We’ve put together a list of ten great volunteer organizations that offer cheap, affordable, and low cost volunteer projects. These volunteer organizations, such as Maximo Niveland International Volunteer Headquarters, have been picked not only for their low cost and affordability, but also for their reputations and established histories as well; Maximo Nivel is an especially affordable choice for U.S. travelers who are interested in their human rights and education internship programs, which start from $1,525 for four weeks ($381 per week). Agape Volunteers is especially worth checking out, since their low fees also include the registration fee and your travel insurance, which many organizations break out as separate charges. Furthermore, Volunteering Solutions offers one week volunteer trips starting at just $200. Not only will we showcase cheap and affordable volunteer programs, we will also provide resources on volunteer abroad scholarships and grants, fundraising for a volunteer trip, and getting free airfare overseas. Lastly, we will highlight organizations such as the award-winning program, Global Vision International, that pay participants to Teach English as a Foreign Language in Thailand.
CHEAP, AFFORDABLE VOLUNTEER ABROAD PROGRAMS & LOW COST OVERSEAS PROJECTS
If you are like many aspiring international volunteers researching volunteer opportunities overseas, you have probably experienced sticker shock by the high cost of volunteering abroad. Indeed, many international volunteers do not initially realize that the average cost of a volunteer trip is $3,000. Before my first volunteer trip to India in 2012, I was naïve enough to think someone would pay me to participate in overseas volunteer work (if only I had known about the organization Global Vision International, which will train you to teach English as a foreign language and whose participants earn a monthly stipend to teach English abroad)! The trip cost incurred by volunteers includes a program fee, airfare, travel insurance, vaccinations, visas, and other travel costs.
In terms of why you have to pay to volunteer abroad, international volunteer organizations rely on volunteer program fees and your time and labor to sustain their organizations. The program fee not only goes towards providing you room and board while you are volunteering abroad, but also pays for administration costs such as staff salaries, marketing expenses, and direct funding support to the host community. You’re also responsible for your own airfare and travel insurance to reduce the volunteer organization’s burden of hosting you. Volunteer organizations differ enormously in terms of the program fees they charge. Some organizations charge a higher program fee so that they can provide first class pre-departure and in-country support to volunteers. These programs may be more appropriate to prospective volunteers (especially first time volunteers) who would prefer to have more support before, during, and after their volunteer trips.
On the other hand, other would-be volunteers may be more independent and require less support during the volunteering process. This article highlights affordable volunteer organizations whose program fees are $1,000 or less to volunteer abroad for 2 weeks. For example, Agape Volunteers offers high-quality volunteer abroad experiences in Africa for $510, which includes your registration fee and travel insurance. For volunteers looking for destinations outside of Africa, consider Volunteering Solutions, which offers volunteer and intern abroad projects starting at $200 for one week exclusive of the application fee and travel insurance. While many aspiring volunteers would love to travel and volunteer abroad for free, the needs of volunteer programs and their host communities can make that very difficult. However, this article will show you how to make volunteering abroad affordable.
In defining cheap, affordable, and low-cost volunteer opportunities, we exclude well-known volunteer programs such as the Peace Corps (USA), United Nations Volunteers, and Voluntary Service Overseas (UK). While these are wonderful programs, both the Peace Corps and Voluntary Service Overseas require two year commitments, which may not be feasible for students and professionals who are seeking shorter duration volunteer projects. Furthermore, United Nations Volunteers requires a six month commitment and can be a highly competitive program. We have also included intern abroad and teach abroad programs, since they provide similar experiences to volunteering abroad, but at a lower cost to the participant. Here are ten great international volunteer, intern, and teaching alternatives that are cheap and don’t require long term commitments; we’ve also included one volunteer abroad program that includes free airfare! Read on to learn more about applying to these inexpensive volunteer abroad programs.
CHEAP, AFFORDABLE, AND LOW-COST VOLUNTEER ABROAD PROGRAMS
International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) is a New Zealand based volunteer organization that provides affordable, safe, and responsible volunteer programs in over 30 different destinations around the world. With program fees starting from just US$180 and over 55,000 alumni, IVHQ is a low-cost volunteer program that has been able to attract a significant number of volunteers to its programs since its start in 2007. IVHQ offers 150+ short-term and long-term volunteer options that range from 1 week to 24 weeks. The organization offers volunteer placements in the following destinations: Costa Rica, Italy, Fiji, Bali, Peru, India, South Africa, Thailand, Kenya, Brazil, Tanzania, Nepal, Madagascar, Argentina, Mexico, Victoria Falls, Laos, Uganda, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Mexico, Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ecuador, China, Ghana, Colombia, Morocco, Laos, Spain, New Zealand, Portugal, and Transylvania.
