International Volunteering has become heavily commercialised over the last 10 years, but, at IVS we believe that volunteering shouldn’t cost a fortune and our team does everything we can to offer fully funded or low cost volunteering options.
The majority of the ‘Volunteer Abroad for Free’ guides that you see online are just ads for commercial volunteering organisations. This guide only lists funded programmes.
Volunteering offers so many benefits, not just to the volunteer, but also to local communities around the world. However, with the rise of commercial “Voluntourism”, the principles of volunteering can be lost and can fundamentally do more harm than good. Despite the damaging effects these type of projects can have on local communities, there are also disadvantages for the volunteers. One of these being the cost of the trip, with prices stretching as far as £9,000. Despite this, there are a number of other low-cost, or even free, options for potential volunteers abroad. We are here to help you volunteer abroad for free and have created a list of these options below to make it easier for you!
How to Volunteer Abroad for Free
There are a number of fully-funded volunteering programmes available which many people are not aware of. Some of these programmes have age limits and stricter time periods, and others require special skill sets. These funded projects provide volunteer work to areas that really need it:
European Voluntary Service
Fully funded by the EU commission, EVS offers volunteering placements, mainly in Europe, for 17-30 year old EU residents, for up to 12 months. These placements are widely varied in subject matter, but the majority are related to the environment, arts and culture, activities with children, young people or the elderly, heritage or sports and leisure activities. In recent years, there has been a large increase in projects that support refugees and asylum seekers.
EVS volunteers receive support to cover their travel and living costs, as well as a living allowance and travel insurance. A database of EVS projects can be found here and is regularly updated with new projects.
As EVS volunteers are fully funded, competition is very high. IVS are an accredited EVS sending organisation and we can offer you lots of advice on how to improve your application. Why not contact us today to find out more about the European Voluntary Service, and how to apply.
European Solidarity Corps
A new initiative also funded by the EU commission, is the European Solidarity Corps. Similar to EVS, you must be 18-30 years old, and all the projects aim to benefit communities and people around Europe. Volunteers who register must agree with the Mission and Principles of the European Solidarity Corps. Once registered with the initiative, organisations will select the participants that fit with their area of work. ESC volunteers don’t have to worry about the expense of travel to and from the project, accommodation, meals or medical insurance as this is funded by the EU. Volunteers will also receive some spending money to cater for day-to-day living costs.
ESC volunteers don’t have to worry about the expense of travel to and from the project, accommodation, meals or medical insurance as this is funded by the EU. Volunteers will also receive some spending money to cater for day-to-day living costs.
This is still a relatively new initiative, with more details to follow, and projects beginning in Spring 2017. However, you can register now via the European Youth Portal website to prepare.
International Citizen Service
The International Citizen Service is a government-funded programme led by VSO. The programme’s placements are offered to volunteers (aged 18-25) and to team leaders (aged 23-35) and are located in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Volunteers do not need qualifications to take part in an ICS placement and the projects are created as part of a wider development plan, all of which aim to have a long-term impact on the community.
The ICS is in partnership with many development organisations who have genuine goals for development and sustainability. Although this is funded by the UK Government, volunteers must fundraise a minimum of £800, and complete the Action at Home project on their arrival back in the UK.
If this sounds like the free volunteering abroad programme for you, visit their website here.
If you wish to volunteer for no cost, whilst using your professional skills and experience, Volunteer Services Overseas may be the organisation for you. VSO offer professional volunteering placements in Africa and Asia in the following industries: medical and healthcare, teaching and education, business and IT, engineering and technical, agriculture, social work and much more. Volunteering with VSO requires training, which can be from 3-5 months, and the placements can last up to 12 months.
As this is also government-funded, VSO will cover the costs of training, living allowance, accommodation, medical insurance, return travel, work visas, and any possible immunisations.
To find out more about this programme, click here.
If you’re in America, The Peace Corps is an option for you. A fully-funded government organisation, Peace Corps send volunteers to over 60 countries with the main mission of creating world peace and friendship. To serve with the Peace Corps, you must be a college graduate or a specialist in a certain area of work with skills to offer.
The Peace Corps have projects in health, agriculture, environment, community economic development, education, and youth development. It is also essential for volunteers to participate in pre-service training, and often in-service training. Volunteers must be 18 years old and a US citizen.
If you’re interested in this opportunity, find out more here.
To be a UN volunteer abroad, you must match the fixed requirements they have set out for all potential candidates. Potential volunteers must register their interest along with a detailed profile stating their skills and qualifications. The UN assignments can run from six months to one year but can be extended for two years. According to their profile and skills, volunteers may then be chosen by UN agencies around the world. Volunteers are given an allowance to allow them to maintain a secure standard of living in the country of their assignment.
To register, you must be over 25 years old, have a university degree or higher diploma, have two years of related work experience, and have good English, Spanish or French.
To find out more about UN Volunteers, click here.
