessity of water. Our rainwater harvesting and water security project works to address water scarcity in traditional local villages. 

    As well as directly supporting the core needs of Fijian communities, this project is a chance to slow down the pace of your busy life and relax in the serene environment of our coastal Dawasamu base. 

    5) Volunteer with elephants in Thailand


    The best animal volunteer programs abroad focus on supporting wildlife in an ethical way. GVI’s elephant volunteer program in Thailand is a perfect example of this, giving international volunteers the chance to observe the animals in their natural habitat. 

    These elephants are being reintegrated into their natural habitats, after being in tourist camps, so you’ll gain firsthand insight into the impacts of wildlife tourism. 

    You’ll also learn more about natural animal behaviour and how traditional elephant-keepers, knows as mahouts, use generations of knowledge to interact with these creatures. 

    6) Wildlife photography and conservation awareness in Costa Rica


    Work on your wildlife photography skills and capture photos of jaguars and green turtles. 

    This volunteering program is a wonderful way of learning more about Costa Rica’s rich jungle environments while assisting with conservation research. 

    7) Giant tortoise and biodiversity research in Seychelles


    Go off the grid and disconnect from your daily life on the island of Curieuse, in Seychelles. While living at GVI’s remote research station, you’ll be able to embrace an undisturbed tropical lifestyle while adding value to conservation efforts.

    Our giant tortoise and biodiversity research program in Seychelles is an opportunity to learn more about this vulnerable species, as well as other local flora and fauna. 


    8) Teach English in Peru

    Lend your support to local teachers in Cusco, Peru. You can join classes to help provide English language education to children. Working with a range of ages and skill levels, this volunteering program is a great way to develop public speaking and communication skills. 

    You will need to speak some Spanish for this program, so it’s excellent motivation to brush up on your language skills or finally enrol in classes. Learning a language helps to keep your brain active and will help you get more out of your time in Peru. 

    9) Teach English to Cambodian Buddist monks


    Grow your teaching abilities by helping to bring English lessons to Buddhist monks in Cambodia. This project is based in Kampong Cham, and aims to improve the quality of education in the area by providing additional English classes to both novice Buddhist monks at a pagoda, and children from the local community. 

    Volunteering on this program offers insight into Buddhist philosophy and Cambodian culture. 

    10) Marine conservation expedition in Mexico

    If you’ve always dreamed of getting a PADI diving qualification, combine your training with a marine conservation project. This program will help you take your diving skills to the next level, as you explore the second largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. 

    It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the ocean’s mysteries and do your part to protect the very ecosystems you dive to see. 

    GVI offers a number of top volunteer abroad programs for adults. Browse our volunteering opportunities and find your next adventure today.

    By Zaytoen Domingo

    Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.