Some IVHQ volunteer projects that you’ll definitely want to check out include their turtle conservation projects in Costa Rica and Bali. For aspiring public health and medical professionals, their HIV/AIDS project in Kenya is a great way to serve others while learning more about the public health and medical fields. Lastly, for a responsible way to volunteer with children, be sure to check out IVHQ’s sports education program in Fiji, their childcare program in Cambodia, or their teach abroad program in South Africa!
Featured Program: Maximo Nivel
Overview of Volunteer Abroad Programs: Maximo Nivel offers a number of affordable volunteer abroad placements in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Volunteers can assist with childcare, conservation and environment, English teaching, construction, medical care, and non-medical healthcare. Programs start from $595 for the first week, and includes project management, 24/7 in-country support, airport pickup, housing, and two meals per day. Add-ons include a surf school, mini travel adventure, yoga teacher training, and more. To learn more about Maximo Nivel’s volunteer abroad opportunities, visit: http://www.maximonivel.com/volunteers/Since 2003, Maximo Nivel has provided a wide variety of affordable volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Each program is internationally accredited, with choices including volunteer abroad projects, international internships, native Spanish program, TEFL certification, Spanish camp for teens, and adventure and culture opportunities. Maximo Nivel’s volunteer abroad programs start from just $595 per week, and their intern abroad programs start from $1,525 for four weeks ($381 per week). Each program includes airport pickup, 24/7 emergency support, orientation, certificates, WIFI internet, salsa dance classes, Spanish books and materials, and lots more.
Through this construction volunteer program, you’ll have the opportunity to build or repair homes, add classrooms to schools, or even make improvements to orphanages in Latin America. For one week or longer, you’re welcome to volunteer alongside fellow travelers and local workers to make a difference for communities in need. A few of your tasks will include digging, mixing cement, carrying bricks, preparing adobe, painting, plastering, and lots of other projects to beautify your project site. You can expect to volunteer three to four hours Monday through Friday each week, and the types of projects you’ll take on will depend on the program needs at the time. This is an excellent opportunity for volunteers who are physically fit, want to get dirty, and want to see the amazing difference you’re able to make in a short amount of time. Depending on the project, your program fee starts from just $595 for your first week abroad. Click here to learn more: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/construction
If you want to go off the beaten path and make a positive impact in Peru, check out Maximo Nivel’s volunteer program with indigenous communities. This immersive experience brings you to the rural Andes of Peru, just outside of Cusco, where you’ll live and volunteer within a small community tending livestock, assisting with agricultural projects, constructing and repairing buildings, and teaching children in a local classroom. This is another physically-demanding placement, so you should be in good health to get the most from your experience. Click here to learn more about volunteering with indigenous communities: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/indigenous-communities/
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Volunteer with Children: Maximo Nivel invites you to volunteer with local street children and orphans in Guatemala, Costa Rica, or Peru. Volunteers will work as part of locally-based initiatives that provide education support, recreation, and healthcare to children whose families may not be able to care for them, or for children who’ve lost their families. This volunteer opportunity includes 24/7 in-country support, airport pickup, shared housing, and meals, and starts from $595 for one week, with extensions available for travelers who’d like to stay longer. Click here to learn more about volunteering with children through Maximo Nivel: http://www.maximonivel.com/volunteers/working-with-kids/
Volunteer in Animal Care: Maximo Nivel’s animal care program invites you to Guatemala or Peru to work in a dog rescue shelter, an amphibian and reptile rescue center, or a small zoo. Volunteer projects vary depending on your placement, but may include caring for the animals, obedience training for the dogs, feeding animals at the zoo, cleaning cages, hosting visitors, and maintenance at the reptile and amphibian center. This placement starts from one week, and you’ll work Monday through Friday. To learn more about these animal care volunteer programs, visit: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/animal-care/
Featured Program: i-to-i
Since 1994, i-to-i has offered TEFL certification, English teaching trips, paid internship, and jobs for travelers who’d like to teach English abroad. More than 175,000 people have completed i-to-i’s TEFL courses, which are recognized by thousands of employers around the world. i-to-i holds a 90% approval rating from their participants and students, who have traveled to China and Vietnam for four- to five-month paid internships, as well as shorter-term TEFL trips to Thailand, Cambodia, and beyond.
