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Petrina Darrah is a travel writer from New Zealand with a passion for responsible travel and gender equality. She has worked in France, Colombia, the Philippines, and Tanzania, and has travelled to about 50 countries in between.

Altruism doesn’t have an age limit. In fact, your formative teen years are a great time to learn about global issues. You can have a positive impact on the world while you’re still in high school.

Volunteer work for teens is about development in every sense. GVI’s volunteer programs have been designed to have maximum benefit not only for communities and environments, but also for individual participants.

Each project works toward advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The UN SDGs are 17 global goals that target issues such as health, education, poverty and climate change. Joining in on a project that sets out to achieve these goals means you can take an active role in making an impact in the world.

Personal development is also on the agenda. Teen volunteer programs are an ideal way to build practical skills and cultural sensitivity outside of the classroom.

You and your parents can be confident that during our teenage volunteer summer programs you’ll receive all the training, support and mentorship you need from world-class experts.

On top of that, the work you’ll be doing comes with a generous helping of adventure. You might dive while completing coral reef surveys, explore the jungle as you track wildlife, and learn another language as you carry out community work. There will be cultural weekends and intrepid excursions to boot.

So, without further ado, let us introduce 15 exciting volunteer opportunities for high school students.


1) Go on a remote island expedition in Seychelles

If you can’t get enough of the Blonde Abroad on Instagram, your desktop background features waving palm trees, and you’re pretty sure there was a mermaid somewhere in your family tree, a youth volunteer program in Seychelles will fit you to a T.

GVI’s Seychelles project is an island experience like no other. Forget roads and towns — on Curieuse Island, it’s just nature unfiltered. Seychelles is every bit as beautiful as glossy travel magazines would have you believe, but pristine doesn’t equal perfection. There is a great deal of conservation work that needs to be done.

This volunteer program focuses on giant tortoise population studies, mangrove distribution surveys, and habitat restoration in Curieuse Island National Park.

2) Tackle recycling in Fiji

A summer volunteer program for high school students in Fiji will allow you to experience the Pacific nation while gaining an understanding of the role of waste management and recycling infrastructure play in promoting healthy communities.

Fiji is drama in landscape form, with an incredible number of waterfalls, dense jungles, and beaches crammed into this tiny network of islands.

Draw motivation from the stunning setting as you lend a hand with projects like upgrading recycling drop-off points and carrying out waste management workshops. As you embark on your travels in this tropical island, you’ll also learn more about Fiji’s local culture.

3) Advance from student to teacher in Laos

Teen volunteering in Laos


Luang Prabang was once a royal capital, a legacy still apparent in gilded temples and elegant Lao architecture. In this historic and naturally beautiful location, teen volunteers have the opportunity to work directly with the local community through language and cultural exchange projects.

This could involve supporting the delivery of English classes, sports, arts and crafts, or other programs that aim to improve educational opportunities for Lao children.

Living in Luang Prabang, you’ll be able to delve into the many layers of Lao culture, learning more about Theravada Buddhism, and the Hmong and Cham cultures.

Weekend excursions can introduce you to temples, monasteries, and local rice-farming communities, as well as the Kuang Si Waterfalls and verdant scenery of northern Laos.

4) Assist nesting turtles in Greece

Can you picture yourself working with one of the most endangered species in the Mediterranean, in one of the most beautiful locations on the planet?

This project is based in Giannitsochori, where you might witness the breeding cycle of loggerhead turtles: from the laying of eggs through to triumphant hatchlings breaking out of their shells.

Your duties as a teen volunteer will be to record the turtle nesting activity and help protect the vulnerable hatchlings as they wobble their way to the sea.

Plus, if you have a case of early-onset wanderlust, this project might just provide the cure. As you will be camping right next to a white-sand beach, you’ll have plenty of time to hang out along the seaside.

Weekends spent walking around will give you the chance to see some of the incredible history, architecture, and food that Greece is famous for.

5) Build friendships and learning centres in Thailand

Teen volunteer in Thailand


Earn your traveller stripes by volunteering with a Thai community in the lush surroundings of Phang Nga. The community-based project is ideal for teens looking to make a tangible impact and be immersed in a different culture.

The tasks you take up during the project will depend on the needs of the community at the time. You could get stuck into painting classrooms or help out with renovations to improve the learning environment of a local school.

Not far from the village you’ll find a turquoise ocean bordered by pristine beaches and limestone cliffs. With an island-hopping or sea kayaking adventure included in the program, you’ll have ample opportunity to witness some of Thailand’s most spectacular coastal treasures.

6) Savour culture, adventure and myriad flavours in India

India has abundant natural beauty and famously diverse cultures, and as a teen volunteer in Kerala you can explore both in equal measure.

There is no better way to gain insight into India than to live in a local community and weave yourself in the fabric of daily life.

You’ll spend your time volunteering on programs such as childhood education or women’s empowerment. Plus, you’ll have the chance to learn how to speak, cook and dance in the local style.

The adventure portion of the program takes you into the Western Ghats. This mountain range is an impressive ecosystem teeming with elephants, tigers, and lion-tailed macaques. It is the perfect place to experience a small part of India’s nature in all its splendor.

