The whole wild world

Volunteer abroad

Find a program
Locations
Programs
Types
Funding
Why GVI?

Find an international volunteering opportunity

If you’re looking for an award-winning volunteer abroad program where you can protect our planet while experiencing the adventure of a lifetime, welcome to GVI – we’re so happy that you found us.

You probably already have a pretty good idea of what volunteering is all about. You might’ve even spoken to your family and friends about why you would love to volunteer abroad. 

We’ll bet that you’ve been sharing inspirational quotes about giving back and stories of how a volunteering program can change someone’s life, and make a real and meaningful impact in the world.

If that sounds like you, then you’re in the right place. Because at GVI, we’re just as committed to contributing to global causes as you are. In fact, we’ve spent over 20 years perfecting the quality of our nature conservation projects to ensure that you’ll achieve the maximum positive impact while on your volunteer trip abroad. 

What you can expect from volunteering with GVI

Besides being able to guarantee that our volunteers will be contributing to solving critical global issues, volunteering abroad with GVI gives you the chance to improve your employability with peace of mind knowing that we offer an award-winning level of safety and support to all our volunteers. Take a look at this article for more top reasons to volunteer abroad with GVI. 

Choosing a reputable volunteering organisation like GVI means that you’ll be contributing to solutions that are sustainable and inclusive. Our ethical practices are central to our work, and we’re committed to reviewing and updating these in line with international standards. Our comprehensive pre-program and on-site training ensures that your volunteering experience will be a valuable addition to your CV or college application. 

But maybe you’ve already decided why you’d like to volunteer. So if you’re already thinking about the next steps you need to take to go abroad and volunteer, you’re in luck. It’s simple. Do your research, find a volunteer opportunity abroad that appeals to you and then apply

If you’re having trouble choosing a program, take a look at this article on some of our best volunteering programs. You can also contact us to speak to one of our enrolment managers about their recommended volunteering programs. If it’s funding you’re concerned about, keep an eye out for our scholarships, or speak to an enrolment manager about our fundraising platform.

We hope to see you on one of our volunteer trips abroad, making a lasting impact, very soon. 

Pre-program preparations and training

Our pre-program procedures ensure that you’ll arrive on base prepared and ready to make an ethical and long-lasting impact. The first step in your GVI journey is an orientation call hosted by one of our friendly support staff members. The call will take place on Zoom around six weeks before your departure. You’ll be able to meet fellow volunteers and base staff, start building connections, making friends and getting excited! We’ll also cover arrival logistics, let you know exactly what you can expect and answer any questions you might have.

Before your program begins, you’ll also get the chance to work through our “GVI around the world” presentation to learn about the places we work, our programs, and get a better feel for what you’ll experience when you volunteer abroad with us. 

You’ll also have the opportunity to complete our Leading Teams for Impact online course, which will lay the foundations you need to take on leadership roles in the development space. The course is self-paced and should take approximately 10 hours to complete. If you choose to complete the course, you will receive a certificate of completion from the University of Richmond. Please note that this is an optional course and comes at an additional price.

Where is the best place to volunteer abroad?

With so many exciting locations to experience, it can be overwhelming to choose just one. You might be sitting on the question, “Where should I go to volunteer?” And, while we can’t decide for you, we’d love to help match you up with a location you’ll love. Our friendly enrolment managers are always ready to chat to you about our location and project offerings.

We have award-winning nature conservation volunteer projects across five different continents, including: 
With bases on so many continents, you have the opportunity to join top nature conservation volunteering projects in a diverse range of countries like:

If you are interested in volunteering specifically with community development projects, check out our bases in Thailand and Fiji, and we also offer dedicated social impact-focused programs that run from our hubs in Ghana, Nepal and Cambodia.

For many volunteers, the only thing holding them back is wondering which are the safest countries to visit. We understand your concerns about the risks involved in travelling and volunteering abroad, and while international travel always carries some risk, GVI doesn’t operate in countries where we know the risks are too high. 

