1 Year Volunteer Programs: The Secret to Long Term Volunteering Abroad 

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GoAbroad shares our best long term volunteer ideas

Do more of what you love, they say. So what if your one true love is volunteering abroad? Can one just be a volunteer, like, 4eva eva? How do you do find long term volunteer opportunities abroad? You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers, and we’re about to unveil every juicy secret about committed volunteering relationships.

The long and short of it is: long term volunteering abroad is Awesome-with-a-capital-A. While – contrary to popular opinion – you can indeed have too much of a good thing, 1 year volunteer programs still just scratch the surface of what you can learn from offering your time in service to world’s biggest challenges. So, if you’re ready to get out there and stick around for awhile, read on to find out how to make the most of long term volunteering abroad.

woman sitting in sunlight Magdan, Russia

Are you ready to give a year (or more) of your life in service of others? We think so!

What should I know about long term international volunteer programs?

If you’re planning to invest a year of your life in a long term international volunteer program, chances are you’ve already dipped your toes in the water of short term volunteering. Now you’re hooked, and wondering how you can stretch out your time as a volunteer for as long as possible. Check out this step-by-step guide to becoming a long term volunteer abroad.

Will it be the same as that first wonderful few weeks? Yes and no. That was the honeymoon phase, and this is the big kahuna. If short term volunteer programs are a lake (aren’t lakes cool?!), long term international volunteer programs are the great wide ocean (cool to the nth degree!). If you stick around long term, expect a deeper level of engagement with the community (or communities) you volunteer with. Plus, more time means more professional experience and opportunities to hone your skills. 

[Get matched with 1 year volunteer programs abroad]

Is long term volunteer abroad right for me?

If you can make it work with finances and commitments back home, 1 year volunteer programs are worth every second (that’s 31540000 invaluable seconds for those counting). Long term volunteering allows you to see a project through from conception to implementation to follow up. Naturally, you’ll leave a bigger impact the longer you volunteer.

If you’re on the fence, let these great resources flip you to one side or the other:

young boy in village in Sierra Leone

Community development and education benefit most from long term volunteers.

What are common projects for long term volunteer opportunities abroad?

The sky’s the limit when you decide to dedicate a year of your life to volunteering. Whether you want to volunteer on a farm in Australia or aid the elderly in Brazil, you won’t be disappointed by the mother load of long term volunteer opportunities abroad. Not sure where to start? Dive into top programs in marine biology, education, conservation, animal welfare, and refugee relief below!

Marine biology

Under threat from pollution and desertification, oceans are home to some of the world’s most exotic and mysterious creatives. Strap on your fins and goggles for a sofishticated year dedicated to protecting marine life and underwater ecosystems. Splish splash!

Recommended program: 

Education

Knowledge is power, and sharing knowledge is one of the best ways of evening the global playing field. Teach what you know – whether it’s English, sports, or quantum physics – and expect to learn just as much (if not more) from your too-cool-for-school students.

Recommended program: 

Conservation

Mother Nature provides a lot for us humans, but we rarely get a chance to give back. Head for the mountains, the desert or the tropics, and get back to your roots with long term conservation volunteering.

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Animal welfare

The animal kingdom is to be thanked for such wonders as honey, chevre, and eggs – thanks guys! Yet, worldwide, they are threatened by illegal hunting and habitat devastation. Put a paw in the game by volunteering at a wildlife refuge, rehabilitation center, or animal advocacy organization.

Recommended program: 

Refugee relief

Can you imagine being forced to leave your home due to environmental destruction, political warfare, or violent persecution? Lend your empathy and support to one of the many communities around the world in this unthinkably difficult situation. Refugee relief is ideal for long term volunteering, because 1 year volunteer programs give you time to integrate with a community and meaningfully contribute.

Recommended program: 

[Save and compare long term international volunteer programs with MyGoAbroad]

scuba diving

If you’d rather spend your time under the sea, long term marine biology volunteer placements are for you (and the fishes).

Should I do multiple projects or focus on one project during my long term volunteer abroad?

Well, friend, you are faced with two totally excellent options, that will both be wonderful, formative, and beneficial to all involved. What you choose depends on what kind of volunteer work you want to do, where you want to go, and your personality. 

Cause: Some causes, such as education or elderly care, rely heavily on building rapport and relationships, so these types of volunteering programs usually require a long term investment. Beach clean ups, construction projects, or data collection initiatives, on the other hand, are all easy to do just for a week or two. 

Destination: Sites for long term volunteering opportunities abroad are as diverse as they come – from chaotic urban neighborhoods to rural villages far in the backwoods. Bouncing between major urban centers will be a lot less costly and time-consuming than coordinating travel between remote villages around the world. If you’re driven to destinations at the end of the road, it may be better to focus on one project.