If you want to gain new skills and get paid to travel, check out i-to-i’s TEFL Internship in China! You’ll start with a 120-hour TEFL training course online, and once you arrive in Beijing, you’ll take on two days of classroom teaching training to get you used to working on your own. After that, i-to-i will place you at one of their partner schools in a Chinese community, where you’ll work five days per week as an English teacher for the next five months. As part of this internship, you’ll receive housing, meals, and a living allowance of about $260 per month, plus a bonus of $320 once you’ve successfully completed your internship. Learn more here!
If you have two months to travel, why not sign up for i-to-i’s Cambodia TEFL Experience? For $1,199 for the full two months (less than $150 per week!)- plus i-to-i’s online 120-hour TEFL training course – you’ll have the amazing opportunity to travel in Cambodia and teach English at a private school in Phnom Penh. You’ll start with an orientation, where you’ll learn about Khmer culture and history, and get to know the school where you’ll teach for the next 7 weeks. During your teaching placement, you’ll work with students aged 3 to 16, with weekends free for exploration or just relaxation. After that, you’ll travel to the Sihanoukville resort, where you’ll have five days to visit beaches, bars, shops, and restaurants. Click here to sign up!
Another paid internship i-to-i is offering right now invites you to teach English in Vietnam. Similar to the China TEFL internship, you will start with an online TEFL training course, plus a 20-hour classroom training experience once you arrive to Vietnam. During your first week abroad, you’ll have the chance to explore, learn about culture and history, and meet your fellow interns. Over the next five months, you’ll teach students aged 4 to 18 – so there will be plenty of opportunity to get creative and learn to work with students of all language levels – plus receive a monthly living allowance of $700. Learn more about teaching in Vietnam here!
Featured Program: Volunteering Solutions
Volunteer Teaching in Nepal: One of VolSol’s most affordable volunteer programs invites you to teach English lessons at public or private schools in Nepal. These schools are short on staff and in need of volunteers like you to assist teachers with lessons and day-to-day work, all of which will help your students build successful futures for themselves through a good education. A few tasks you’ll take on as a volunteer include finding creative ways to teach lessons, teaching your own class (if you have experience and confidence in teaching on your own), playing games and leading other extracurricular activities, and assisting local staff with their needs. You’re invited to stay one week or longer, starting at just $200 for your first week in Nepal.Volunteering Solutions offers some of the most affordable volunteer projects on the planet. Founded in 2006, Volunteering Solutions has hosted over 10,000 participants and now operates volunteer abroad and intern abroad projects in 30+ countries. Their volunteer projects in Nepal are the most affordably priced, starting at $200 for one week in addition to a $225 application fee. You also have the option of adding a one week language orientation week for $250 before you start your placement. In addition to Nepal, Volunteering Solutions also operates projects in India, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda for under $300 for one week (in addition to an application fee).
Medical Volunteer Program in Kenya: If you’re a pre-med student, medical student, or professional and want to gain experience working in a hospital or clinic overseas, Volunteering Solutions offers a wonderful opportunity to volunteer in Nairobi, Kenya. Through this program, you’ll work in a clinic, dispensary, or hospital to provide care and support for people living in slums with little access to quality medical facilities. Depending on your background and qualifications, you can help with checking patients’ weight and temperature, cleaning wounds, suturing wounds, doing rounds, helping with administrative tasks, and working in areas such as maternal health, surgery, laboratories, counseling, testing, and more. This volunteer program starts at $270 for your first week in Kenya, and you’re invited to stay up to six months.
Volunteer with Street Children in India: Based in Delhi, this volunteering program gives you the opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of some of India’s most vulnerable children. Right now, there are an estimated 1.75 million children living on the streets of Delhi – these children are at risk of sexual assault and trafficking, abuse, and drug use, and you can help provide care and support for them to get off of the streets and into better situations. As a volunteer, you’ll work at an educational center or shelter to teach informal classes, play games and lead recreational activities, teach healthy habits such as cleanliness and etiquette, plan trips to museums and other locations, and provide care and love to children who may have no support base of their own. You can stay for one week or longer in India, starting from a very affordable $250 for your first week.
