There are many opportunities to volunteer your time to help others around the world. Service-oriented volunteer travel can be as short as a weekend or as long as you have the time to commit. All ages can participate, and some programs accept families. The range of accommodations and other amenities varies widely. If you're interested in an international service opportunity, here are some organizations to help you get started. Before you decide, explore each one to make sure the one you choose is a match for your interests and skills.
Amigos de las Américas
Amigos de las Américas (AMIGOS) provides leadership training and volunteer service opportunities in the United States and Latin America. AMIGOS creates opportunities for young people to excel in leadership roles promoting public health, education and community development.
CARE Corps partners with Cross-Cultural Solutions to offer volunteer international travel opportunities. To experience community service abroad while learning more about CARE's approach to international development and sustainable solutions to poverty, CARE Corps volunteers travel to Peru or Guatemala in two-week placements matched to their interests, background, and skills.
Cross-Cultural Solutions operates volunteer programs in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Thailand. Participants work side-by-side with local people on locally designed and driven projects. Volunteer programs are designed to facilitate hands-on service and cultural exchange with the aim of fostering cultural understanding.
Doctors Without Borders
Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders or MSF) delivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and manmade disasters, and to others who lack healthcare due to social or geographical isolation. Through longer-term programs, MSF treats chronic diseases, assists with the medical and psychological problems of marginalized populations, and brings health care to remote areas where resources and training are limited.
Earthwatch Institute engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Volunteers work side-by-side with experts, participating in scientific research, education, and conservation programs. Earthwatch has field projects in over 50 countries each year.
Global Routes is committed to strengthening our global community through voluntary work overseas. To this end, Global Routes brings people with different worldviews together through foreign exchange programs based on community service. Through its programs, North American high school and college students live with people in small, rural communities throughout the world, working side-by-side with their host families on community-selected projects such as constructing a school, clinic or community center; teaching local children; or reforesting surrounding areas.
The goal of Global Volunteers is to help establish a foundation for peace through mutual international understanding. At the request of local community leaders and/or host country partner organizations, Global Volunteers sends teams of eight to 20 volunteers for two to three weeks, four to 12 times each year to assist with local work projects. Volunteers work in primarily rural communities in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, North America and the Pacific, putting their labor, energy, skills and education at the service of local people.
Habitat for Humanity Global Village Work Teams
Habitat for Humanity International's Global Village trips give participants an opportunity to become active partners with people of another culture. Team members work alongside members of the host community, raising awareness of the burden of poverty and building decent, affordable housing worldwide. As partners, team members help build a true "global village" of love, homes, communities and hope.
Health Volunteers Overseas
Health Volunteers Overseas is dedicated to improving the availability and quality of health care in developing countries through training and education. Programs vary according to the needs of the countries in which they are located, but all focus on local pathologies and health problems, relevant and realistic practices and procedures, and making maximum use of locally available equipment and supplies. The ultimate goal of all programs is to identify and train local personnel who can, in time, assume the roles of health care educator and provider, thus continuing the process.
The Hope Alliance
The Hope Alliance mission is to improve health in communities of need by setting up long-term, self-sustaining programs that will have dramatic, positive, lasting impact on the children and families in those communities. The group provides medical clinics, trains health workers and supplies existing clinics and hospitals with equipment and supplies. They also operate clean water, educational and micro-business projects.
i-to-i North America
The mission of i-to-i is to make worthwhile travel experiences available through opportunities to volunteer and work abroad. Begun with a focus on Teaching English as a Second Language, i-to-i's international volunteer projects now aim to allow people to give something back by contributing to worthwhile projects during their travel and to provide local projects around the world with a consistent supply of trained and committed volunteer workers. Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older.
The Peace Corps aims to help the people in developing countries meet their needs for trained men and women while helping promote a better understanding between Americans and the rest of the world. Volunteers range from college students to retirees and work in areas including education, youth outreach and community development, the environment, and information technology. Health-focused programs include HIV/AIDS prevention as well as improving basic health care.
Physicians for Peace
Physicians For Peace seeks world peace and international goodwill by providing quality medical care to those in need. PFP works with other medical relief and international aid organizations to improve medical education and the delivery of health care services in developing nations around the world.
Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary offers a variety of programs for members to get involved in projects and exchange programs with an international focus. Through the World Community Service program, for example, Rotary clubs from two or more countries come together to accomplish a community service project.
Volunteers for Peace
VFP is a membership organization affiliated with UNESCO that coordinates international volunteer service as an effective means of intercultural education and community service. It provides workcamp programs where people from diverse backgrounds come together to address local and global issues.
WorldTeach, based at the Center for International Development at Harvard University, provides opportunities for individuals to make meaningful contributions to international education by living and working as volunteer teachers in developing countries. WorldTeach volunteers teach in a variety of settings. Most volunteers teach English, though teaching placements have also expanded into other fields such as: information and communication technology, and environmental education.