Growing wild

Volunteering for Teens

Do you want to combine your thirst for adventure with your passion for making a real difference in the world? How about developing your leadership skills and experience level before applying to university?

Push yourself out of your comfort zone with a life-changing adventure, or leap ahead of your peers by turning your passion into practical skills with extensive field experience. 

Our exclusive, diverse and award-winning range of volunteering for teens projects has been designed specifically for young people aged between 15 and 17 who are keen on pushing themselves, contributing to the vital cause of safeguarding the planet, and growing into young, globally-minded leaders. 

We offer volunteering for teens in some of the world’s most breathtaking and remote wildernesses across Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe and Latin America, focusing on wildlife, marine and environmental conservation.

Critical science

Critical science

You'll contribute to vital conservation research targeted at protecting the earth's most valuable ecosystems.
Ethical engagement

Ethical engagement

Using the UN's SDGs as a framework, we've made a commitment to positive, constructive and sustainable impact.
Beautiful adventures

Beautiful adventures

You'll spend your days exploring some of the world's most breathtaking, exhilarating and remote wildernesses.

Overview
Locations
Leadership
Health & safety
Funding

Volunteering for teens is an invaluable experience that offers young adults the chance to: 

  • Have an adventure in a remote wilderness
  • Immerse themselves in diverse cultural environments 
  • Contribute to a vital conservation effort 
  • Develop their interpersonal, leadership and communication skills 
  • Gain a better understanding of what it means to be a global citizen 
  • Join a community of like-minded people – and make friends for life! 
  • Set themselves apart on university and job applications with real-world, hands-on experience 
  • Get first hand experience of the practical and ethical challenges of making a sustainable impact 
  • Apply for the ASDAN or Duke of Edinburgh Award after completing their teen volunteering project work, which gives you an edge in your UCAS applications for university (UK only)

 

Volunteering for teens at GVI includes:

  • Wildlife, marine or environmental conservation project work
  • Community development project work 
  • Adventure activities like white-water rafting, zip-lining and surfing  
  • Cultural activities like language lessons, traditional dances and cooking local dishes 
  • An introduction to international sustainable development and talks by local subject area experts 
  • Accommodation in one of GVI’s base camps 
  • Three meals a day
  • All transport, including airport pick-up and drop-off 

 

Teen volunteer summer programs

So you’re almost through the essays, assignments and exams of another academic year. You’re thinking about the future, but you’re also in need of some well-deserved fun. How can you spend your summer break doing something meaningful that also allows you to make new friends, learn skills and travel abroad?

Well that’s easy. GVI offers award-winning summer volunteer programs abroad that are perfect for high school or college students looking to make an impact in the world. These summer volunteer opportunities fit perfectly into any full-time student’s schedule and offer ample opportunity to experience some of the world’s top travel destinations. 

Summer is the perfect time for teens to volunteer, offering a blend of volunteering, cultural and language immersion, skills training, and adventure activities. To read more testimonials from other high school students about their teen community service abroad, view our high school testimonials.

For educators looking to help their students, you can find more information on volunteering for teens as a group on our group summer volunteer programs page. 

High school students

For those between the ages of 15 and 17, the first step in securing your spot in a summer volunteer abroad program is getting permission from your parents or guardians. 

There are a number of resources available on our website that’ll describe what our summer volunteer opportunities are all about – like our parent pack, which will fill your folks in on everything they need to know about our volunteer abroad summer programs. You’ll also find parent testimonials that can give your parent or guardian a taste of how safe and beneficial GVI’s summer volunteering programs abroad really are.

Have a look through some of our best summer abroad volunteer programs in this article: The best summer volunteer programs for high school students

And if your parents or guardian is still unsure about letting you participate in a summer volunteering program, you can show them this article: Should I let my teen volunteer abroad?

We could even set up a meeting with yourself, your parents and a GVI alumni or staff member to give you a first-hand account of what volunteering for teens over summer is like. 

Gap year programs 

For those teens who have graduated high school, and who are looking for a new adventure as well as extensive personal and professional development before committing to a four-year institution, we also offer teen volunteer opportunities across our gap year programs. 

Volunteering for teens – conservation programs

Costa Rica

Teen volunteers who are interested in visiting Central America during their summer, and who’d like to explore a career in rainforest conservation can join our volunteering for teens project in Costa Rica’s Cahuita National Park. Here, you’ll learn all about the work that GVI researchers do to help local partner organisations like Coastal Jaguar Conservation and the Sea Turtle Conservancy. You’ll live on the edge of a private beach, help conduct sea turtle surveys, install jaguar camera traps, and collect data on various monkey, bird and insect species, all while trekking and canoeing through river canals, exploring the lush tropical forest and swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. 

