5 Causes to Support as a Volunteer in Malaysia

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Malaysia is an absolutely stunning country: with its white sandy beaches, lush rainforests, and awesome animal species popping up all over the place (helloooo elephants!), it’s easy to see why so many people visit here. However, areas of Malaysia also need a lot of help, and those thinking about volunteering abroad can do a lot of service in this small country. So, where to start?

5 Causes to Support as a Volunteer in Malaysia

There are tons of causes to get involved with as a volunteer, Malaysia could use support from caring folks like you in education, animal conservation, construction, and don’t forget (as Zoolander and Mugatu brought to our attention) child labor is still a huge issue. So, how do you pick when there are so many ways to get involved? Here are our top five causes to support as a volunteer in Malaysia:


In Malaysia, deforestation is a huge issue and there are plenty of programs seeking to halt/reverse the effects of deforestation. Increasing human populations and subsequent destruction of natural habitats are constant in Malaysia, leading to about 15 percent of all species here becoming endangered. Not to mention, too, the other environmental issues that arise with cutting down huge sections of rainforests and harming other types of natural areas that might put a quick buck in someone’s pockets, but will harm later generations when they have no natural resources left to live off of. Yikes!

There is a lot that you, as a volunteer in Malaysia, can do to further reforestation efforts, from working with local activist chapters to physically going into the rainforests and studying wildlife corridor connections. Many forms of flora and fauna, as well as incredible animal species, are at a constant risk of survival here, and volunteers with all types of backgrounds and skills are needed.

Volunteer Programs to Check Out: Whether you’re a hard-hitting future politician or a nature-lover inspired by The Giving Tree, your skills can be put to use as a volunteer in Malaysia. A couple of our favorite volunteer programs are through Travellers Worldwide and Oyster Worldwide, where volunteers can work in local rainforests and live amongst native villagers. Talk about an immersive experience!

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Preserve the beautiful Malaysian landscape as a volunteer in Malaysia.

Teaching English

Even though Malaysia used to be an English colony, very little of the population speaks English fluently today. The official language in Malaysia is Bahasa Malay, and definitely the most spoken throughout the country, followed by Mandarin, Cantonese, and Tamil. There is a huge language gap that volunteers can help fill by teaching English in Malaysia.

The Malaysian government has recently been addressing this, hoping to promote English learning, and not just throughout high schools in Malaysia, so locals can communicate better with other countries and cultures. This means there are awesome opportunities for those weirdos who love grammar (guilty) and want to make a real difference among both children and adults. The ideal thing about teaching English in Malaysia is that despite several other languages being more popular, volunteers here usually aren’t expected to speak any of the local languages—though it never hurts to brush up. Some volunteer programs do require volunteers to be TEFL or TESOL certified, so check the descriptions carefully!

Volunteer Programs to Check Out: Regardless of if you dream of teaching in a bustling city or deep in a jungle village, there are options available for all education volunteers. We recommend Travellers Worldwide specifically, for its flexible requirements and volunteer support, but feel free to get more creative! Teaching English in Malaysia is one of the best ways to learn about their culture from the inside and help locals develop a concrete skill, and there are unlimited ways to do this!

Batu Caves Temple, Malaysia, young Malaysian girl with a small metal jug on her head

Animal Welfare

It is no secret that many tourism-heavy countries around the world exploit their native animals to attract more visitors. Whether it be elephants in Thailand or lions in South Africa, tourism is harming many types of “exotic” animals, and unfortunately, Malaysia is no different. Despite its size, Malaysia has had ongoing issues with many types of animals for several different reasons: elephants being poisoned to protect nearby crops, orangutans dying from an unsustainable food source due to deforestation, generations of sea turtles getting wiped out from a loss of nesting habitats and excessive egg collecting, and the obvious poaching of rhinos just to make some money from their horns. Needless to say, there’s a lot that can be done here to help our furry friends!

If you get teary-eyed during March of the Penguins and feel like you have a special connection to animals a la Dr. Dolittle, it probably means the cause you should support as a volunteer in Malaysia is animal welfare. Regardless of the species, the main threats that most animals face in Malaysia come from either the loss of their natural habitat or individuals being removed from the wild, so there are many volunteer programs that focus on conservation and/or rehabilitation. Depending on the nature of the work, some volunteer programs in Malaysia require participants to have previous animal science knowledge, especially if you will be working in animal rehabilitation and health, so check the program requirements carefully!

Volunteer Programs to Check Out: Because there are so many animals that need help in Malaysia, volunteers have their pick of awesome programs to get involved with - and we have a few favorites! For those land-lovers, check out program opportunities offered by Oyster Worldwide or Gapforce. If you’d rather get your feet wet, look into some of the marine conservation programs provided by Globalteer or Kaya Responsible Travel. Just make sure that whatever program you choose is clear about how your efforts will help the animals at hand for the long-term, as anyone could set Nemo free but that doesn’t guarantee he would get home to the anemone!

Close-up of monkey in Malaysian forest
Don’t monkey around when you work as an animal welfare and conservation volunteer.

Community Development

There’s no denying this: much of Malaysia is impoverished and needs help. From cleaning up existing villages and cities to helping to develop new and improved ways of living, volunteers are needed in a wide variety of fields within community development. Whether teaching young children about recycling or putting on a tool belt and getting down to business is more your thing, there is a need for your help here.

Most community development volunteer programs do not have specific requirements for potential volunteers, so if you’re looking to get involved without a defined skillset, check out some of these community development programs. Most aim to support and continue developing the livelihoods of people within these poorer communities, so education, health, environmental awareness, and improved infrastructure are all areas that need volunteers. Even if your arena of focus is something as specific as helping women obtain financial independence, we can guarantee you’ll be making a difference.

Volunteer Programs to Check Out: Because of this region’s economic and social needs, volunteers can work in a lot of different fields and still make a big impact. We recommend Frontier’s community development program, which focuses on education, women’s support, and beach cleaning and recycling.

Girl in hijab on plantation in Malaysia
Work with local communities and foster community development and engagement.


Like any impoverished country, there is always a need for healthcare, nutrition, medicine, and rehabilitation help. Between offering nutritional guidance to families, helping to administer medication, and caring for those with physical or mental disabilities, healthcare volunteers have their work cut out for them in Malaysia. The eligibility requirements for health-related volunteer programs vary greatly depending on the work, so make sure you’re signing up for something that you can actually handle!

Volunteer Programs to Check Out: Especially in the healthcare volunteer arena, if a program sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You wouldn’t want someone who has no prior knowledge about medicine telling you what to put in your body, and chances are, people in Malaysia feel the same way. One of our top health volunteer programs in Malaysia is offered by Travellers Worldwide, where you can care for disabled women and children in many different ways, so those with little to no prior healthcare experience, rejoice!

hospital hallway
As a healthcare volunteer in Malaysia, you could be serving in hospitals in larger cities, or in small rural clinics.

Lend a Hand & Volunteer in Malaysia

As an international volunteer in Malaysia, you’ll have plenty of opportunities and some very powerful causes to focus on, so regardless of your background or goals, there is a program out there that is right for you. Malaysia may be known for its beautiful beaches and touristy sites of ancient ruins, but beneath the tourism board’s marketing schemes there are people, animals, and natural habitats that need the help of passionate and adventurous volunteers. Be sure to read online reviews, reach out to providers and program alumni, and use MyGoAbroad to compare programs side-by-side before selecting one. Then, pack your hiking boots and sunscreen and get ready to make a difference as a volunteer in Malaysia!

KEEP READING: Do You Have What it Takes to Volunteer Abroad?

Topic:  Before You Go