Don’t fancy any of these?
Don’t worry if these don’t match what you are looking for. Keep reading to see what your other options are.
Low-Cost Volunteering Abroad
Realistically, there are some volunteering fees in order to cover the costs of the projects and to ensure that everything runs smoothly. However, these costs should not be high. IVS offer a variety of low-cost long- and short-term opportunities for volunteers.
International Voluntary Service
Our volunteering doesn’t just benefit the volunteers, but it also benefits the local communities where our volunteers work. As we are part of the global SCI network, we are able to send volunteers to 80 countries with over 1000 projects on offer. With access to IVS databases full of volunteering opportunities, you can choose a project to fit your interests and passions or, if you’re a student, one that will complement your studies and support your personal and professional development. We offer a variety of opportunities in healthcare, teaching, environmental protection, social injustice, or working with children, young people, the elderly, refugees, minority groups or individuals who are socially disadvantaged. Plus lots more!
Our short-term projects range from 2-4 weeks in length and our long-term projects run from one month up to a year, with prices starting from £145.
Find a short-term project here.
Find a long-term project here.
We also offer group volunteering for family, friends and colleagues, or for school and youth groups. These projects can be tailored to suit your group’s needs and interests, be that a certain region, culture, type of work or time duration.
See our group volunteering opportunities here.
Discover why volunteering abroad with IVS is the best option for a low-cost volunteering experience abroad!
Who are UN Youth Volunteers?
UN Youth Volunteers are a separate category of UN Volunteers recently created in response to the United Nations Secretary-General’s call for greater engagement in volunteerism of history’s largest generation of people under 30. UN Youth Volunteers help the United Nations – one of the world’s most important intergovernmental organizations - to fulfill its mission. These young volunteers are assigned to host United Nations agencies to work on the frontlines of political, developmental and humanitarian field operations. UN Youth Volunteers are young people aged 18 to 29 years who want to engage in development and peace initiatives worldwide.
What do UN Youth Volunteers do?
As a UN Youth Volunteer, you will help advance peace and sustainable development either in your own country or in another country around the globe. You will help people to lead healthier and safer lives and communities to be able to better address present and future challenges.
UN Youth Volunteer positions are wide ranging; you may work in human rights, climate change adaptation, primary health care, disaster management, peacebuilding, youth engagement or many other areas. You may work directly in a United Nations agency or be assigned to one of its partner organizations, a university or the government.
In return, you will be rewarded with an experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Your engagement as a UN Youth Volunteer will be an opportunity to change the world for the better while simultaneously honing your own skills, gaining knowledge and a better understanding of the realities of international development and peacebuilding.
How long is the assignment?
Because UN Youth Volunteers are sponsored by United Nations agencies, their partners, governments or academic institutions, the length of assignment depends on the requesting entity’s needs. Most UN Youth Volunteer assignments are between six and 24 months. On occasion, national and international UN Youth Volunteer assignments are less than six months and then are referred to as ‘short-term’ assignments.
When UN Youth Volunteers are sponsored by an academic institution, they are called UN Youth University Volunteers. UN Youth University Volunteers undertake shorter duration assignments – generally between three and six months.
Tell me a bit more…
UN Youth Volunteers receive a basic living allowance that allows the volunteer to live healthily and safely in the assigned area. If you volunteer outside of your home area, return airfare or land transport (as applicable) and some other basic costs are paid by the host agency. You will receive orientation and training before and after your assignment.
Who qualifies as a UN Youth Volunteer?
The UN Youth Volunteer programme is looking for motivated and talented youth between the ages of 18 and 29. (Note: you must be younger than 29 throughout the duration of your service). The educational background and experience required varies by assignment, but generally work experience over two years is not expected.
Am I the right fit?
Because the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme has built a reputation for recruiting and fielding the highest caliber volunteers that the world has to offer, no less is expected of UN Youth Volunteers. Here is a checklist to see if the UN Youth Volunteer programme is right for you:
- Am I committed to global peace and development?
- Am I motivated and enthusiastic?
- Can I adapt readily to new cultures and situations?
- Will I dedicate between six and twenty-four months to the volunteer assignment?
- Asset: Am I interested in or have I done any volunteering or community work in my country or elsewhere?
I’m in! How do I apply?
All UN Youth Volunteer assignments to volunteer abroad are advertised in our website (under Special Calls for Volunteers). We also advertise assignments to volunteer in your country. We also advertise vacancies for youth via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As these assignments go fast, we encourage you to check the sources above on a regular basis. Details on qualifications and how to apply are included in the advertisement for each assignment.
Note: There is no general registration for UN Youth Volunteer assignments. You can only apply via advertisements for individual assignments.
If you are 25 years of age or older and have several years of work experience in a specific area of expertise, you may want to register for the UNV Global Talent Pool.
You may also be interested in volunteering online with our UNV Online Volunteering service.