We also provide extensive support to all our participants throughout their volunteer abroad journey and our health and safety compliance officers ensure that all of our programs adhere to the highest safety standards.

Types of volunteer abroad programs

If you feel a deep connection with nature and have an urge to help preserve our planet’s biodiversity – volunteering abroad with GVI is the way to go.

Whether you’d love to go on game drives tracking wild dogs in the African bush, hiking through lush jungles in search of rare endemic birds,or cleaning baby sea turtles on a tropical island, we’ve got you covered. 

GVI has a great selection of nature conservation programs for you to choose from, organised into three categories: wildlife conservation, marine conservation and volunteering with animals.

Wildlife conservation

Our wildlife conservation programs will allow you to volunteer in nature, in ways that contribute to the conservation and survival of life on Earth. All our wildlife conservation programs are aligned to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 15: Life on Land, and you’ll contribute to this goal through surveys, observation, research and data collection. 

You can choose to participate in one of our wildlife conservation programs on Curieuse Island in Seychelles, Giannitsochori or Cahuita (a remote research base in Costa Rica’s Cahuita National Park). You could also travel to South Africa, where you’ll be based on a private nature and wildlife reserve in Limpopo, in the Greater Kruger National Park.

If you opt to volunteer abroad in Thailand, you’ll get the chance to work on our endangered Asian elephant forest reintegration project. This project is based in a small Karen culture village in the hills above Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. Here, you’ll work with traditional elephant keepers to help reintegrate the elephants into their natural habitat and support the community with developing alternate sources of income. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, check out our article: How to ethically volunteer with elephants in Thailand.

Or maybe you’d prefer to venture to Phang Nga province in Southern Thailand, where our endangered green sea turtle nursery project is based. Here our volunteers work at a local turtle nursery supported by the Thai government. Volunteers help the nursery to raise endangered baby sea turtles to a size where they can fend for themselves and are more likely to survive in the wild. We also offer sea turtle volunteering programs in Costa Rica, Greece and Seychelles

For those looking to make a contribution to big-cat conservation, why not travel to sunny South Africa to work on our big cat volunteer program. On this program, volunteers help to track the movements and behaviour of lions and other predators like leopards, cheetahs and hyenas in Karongwe Private Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park. Volunteers can also get involved in some of our other wildlife conservation projects in South Africa where they can support the conservation of rhinos, elephants, hyenas, cheetahs and other species. 

If the jungles of Costa Rica seem more appealing than the savannahs of South Africa, why not join our wildlife expedition in Costa Rica? Here, we work in Cahuita National Park to support the conservation of jaguars and other rainforest species like monkeys and tropical birds. 

Marine conservation

GVI offers marine biology volunteering programs on the islands of Caqalai in Fiji, Mahe in Seychelles and in the beach town of Puerto Morelos in Mexico. On all of these programs, volunteers will be scuba diving abroad and gain professional diving certificates endorsed by PADI along the way. 

And if you volunteer on one of GVI’s marine conservation volunteer programs for longer than two weeks, you’ll earn the Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Specialty, a PADI qualification offered exclusively on GVI marine conservation programs.

But for volunteers who’d rather snorkel than scuba dive, we offer a seasonal coral research project in Southern Thailand. And as with all GVI marine conservation programs, volunteers will work to minimise marine plastic pollution and learn about the effects of climate change (specifically coral bleaching). This is an aspect of all our marine conservation volunteering programs abroad.

If you’re interested in whale and dolphin conservation, why not join one of our marine conservation programs in Tenerife? Here, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in activities such as ethical whale watching while you monitor and collect data on various types of marine life.

All GVI marine conservation volunteers can be confident that they’ll contribute to UN SDG 14: Life Below Water, as all our marine conservation projects are aligned to the objectives of this goal. And GVI marine conservation volunteers learn skills and gain valuable experience that could help them pursue a career in marine biology, oceanology or conservation. 

Volunteer with animals

Are you someone who is fascinated by the intricate wonders of different creatures and their behaviours? Someone who is adamant about volunteering abroad to help protect vulnerable species?

