Disaster Relief Volunteer Abroad

Back to Programs

A Guide to Volunteering Abroad in Disaster Relief

When tragedy strikes and the news becomes smothered with disastrous images, many people wonder, “how can I help?”, and becoming a volunteer relief worker abroad is the answer. If you decide to volunteer abroad in disaster relief you will likely work long hours in less than perfect conditions, and by the end of the day you may find yourself reevaluating what it means to be exhausted. However, when you close your eyes at night, you’ll see the faces of all the people you helped andl know that you have literally made a difference in the world. Though relief work may be difficult and challenging to say the least, it may just be the most rewarding way to volunteer abroad

Why Volunteer Abroad

It’s hard to miss news reports about countries around the world being torn apart by disasters and the subsequent stories of survivors in need of relief and support. Disasters unfortunately hold a constant presence in news broadcasts, online newsfeeds, and newspapers. In some cases it is better to stay at home and make a financial contribution to disaster relief organizations, in an effort to “let the experts” do their job. However, when it is time for volunteer assistance, you will find that your efforts are much more impactful than a simple donation.

Relief workers play a pivotal role in recovery efforts following natural disasters, such as typhoons, earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes. Natural disasters threaten public safety, leaving many people displaced and in desperate need of assistance, whether through temporary shelter construction, relief goods, or medical care. As a volunteer relief worker, you will be placed “amidst the ruins” to a certain extent, giving you the opportunity to help rebuild infrastructure, offer psychosocial support to survivors, and work to safeguard communities from future disasters. Without relief volunteers, those affected by disasters would be left to fend for themselves.


The location of natural disasters changes with each event, as do the best locations to volunteer in relief work abroad. Therefore, countries that have been most recently affected by a natural disaster, or are consistently devastated by disasters, are the most common locations for disaster relief volunteering abroad.

The Philippines is unfortunately prone to natural disasters, so numerous tropical storms and typhoons, landslides, and flooding issues occur annually. The most prominent storm in the history of the world, Typhoon Haiyan, struck the Philippines in November 2013, and the areas affected are still rebuilding years later. As a country that lacks strong infrastructure and resources, many people are displaced by natural disasters each year, leading to a great need for relief workers nearly year round. Disaster relief volunteer work in relief in the Philippines gives volunteers the chance to work closely local communities and government bodies to not only rebuild and recuperate, but also develop plans to prevent future disasters from causing such a great deal of destruction.

Nepal faced devastation in the spring of 2015 when two earthquakes struck just outside of the capital city of Kathmandu. While these recent natural disasters were devastating and have a huge impact on the country, Nepal is no stranger to earthquakes. Similar to many other countries in need of disaster relief volunteers, Nepal experiences disasters rather regularly, so volunteers may find relief work in Nepal at almost any time of the year.

India. Nearby to Nepal, India also has its fair share of natural disasters, which are coupled with constant socioeconomic struggles, making disaster relief volunteers essential in local communities. From flooding during the monsoon season to earthquakes and typhoons, India faces disasters year round.. Relief work in India will give volunteers the chance to provide crucial support to low-income families when they need it most. 

Relief Volunteering Abroad

Relief work abroad can last anywhere from one week to six months. How long you should volunteer abroad in relief work depends on how long you feel you can tolerate the challenges present across disaster zones (ex. limited access to food and electricity). There’s always a community in need of disaster relief, so if you are ready and willing, there will always be a place for your to volunteer in disaster relief and recovery. That being said, most programs that conduct relief work abroad do not require any previous experience of volunteers, since the need is most often immediate and great.

The following are just a few of the ways you can support disaster relief through volunteering abroad, but keep in mind that each disaster and location presents its own unique needs:

Disaster Response is the most common form of relief work abroad, providing necessary services and supplies to communities affected immediately after a disaster strikes. Providing food and shelter for those who have been displaced or impacted by the disaster is one of the major responsibilities of disaster response volunteers. This type of relief work abroad may also entail providing emotional support to survivors, especially vulnerable populations, which is in some cases equally as important as providing food and shelter.

Reconstruction. Infrastructure damage is one of the biggest problems faced in the aftermath of natural disasters, since destroyed communities are left at even higher risk of future damage. By working on cleaning up debris and rebuilding essential infrastructure, such as government buildings, schools, and family homes, you will be helping survivors recover and move forward with their lives.

Volunteer Management is a very important aspect of relief volunteering abroad, since without properly managed volunteers, disaster relief would not be successful. Helping organizations that recruit volunteers to conduct relief work abroad by managing volunteers and placing them where they can best utilize their skills will help the organization and the volunteers make an even greater impact on the lives of survivors. Those who volunteer abroad to assist with relief volunteer management may be responsible for record keeping and project monitoring, volunteer orientation and support services, and a host of other duties.

Disaster Preparedness. The final vital component of relief volunteering abroad is disaster risk reduction, which prepares communities to better respond to future disasters, leading to lower casualties, damage to structures, and chaos in the event of a disaster. In general, countries that suffer from frequent natural disasters lack the resources to implement preventative measures and educate local communities on disaster risk reduction. Education and development of preventative measures can therefore help save lives and protect livelihoods in the future.  

GoAbroad Insider Tips

Victims & Volunteering. It’s easy to turn off the television, be grateful for our privileges, and dissociate from the suffering of people around the world. However, that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Disaster relief volunteering abroad will take you far out of your comfort zone, but it will also lead you to find a sense of purpose and peace of mind through helping others. You will not only be helping others, you will also be developing your own skills and understanding of the world too, so get out there and truly make a difference!

