The Top 10 Countries to Volunteer Abroad in 2018

by Published

And why its important to volunteer abroad in 2018

Has there been a single person on the planet to have gotten by without someone else’s help? (Hint: It’s a rhetorical question). Yes, even lifelong hermits are raised past infancy by another person. Humans are social creatures, and by nature we rely on others in a variety of ways. Even what we know now comes from our ancestors’ trial and error!

Although the superheroes who teleport across a city in the blink of an eye to save a little girl on a tricycle from incoming traffic are unfortunately fiction, volunteers can give Superman a run for his money. Fighting world hunger, saving entire species, and educating the next generation are just some ways that remind us why volunteers are the best people in the world.

Not everyone has their sights on globetrotting, but if you do, think about giving back to humanity the next time your itchy feet send you overseas. Sometimes having a little extra help from abroad can bring a community leaps and bounds into a sustainable future. It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student, parent, working professional, or silver fox, there are volunteer programs abroad for adventurous do-gooders of all shapes and sizes. Harness your international curiosity and travel the world for a purpose bigger than yourself.

Lend a hand, join the ranks of international heroes, and volunteer abroad in 2018!

Where should I volunteer abroad?

If you are wondering where to start, we’ve got you covered. After mulling over what kind of volunteer position will leave you daydreaming, it’s all about location, location, location. We’ve plucked out the top 10 countries to volunteer abroad in 2018 from all of the world’s amazing countries to help you get started!

1. Morocco

Bazaar in Morocco
Spice up your vacation by volunteering in Morocco

Past Morocco’s cosmopolitan and financial heart, Casablanca, lies a world far removed from the glamorous white boulevards of Hollywood’s timeless black and white film. Volunteering in the large cities, such as Rabat and Tangier, will give you opportunities to work with children in orphanages or assist at local schools near bustling bazaars and imposing mosques. Rural areas in Morocco provide a truly immersive experience to volunteer in Morocco’s least developed areas, in fields such as public health and women’s empowerment.

Pros:

Although the Moroccan government has been fighting hard to improve human rights and living conditions for its citizens, there is still tons of room for improvement in education, healthcare, and the poverty rate. Volunteers in Morocco will find a variety of areas where their help is genuinely welcomed.

Cons:

As Morocco follows conservative Islamic customs and laws, volunteers should be mindful of their conduct and dress, especially when it comes to interaction between sexes and dressing for the heat.

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

2. Mexico

Boys playing on a tire swing
Swing into Mexico to volunteer

Nothing screams Mexico like piña coladas on the beach and destination weddings with flip-flop clad guests. Mexico may be paradise for the fortunate crowd of international tourists flocking to Mayan pyramids and beach-side bars each year, but life is a bit different for the inhabitants on the other side of the resort walls. Skip the tourism this time, become a part of the community, and volunteer in Mexico in marine conservation projects, community development, or health care.

Pros:

Bueno, bonito, y barato”, meaning “good, pretty, and cheap”, is a motto in Spanish that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Mexico. Apart from getting amazing quality in hospitality and mouthwatering food for a bargain price, there’s an endless list of reasons why Mexico is the place to volunteer.

Cons:

Despite Mexico’s cartels and drug related violence appearing as a hot topic on the news in recent years, international tourism is up and more people are now enjoying Mexico’s dreamy beaches and rich culture. Keep up-to-date with travel warnings on the U.S. Department of State’s website to know which areas to avoid and practice common sense.

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

3. Fiji

Two Fijians in traditional ceremonial dress
Try your hand at the magic conch shell in Fiji

Make a difference on one of the over 300 islands in Fiji’s archipelago by volunteering in marine conservation or eco-tourism projects! Aspiring educators will also find plenty of programs to volunteer teaching English in schools or coaching sports. After a fulfilling day of work, rehydrate with Fiji’s famed artesian water right from its source, snorkel in coral reefs, or time travel with a step across the International Date Line.

Pros:

Because Fiji was under British rule for almost 100 years until the 1970s, English is one of the official languages and is widely used. Even though you’ll be oceans away from the nearest country, you won’t have a language barrier.

Cons:

Although many volunteer programs will include housing and some meals as part of the bundled fee, airfare is typically not included. Fiji’s remoteness and distance from the mainland can make the airfare a bit pricy for volunteers on a budget.

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

4. Peru

Two women on the street in Peru
Lend a hand to underserved communities in Peru

The misty peaks surrounding Machu Picchu far above the Sacred Valley are guaranteed to take your breath away, and not just because of altitude sickness. Peru’s countless UNESCO world heritage sites and mystique surrounding lost civilizations tucked into the Andes are just the beginning of why you should volunteer in Peru. Many Peruvians suffer from blaring social and economic inequalities, making community development and construction projects popular volunteering picks.

Pros:

Tons of nonprofit organizations have popped up across Peru in a variety of areas with the aim to assist in the betterment of human development. No matter what your volunteer interests are, you won’t be limited by choice in Peru.

Cons:

Inconsistent weather, dirty drinking water, and nonexistent toilet paper are just a few bumps in the road that volunteers in Peru may face. Inconveniences aside, remember your time volunteering isn’t a glamorous vacation, but rather a chance to help others!

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

5. Haiti

Children surrounding a volunteer in Haiti
Rebuild Haiti in the wake of natural disasters

Despite a fighting spirit, proud history of independence, and a richly diverse culture, Haiti has faced political turmoil and natural devastation since the start of the 21st century that has left the Caribbean nation reeling. Rebuilding efforts are still underway to recover from 2010’s massive earthquake that claimed lives and infrastructure. Help Haitians get back up on their feet by volunteering abroad in Haiti on construction, disaster relief, or environmental projects.

