7 Volunteer Opportunities to Consider in 2017

by Lindy Kawalsky

Are you one of those people who has considered volunteering abroad, but still hasn’t actually done it? Well let us ask you this - what are you waiting for? If the thought has crossed your mind, it surely means that deep down you feel the passion or drive to travel abroad and give back.

Let this be your sign, and let 2017 be the year for you to do it. Get on the plane and immerse yourself in something completely new, inspiring, and life-changing. Provide aid in the conservation and protection of endangered wildlife in Africa, Costa Rica, or Bali. Empower women in Kathmandu or inspire and motivate children who come from impoverished backgrounds anywhere in the world.

Get your hands dirty with new friends - all while making a real difference.

There are a wide variety of humanitarian, conservation, and wildlife projects abroad, and there are experts in the field of ecotourism to guide you in your volunteering efforts every step of the way. Therefore, the hardest part of volunteering abroad in 2017 will be deciding which project you want to join. To help you take the first step, we’ve selected seven of the top volunteer opportunities we think you should consider joining in 2017:

Girl petting a Koala in Australia
Get up close and personal with some of Australia's indigenous wildlife - including Kangaroos and Koalas

1. Wild Animal Sanctuary in Australia

As you may already know, Australia is an incredibly exciting country to visit and plays home to an array of different landscapes and unique animals. Unfortunately, due to a host of different reasons, like pollution, deforestation, and habitat destruction, many of the indigenous animals and ecosystems of this stunning country are under threat. By joining volunteers at wild animal sanctuaries in Australia, you will have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the conservation of some of Australia’s indigenous wildlife - including Koalas and Kangaroos. So if you are a passionate about conservation and have a keen interest in Australian wildlife - this is the volunteer project for you!

Lions in Zimbabwe
Majestic Lions in Zimbabwe

2. African Wildlife Orphanage

One the most incredible ways to volunteer in Africa in 2017 is to provide aid to some of the bigger animals - ranging from big cats to elephants to rhinos. From research to hands on rehabilitation, there are countless possibilities to help protect these magnificent creatures. Why NOT volunteer in Zimbabwe at an African wildlife orphanage and be afforded the opportunity to work with a range of animals, from monkeys to lions, and aid in their rehabilitation, all while making a positive impact on the African ecosystem?

Person holding a baby sea turtle
Cleaning and helping with the release of sea turtles is an incredibly gratifying experience.

3. Sea Turtle Rescue Project in Bali

If  sun, sand and crystal clear waters are more your speed, then volunteering with sea turtles on sea turtle conservation projects in Bali might be right up your alley. Visiting the idyllic island of Nusa Penida and making a genuine contribution to marine conservation efforts and the endangered sea turtle is nothing short of spectacular. As a conservation volunteer, you will play a hands on role in the rehabilitation of injured turtles, nurturing young hatching, looking after a hatchery as well as monitoring and supervising their release back to the ocean. Could anything be more rewarding?

If the ocean isn’t really your thing - and you are more interested in wildlife conservation on land - there are plenty of additional volunteer opportunities to consider in 2017 outside of the ocean, so don’t worry!

Panda lounging in the grass
Pandas are just the cutest!

4. Work at the Giant Panda Center

Visiting majestic China, for one, should undeniably be on your travel bucket list. Not only for the Chinese chess, dumplings, and Mahjong, but most importantly for the opportunity to come face to face with the striking Giant Panda, and helping to ensure its survival and the preservation of the slowly expanding population. The Giant Panda Center has been described as a panda paradise, where volunteers can partake in vital and rewarding work, including the preparation of food and cleaning of enclosures  - and maybe even panda cub viewing!

Volunteer holding a toddler in South Africa
Special moments with children at a community project in Cape Town, South Africa

5. Cape Town Community Projects

The world-renowned leader, Nelson Mandela, once said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We couldn’t agree more. Why not help educate and inspire children from impoverished backgrounds while volunteering abroad in 2017? Do your part and give back to local communities by sharing your expertise and experience with children and youth that will embrace your love and enthusiasm through any community project in Cape Town.

While teaching and education are important, so are sports and simply playing, and some community projects in Cape town allow you to do both! You could teach children and surf, what could be better? Volunteer in the classroom during the mornings, and in the afternoon hop on your board and catch some waves, keeping kids off the streets through physical activity and surfing.

Young monks playing football in Nepal
Some serious football playing while teaching buddhist monks in Kathmandu

6. Teaching in Buddhist Monasteries in Nepal

For something on the complete other side of the spectrum, you might choose to volunteer in Nepal, a magical country filled with the spiritual ideals and practices of Buddhism - an enlightenment based on the teachings of Siddhartha Guatama, more commonly known as Buddha. If you are looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life and an opportunity to discover a new, fascinating culture or community, teaching in Buddhist Monasteries in Nepal is the perfect volunteer project for you in 2017. During your time in this spiritual center, you will be living in the monastery, teaching,and exposing the monks to a new culture and the English language. What an incredible way to treat yourself as well as an entirely different and interesting community!

Girl holding a sloth on her lap
Hang out with sloths on an animal conservation project in Costa Rica.

7. Animal Rescue & Conservation in Costa Rica

If you’re still not sold and none of these destinations catch your eye, why not venture to tropical Costa Rica? You could improve your Spanish and aid in animal conservation efforts through your volunteer work in 2017. On animal rescue and conservation projects you will be able to work closely with endangered species from the tropical rainforests of the region while at the same time helping with their rehabilitation. Feeding and babysitting sloths is almost reason enough.

Regardless of your decision or where you end up, volunteering abroad in 2017 will be a life-changing experience. There is nothing quite like the reward of wholly immersing yourself in the community or environment of the place you choose to visit; so, why not make 2017 the year for you, but more importantly, the year for you to give back and really affect change in the world!?

This article is sponsored by GoEco, an organization created by experienced volunteers for people who are eager to travel and contribute to the community, wildlife, and environment they visit. Based on years of practice and in-depth field reports, GoEco presents volunteers with a careful selection of excellent yet affordable volunteer and ecological-minded vacations.