7) Answer the call of wildlife in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. With the turtles, birds and jaguars: animal-lovers should make a beeline for GVI’s wildlife conservation project.

Based in Tortuguero National Park, the youth volunteer program is focused on protecting sea turtles and surveying other forms of wildlife. This is an opportunity not only to learn more about wildlife conservation, but to share your passion with the local community by raising awareness of environmental issues.

While staying in the camp accommodation you’ll be fully immersed in jungle life: with sounds of wildlife, a tropical climate and lessons in living sustainably.

8) Reach new heights with a volunteer and adventure experience in Nepal

Teen volunteer programs in Nepal


Aim high and take on the Go Abroad’s Top Youth Travel Program for 2018, set among the tallest peaks in the world.

In the mountainous surrounds of Nepal, you can get involved with community service projects that help create healthier learning environments by improving educational facilities.

You could assist with building facilities or helping to install water tanks for clean drinking water.

As well as being immersed in Nepali culture, a highlight of this youth volunteer opportunity is a four-day trek into the Annapurna mountain range. Climbing through the mountains, past lakes, Buddhist monasteries, and villages is a surreal and rewarding experience.

9) Jump for joy on an active education program in South Africa

Calling all kinetic learners! Come share your passion for movement with children in a coastal community in South Africa.

In your role as a volunteer on this program you can teach children a variety of sports and games, like soccer, cricket, tennis, athletics, rugby and netball.

By connecting with students through sport, lessons are interactive and fun, to boost learning.

You’ll be assisting teachers with lessons during the week, and enjoying the sights of Cape Town over weekends.

10) Learn about wildlife in South Africa

Volunteer with wildlife in South Africa


Ever wanted to navigate by the stars, learn how to survive in the wild, or discover more about some of the most magnificent animals on the planet?

Be the champion in your very own conservation adventure story as you learn how to protect the wildlife in South Africa’s bushveld.

This conservation awareness project promises an unfiltered look at African wildlife: a front-row seat to one of the greatest shows in the world. Watch lions stalk their prey, giraffes peer out from behind trees, and elephants rumble across the veld.

This is an active education program on the threats facing Africa’s wildlife, inviting you to get involved in implementing solutions, and perhaps inspiring you to continue wildlife conservation work long after the program is over.

11) Build schools and better futures in Costa Rica

Quepos is a coastal town located in Costa Rica where lush jungle and rolling Pacific waves collide. Here you’ll live like a tico while getting involved in construction projects that meet the needs of the community.

On the weekend your days will be full of surf lessons, hikes through Manuel Antonio National Park, or hours basking on the beach.

After your volunteering experience you’ll go on an adventure-filled week-long trip that might include white-water rafting and zip-lining.

12) Choose a spring break with a difference in Costa Rica

Volunteer in Costa Rica


Our community development program in Costa Rica is available over spring break as well as summer. For one week you can lend a hand on important community development projects.

In between spotting the sloths, toucans and howler monkeys that live in this tropical town, you could teach English in after-school programs, or help with renovations in schools or community centres, depending on the needs of the community at the time.

On this alternative spring break program, you can develop genuine connections with the local community, and enjoy the luscious natural environment that surrounds you.

13) Dip a toe in marine conservation in Mexico

Where better to get a taste of the aquatic life than in the alluring waters off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula? Here, you can explore conservation while learning to dive.

This program takes you into the watery heart of some of the best dive locations on the planet, where you can learn about efforts to protect this underwater realm.

The data collected by GVI’s monitoring program, and volunteers like you, is aimed at contributing to the long-term survival of the reef. Meanwhile, the PADI Open Water course teaches you how to dive, so you’ll return home a certified diver.

14) Dive a little deeper into marine conservation with a PADI Advanced Open Water course

Volunteer in Mexico on a diving conservation program


Take your dive skills to the next level and earn your PADI Advanced Open Water certification. The course is one step up from the Open Water certification, and will prep you for adventure dives.

With your new skills you can reach new depths in the underwater world and get more involved with reef research. During dives you’ll record vital data, and learn how to identify dozens of fish and coral species.

This program could steer you onto a path of marine biology, professional diving, or conservation. You’ll be working alongside seasoned experts who can mentor you and give you an exclusive glimpse into what a career in these areas looks like.

Plus, with Mayan cities and tropical jungles on the shore, and swirling shoals of fish below sea level, you’ll be swimming in fun activities.

15) Break from tradition with a marine conservation spring break in Mexico

College students might spend spring break enjoying Mexico’s vibrant atmosphere, but savvy high school students visit the region to help protect its natural beauty.

Make your vacation count and spend a week in Mexico helping to preserve the glorious coastal and marine environments that make the Yucatáan Peninsula a dream travel destination.

During this program, you’ll learn research techniques to support marine conservation and work towards your PADI Open Water certification at the same time.

You’ll still get to enjoy all the hallmarks of a relaxing break, including sugar-soft sand beaches, delectable Mexican cuisine, and Mayan ruins.  

But at the end of the week you’ll have new knowledge of marine conservation and a PADI dive certification to go with your vacation photos.

You don’t need to be old enough to vote in order to make your mark on the world. The only prerequisites you need to volunteer is curiosity about the world and motivation to make an impact difference. Get in touch with our team today to find out more about our volunteer opportunities for teens.

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