At GVI, we’re with you. Our team, and our network of conservation partners all over the globe, are all passionate about protecting and caring for our magnificent animal kingdom.

Our programs that focus on volunteering abroad with animals will offer you the opportunity to get up close and personal with animal conservation efforts by partnering with local organisations on the ground in each location. 

From working with furry felines and powerful predators to scaly reptiles, tiny insects and sea creatures, GVI has an animal care volunteering program where you can lend a hand.

Animals live almost everywhere in nature – plants, air, forests, salt water, fresh water, springs, swamps, fungi, rocks and even on (or inside) other animals. Our range of volunteer programs will get you there – to be part of the rugged and real side of conservation efforts, helping animals in their unique ecosystems.

In fact, our bases have all been specifically chosen to be close to rich biodiverse locations, offering rare access to endangered and elusive animals.

Get the opportunity to help protect vulnerable animals like:

It’s important to note that we don’t support or encourage volunteers to interact directly with wild animals of any kind. Where animal handling is done, it must be necessary for the health of the animal, or strictly for legitimate scientific purposes and conducted ethically under the supervision of trained staff members or local experts. 

You can learn more about our stance on animal handling and captivity here and our health and safety operational guidelines here.

Community development programs

If you’re thinking, “yes, I like nature, but I’m more interested in the human side of things”, perhaps you’d be keen to check out our immersive social development volunteer abroad programs over at GVI People

Our community programs include the following types of volunteering:

Types of volunteer abroad programs 

Teen programs

GVI offers international volunteering programs specifically designed for teenagers between 15 and 17 years old. These programs include age-appropriate and impactful volunteer work, guided adventure activities and interactive presentations that allow you to learn about international sustainable development topics in a truly engaging way. 

All GVI under 18s programs run during June, July and August to fit with the Northern Hemisphere’s summer break. This gives you enough time to travel and fully participate in volunteer activities on the ground. 

GVI teen programs are all group programs, which means that you all start the program together and complete all volunteer, travel and adventure activities together with like-minded youths from around the world. Activities are all guided by GVI staff. 

GVI already has an incredibly high staff to participant ratio of one to six, but on most teen programs we ensure that that ratio is usually higher, providing additional support and guidance for teens. 

Participants on any of our under 18 volunteer abroad programs also have the option to complete the GVI Online Leadership course six weeks before their departure date, at an additional cost. This is an optional, self-paced course that should take around 10 hours to complete. Upon completion of the course, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.

Flights and flight chaperones are not included in the program fee of teen programs but these can be arranged simply by speaking to one of our team members.

College students

GVI specialises in offering the best international volunteer programs for college students. If you aren’t convinced that ours are some of the best volunteer abroad programs for young adults available, watch or read some of the glowing reviews submitted by our previous volunteers.

You can join a GVI program all year round, selecting a time that best suits your schedule. Many students choose to travel and volunteer during their summer break, since this gives them the opportunity to complete not only short-term but long-term programs too. 

Volunteer programs vary in duration – from one week volunteer opportunities abroad to six month programs. 

While GVI programs aren’t accredited, college and university students who complete a GVI volunteer or internship program can also apply for academic credit through their academic institution.

Gap year

Many young adults choose to volunteer abroad during their gap year. Some gap year students choose to volunteer abroad for a year, but many only choose to do so for a gap semester. Most choose between one month and six month volunteering programs. 

The great thing about a gap year with GVI is that you can choose from a wide range of focuses and durations. This allows you to make a greater impact and gain a deeper understanding of international development issues at play in the local context. You’ll also get to develop a wider range of skills and earn more experience applying these skills to real-world challenges. 

If you’re looking for a further employability boost, consider joining one of our gap year internships.

Career break

Working adults who are looking to make an impact during their vacation or annual leave days can join any of our volunteer holiday programs abroad. Not only will you be contributing toward long-term sustainable development goals but you can also experience the sights and sounds of a new environment and culture. 

