“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
Those words may have been originally uttered by the incomparable Mark Twain, but we’re taking it one step further by identifying places where not only can charitable views be developed, but charitable works can be accomplished as well. We share the mindset that travel is fundamentally good and are adding in some more enticement for the do-gooder.
If you’ve always longed to give back to the destinations you’re visiting as a tourist, then a volunteer abroad program is the perfect solution. And if you’re eager to avoid the well-trodden paths of other civically-minded expats, you’re in luck — from women’s clinics in Cambodia to climate research in the Arctic, we’ve got you covered. From the Australian Outback to the Himalayas, read on for nine of the most unique volunteer abroad opportunities for adventurous travelers looking to expand their horizons while giving back to local communities.
(Image of Panama provided by Adobe Stock)
Forgo the more popular Central American destination of Costa Rica, and spend your volunteer abroad experience in Panama. With an emphasis on community development and outdoor education (including several partnerships with Outward Bound), Panama is the perfect unexpected volunteer abroad destination for the curious and outdoorsy traveler. Inspiring community development programs in Panama include Surf for Life in Bocas del Toro and Amigas de las Americas in Coclé.
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Fiji is synonymous with luxury and romance, but you don’t need to be a billionaire to volunteer abroad in the Fijian islands, as there are several affordable programs from trusted organizations such as the International Volunteer HQ and Projects Abroad. Fiji features many exciting volunteer experiences to pursue, including various options focused on marine conservation in the famously gorgeous aquatic paradise — Think Pacific being a particularly popular option. Whether you’re working in conservation or humanitarian efforts, there’s something for everyone on this idyllic island in the Pacific.
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Home to the magnificent Himalayan mountains and the densely forested Chitwan jungle, Nepal is a nation of immense diversity. There’s never a wrong time to travel abroad to Nepal, but post-lockdown, it’s a particularly enticing time to spend a long vacation in this breathtakingly gorgeous and inspiring South Asian nation. Projects Abroad offer an array of opportunities to give back during your stay, though we highly suggest an excursion in the Himalayas with GIVE Volunteers. You can’t be in the land of Mount Everest without climbing to its foothills, at least.
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Though Australia is always a popular destination for traveling overseas, the past few years have offered significant opportunities for travelers looking to help rebuild and conserve the nation’s natural environment and protect its wildlife, including GoEco’s program at the Wildlife Animal Sanctuary. Given the devastation of the recent wildfires in Australia, now is the time to sign up for volunteer programs dedicated to environmental conservation — we recommend Ocean 2 Earth’s Outback Wilderness Conservation & Cultural Preservation program, in particular. Volunteer programs centered around caring for the native wildlife will be of particular interest, as nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced during the bushfires of 2019. Check out Fronteering’s project at the Koala Sanctuary to spend time with one of the nation’s most beloved inhabitants.
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Whether you’re interested in fighting climate change, teaching English, or preserving marine life, there’s no shortage of opportunities for travelers looking to give back in Cambodia. Programs devoted to animal conservation in Southeast Asia are conducted by Operation Groundswell. We recommend volunteering with women while visiting Cambodia, as the nation’s extreme poverty (almost half the population lives on $2 a day) has caused an environment of increased gender-based violence. We suggest volunteering with SHE Rescue Home at an after-care facility in Phnom Penh for girls between the ages of five to 16 who have been trafficked or are otherwise at risk.
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Located along the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa, Ghana is becoming increasingly popular for visitors. It is a safe nation to visit (with a stable democracy) and an array of exploration and education opportunities. From forts and castles to beaches and baboons, there’s no shortage of diversions for visitors. And this extends to its volunteer programs in Ghana, as well, which are affordable and diverse. Atlas Volunteers in particular offers low-cost, meaningful programs throughout the nation.
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Located in southeastern Africa, Malawi is a fascinating place to volunteer overseas thanks to its unique combination of medical and outdoor adventure programs. Fromhelp2kids offers the opportunity to volunteer at schools and a clinic during your stay, while Malawian Style and Naturally Africa Volunteers focus on opportunities on Lake Malawi. But whether your focus is on teaching, healthcare, or the environment, volunteers are sure to find their perfect fit at one of the many programs available in the African nation.
(Image of Machu Picchu provided by Adobe Stock)
Peru is always a popular destination for visitors, thanks to its gorgeous mountains and beaches, amusing wildlife (llamas and alpacas and more), and rich cultural history. From the Andes to the Amazon, Peru has it all, as well as a myriad of volunteer programs that span both price-point and interest. You can focus on teaching English, or environmental research, with Volunteers Peru or head to the Andes for opportunities via IVHQ in Cusco. Just don’t be surprised if you fall so in love with the country — and the llamas and the alpacas — that you never want to leave.
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Canada is a reliably popular place to volunteer abroad, and its accessibility and nearness to the US make it particularly enticing as the pandemic seems to wax and wane in the past few months and years. Whether you’re interested in wildlife rehabilitation, sustainability, or environmental research, there’s something for everyone in selecting Canadian volunteer programs. Canada is famously wild and pristine in many parts of the country and never is this more apparent than in the far north. Experience groundbreaking Arctic research options with Earthwatch Institute by signing up for Climate Change at the Arctic's Edge, easily one of the most fascinating and worthwhile endeavors one could pursue in the coming year.