Greece

Teen volunteers can also choose to spend their summer by the Mediterranean Sea, helping baby sea turtles make their way to the ocean, while enjoying the splendour of a sea-side Greek village. You’ll monitor and tag mother sea turtles, help clear local beaches of plastic and other types of pollution, and get to know the local culture, food and history of this ancient and beautiful part of the world.

Mexico

For teens thinking of pursuing a career in marine conservation, Mexico is the perfect option. Volunteering for teens in this tropical paradise includes completing either your PADI Open Water or PADI Advanced Open Water qualification before heading out into the ocean. In the water, you’ll explore the vibrant underwater world of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second-largest coral reef in the world. You’ll learn how to conduct coral health surveys and visit a local laboratory where researchers grow corals to later transplant onto the reef. Visits to Mayan ruins and Mexican cenotes are also included in the trip. 

South Africa

Teens dreaming of pursuing a career in African wildlife conservation can join us on a conservation expedition in South Africa. You’ll live and work in a private nature and wildlife reserve an hour from the famous Kruger National Park, and learn about tracking lions and cheetahs using telemetry equipment and how more elusive nocturnal animals like leopards, hyenas, porcupines and pangolins are monitored using remote camera traps. Adventure activities include a trip to the Blyde River Canyon where you can swim and tube down the river.

Thailand

Thailand is the perfect destination for teens looking to fill their summer break with adventure, culture and paradise. Our volunteering for teens programs in Thailand include both conservation and community development initiatives, but your main focus will be helping our local partners in Thailand protect endangered baby sea turtles. Your trip also includes all the best sights of this amazing country, including a guided tour of sacred Buddhist sites, visits to national parks and a trip to Phuket. 

Seychelles

Volunteering for teens in the Seychelles is focused on island conservation. Teen volunteers will join a research team stationed permanently on the tiny island of Curieuse – the only people on the entire island. You’ll assist researchers with studying and planting native tree species – this is one of only two islands in the world where the coco de mer palm tree is natively found – as well as collecting data on the Aldabra giant tortoise population. You’ll also assist with studying the effects of climate change on local beaches. Adventure activities might include a tour of several islands in the Seychelles archipelago.

Volunteering for teens – community programs

At GVI, our core mission is based on creating, supporting and empowering communities. The community we create together as volunteers, and the communities we live and work in. That’s why in addition to our conservation work, we also offer community development volunteering for teens in three locations: South Africa, Nepal or Ghana.

Build on your professional development 

There are many advantages to the volunteering for teens experience – adventure, friendship, personal growth, making an impact. But you also have an invaluable chance to upskill your interpersonal skills. These are skills like communication, project management and most fundamentally – leadership. 

At GVI we know a thing or two about leadership, and we’re very proud to be leaders in our industry, and to be able to forge ethical, passionate and dedicated leaders through our work. 

Academic knowledge is very important, but equally important when making your way in the world, is developing the essential skills needed to become an industry leader in your own right – teamwork, cross-cultural communication, creative problem solving and so much more. 

Our mission across our volunteering for teen experience is to help you develop and practise these skills, setting you up for future success no matter what path you choose to take. 

Take a look at our article to find out more: What are soft skills and why are they important?

Our safety standards 

GVI has been running volunteer abroad programs since 1998 and volunteering for teens since 2012. Our expertise managing youth volunteers in international destinations has secured us British Standards 8848 compliance. These guidelines protect those booking adventure travel packages outside the UK from both safety and financial risks. 

The health and safety guidelines we follow when looking after all our participants are already of the highest quality standards. In fact, they’re award-winning. But due to the vulnerability of volunteers between the ages of 15 and 17, we apply further regulations. 

Usually a minimum of one GVI staff member is assigned to a group of six participants. But for teen volunteers the ratio is often as high as one staff member to every three participants. Teens are also supervised by our chaperones throughout their stay. 

Flight chaperones can also be arranged for teen volunteers. While flight chaperones aren’t automatically included when booking a GVI teen volunteer program, the service can be booked by speaking to one of our enrolment managers. Each volunteer is assigned an enrolment manager when applying for a GVI program.

To effectively manage airport arrivals, we set up groups on instant messaging applications that facilitate communication between teens, parents and GVI staff members. GVI staff members meet teens at the airport upon arrival. They are then transported to their accommodation and parents receive a confirmation email. All transport during the project as well as the final airport drop-off is provided by GVI staff members. 

A 24-hour emergency desk is also available to parents. 

Parents

GVI is a parent-run organisation – family is at the heart of what we do. We’re incredibly serious about child protection, and health and safety. We also care deeply about making learning more engaging. After over two decades of experience, we have discovered that if you give young people age-appropriate challenges and support, they quickly start to forge a path that is uniquely their own, personally fulfilling, and aligned to the well-being of our planet and global community.

