7 *Practically* Free Summer Volunteer Programs for High School

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If you’ve ever Googled “How to volunteer abroad for free” then welcome, you’re among friends. Those first few search results always lure you in with ambitious, but fleeting promises that never seem to really be free. So what’s the skinny on how to volunteer abroad this summer without saying RIP to your savings? Stay tuned!

teen girls on a beach taking photos
Make a difference this summer.

Can I volunteer abroad for free as a teenager?

While any international escapade can easily cost you an arm and a leg (and maybe a non-vital organ), teenage summer volunteer programs do not have to be financially impossible. Even if there’s no free lunch, there are still ways to significantly cut costs and find practically free summer volunteer programs for high school students. 

So, are there free volunteer trips for high school students? Not really. But, once you start to comprehend how volunteer programs fees are distributed, you start to recognize why you should pay to volunteer abroad. The reason to pay to volunteer abroad becomes not only obvious, but you can start to work out what you actually want to pay for. Remember to look at your upcoming volunteering voyage as an investment in your future and keep in mind that no one can put a dollar amount on this kind of experience! 

Summer volunteer programs for high school students abroad typically charge volunteers a set amount in fees (what you’re trying to avoid). What’s included will vary from program to program, but most will cover accommodation, meals, insurance, any training, and a sense of purpose. On some volunteer projects abroad, your fees are spent more on giving you a quality experience through things like food, housing, and staff support, while some are more focused on giving money to the projects. Make sure you’re asking these questions early on to find out where your money goes. 

Okay, so I can’t quite do that. What about free room and board?

Maybe…but here are other ways to minimize costs to get closer to practically free summer volunteer programs for high school students. 

  • Bank of Mom and Dad. Go in there with your power outfit and best Shark Tank pitch and let them know you have an “opportunity” for them. Assure them that instead of partying around the world, hopping from one touristic city to another, you will be doing meaningful work with volunteer summer programs for high school students, and they have the chance to invest in something world changing. 
  • Scholarships. Volunteer abroad scholarships are real! Apply early and often to any scholarships, fellowships, or grants you can find to score that golden ticket to free volunteer trips for high school students abroad.
  • Crowdfunding. Ride that gravy train. Websites like FundMyTravel are a great platform to bring friends, family, and others (hopefully with deeper pockets) in on the action and make summer volunteer programs for high school students abroad more affordable. Basically any like-minded do-gooder that thinks you’re a cool humanoid with a rad plan can donate!
  • Get a job. A part-time gig for minimum wage might not seem like much, but if you stick to a budget it can add up quickly. At the end of the day, saving your money just makes the most cents… 
Multiple children in Ghana

Their our lives in Ghana waiting to be changed with your help. ✨

7 affordable summer volunteer programs for high school students

You may not be able to find absolutely free summer volunteer programs for high school students, but here are a few that won’t set you back too far:

IVHQ logo

1. Volunteer in Ghana with IVHQ

International Volunteer HQ arranges safe, responsible, and inexpensive volunteer programs around the globe. Ghana is one of the best locations for high school students to do a summer volunteer program. A wide range of volunteering placements are available during the summer for high school students to put their best skills to use in Ghana. Volunteers can choose from working with orphans, teaching, medical treatment and education, agriculture, and teaching sports. Work in the beautiful coastal city of Accra or the rural villages in the Ghanaian countryside.

Projects Abroad logo

2. Volunteer in Nepal with Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad aims to encouraging young people to volunteer in worthwhile projects in developing countries and makes it financially feasible. This program is structured to give you an incredible insight into medical practices in Nepal. Your project will begin in the intriguing Nepalese capital Kathmandu where medical volunteers will spend time in a clinic and visit a number of different hospital departments. Volunteers may also get the opportunity to visit a multi-specialty hospital in Chitwan and take part in lectures at the local teaching hospital. Over the weekend you may have the chance to visit the central markets and local temples of Kathmandu as well as explore the beautiful nature reserve of Chitwan National Park.

Volunteering Solutions logo

3. Volunteer in Costa Rica with Volunteering Solutions

Every participant can rest assured that going abroad with Volunteering Solutions will be safe, affordable, and one of the highest quality international experiences they could ever dream of. Join them in Costa Rica and spend your days caring for the community, organizing fun games and activities, and providing social and emotional support to children. Community care centers and orphanages in Costa Rica are often understaffed, so volunteers have the opportunity to provide much-needed support and make a significant impact.

Two parrots on tree

It’s all about Pura Vida (pure life) in Costa Rica—the good vibes will definitely be felt during your high school summer volunteer program.