Pros:

Although the earthquake’s destruction is off the media’s radar several years down the road, tropical storms and hurricanes have continued to plague Haiti and stall rebuilding efforts. Volunteering in Haiti will provide much needed relief, especially after the latest Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Cons:

Even if you volunteer with good intentions, being unprepared for your project and the situation at hand can do more harm than good, which was sometimes the case with recent volunteers flocking to Haiti’s shores. Carefully select a volunteer program and inform yourself as much as possible to have the greatest impact and not waste resources.

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

6. Australia

Koala in a tree
Get up close and personal with the wildlife in Australia

What role do volunteers have in a highly urbanized, developed country that enjoys a high standard of living and the world’s second highest human development index? Any glimpse at photos or National Geographic documentaries of Australia reveal how incredibly well endowed the land down under is with wildlife and Mother Nature’s gifts. Australia is any nature-lover’s dream; you can volunteer in marine conservation, help protect the environment, or assist in the rehabilitation of wildlife.

Pros:

When you’re not conducting research in the Great Barrier Reef or feeding wombats, you’ll find plenty of adventure and diversions to keep yourself busy throughout Australia.

Cons:

There’s no getting around the fact that Australia is a pricy country to travel and volunteer in. Although volunteer programs in Australia may cover basic housing and some meals, budget any additional expenses before making the plunge.

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

7. Romania

Romanian children doing a folk dance
Work in bear conservation or the several orphanages in need in Romania

Ever since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Romania has been pulling itself out of the shadow of communism and developing its free market economy and making a name for itself in the European Union. Help disadvantaged people through community development or give a nurturing hand at orphanages. Romania’s enormous brown bear population also makes it an ideal location for volunteering in animal conservation to protect these furry giants.

Pros:

From the legend of Dracula to an era behind the Iron Curtain, Romania has been shrouded in mystery for centuries and now’s a better time than ever to discover what’s been hiding in this Eastern European country!

Cons:

There aren’t too many downsides to volunteering in Romania, but do be aware that some Romanians in rural areas might only have had minimum exposure to foreigners (especially after a closed-off 40 years of Communist rule). Keep in mind that attitudes can be quite conservative compared to back home.

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

8. South Africa

Bonfire on top of a mountain
Ignite some goodwill in South Africa

During his historic presidency, Nelson Mandela described his country as the “Rainbow Nation”, highlighting South Africa’s proudly vibrant cultural diversity after a turbulent era of apartheid and division. Many volunteer programs in South Africa today focus on the betterment and aid of the underserved communities still disadvantaged from a not so distant history. Health care, education, and social work are popular choices for humanitarian projects, while wildlife conservation is a given out in rural grasslands and animal sanctuaries.

Pros:

South Africa has 11 distinct official languages, but luckily English is widely spoken and understood so you can maximize your volunteering efficiency and rely less on interpreters.

Cons:

Abundant with safaris, hikeable nature reserves, beaches, and vibrant traditions, South Africa is a prime tourist destination. While having some fun and exploring the country during a volunteer project abroad is encouraged, don’t lose sight of the true reason you choose to volunteer in South Africa. Volunteering shouldn’t be an excuse for cheap travel, so ensure your priorities are placed soundly on helping before satisfying your own adventurous appetite.

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

9. China

Volunteers participating in a parade in China
Learn about and work alongside minority groups in China

In a country housing roughly 20 percent of the world’s population, the volunteering possibilities go far beyond cuddling Giant Pandas in breeding facilities. In fact, conservation efforts have successfully kicked off the Giant Panda from the endangered species list! With everyone’s favorite gentle giant safe and sound, volunteers can shift their focus to various other exciting projects with orphans or teaching English to local children.

Pros:

Well it’s unrealistic to think that a few days or weeks volunteering in China will profounding impact the entire population, your service can leave a mark on individuals with ripple effects for years to come.

Cons:

If you’re a first time volunteer in China, don’t let culture shock get the best of you. At the surface, the Chinese culture and language may seem completely foreign, but there are several tools of the trade to help enhance your volunteer experience to become closer to the communities you’re working alongside.

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

10. Thailand

Women doing a traditional Thai dance
Get showered in happiness in the Land of Smiles

Legendary eye-watering peppers and fragrant scents of steaming street food just scratch the surface of this warm, smiling Kingdom. Popular with budgeting backpackers and ravenous foodies, Thailand has been creeping onto everyone’s bucket list recently for voluntourism projects and adventure. Volunteering in this tropical paradise will expose you to crazy inspiring opportunities, whether in teaching English, environmental conservation, or a range of other causes.

Pros:

How many other countries give you a chance to directly volunteer with elephants, while also contributing to the protection of Thailand’s national symbol? Unfortunately, elephants have been historically abused and exploited for humans’ entertainment and as a means of income, but picking the right volunteer program to work with elephants can reserve some of these trends and protect these intelligence creatures.

Cons:

Before making a beeline for Pad Thai and elephant hugs, hold your horses and take some time to learn about the real Thailand past what’s written in your local Thai food restaurant’s menu. There are several things you should consider before volunteering in Thailand to ensure it’s the right fit for you.

Awe-inspiring Volunteer Programs Abroad:

Inspired to help others while bettering yourself?

Volunteering abroad, if done correctly with the right organizations, doesn’t just bring benefit to communities and individuals abroad. International experiences and philanthropy can translate into sought-after skills for a future career or personal growth. You don’t necessarily have to put your job and life back home on hold to volunteer abroad either, as there are endless volunteer programs abroad that run as short as a few days to a week. Leave your Netflix series and dull afternoons at home behind next summer, and instead leverage your summer vacation to do some real good!

Think you’d be a good volunteer candidate? Dig into all the exciting opportunities in the best countries to volunteer abroad in 2018!