Volunteer Programs in Asia

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  • About

    Home to over half of the world's human population and comprising nearly one third of its land area, Asia is one of the world's most diverse continents. From the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia to the arid heights of the Tibetan Plateau, Asia offers an incredible array of unique destinations for volunteers to discover.

    Whether you dream of volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand or in a volunteer teaching program in Beijing, you're sure to find lots of exciting volunteer opportunities in Asia.

  • Program Types

    Though there are many prosperous regions in Asia, there are still many incredibly impoverished areas on the continent. In East Asia, for example, 12.5% of the population lives on $1.25 per day and in South Asia 31% of the population lives on $1.25 per day, as reported by the Word Bank. Especially in the poorer areas of Asia, much of the volunteer work is coordinated foreign NGOs. But there is an increasing number of local NGOs, providing volunteers with more opportunities than ever to participate in projects in Asia.

    Environmental Conservation

    Asia has some of the most beautiful and biodiverse landscapes on earth. Unfortunately, aggressive development, climate change and poaching have led to the destruction of habitats and near extinction of many incredible species.

    Fortunately there are a number of organizations dedicated to protecting the environment and wildlife in Asia which offer volunteers the opportunity to get firsthand experience of conservation through their excellent programs. The most popular destinations for travelers who want to participate in volunteer programs with the environment and wildlife are Malaysia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

    Education

    In Asia, education is both widely provided by governments and traditionally highly valued in most Asian cultures. However, for reasons related largely to geography, poverty and gender, there are many children who fall between the cracks of their countries' educational systems. The opportunities for volunteer teachers in Asia are plentiful and can vary from teaching in an elementary school located in a remote village in Nepal to teaching English to university students in Seoul.

    Healthcare

    In many of Asia's poor communities, especially in the countryside where rural clinics are the sole source of free medical care, the local people are dependent on medical clinics that benefit significantly from volunteers. Healthcare volunteers in Asia can find opportunities ranging from HIV/AIDS education and nutrition education to medical diagnosis and the administration of vaccines.

    Orphanages and Street Children

    Volunteering in orphanages and with street children is another option for travelers interested in volunteering in Asia, particularly those interested in volunteering with young people. While orphans and street children can be found in all parts of Asia, certain countries have a disproportionate number of parentless and homeless young people.

    This is due to a number of factors including natural disasters (in the case of Sri Lanka and the 2004 tsunami), poverty (in the case of Mongolia where almost 40% of the population lives below the poverty line), and lifestyles (in the case of Tibet, where nomadic lifestyles have been known to force families to leave children behind). Volunteers can expect a range of activities, from helping with administrative tasks to cooking, and cleaning.

    It is worth noting that there has been controversy over orphanage volunteer work, particularly in countries such as Cambodia, where orphanage scams have been on the rise. Whatever you do, make sure that your organization has background checks and doesn't allow short term volunteers to directly interact with children as two minimum requirements for volunteering responsibly with orphans.

    Community Development

    Volunteers looking for community development opportunities will find a variety of them across Asia. These range from helping underdeveloped communities in countries such as Malaysia gain access to running water to assisting in construction projects in and volunteering in literacy programs in countries such as India, where only 3/4 of men and just over half of women are literate. Even in countries which are relatively well off as a whole, such as Taiwan, there do exist large gaps between the rich and the poor, so community development volunteers are definitely needed to lend a hand in disadvantaged communities.

    Other Popular Types of Volunteering

    Disaster relief, women's rights, economic justice, human rights (including refugees and migrants workers' rights), teaching English, youth advocacy and heritage conservation.

  • Planning Your Trip
    Lifestyle and Culture

    The lifestyles and cultures of various countries in Asia can vary significantly. Perhaps the best way to look at it is by region:

    East Asia is comprised of Taiwan, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and China. They all have Chinese-derived language characteristics, share a moral philosophy based on Confucianism and share the common dominant religions of Taoism and Buddhism.

    Southeast Asia includes Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, East Timor, Brunei and the Philippines and encompass a wide range of cultures and outside influences. Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos have been heavily influenced by Buddhism (and in the case of Vietnam by Chinese culture). Whereas Islam is now the dominant religion in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Volunteers to these countries should note that in cultures dominated by Islam, the consumption of alcohol is frowned upon and conservative attire is culturally required.

    Yet another influence on culture in countries in Southeast Asia has been Western countries via colonialism. One example is the Philippines, which was heavily influenced by Spain and America due to nearly 400 years of colonial rule. And yet, despite the differences in influence by religion and history, the countries of Southeast Asia do share some common features. These include rice paddies, stilt houses, dance drama and other distinctive forms of the arts, as well as literature.

    West Asia consists of Georgia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Palestinian territories, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Bahrain, Israel and United Arab Emirates. It is predominantly Muslim and is culturally Arab, Persian, Hebrew and Turkish. Though it has a number of cities offering typical urban lifestyles such as Abu Dhabi, Tel Aviv and Muscat, much of the area is desert and thus home to many nomadic groups. As in the largely Islamic areas of Southeast Asia, volunteers should be mindful of the strict customs around attire and the consumption of alcohol.