Those of you who may be feeling uninspired by your current job or career can also use this opportunity to explore a new avenue, and gain skills and experiences that can help you to transition towards something more in line with your passions or interests. 

Adults over 50

Much of our volunteer work abroad is accessible to older adults. All that is required is that you are physically fit, open-minded and keen to make a meaningful impact. 

The work experience that our over 40 and over 50 volunteers have is especially valuable to our international sustainable development project. And for retirees, these programs can be a great opportunity to make a contribution on an international level using your accumulated skills. 

Many senior volunteers request an accommodation upgrade, which can easily be provided at most of our locations.

Family

GVI also offers volunteering holidays abroad where all members of the family can volunteer together. Whether you are looking to volunteer as a couple, volunteer with your child, or with senior members of your family, our family volunteering programs are designed for all members of an intergenerational family.

Christmas volunteering is an especially popular option for families volunteering abroad. The only rule is that children must be at least 14 years of age. For each adult member of the family joining a GVI family volunteering program, any member under the age of 18 joining the program will receive 25% off their program fee. 

Group programs

We also offer group volunteering programs. These are perfect for organisations looking to arrange high school trips abroad, university programs abroad or corporate volunteering abroad. Organisations like local clubs and community groups are also welcome to book a group volunteering program with us.

GVI doesn’t have any specific religious affiliations, which means we don’t offer any mission trips or programs catered to members of certain religions, although people of all faiths are welcome on any of our volunteering programs.

If your group would like to arrange a custom volunteer abroad program, please get in touch and we will get back to you with a quote and a range of ideas to inspire your group members.

Funding your volunteer abroad program

How can I volunteer abroad for free?

If you’re considering a free volunteer program, take a look at our article Why pay to volunteer abroad that unpacks the reasons and benefits of contributing financially.

Free volunteer abroad programs don’t always follow ethical best practices in international sustainable development, and can’t offer the high levels of support and safety that we pride ourselves in. 

These organisations are unlikely to be legitimate volunteer abroad programs, which is why we don’t offer or endorse them. If, after reading our article, you’re still asking “Why do I have to pay to volunteer abroad?” – feel free to contact us for a chat.

Can I get paid for volunteer work abroad?

At GVI, we don’t offer paid volunteer work abroad for students or adults. For us, this goes against what it means to volunteer. 

The definition of volunteering is a helpful activity for which you don’t need to be directly compensated. This being said, the training and work experience provided on all our volunteer abroad programs will put you in a better position to secure employment in the future. 

Do you offer cheap volunteer abroad programs?

Be wary of any volunteer abroad organisation that offers cheap volunteer programs. It’s unlikely that they follow ethical best practices or have appropriate health and safety protocols in place.

Before you pay to volunteer abroad, always be sure to ask about the specific services that the volunteer abroad organisation will be providing. Are there reviews that show that this organisation will provide the quality of services promised? Do they work alone or partner with other credible organisations?

GVI specialises in running quality volunteer abroad programs ensuring that you will reliably make a positive lasting impact, with no risk of causing harm. 

We guarantee that all our volunteers are secure and supported throughout their journey. We also ensure that volunteers leave their program with skills, experience and often qualifications that will help them in their future career. 

We’ve always been transparent about our finances. To learn more, see our “Where does your money go?” chart. We’re more than happy to answer questions if you’d like to talk about how we structure our finances for maximum positive impact for our local partners on the ground. 

I want to volunteer abroad but can’t afford it

Funding your volunteer abroad program doesn’t necessarily have to be a dealbreaker. Take a look to see if we have any special offers running at the moment. We’ve also made raising funds for volunteering abroad easier by creating our own fundraising platform

Simply apply to set up your own GVI fundraising page and start raising money to volunteer abroad. This will allow your friends and loved ones to sponsor your volunteer work abroad. Find ways to fundraise for volunteering abroad by reading our article: 15 of the best fundraising ideas for volunteers.

