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Combining volunteerism with travel is one of our favorite ways to explore the globe, though it’s absolutely vital to choose a project which makes a genuine difference to the community and society as a whole.

And while every country needs volunteers equally, there are a number of countries that are notoriously resource strapped, and often overlooked by international volunteers who opt for more popular destinations when choosing their placements. Which countries are most in need of volunteers?

As such, the following are countries we recommend considering for a volunteer placement in 2016. These choices may mean branching out to a perhaps previously unthought-of destination, though each offers the opportunity to affect real change and impact local lives where help is desperately needed.

Honduras

Honduras is a country of seductive natural beauty, and travelers looking to spend time off the beaten path in Central America enjoy vast stretches of white sand beach, unspoiled coral reefs, magical Maya ruins, and wildlife-rich jungle reserves. Though perhaps one of the best ways to immerse yourself in culture here is to volunteer. Countries that need volunteers the most.

Volunteer placements in Honduras are well suited to those with a passion for human care, and most programs see volunteers jump directly into helping members of the local community. There are a range of programs throughout the country which cover themes of education, childcare, medicine, nursing or dentistry. Which countries can I volunteer in overseas?

Volunteering in Honduras, offers a unique opportunity to work side by side members of the local community, and get to know new people who appreciate your presence. Children from disadvantaged homes, youngsters with learning difficulties, sufferers from HIV and casualties of poverty, these are all groups in need in Honduras. Countries that need lots of international volunteers.

The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) is one of the most fascinating destinations in the world. Full of extraordinary nature, wildlife and awe inspiring views, it was a visit here, in 1835, when a young Charles Darwin began to formulate his evolutionary (and revolutionary) theory of natural selection.

As in Darwin’s day, the true attraction of the Galapagos is its exotic wildlife. Though most people don’t consider volunteering here, and usually opt for discovering the islands on a leisure cruise.

But why not spend quality time here and volunteer? Volunteering options in the Galapagos include teaching English, working directly with disadvantaged children and women, assisting in hospitals and day centers, as well as volunteering on environmental and animal welfare projects.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is in great need of International volunteers willing to work with children and assist with teaching. There are a large number of vulnerable children and marginalized women in desperate need throughout the country, and this is a nation where your efforts have a measurable impact on individuals and families most affected by poverty. Volunteer in Ethiopia.

The children volunteers work with in Ethiopia have lost their birth families due to extreme poverty, AIDS and other life-threatening conditions. Without volunteer programs, these children would be living on the streets alone and in danger, unable to attend school or reach their full potential.

There are a number of programs which support family homes within a suburban neighborhoods. The homes are well integrated in the community to reduce stigma and enhance socialization. Volunteer placements like these are changing the way orphans are cared for!

Sri Lanka

With eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, Sri Lanka is a destination that’s a bit off the beaten path yet provides no shortage of culture and adventure. Go whale watching, stay in a tea plantation, track leopards in the jungle, or view the unparalleled sight of the annual elephant migration, which takes place in Sri Lanka’s Minneriya National Park. Where can I volunteer?

Sri Lanka packs in a lot of excitement within its small borders, though volunteers have the unique opportunity to absorb the customs and culture by working alongside the local community. Volunteer in Sri Lanka.

Projects in Sri Lanka could mean teaching English in government schools, working with children with disabilities, working with children in kindergartens and orphanages, or assisting in a medical setting high in the tea plantations. Popular placement locations include Galle on the south west coast, Badulla which is about 230km from Colombo towards the eastern slopes of the central hills of Sri Lanka, and Wattala which is a large suburb only a short distance from Colombo city centre. Places in the world which need volunteers?

Mongolia

Mongolia is an adventure destination unlike any other, one where travelers can witness first-hand the traditions of the ancient past.

Nomadic Mongols live the simple life; tribes dwell in the spectacular countryside, vast steppes, and rugged mountains, and herders make home in traditional felt yurt’s called a ger. Though after having been isolated from the rest of the world for the better part of the 20th century,  this is still a developing country with very basic infrastructure and a lack of facilities outside the capital.

As such, volunteer placements are diverse, and by volunteering you are contributing to the remarkable developments in this extraordinary land. Cities in Mongolia are growing exponentially, and volunteers are needed to aid people whose personal resources are scant or non-existent.

For those willing to contribute physical labour, projects involve house-building programs where volunteers work alongside the future occupants.

Bosnia

Bosnia was part of the former Yugoslavia until it was ripped apart during the Bosnian War of 1992-95. At the time, Yugoslavia was the most ethnically and religiously diverse region the world has known to date, though this made for a complex political landscape which ended in violence and devastation of unprecedented scale. How to choose a country to volunteer in.

This ethnically rooted war left in its wake great division between the people of this once united region long after the guns were lowered. Two decades later the remnants of racial hated still divide the people of the region who teeter on the edge of social and political instability. Where can I volunteer?

Volunteers here in Bosnia and Herzegovina can contribute to efforts to put an end to the racial segregation by removing the inherited prejudice of the regions next generation – its’s children. Volunteer in orphanages. 

All of the above placements are available through Love Volunteers – an organization we can recommend for international projects which are both ethical and affordable, and who work directly with a variety of different NGOs in countries all over the world.

There are over 150 rewarding, safe and affordable volunteering opportunities in developing countries which range from childcare and orphanage work, community development, construction, environmental and conservation, health and medical, care for those with disabilities, teaching and education, wildlife and animals, and empowerment for marginalized women. 

Love Volunteers works with local organisations wherever they can to keep administration costs to a minimum so to feed as much money and skills into the local communities where they operate.

Volunteering can be challenging, but the rewards are immense.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Honduras photos by Nan Palmero. Same photos used for Pinterest images. Ethiopia photos by Bre. Sri Lanka: Elephants by Jonybraker. Jaguar by Blue Skyz Studios. Mongolia by Martha de Jong-Lantink.

