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Deciding to try volunteering abroad is something thousands of people do every year, whether it’s during their gap year, as part of a specific trip to a country or just for the experience itself, it’s a great way to give something back to the world and lets you join the smug, ‘I’ve volunteered abroad, aren’t I brilliant club’.

Aside from the fact you’ve now got a licence to lecture every other traveller on just how selfish and destructive they are by not having volunteered, as an alumnus of a volunteer trip abroad, you’ll have made a difference to the world, probably learned a lot about yourself and improved the communities you’d otherwise just have trampled through. Find out how to avoid the scams and where the genuinely great volunteer schemes are right here.

Volunteering for free

Making sure it’s all legit

The ideal thing to do when looking for a volunteer scheme abroad is to go through a reputable agency, even more ideal, is to work with an agency that people you know have worked with. This way you know they’re not going to take your money, dump you in a slum in sub-Saharan Africa and make off with your iPod. The vast majority of agencies you’ll come across when researching a volunteer trip will probably be completely legit with all the best intentions in the world, but some will naturally be better at the whole process than others. The level of support you can get, the contact you’ll have with trained professionals on the ground, etc., will vary from agency to agency, so if you’re a novice to the whole thing, it’s probably best to go with a company you can talk about with others. Check out the various volunteer abroad forums and Facebook pages to get an idea of what each company is like to work with. Once you’re happy, go for it!’


What are the best schemes to work on?

If I had a crystal ball, I would happily answer this question for you. But I don’t. And they don’t exist. Therefore, the best volunteer abroad scheme for you will be different to everyone else who reads this post. Where you’ll be happy working depends on your expectations, your personality, the kind of things you’re interested in, and so on. Below I’ve written some ideas about different schemes you might like, depending on whether you’re active or no so active. I don’t mean how much you hit the gym, but rather whether you want to be working in the great outdoors or more happy on a swivel chair!


Volunteer trips for the active

  • Conservation Projects: protect the jungle, clean up beaches, work to reduce global warming, help educate people about the environment or recycling…
  • Ecological/Wildlife Projects: save the turtles, save the tigers, save other things beginning with T, work in safari parks, animal welfare centres…
  • Construction Projects: help to build a school, a hospital, an allotment…
  • Sports Schemes: lead sports clubs, after school sport clubs…

Volunteer trips for the not so active

  • Teaching English: give people the lifelong skill to speak English, work with kids, work in adult education centres…
  • General Teaching: help improve a whole community by giving its citizens new skills, new chances to find work…
  • Healthcare Projects: save lives, support medical staff, educate communities on proper healthcare…

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and the titles of the projects don’t really do the actual volunteer abroad schemes justice. Each of the schemes mentioned above will be found across hundreds of different countries, cities, towns and villages. It just depends on where you want to go, then hone in on exactly the type of work you want to do. If you think you’d like to help people, improve people’s lives within a community and learn a lot of new skills, this could be for you. It’s a great way to see the world, too!

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Got a question? Wanna comment? I'd love to hear from you

3 thoughts on “Volunteering Abroad: Avoiding Scams and Finding the Best Schemes

  1. I think everybody should check out the Scam Detector app. I believe they’re online as well.

  2. Great article. I wanted to bring our organization to your attention, as we believe our services appeal to the audience you are targeting with this article.

    Sustainable Bolivia is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit public benefit institution with offices in the United States and Cochabamba, Bolivia. With projects in the Andean highlands, our primary objective is to provide Bolivian organizations with much needed human and financial resources while providing international travelers, students and professionals the opportunity to gain practical work experience through internships and volunteer opportunities in Bolivia. Additionally, for those wishing to contribute and extend their stays in Bolivia, we offer a range of cultural and ecotourism excursions, home stay opportunities, low-cost housing, as well as Spanish and Quechua language classes.

    We are not an agency, and focus our efforts only here in Cochabamba. As such, we can provide a high level of support in communications from our dedicated ground staff. Please check out our website for more information or to apply.

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