How to Volunteer Abroad for Free
Interested in going to volunteer but don't want to pay anything? Looking for free volunteer abroad opportunities which include free flights, travel and accommodation? Wondering if it is even possible to volunteer abroad at no cost?
We get lots of e-mails and enquiries asking why do I need to pay to volunteer? Or from people requesting help in choosing a organisation from people wanting to help but are on tight budgets or do not want to break the bank participating.
If you are currently researching a volunteer program and looking not to spend a fortune doing so in the process you might have realised if can be a struggle to find free and cheap cost opportunities.
What you might not know is One World 365 is one of the largest resources in the world for volunteering abroad, we help thousands of people every year and unlike many other websites, ours features lots of free, low cost and reasonably priced opportunities all around the world.
To find free/cheap opportunities worldwide read our guide below.
Is It Possible to Volunteer Abroad for Free - What the Catch?
You might have been searching out opportunities already and struggling to find programs which don't cost you thousands.
Or think why should I pay? Well, think about this, if you are un-skilled but just want to donate your time
It can be difficult to find a completely free volunteer abroad program unless you get a paid position with a large international agency but there are lots of ways to keep costs down or even participate at no cost at all.
Browse Free Volunteer Programs By Destination
One World 365 features hundreds of organisations around the world who offer free programs
Top Tips to Not Pay a Volunteer Fee
Here are some tips to volunteer for free or cheaply:
1. Choose Your Destinations Carefully
Ask yourself, do you really need to go overseas? Or could you just stay locally to where you live and then you won't need to pay for travel or volunteer fees overseas. We realise this is more boring than actually going to help abroad, but it is a lot cheaper!
2. Get TEFL Certified
If you get a specific skills or qualification you will put yourself in a good position to be eligible for free placements, or even get paid. One great option is to take a TEFL certification course and then apply to teach English abroad. With a TEFL course you will get a worldwide recognised qualification allowing you to teach around the world. If you are applying for educational and teaching volunteer programs you will really increase your chances of participanting for free, or even getting a salary if you have taken a TEFL course.
Recommended companies to get a TEFL course with include:
International TEFL & TESOL Training (ITTT) offer internationally accredited TEFL courses including online, in-class and combined TEFL courses which are internationally accredited. You can choose from over 30 worldwide locations.
Founded in 1994, i-to-i are one of the worlds leading TEFL course providers and have helped 180,000+ people get qualified. They offer online and classroom TEFL courses worldwide. i-to-i also offer job hunting support, TEFL internships and lifetime advice from their excellent staff.
3. Improve Your Skills
Unskilled volunteers stand a much less chance to get a free/paid placement compared to skilled volunteers. For example, wildlife sanctuaries are always looking to hire vets. Also if you don't work in a skilled profession e.g. teacher, IT, medicine there are other ways you can get hired for free. Lots of international organisations hire English speaking staff to work as coordinators or managers to oversee projects and help participants when they arrive.
4. Participate Long Term
Some free volunteer programs often require you to have specific skills or commit to a minimum time commitment. The longer you participate for the larger the chance you will avoid paying a fee.
5. Get a Scholarship/Grant
Some companies offer scholoraships or grants if you are going to help good causes.. You will need to write an application letter, why you need the funds and where the money goes.
6. Apply Direct with NGO's/Charities
If you make an application with a local NGO or charity you will likely avoid the middle international agency fee. A lot of international companies charge fees which you can avoid by going direct.
7. Seek Out Opportunities Locally Around the World
There are so many local organisations around the world which offer people the chance to help at no cost. These aren't generally structured programs but they are with local people who are looking to help where they live. For example, rubbish pick ups, helping in charity shops, working at animal shelters etc. These won't require a fee.
8. Do You Really Not Want to Pay a Fee
There are so many reasons why you might sometimes need to pay to volunteer, most organisations don't have any funding and use the money raised from volunteers to stay operational. A lot of wildlife sanctuaries for example don't get any governmental funding and so charge fees or ask for donations so they can employ local staff, buy food, maintenance etc. Sometimes when you see the inspirational work being done you might actually want to donate.
Companies Offering Free Volunteer Programs Abroad
You can find large international and local organisations around the world offering free opportunities. If you browse our country directories you will be able to search local organisations and apply direct.
These are some of the largest and most well known international organisartions we recommend which offer free placements:
Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government and offers free volunteering options for citizens of the United States. Its official mission is to provide social and economic development abroad through technical assistance, while promoting mutual understanding between Americans and populations served.
If you are an American citizen, have 2 years available to participant, have the right qualifications, then Peace Corps could be a great option. To be eligible you will need to be at least 18 years-old and register your application at least 9 months in advance. There is a thorough interview process before you get accepted.
The United Nations Volunteers programme is a United Nations organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development challenges, and it can transform the pace and nature of development.
There are over 2,000 placements available every year and participants need specialist skills and also commit for a long-term duration from 6 months in duration.
To be eligible you must be 25 years-old and older, have a university degree or equilivent, have relevant work experience in a professional background, and a good level of English, Spanish or French.
Voluntary Service Overseas is a not-for-profit international development organization charity founded in 1958. The aim is for a "world without poverty" and a mission to "bring people together to fight poverty and marginalisation".
If you are an experienced professional of any age, you can apply with VSO. They also have special programmes for 18-35 year olds (ICS) and for organisations interested in providing corporate volunteering opportunities for their employees
Projects you can join include: Medical and healthcare, Teaching and education, Business, management and IT, Engineering and technical, Community and social work, Agriculture and natural resources, Communications and fundraising and Advocacy, policy and research.
Places you can go with VSO include: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
All Hands and Hearts is a U.S. 5013 nonprofit organization. All Hands Volunteers was founded in September 2005 to provide relief to residents in areas affected by natural disasters in the U.S. and internationally.
To be a residential volunteer and sleep at our base you must be 18 or over. 16 and 17 year olds are welcome to join us as day volunteers providing they are accompanied by a responsible adult and are able to arrange their own accommodation. No previous construction experience is required - just a pair of work boots and a good attitude!. Each site is supervised by a professional staff member or trained team leader to ensure that volunteers have a fun, safe, and positive experience.
Volunteering with All Hands and Hearts is completely free of charge, and accommodation and meals and included. Some return flights are offered for free but only on selected projects in need of participants. Others you will be responsible for the cost of your travel both to and from the program, meals on your day(s) off, and any costs associated with taking a 3 day break each month away from program.
Have you ever been to volunteer abroad at no cost? Share your experience or recommendations in the comments section below.