    South Asia includes Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, British Indian Ocean Territory and Afghanistan (and by some definitions Burma and Tibet). It is very densely populated, hosting well over one fifth of the world's population. It has a rich mix of cultures, with two dominant religions: Hinduism (about 2/3 of the population) and Islam (about 1/3 of the population).

    Central Asia, comprised of Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, typically hosts fewer volunteers. Historically its inhabitants have been nomadic and influenced by a variety of cultures including the South Asian, Turkish, Mongolian, Persian, Chinese, Arabian, Russian and Sarmatian. North Asia (also known as Siberia) hosts even fewer volunteers and is home to Indigenous Siberians and Ethnic Russians (currently the majority of the population).

    Languages

    An estimated 2,200 languages are spoken in Asia (source). Like European countries, all Asian countries use their native languages as their official language. However, a handful have two official languages, one has three, and Singapore has four (English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil).

    The most commonly spoken foreign languages are English (throughout Asia), French (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Lebanon) and Russian (in Central Asia). Volunteers in Asia can often use English to communicate with the staff at the organizations where they volunteer, but learning a few words of the local language not only goes a long way to creating camaraderie, it also makes the experience that much more rewarding.

  • Costs

    Asia is home to some of the world's poorest regions as well as some of the most expensive cities. Generally the more rural the area in which you are volunteering, the lower the cost of living you can expect. And in urban settings, as in much of the world, volunteers can keep their cost of living low by adhering to a strict budget or opt to spend more to maintain a more luxurious lifestyle.

    The most expensive cities to live and volunteer in Asia, according to the international cost of living index by the xpatulator, include Tokyo, Japan; Hong Kong; Yokohama and a half dozen other Japanese cities; and Singapore. The least expensive cities include Thimphu, Bhutan; Calcutta and a number of India cities; Kathmandu, Nepal; Islamabad and a number of cities in Pakistan.

    Contributed by Anis Salvesen

Showing 15 Programs

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  • Volunteering in Cambodia with IVHQ
    IVHQ
    Reviewer Verified
    Volunteers are needed in Cambodia to volunteer in a range of highly affordable projects, including working with NGO's,...
    22 reviews
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    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
  • A Volunteering Solutions volunteer with children in India
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    Take a trip to India and volunteer with Volunteering Solutions! Volunteering is a great way to immerse yourself in the...
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  • UBELONG Volunteer Abroad LAOS
    UBELONG
    Reviewer Verified
    UBELONG offers 3-week to 6-month volunteering opportunities in Vang Vieng across many different fields: agriculture,...
    10 reviews
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    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Frontier
    Reviewer Verified
    With 300 projects worldwide and 25 years experience providing volunteering and adventure travel placements, Frontier can...
    3 reviews
  • GoEco
    GoEco was created by experienced volunteers for people who are eager to travel and contribute to the community, wildlife and...
    3 reviews
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    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
  • Rustic Pathways
    Since 2005, Rustic Pathways has embraced the variety of culture, culinary dishes, religions, and lifestyles in India. Our...
    12 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    This program has been rated exceedingly fun by 5+ reviewers.
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Volunteer in Sri Lanka with Projects Abroad
    Projects Abroad
    Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with many wonderful volunteer projects and internships available for volunteers interested...
    2 reviews
  • Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures
    Reviewer Verified
    There are only 250 Malayan Tigers left in the wild - join us and the fight for their survival! At this project you will...
    11 reviews
    Staff Interviews
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    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Volunteering in India with IVHQ
    IVHQ
    Reviewer Verified
    Volunteer abroad with IVHQ in India! Highly affordable programs are available anywhere from a week to 6 months. There are a...
    47 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
    Staff Interviews
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    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • Cross-Cultural Volunteer Program in India
    Cross-Cultural Solutions
    Reviewer Verified
    India has a buzz about it, a pace and a national character all its own. The complexity that you'll find when you volunteer...
    20 reviews
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  • Volunteer teach in China with Go Abroad China
    Go Abroad China
    Here our mandate is to help you fulfill your wish for social impact and to give back to the community. Go Abroad China's...
    4 reviews
    Staff Interviews
  • VS conservation volunteer in Sri Lanka
    Volunteering Solutions
    Reviewer Verified
    Join a volunteer project with Volunteering Solutions on the beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka! By partnering with local...
    5 reviews
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    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
  • Rustic Pathways Mongolia Travel and Volunteer Program
    Rustic Pathways
    Calling all adventurers! Take a trip to Mongolia and be amazed by the vast landscape and truly unique culture. Embrace the...
    3 reviews
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  • Volunteer in Nepal
    Love Volunteers
    Join Love Volunteers for the volunteer experience of a lifetime in Nepal! Love Volunteers partners with local NGOs to best...
    10 reviews
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    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days
    This program has been rated exceedingly supportive by 5+ reviewers.
  • ISV
    Reviewer Verified
    Sun-swept beaches, spiritual temples, smiling faces, lush tropical rainforests and tasty cooking are just a few of the...
    77 reviews
    Alumni Interviews
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    A review was left for this program in the last 30 days