The Philippines: A Booming Volunteer Hotspot

by Christopher Franks

A hop across the South China Sea from Vietnam and Thailand, the Philippines has long been too far off Asia’s beaten path to attract the same number of volunteers as its landlocked neighbors. However, in recent years, the number of people volunteering in the Philippines has been steadily rising.

Construction volunteering in the Philippines

Several factors have contributed to this trend. These include: the Philippine government spending more on its tourist industry; more accessible and affordable regional travel options; and a surge of activity and marketing efforts coordinated between local non-government organizations (NGOs) and international partners. Interest and participation in volunteer abroad programs in the Philippines have climbed. A GoAbroad.com study found that in the last three years, 32% more people participated in structured volunteer projects in the island nation. 

The country's growing popularity is not a big mystery. Thanks in part to its hospitable people — many of whom speak English as a second or even first language — the Philippines accommodates foreign visitors very well indeed. International volunteers in the Philippines cite the country’s natural beauty, tropical climate, affordable economy, and familiarity with English as reasons why they traveled to the Philippines to volunteer abroad. Its ecological diversity is perfect for anyone interested in marine and rainforest conservation. The island nation boasts some of the world’s best diving spots, an enticing attraction for adventure travelers.

What are the Most Popular Volunteer Projects in the Philippines?

Despite some recent economic improvements, the Philippines continues to face socioeconomic hardships as 1 in 3 citizens live below the poverty line, making less than $1 per day. Access to basic health care, education, and social welfare support continues to be a daily struggle for numerous Filipino families.

Volunteer for the Visayans Cangumbang Community Center in the Philippines

Public Health. In recent years the growth of public health volunteers in the Philippines have dramatically increased. Many volunteer projects focus on fundamental needs such as basic nutrition. The multi-faceted volunteer organization Volunteer for the Visayans (VFV), located in the central region of the Philippines, says about 58% of its volunteers are engaged in public health activities. Its Nutrition Public Health Project is VFV’s most popular volunteer program. “Our Nutrition Public Health Project has been progressively getting more and more popular since it was launched in 2009,” says VFV director Wimwim Canayong. “We have a lot of international interest in the project, and are beginning to formalize more academic partnerships with universities in Europe, the United States, and Australia, who want to get involved in this type of public health work.” 

Child Welfare. Thousands of abandoned children live precariously on the streets and in overcrowded orphanages in the Philippines. As local NGOs and government organizations attempt to address their monumental needs, volunteer projects have stepped up to help these children, many of whom struggle with health, education, and psychological problems. 

Ecology. As the Philippines begins to move from a traditional agriculture-based economy to an industrial one, the threat of damage and destruction to its fragile ecosystem is becoming a major concern. Programs coordinated by companies like Coral Cay, which aims to promote marine and coastline conservation, remain strong.

Who Volunteers in the Philippines?

While the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia have led the way in volunteers to the Philippines, recent years have shown an increase in volunteering from its Asian neighbors including Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The Philippines have begun to draw an increase in volunteers from other parts of the world, including the Middle East and Scandinavia. 

Due to a combination of an overall industry trend, and the strong attraction of public health and child welfare projects, the Philippines is a popular destination for solo female volunteers.

Filipino child in the Philippines

With a rich and vibrant culture, the Philippines promises to continue growing as a volunteer hotspot.