Personality: Are you a Jumbo Size or a Variety Pack kinda kid? Do you want to see the surface of everything or the depths of one thing? Do you struggle to adapt to new environments or thrive in motion? Deciding how to spend your year volunteering abroad starts with some soul searching and online personality quizzes.

[Will Volunteering Abroad Change Your Life?]

Recommended 1 year volunteer programs

Whether you’re planning to hop between multiple sites or ready to plant yourself in one place for a year, you’re spoiled for choice with 1 year volunteer programs of every shape and size. Check out these long term volunteer ideas, with an eye for programs that match your skill set and promise plenty of support (you don’t want to go a whole 365 days unsupported!). 

woman on bridge with black backpack

Conservation programs are always in need of longer-term volunteers to keep their efforts sustainable.

projects abroad logo

Medicine and Healthcare in Tanzania with Projects Abroad

A great combo of professional experience for aspiring medical students and service work, this project places volunteers at large hospitals and smaller health clinics across Tanzania. Diverse patients and the opportunity to work in many different departments are popular draws of this Projects Abroad program.

Related: Read Projects Abroad reviews | Visit their site

kaya logo

Building and Garden Volunteer Work in Cambodia with Kaya

Join local workers to build infrastructure for Cambodian NGOs doing front-line work with limited resources. Volunteers help maintain community gardens, support agricultural projects, and construct buildings for healthcare and community gatherings. Volunteering doesn’t get more hands-on than this!

Related: Read Kaya Responsible Travel reviews | Visit their site

oyster logo

Conservation Work in New Zealand with Oyster Worldwide

Help save the beautiful biodiversity of New Zealand ecosystems! Volunteers can choose from three base cities around the country, and contribute by conducting wildlife surveys, weeding, construction trails, restoring animal habitats, and collecting seeds. Spend the weekends exploring all that this real life Middle East has to offer hobbits and humans alike.

Related: Read Oyster Worldwide reviews | Visit their site

love volunteers

Animal Rescue in Albania with Love Volunteers

An animal shelter on the outskirts of the Albanian capital of Tirana is in need of a few extra paws to help out. Get a unique community orientation to this long closed-off country, and give some love to the injured, sick, and mistreated animals taken in by the shelter.

Related: Read Love Volunteers reviews | Visit their site

Alternatives to 1 year volunteer programs

If 1 year is too big of a chunk to bite off for your life right now, you’ll be delighted to know there’s more than one way to live the dream as a volunteer abroad! 

6 month volunteer programs

Going halfsies is a great way to shirk the yearlong commitment, but still get serious about long term volunteer opportunities abroad. 6 month volunteer programs abound; if you have trouble choosing, you can always cobble together your own 1 year volunteer program by opting for two 6ers!

Recommended 6 Month Volunteer Programs:

Mans hands covered in dirt

You’re always ready to get your hands a little dirty for the cause.

The Peace Corps

A unique diplomatic program, the Peace Corps sends young American professionals to countries around the world to support social and economic initiatives, primarily in underdeveloped, rural areas. If you have always dreamed of leading a health clinic in a Mongolian village or developing a permaculture program in the desert of Mauritania, joining the Peace Corp is one of the only ways to gain intimate community access to such far off regions of the globe. Volunteers (affectionately termed PCVs) start with a three month training, before spending two years at their assigned site, where they receive a limited stipend. It’s hard work, but any PCV will tell you it’s a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

International fellowships

You’ll find when you want to do good in the world, there are bigwigs out there ready to support your efforts. International fellowships are excellent opportunities to do fully-funded long term volunteering abroad. While you may not get paid, fellowships usually cover travel costs and provide a stipend for living expenses. Plus, you’ll be dialled in to a local and international network of supporters!

Short term volunteer programs

Not quite ready to throw caution to the wind and follow your volunteering dreams to the ends of the Earth? Whether you just have a day or a couple weeks, start small, and see where it takes you. Many organizations are actively looking for short term volunteers abroad!

Work or intern abroad

If you can’t afford to go unsalaried for a year, consider working or getting an internship abroad. You can still do a world of good for a business overseas just by working hard and making things happen. Plus, there’s plenty of time outside the 9-5 grind to volunteer with a local organization!

Is long term volunteering in the cards for you?

It’s certainly not for everyone. Long term volunteering takes a lot of grit, dedication, and no shortage of elbow grease, but we think you’re up for the task. So there’s no need to keep up the poker face. Your destiny awaits! Cash in your chips, and take your charitable credentials to the next level as a long term volunteer. 

Browse long term volunteer programs

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