Featured Program: Love Volunteers
Love Volunteers is an affordable volunteer organization that provides meaningful, life-changing volunteering abroad programs in more than 34 developing countries worldwide. Every year, Love Volunteers sends thousands of volunteers from all over the world into short and long term international volunteering placements in Central and South America, Asia, Africa, The Middle East, and Europe. Love Volunteers’ international placements start at just $175 for a one week placement along with a one-time $249 registration fee when you submit your application. Love Volunteers offers 120 community-based development programs in healthcare, education, sports and coaching, law and legal assistance, social services, engineering and architecture, special needs, Construction, environmental protection and in many more areas. We definitely recommend that you apply to Love Volunteers if you’re looking for an affordable volunteer program with lots of options in terms of placements
Featured Program: Agape Volunteers
Agape Volunteers operates low-fee volunteer projects throughout Africa. Agape’s projects start at USD $510 (£330) and already includes the registration fee and fully comprehensive travel insurance for free, making it one of the most affordable volunteer programs in the world. Agape Volunteers was founded by Oxford graduate, Guillaume Lefevre, in 2011 and boasts a perfect 5-star rating on Volunteer Forever. The program offers volunteer projects in Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, and Tanzania with projects ranging from medical volunteering to coaching a football academy in Nairobi. Definitely check out Agape Volunteers if you are looking for a reputable and affordable volunteer abroad trip to Africa
A two-week volunteer project with A Broader View costs $995 to $1180 and the organization offers volunteer opportunities in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America. Please note that A Broader View’s program fees do not include travel insurance, flights, vaccinations, or visa fees.A Broader View is a U.S. based non-profit volunteer organization that was founded in 2007 by Oliver and Sarah Ehlers. The organization has 245 volunteer opportunities overseas in 25 countries and their projects range in duration from 1 to 24 weeks. Based on information from the non-profit directory Guide Star, we estimate the organization hosted less than 500 volunteers in 2012. With over 100 reviews on our website, A Broader View is one of the highest rated and most reviewed volunteer organizations on Volunteer Forever.
While A Broader View’s program fee isn’t as cheap as the other volunteer programs mentioned, the organization may be a worthwhile option if there is a specific volunteer project type or destination that you highly desire that isn’t offered by the other organizations mentioned in this article, particularly if you are interested in medical, dental, nursing, and pre-health programs.
Global Nomadic offers affordable, impactful volunteer and intern abroad placements for travelers who’d like to expand your education and get a head start on your career while also doing good for communities in need. With Global Nomadic, you’ll work in partnership with local NGOs on projects relating to your degree or career goals, with placement costs as minimal as possible in keeping with a student, gap year, or career breaker budget–covering your support before, during, and after your program abroad.
If you’re interested in marine biology and research, Global Nomadic has the perfect internship opportunity for you to study and work with endangered sea turtles in south Guatemala. In this program–which is customizeable for your interests and background–you’ll work with scientists and biologists in sea turtle conservation and research, caiman and iguana breeding, environmental education, and community projects, which may include water treatment, ecotourism, school construction, and lots more. You’ll stay with other volunteers and visitors near the project site in the southern part of Guatemala, and you’re invited to apply for this internship at any time throughout the year. This program costs $905 for placement, support, and your first week of interning; after that, you’re invited to stay as long as you’d like, for only $175 for each additional week. To learn more and apply, visit: https://globalnomadic.com/project/sea-turtle-research-guatemala/
In this unique program, you’re invited to live on a tropical farm deep in the jungle of Belize, while learning about and gaining hands-on experience in tropical agroforestry and sustainable farming. A few of the activities you’ll help with include planting, mulching, harvesting, and drying cacao beans; assisting researchers working with rare cacao strains; maintaining a genetic seed bank; learning about biodiversity and agroforestry; and developing nurseries on the farm and within the surrounding communities. You also can customize your work based on your interests and background, and if you’re currently a student, Global Nomadic can work with you to earn college credit for your placement. This program is also extremely affordable for travelers on a budget: your placement is $730 for the first week, plus $200 for additional weeks – or $600 per month if you’re staying long-term. To learn more and sign up, go to: https://globalnomadic.com/project/tropical-agroforestry-sustainable-farming-belize/
Global Nomadic invites you to Koh Phangan in southern Thailand for its business development internship, where you’ll work with a company on a wide variety of projects, including social media marketing and organization for a coworking space, volleyball team, and beach cleanup group–you also will be able to assist with the day-to-day operations of a real estate team. Throughout your internship, you’ll stay in housing at the company headquarters, and learn a great deal about Thai business models and customs. You must be able to stay for at least three months, and can apply at any time–and this internship has only a one-time placement fee of about $500. Click here to learn more: https://globalnomadic.com/project/business-development-internship-thailand/