Resources & Relief. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a two week relief volunteering, whether rebuilding one school or one home, may seem like putting a band-aid on a cut that needs stitches; however, keep in mind that every little bit helps. You can’t fix the world with one grand gesture, but offering your time, energy, and resources to a community in need can start a ripple effect. Contributing to relief work abroad can promote change and healing among affected communities, and also spark a desire to help among your own network at home too.

Read More

written by:

A Guide To
Volunteering Abroad in Disaster Relief


 Find Disaster Relief Volunteer Programs Abroad Now


This listing has been saved 8 times

Incredible Volunteering in Cusco: Costs from USD320!

International Volunteer HQ's partner organization in Cusco - Peru requires volunteers NOW! IVHQ has a wide range of volunteering opportunities available in jungle conservation, teaching English, childcare work, medical work, construction and renovation work in the ancient Peruvian city of Cusco and surrounding valleys. * Teaching English Cusco is the tourism capital of South American and th...


This listing has been saved 12 times

Nepal - Construction and Rebuilding

In April 2015, a devastating earthquake struck Nepal, leaving thousands of people killed, injured, and homeless. Many either lost their lives, loved ones, or homes. To date, Nepal’s citizens are still coping with the aftermath of this tragedy. Volunteers on this program will have the opportunity to make an impact on the communities there in several ways. Volunteers’ will be able to help out ...


This listing has been saved 307 times

Make a REAL difference with Love Volunteers – From US$175!

Love Volunteers has provided safe, meaningful and truly affordable volunteering abroad opportunities to thousands of volunteers from all over the world. Become a Love Volunteer and get the experience of a lifetime whilst helping those in real need on one of our community-based projects! Check out our exciting Relief programs and sign up now!


This listing has been saved 18 times

Building in Nepal with Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad, a worldwide leader in international volunteer programs, has worked in Nepal since 1999 and has long-standing relationships with many organizations in Chitwan, Kathmandu, the Kathmandu Valley, and Ghandruk, especially with schools, children’s homes, and hospitals. As a response to the devastating earthquake of April 25, 2015, Projects Abroad has set up a Building project in Ne...


This listing has been saved 14 times

Nepal Earthquake Relief Project

Following the devastation of the Gorkha earthquake in April 2015 many Nepali people have been left without the basic necessities including water, food, shelter and clothing. Access to healthcare has also been drastically reduced, and all of this has come at a time when the people of Nepal need it most. The amount of destruction in Nepal is tremendous and much of the rubble from fallen buildi...


This listing has been saved 6 times

International Volunteer Camps

Each month international volunteers camps are offered throughout Kenya. The camps are part of the These are 3-week projects that will give the volunteer the opportunity to have an immediate positive impact on Kenya and its people. Projects dealing with HIV, women's issues, water, sanitation, schools and more. Join with volunteers from the world over.


This listing has been saved 2 times

Nepal Earthquake Rebuild and Recovery Program

Nepal has been devastated by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake on April 25th. There has been a huge loss of life and severe damage to vital infrastructure and buildings. Bamboo is doing all we can to support our partner projects in Nepal at this time and we want to ensure you are able to offer your support as well. In response to the earthquake in Nepal, we are seeking applications for voluntee...


This listing has been saved 1 time

Volunteer with Children in Cambodia

Be part of a pioneer humanitarian project in the villages of northwest Cambodia. Working in partnership with the Shinta Mani Foundation, we will set up a mobile dental clinic and provide first time dental care to needy children in a village outside Siem Reap in Northern Cambodia. Outside the clinic, volunteers have the chance to get to know the local village people and take in rural life in the...


This listing has been saved 16 times

ISA Service-Learning in Lima, Peru

Lima, the capital of Peru, is located on the west coast of the Pacific along the Rímac River. Lima is a large, international city balancing both traditional and modern influences. The traditional influences evolved from Peru's history as the home of the Inca and numerous other civilized cultures, dating back as far as 2000 BC. ISA Service-Learning opportunities vary from rehabilitating marine ...


This listing has been saved 2 times

LEAPYEAR: Transforming Education - Ages 17-24

LEAPYEAR is a cutting-edge experiential program for 17-23 year olds who want to make a graceful and powerful passage into independent, creative adulthood. It is meant to replace the final year of high school or the first year of college, or function as a 'year on' between high school and college. Live, work and travel for 9 months, from September through May for our Fall program, and January th...


This listing has been saved 248 times

International Internships & Volunteer Programs in London

The Intern Group provides you with top internships in London! Partnering with a range of great companies and NGOs, our London internship program will fulfill your career potential. We are regularly featured in mainstream international media like CNN International. Apply now to intern in the greatest city in the world and propel your career development! Our internship programs take place thro...


Volunteer Peru Ayacucho Soup Kitchen Welfare program

A Broader View offers volunteering opportunities at a soup kitchen in Ayacucho, Peru. Most of the daily visitors of the soup kitchen are elderly, homeless, and small school children. Volunteers will help prepare and cook meals. Volunteers will help to set up tables, serve meals, clean tables, wash dishes, clean floors, and take care of the garbage. Volunteers also help school children with thei...


This listing has been saved 18 times

Construction Volunteering with Build Abroad

Build Abroad is the leader in construction volunteering trips, offering trips working on housing, schools, and disaster relief. Build Abroad feels that construction volunteering is the best way to give back to a community. Construction projects provide a physical impact in a community that will last for years. Currently Build Abroad has locations in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nepal, Peru, and Thail...


This listing has been saved 49 times

Internship in Thailand with Asia Internship Program

Thanks to its geographical location, Thailand has become one of the most desirable destinations for businesses to settle in. As a fast-growing and highly internationalized market, it is a perfect place for any young professional to develop their skillset that will be beneficial for their future career path. With AIP assistance, we make it easier for you to find the right internship in Thail...