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!