Global Nomadic’s Nicaragua volunteer program is perfect for travelers who’d like to to try short-term volunteer projects in a variety of areas. From one week to six months, you can volunteer in a primary school, at a children’s library, with an organic farm and community garden, or at an eco-hotel’s wildlife and animal rescue center. There’s also an option to take Spanish lessons in the mornings at a local school. Throughout your program, you’ll stay in a private room with a host family close to the eco-hotel that manages all the volunteer projects; you’ll also have three home-cooked meals per day. Placement starts at $630 for the first week, plus $280 for each week after that. To learn more and to sign up, visit: https://globalnomadic.com/project/volunteer-in-nicaragua/
What Volunteers Say
I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful experience in Bali! The Cultural Immersion, Teaching, and Adventure Weeks surpassed my expectations. Global Nomadic and the Green Lion Bali Center made it possible for me to make lifelong friends from all over the globe and bring many incredible experiences home with me. Three weeks was almost too short. The longer your stay the better! – Shannon
IDEX projects are especially appealing to first-time and young travellers as their projects are affordably priced, located near beaches and major sightseeing attractions, attract like-minded individuals, and tend to run between two and four weeks (perfect for school and college breaks). IDEX is especially great for first-time international volunteers as they offer all of the logistics support of much more expensive programs at very affordable prices (2 week programs start at $860). For example, IDEX volunteers stay at a home base with other international volunteers and are provided daily transort to their project sites. Furthermore, on the ground staff provide an orientation prior to the start of project and workshops to help volunteers get acquainted with the host community. In addition, their staff helps to arrange weekend travel and are available 24/7 in the event of an emergency. Some of IDEX’s most popular projects and destinations include their volunteer and travel program in Goa, India (an idyllic beachside community), their Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Program, and their Teaching Children Program in Vietnam. IDEX also offers special travel programs just for teens. To learn more about IDEX and to apply, visit their website here.Since 2003, IDEX has hosted thousands of volunteers from over 25 countries. IDEX offers nearly 50 volunteer projects in India, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
READ ON FOR MORE AFFORDABLE VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES OVERSEAS
uVolunteer Volunteer Organization
uVolunteer was founded in 2006 by Nathaniel Amponsah-Manu, who founded the organization after volunteering in Southeast Asia. Nathaniel worked at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for nine years and the left the BBC to run uVolunteer full-time.
With over 70 reviews on our website, uVolunteer is one of the most popular volunteer programs featured on Volunteer Forever and was named a top volunteer abroad programfor 2015. Indeed, Volunteer Forever’s co-founder, Billy Beltz, volunteered with uVolunteer in Thailand in 2013. Here’s a summary of Billy’ volunteer experience:
“Overall I think their biggest strength is value; they provide the same support & quality experience as many much higher priced options, and I would endorse them to anyone with the skills/knowledge that align the projects they offer.”
uVolunteer offers one week volunteer abroad and two week volunteer abroad projects in Thailand, Costa Rica, and Ghana starting at $600 and $705, respectively. Please note that volunteers have the option of staying longer than one or two weeks. uVolunteer’s program fee not only includes your room & board and in-country airport pickup, but also your travel insurance. Keep in mind that many volunteer organizations’ program fees do not include travel insurance, which costs about $100 for a two week trip.
VOLUNTEER OVERSEAS PROJECTS WITH FREE AIRFARE
People and Places Volunteer Organization
People and Places is an award-winning responsible volunteer organization that was founded by Sallie Grayson and two of her colleagues in 2006. In addition to being one of Volunteer Forever’s top ten reviewed organizations, People and Places has won a number of awards and accolades including the following:
- 1. 2014 National Geographic Top 5 Ethical Volunteer Organization
- 2. 2013 World Responsible Tourism Award
- 3. 2009Best Volunteering Organization
The majority of People and Places volunteer projects aren’t considered cheap, but two of their projects stand out because the program fee includes roundtrip airfare, which is quite unique. Indeed, the only other volunteer program (outside of state-sponsored volunteer programs) that includes airfare is Youth Challenge International, who provides a flight bursary for its Ghana and Tanzania programs.
The two People and Places volunteer projects that include airfare are located in the Gambia in Africa. The first project is at a nursery school that has a specific need for volunteers with experience in Early Childhood Development, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, child nutrition, education administration, or arts and crafts.
The second People and Places volunteer project that includes airfare is their “Wealth through Tourism” project. This volunteer project seeks to help the Gambian people by providing them business and craft skills. Specifically, volunteers will be working with small businesses in Gambia to earn a living through tourism. As such, this project is seeking volunteers with the following skill sets: accounting, information technology, general management, business administration, marketing and sales, product design, hospitality and tourism, and agriculture.
As mentioned previously, the program fee for both of these projects by People and Places includes airfare and room and board. However, the volunteer will still be responsible for travel insurance, vaccinations, and visa fees.