Post completed in collaboration with Love Volunteers.

    30 Comments

  1. It is so admirable that you are volunteering when you travel. If more people (myself included, though I haven’t been able to travel a lot yet) would have this in mind our world would be a better place. Great article and pictures. This is very inspirational.
    Elaine Massey recently posted…Where Disney Parks Went Wrong in 2015My Profile

    • Thanks Elaine – we can combine our passion for traveling with giving back so easily these days, and there are so many places and people in need.

      I hope you have the chance to experience volunteering in 2016! Feel free to reach out if you’re looking for any tips or advice on how to get started … always happy to help 🙂

    • You’re welcome! Have a wonderful year volunteering!

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂

    • Thanks Rhonda! I’m glad we could highlight some deserving alternatives to the more mainstream volunteer destinations 🙂

  2. It’s been on my list to volunteer travel for bloody years, and for some reason I allow my work/life commitments stop that dream from becoming a reality. You have inspired me lady, will shift it back up to the top of my list, Honduras & Sri Lanka sound amazing.
    Anna @ shenANNAgans recently posted…They said YES! A Review of Marley SpoonMy Profile

    • Glad to hear we’ve inspired you to shift it to the top of your list! 2016 is your year 🙂

  3. I have to admit I had no idea that Galapagos was a place that you could volunteer. I thought it was just a (super expensive) amazing place to see the wildlife. I’ve always wanted to go, but haven’t yet had the money to put towards it. Might have to look into volunteering- especially with the animals- as a way to visit and do some good!
    Hannah recently posted…A Night Out with the “Girls”: The Chiang Mai Ladyboy CabaretMy Profile

    • Definitely look into volunteering then – it has such a fabulous reputation for tourism, though so quickly overlooked when it comes to volunteering…and the local community can really use the hands on help 🙂

  4. Wow, I really enjoyed this post. I hadn’t thought of volunteering in these areas, but I’m interested in doing so in the Galapagos Islands and Sri Lanka. Thank you for sharing this information! I hope to get on a volunteer trip soon!

    • I’m so glad to hear it Kaylene! I hope you have the chance to volunteer in Sri Lanka or the Galapagos soon 🙂

    • Amazing Mar, so glad to hear that this was an incredible experience for you. I hope that we can continue to raise awareness and see more volunteers visit Honduras this year – one person really can make a huge difference.

    • Could you tell me a little more about your experience in Honduras? I am going there for three months to volunteer this year. Would love to hear about your highs and lows.

    • Hi Nadine, I spent a summer with ACOES, an NGO started by a Spanish Priest over two decades ago. He funded and manages a few schools in Tegucigalpa and in the rest of the country. He has 4,000 children in the schools and also works on several other projects like with street children, babies, single mothers, abused women, etc. Everything he does is self funded. The organization has barely any costs because the older teenagers who get to go to high school are the ones managing the back office. Volunteers are welcome and they can stay, if there is availability, at the volunteer house in front of his small house in Colonia Monterrey. He welcomes people to come visit, understand and learn more or help out. If you can go for long you can help with any of the administrative or teaching tasks or help with the donor program. Money comes from government donations (Canada, Spain) and from customers sent from Spain and other countries plus the sponsor program whereby you can pay for a child’s education. I have been sponsoring kids since 2002, I have 5 now who send me reports of their progress and a Christmas card every year and have sent a few to high school through the years. It is only 180 euro and it pays for school, uniform and food for an entire year. I had an incredible experience and you can read more here http://www.onceinalifetimejourney.com/reflections-on-the-road/summer-honduran-slum-taught-sefishness-giving/ or send me an email
      Mar recently posted…Sigiriya’s Lion Rock Palace of PleasuresMy Profile

  5. I volunteered in India in the past, and have a friend who is volunteering at The Galapagos Islands, had no idea I could volunteer in Mongolia, that would be one amazing experience. Thanks!
    arvin recently posted…Paris France on a BudgetMy Profile

    • Definitely consider Mongolia if you’re looking for somewhere to volunteer in 2016. This is a really rewarding one, because you can really make a substantial contribution to developing their infrastructure there 🙂

    • I’m so glad Alyssa! Happy travels in 2016!

  6. Great tips. I’ve never volunteered abroad, but I’ve heard so many warnings and horror stories about less than reputable companies. I would love to volunteer on Galapagos.
    Mags recently posted…The Truth About The Blue Lagoon in IcelandMy Profile

    • Thanks Mags! You definitely need to be conscious of ethical volunteering, and making sure the company you’re going with is running a responsible project.

      Unfortunately the market is so full of companies in it just to make a profit as opposed to actually making a difference on the ground. But highly recommend Love Volunteers – the biggest thing when checking is an agency is running an ethical project is to see if you can figure out where the money is going. Generally it’s a good sign if they’re working directly with a variety of different NGOs 🙂

  7. I would like to go with Sri LANKA and another country which you have not mentioned in your post, i.e. India, I was a part of India as a volunteer and if I get another chance I will go with it again.
    Carol Griffin recently posted…Voluntourism in IndiaMy Profile

    • Thanks for the tip re India Carol! What kind of volunteering did you do there?

    • Absolutely agree with you – glad you found the post helpful Mary! Happy travels 🙂

  8. @MegJerrard I did the job with child care, but you can find other volunteer programs too, like: women empowerment, Teach English, Health Education, Computer Skills etc.
    Carol Griffin recently posted…Voluntourism in IndiaMy Profile

    • Absolutely Carol – so many placements available out there that there’s something to suit everyone’s field of interest and skill. Thanks for commenting – I’m glad you enjoyed the opportunity to give back in the field of child care 🙂

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