Are you feeling lost and without a purpose? When it comes to volunteering, Gandhi said it best: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” However, that doesn’t mean using volunteer travel programs as a way to feel good about yourself. If you do, then you’re missing the whole point of volunteering abroad. It’s about helping real people and dealing with real issues.
As a volunteer, you have to commit to making an actual difference in the lives of people, places, animals, and things. Be prepared to get down and dirty and to take emotional hits on the job from time to time. Instead of thinking you’re some kind of savior to these causes, adjust your expectations and figure out what you can learn from them.
However, working with international volunteer organizations doesn’t mean all work and no play. Use this time to be mindful in each moment and open yourself to the new experiences, new people you’ll be meeting, and new perspectives you’ll be learning about.
Still don’t know where you want to go to do good? Here’s a short list of the world’s best places to volunteer abroad in 2018 according to veteran volunteers and meaningful travelers.
One of the best places to volunteer is the wild and wonderful country of Australia. There’s plenty of room for volunteers in Straya, particularly in cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, and Perth. With a plethora of diverse ecosystems, environmentalism is one of the most popular ways to volunteer is Oz. Volunteers can work in conservation, trail building, and animal welfare. There’s also a high demand for volunteers for community development and grassroots campaigning in depressed urban areas.
Recommended program: Volunteer in Australia with Love Volunteers
2. United States
Americans love to volunteer and we don’t blame them. The land of opportunity is one of the best places to volunteer because it’s so vast. There are literally thousands of causes that need a helping hand. The best volunteer abroad programs for college students include environmental conservation, sustainable tourism, construction work in communities affected by natural disasters, and urban projects that focus on the poor, homeless, and vulnerable. If you can speak Spanish, you can also do translation work to help poor Mexican immigrants better integrate in American society.
Recommended program: Volunteer in the US with International Volunteer HQ
Whether you’re a water baby or a landlubber, Italy is one of the best places to volunteer abroad. Popular volunteer projects include marine conservation where volunteers help researchers study animals like dolphins. If you love to inspire young learners, you can volunteer to teach English to kids. You can also help archaeologists preserve the country’s history in famous places like Pompeii. You can even volunteer with several social welfare projects run by the Catholic church in Rome.
Recommended program: Volunteer in Italy with GoEco
Although Haiti was the first black republic in the world and the second independent nation in the Western hemisphere, it has since suffered terribly. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, only exacerbated by natural disasters and political unrest. The island is still rebuilding after the devastating earthquake in 2010, so there are plenty of volunteer travel programs to choose from here. Ways to volunteer abroad in Haiti include construction, community development, education, healthcare, and human rights.
Recommended program: Volunteer in Haiti with IMA
Japan is one of the best places to volunteer in the world. Volunteers can help in art preservation. They can also work to preserve Japan’s pristine open spaces and promote environmental research. Those who care about the elderly can work one on one with members of the most rapidly ageing population in the world. Others can help preserve the past, especially old buildings that could easily be torn down in hyper-modern Japanese society.
Recommended program: Volunteer in Japan with World Campus International
Even though Cuba was shut off from most of the world for almost half a century, it’s slowly reopening. Volunteers from around the world can help out in many ways on this Caribbean island. Education and cultural exchanges remain a popular way for volunteers to engage with Cubans. Volunteers can also work on Cuban farms and help local farmers grow tobacco, cocoa, fruits, and vegetables or help protect the natural habitats of the island’s animal species.
Recommended program: Volunteer in Cuba with IOI Adventures
Although France is one of the most developed countries in the world, it still has poor and vulnerable citizens—do your part when you sign up for volunteer travel programs in France. Volunteers can also work in education, teaching English to French students. If you’re more the outdoorsy type, there’s a lot of work to be found in French vineyards and farms in rural areas. It is one of the best places to volunteer when it comes to social work and community development in refugee and immigrant communities, particularly in Paris.
Recommended program: Volunteer in France with GeoVisions
No, you’re not dreaming. You can volunteer in one of the most spectacularly beautiful countries on planet Earth. International volunteers in Iceland often work on set projects within work camps that connect like-minded travelers. Because the country is a hotbed of seismic activity, it’s one of the best places to volunteer regarding preservation of the natural environment. Volunteers can also work with young people in Reykjavik or at local festivals like Saga Festival and Neistaflug.
Recommended program: VFP's Iceland volunteer project
Believe it or not but this European country needs volunteers. If you look hard enough, you can find some of the best volunteer abroad programs for college students in Ireland. It’s one of the best places to volunteer in areas like care for the elderly and homeless, community development, youth work, education, and social work. To keep the Emerald Isle green, lots of work also needs to be done to tackle pollution, dwindling animal populations, and environmental degradation.
Recommended program: Volunteer in Ireland with Connect-123
10. New Zealand
New Zealand is the stuff of LOTR fantasies but it’s also one of the best places to volunteer abroad. The country offers some of the best volunteer abroad programs for college students who major in environmental science. Kiwis welcome volunteers who want to help preserve the North and South Islands’ wildlife, rainforests, and coastal areas by working with animals or planting trees. Others can help out with programs that focus on social work, caregiving, teaching, and community development.
Recommended program: Volunteer in New Zealand with Travel for Teens
BONUS! Top TYPES of volunteer projects
Not only did we collect data on where the world’s best places to volunteer abroad are according to our search data, we also found some awesome trends about the top types of volunteer projects. For these volunteers, destination comes second so long as their program involves…
- Animal Welfare
- Refugee Relief
- Biological Research
- Renewable Energy
- Social Services/Social Work
A note from GoAbroad
We’d like to thank our community for not only inspiring us daily, but for also giving us enough insight to share accurate predictions for meaningful travel in 2018.
Learn more about our research methodology, recommended programs, and links here.
Browse more of our report on international volunteering—broken down by region
- Best Countries to Volunteer Abroad in Europe 2018
- Best Countries to Volunteer Abroad in the Americas for 2018
- Best Countries to Volunteer Abroad in Africa in 2018
- Best Countries to Volunteer Abroad in the South Pacific & Asia for 2018
- See ALL top destinations for ALL travel