Love Volunteers logo

4. Volunteer in Peru with Love Volunteers

Love Volunteers provide the most cost-effective way to volunteer and help local communities in developing countries around the world. This summer, join in on a program in Peru and make a lasting impact on the lives of children and young people in the community. The help of volunteers is very useful in supporting the teachers in the classroom with all day-to-day activities as well at working with individual students. For the volunteers there are also always opportunities to come up with their own ideas and help out with extra-curricular activities. Volunteers are truly are needed and appreciated at these projects that give some cute kiddos the care, attention, and most importantly, the companionship they need.

GVI logo

5. Volunteer in Thailand with GVI

Experience a side of Thailand that many tourists miss out on when you join up with a GVI high school team. Based in the picturesque town of Phang Nga, you will be contributing to various sustainable construction projects, while learning the local language and exploring the boundless natural beauty the country has to offer. Specifically designed for high school volunteers, this project gives young do-gooders an impactful insight into global volunteering, immersing them into the local community’s culture and enriching their knowledge of the world around them. Plus, GVI even offers scholarships!

GoEco logo

6. Volunteer in Mexico with GoEco

GoEco offers ecological and humanitarian programs that connect volunteers passionate about wildlife and conservation. They offer one of the best affordable volunteer experiences across the globe. Volunteer with GoEco in Mexico to make a positive impact on their marine ecosystems. Begin your volunteer abroad experience by becoming PADI certified or expanding your current dive skills before diving into the volunteer work. Volunteer work includes participating in survey dives, data collection, species identification and more. Between the two weeks of the project, there will be organized excursions. Past excursions have included visits to theme parks, Mayan villages, and Mayan ruins.

The Experiment in International Living logo

7. Volunteer in Argentina with The Experiment in International Living

Experience Argentina through a month of outdoor activities, community service, and Spanish language classes with The Experiment in International Living. This summer program allows high school students to connect deeply and engage meaningfully with the diversity and complexities of another country. You not only will be equipped with essential cultural and language skills, but also with a deeper awareness of and sensitivity to global issues shaping the communities and will come away with invaluable new skills, connections, awareness, and knowledge to thrive and lead in intercultural environments. The Experiment in International Living also offers need-based financial aid to students as well as a significant amount of scholarships. 

[Compare volunteer programs easily with MyGoAbroad]

Tuk Tuk in Bangkok, Thailand

You’ve got the eye of the Thai-ger. Channel that spirit on your summer volunteer program!

Other types of low cost teenage volunteer summer programs to consider

1. At hospitals

In many parts of the world, access to medical care is a dream rather than a reality. Even if you haven’t been to med school (yet), opportunities for volunteering abroad in hospitals abound, whether assisting in med administration, providing information to patients, or simply caring for who would otherwise be neglected. No matter what, there’s no doubt that summer volunteer programs for high school students in hospitals have an incredibly large and noticeable impact on the community they are serving.

[Browse all hospital summer volunteer programs for teens]

2. With animals

Animal volunteering abroad is great for teens interested in veterinary medicine, zoology, or even for those with just a deep love for animals. Animal welfare programs abroad can vary greatly, but many programs are centered on preventing or minimizing illegal wildlife trade or habitat destruction due to environmental degradation. Volunteers are needed around the world to work with animals in wildlife sanctuaries or rehabilitation centers, conduct research, promote animal rights, or help educate communities.

[Browse all animal welfare summer volunteer programs for teens]

3. Construction

From building homes to repairing water sanitation facilities, construction volunteer projects provide volunteers with a tangible sense of accomplishment while giving them the chance to explore a new corner of the world. Whether you’re a licensed contractor with decades of experience or a well-intentioned newbie who doesn’t know a hammer from a T-square, there is a construction project out there with your name on it.

[Browse all construction summer volunteer programs for teens]

Colors of Nepal flag against white mountain

Getting a side job to afford the views in Nepal is definitely well worth it. 👍🏽

Next steps to finding summer volunteer opportunities

Okay, so you’ve figured out you are actual capable of pulling this off. When you are ready to dive into the logistics and make it happen, check out these helpful resources to get the ball rolling:

With all of these weapons in your arsenal, there’s no reason you won’t be able to embark on the summer volunteer program of your dreams!

Have your best break from school yet with teenage volunteer summer programs

Festive Mexican street view

It’ll be hard to Mexi (go) when your program ends. 😔

In conclusion, yes—you can save the world and save some green. There’s need to go broke on your quest to making a positive impact in the world. Even though you will have to shell out a little dough, money spent volunteering abroad is never wasted. Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. 

Find Teenage Volunteer Summer Programs Now