If you’re planning a trip, why not consider making an impact on the community you are visiting?

From teaching English in local schools to participating in environmental conservation projects, “voluntourism” offers individuals the chance to contribute their skills and resources to address pressing social and environmental challenges.

What is voluntourism?

Voluntourism, also known as volunteer travel or volunteer vacation, blends volunteering and tourism. It involves travelers engaging in voluntary work, often for charitable purposes. Voluntourists, who come from diverse backgrounds and age groups worldwide, contribute to various fields such as agriculture, health care, education and more, per World Vision.

What are the benefits of voluntourism?

According to World Vision, if done right, there are many positive aspects to volunteer travel.

When voluntourism opportunities are carefully planned and sustainable, volunteers’ efforts can yield long-term benefits. For instance, instead of traveling abroad to teach English to students, volunteers can assist local teachers in improving their English proficiency and teaching methods, preserving jobs for local educators while enhancing the community’s educational resources.

Exploring a new culture is a significant perk of travel, especially with voluntourism. Immersing oneself in a community, making new connections and witnessing firsthand the challenges they face expand one’s global perspective and comprehension of poverty and sustainable development.

Furthermore, traveling can improve local economies. Voluntourists contribute to this when they support local markets, engage in tours and activities and dine at neighborhood eateries. This boosts businesses within the community and the country as a whole.

What is the criticism of voluntourism?

According to an article in The New York Times, voluntourists often assume their ability to travel the world makes them qualified to alleviate global issues. However, many trips end up yielding little impact due to the volunteers’ limited involvement and expertise.

Furthermore, host communities may become reliant on foreign financial aid, as the impacts of the trip rarely extend beyond the duration of the volunteers’ stay, per The New York Times.

How to pick the best volunteer abroad program?

To make sure you give your best work, while also enjoying the program, it can be important to understand different programs and research what works best for you.

Go Overseas shares some tips to pick an impactful project that fits with your skills and interests.

  • Make a realistic budget.
  • Figure out what programs you are interested in (environmental, medical or something else).
  • Know how long you want to volunteer.
  • Evaluate the goals of each organization.
  • Determine if the organization is both ethical and impactful.
  • Understand the qualifications needed.
  • Learn what is included with the project (meals, transportation or training, for example).
  • Talk to past volunteers.

What are the top places to volunteer abroad?

International Volunteer HQ took feedback from over 10,000 volunteer travelers and staff to figure out the 25 best volunteer trips for 2024 and 2025. Each location lists some of the offered projects.

Africa

  • Tanzania: Animal welfare, child care, medical, teaching and women’s education.
  • Zanzibar: Turtle, rainforest and coastal conservation projects.
  • Victoria Falls: Wildlife conservation.
  • Zambia: Construction and renovation, elderly care, child care, medical and teaching.
  • Kruger National Park, South Africa: Wildlife conservation.
  • Ghana: Helping the community.
  • South Africa: Teaching English and sports development.
  • Morocco: Mountain immersion, sports education, women’s education and other teaching projects.

Central America

  • Costa Rica: Turtle conservation, eco-agriculture conservation, child care, teaching english and health care.
  • Guatemala: Mayan cultural immersion, eco-agriculture, medical, child care and teaching projects.

South America

  • Peru: Amazon jungle conservation or medical.
  • Ecuador: Teaching English, street children work and child care.
  • Argentina: Child care, construction and renovation, elderly care, health care and special needs support.

North America and the Caribbean

  • Belize: Marine conservation.
  • Jamaica: Sustainable agriculture, sports, youth development, child care, business development and teaching.
  • Puerto Rico: Youth support, environmental sustainability and community development.

Europe

  • Croatia: Marine conservation, youth support, animal care, special needs support and creative technologies.
  • Portugal: Environmental scuba diving, supporting the homeless, youth support, forest conservation, biological park conservation and upcycling for social good.
  • Romania: Teaching English, sustainable agriculture and animal care.
  • Spain: Marine conservation, youth support and special needs support.

Middle East

  • Jordan: Arts and music, special needs support, teaching, women’s education, youth support and Ramadan.

Asia

  • Nepal: Helping the community.
  • Bali: Turtle conservation and child care support.
  • India: Helping the community.
  • Vietnam: Medical.

Before picking a location to go, research the safety of the area and decide if the program would be best for you.

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