There might also be other government funding available for you to use to volunteer abroad. Many governments make travel grants available specifically for students volunteering abroad. You can learn more by visiting or contacting your college or university’s international education office. There might also be private organisations that offer scholarships for volunteering abroad. 

What’s included in a GVI volunteer abroad program?

GVI volunteer abroad programs include:
  • In-country travel and accommodation required to complete project work.
  • Three meals per day.
  •  All the necessary training and equipment needed to complete the volunteer work effectively. 

GVI teen programs also include chaperoned adventure activities for the duration of their program.

GVI volunteer abroad programs don’t include:
  • Flights, but you can book a flight with well-priced airfare through StudentUniverse. You will find a link to StudentUniverse recommended flights on all GVI programs. 
  • Travel or medical insurance for volunteering abroad is not included but we can offer an excellent insurance package for you designed specifically for our international volunteers by our partner, Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI). 
  • In case you need a visa, we don’t cover visa costs, but our support team will be able to provide you with the information you need to get started with your visa application. They will also be able to assist you with the necessary documentation.

Why volunteer with GVI?

GVI has gained a reputation as one of the top international volunteering organisations over the past two decades. 

We’re globally recognised

Established in 1998, the long list of awards we’ve received from leading organisations in our sector and the stellar reviews delivered by the overwhelming majority of our volunteers, has helped us build a name for ourselves over the years as one of the best international volunteering organisations.

Both individual volunteers and volunteer organisations respect us because of our commitment to real, meaningful and lasting impact on international sustainable development challenges.

Our programs are ethical and sustainable

At GVI, we’re committed to applying the latest ethical best practices, informed by external experts, in all our operations, and all our projects around the world are aligned to one or more of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

You’ll get excellent support and safety

Our outstanding support and safety services have also won us awards both from our colleagues in the field and praise from our volunteers. 

Our operational health and safety standards ensure that we are compliant with British Standards 8848, a set of best practice guidelines for adventure tour providers outside the United Kingdom. Each volunteer is also assigned a personal travel support coordinator to help them get everything in order, including their packing list, before setting off on their volunteer trip abroad.

Your career will get a boost

The quality of training, work experience and qualifications provided on our volunteering programs ensures that the experience not only looks good on both college applications and resumes, but that these skills are actually valuable in the workplace.

You’ll be part of the bigger solution

We identify as a social enterprise and use the resources provided by our volunteers and interns to support local sustainable development initiatives. This means that we aren’t a charity or non-profit organisation, but we do partner with local organisations that might be charities or nonprofits. For example, in Mexico, our volunteers work to support Save the Children. We also raise funds for our local partners through our UK-registered charity, GVI Charitable Programs. Volunteers might be involved in specific fundraising activities with our charity during their time on the program. 

Not operating as a charity or government-funded organisation allows us more freedom to find the most optimal ways to contribute to international sustainable development goals in the shortest possible time frame. We’re more than happy to discuss our organisational structure at any time. Simply reach out to us for a chat.

Planet

Conservation

Marine Conservation
Marine Conservation
Help restore damaged marine ecosystems, protect endangered marine species, and ultimately contribute to the overall health of both marine and terrestrial environments.
Wildlife Conservation
Wildlife Conservation
Help with the preservation of endangered animal and plant species and educate local communities so they can implement long term, impactful approaches to conservation.
Animal Care
Animal Care
Work with animals such as elephants and turtles and make a direct impact on the conservation of these endangered species by providing options of alternative livelihoods to local communities.
People

Community development

Teaching
Teaching
Teach English to help improve academic and employability opportun[...]
Public health
Public health
Educate communities on healthy eating, personal hygiene and disea[...]
Women's empowerment
Women's empowerment
Support women and girls with meaningful access to equal opportuni[...]
Sport
Sport
Help children develop a variety of beneficial life-skills through[...]
Construction
Construction
Help communities build essential and sustainable infrastructure.
Volunteer with Children
Volunteer with Children
Help improve children’s education, health and well-being.