If your parents would like to know more about GVI, please direct them to our parent information page, where they can download our parent information pack. Below we’ve listed our answers to the questions most commonly asked by parents or guardians. 

Volunteering for teens – Parent FAQs

Do GVI programs include flights and flight chaperones?

While flights and flight chaperones aren’t automatically included in a GVI program fee, these services can be selected when booking a GVI program. Excellent flight prices can be secured through our flight partner, Student Universe. Parents can also book a flight chaperone to accompany their teen from their home country departure to their on-location arrival. 

Do you offer airport pick-up and drop-off services?

All GVI teen programs include on-location airport pick-up and drop-off services. To manage arrivals we set up an instant messaging group connecting teens, parents and GVI on-location staff. 

Upon arrival at the on-location airport, teens are greeted by a GVI staff member holding a GVI sign. They’ll also usually be wearing a GVI T-shirt. Teens travel with the GVI staff member to their accommodation. 

Some teens will meet their fellow teen volunteers at the airport, while others will meet their teammates upon arrival at their lodgings. When everyone is settled in, parents will receive a confirmation email. 

Transport to and from the project as well as throughout the adventure portion of the trip is also provided by GVI. At the end of the trip, GVI on-location staff escort teens to the airport in time for their departure flight home. 

What are the on-the-ground medical facilities like?

All accommodation, project sites and adventure activity locations are risk assessed to make sure medical facilities are nearby. All our on-location staff are also emergency first aid trained and fully stocked medical kits are always on-hand. 

What if there’s an emergency while my teen’s volunteering abroad? 

We have crisis management plans as well as Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) in place at each of our locations. Our 24-hour emergency desk is also available to parents and guardians. Generally we encourage teens to unplug during their trip abroad and benefit from a digital detox, but if you’d like to get in touch, you’ll have access to the phone numbers of on-location staff members. 

What supervision is there?

GVI has, arguably, the highest staff to participant ratio of any international teen volunteer abroad program provider. We guarantee that there will be at least one GVI staff member for every six teen volunteers, but this ratio is often much higher and more like one staff member to every three teens. Unlike adult volunteers, who use their evenings and weekends to explore the local area, teens are supervised by GVI staff throughout their stay. 

Who are your on-location staff?

All our on-location staff are selected, vetted, trained and managed by GVI. They all undergo a police background check, as well as training on our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy. Many of our staff were once GVI volunteers and interns, so they know exactly what it feels like to volunteer abroad as a young adult and can effectively guide teens through the experience. 

What is the accommodation like?

Teen volunteers have separate accommodation to our adult volunteers. On-site risk assessments are performed before we agree to use any accommodation provider. The exact type of accommodation we offer differs depending on the location. Accommodation might be a little more basic than what teens are used to, but we always ensure that our health and safety is always of the highest calibre. 

Does my teen need a visa to travel abroad? Do they need to get vaccinated?

All visa and vaccination requirements are dependent on your teen’s nationality, their current residences and the location to which they wish to travel. While we won’t personally give any specific visa or vaccination recommendations, we can put you in contact with experts in your location so that you can learn more about your specific requirements. Your assigned travel support coordinator will also assist you with documents and packing lists in the months leading up to your teen’s trip. 

Do you offer travel insurance?

Travel insurance isn’t automatically included in our program fee, but it can be purchased through our insurance partner, CISI.

Why pay to volunteer abroad?

A common question we are often asked is: if I pay for volunteering, where does my money go? At GVI, we are committed to ethical, sustainable volunteering programs that are supported from within the communities in which we work. We want our work to have the maximum impact; this work requires funding. Transparency is important to us. If you, or your parents, would ever like to know more about how your money is used, visit our ‘how my money is spent’ page or speak directly to one of our enrolment managers.  You can also read more on our blog. 

Scholarships

Every so often, we offer time-limited volunteer and intern abroad scholarships to candidates meeting certain criteria. To see if we currently have scholarships available, see our scholarships page or ask your enrolment manager when applying for a GVI program

Fundraising

Many of our volunteers, especially teen volunteers, use their GVI volunteering program as an opportunity to gain experience in fundraising. While booking your GVI program, let your enrolment manager know that you’re looking to fundraise to volunteer abroad. They’ll set up a personal fundraising page for you on GVI’s own fundraising platform. Then, browse our article for fundraising ideas and share your own GVI page to start your fundraising campaign.

Parent information pack
GVI is a parent-run organisation – family is at the heart of what we do. We’re incredibly serious about child protection, and health and safety, and we care deeply about making learning more engaging.
Book by 30 September 2022
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