Volunteering is a lifelong practice that welcomes people of all ages. However, different age groups bring unique skills and have specific needs that should be accounted for when choosing a volunteer program.
Matching a project to your education and professional expertise will ensure both you and the community benefit from and enjoy the experience. Young professional volunteers have a lot to offer to programs abroad -- choose the best one to meet your needs in 2023!
Benefits of volunteering abroad as a young professional
When you volunteer as a young professional, the benefits touch both you and the community. Here are a few of the ways volunteerism positively affects everyone involved.
How volunteering abroad benefits the community
- Specialized skills: whether you're a trained medical professional or a web design wizard, your specialized education and skills bring specific, actionable expertise to your chosen project.
- Leadership abilities: being in the working world has either had you observing the higher-ups or even leading your own team. Coming into a project with organizational and leadership skills will help things go smoothly.
- Ideas to guide/improve programs: all those brainstorming meetings you've sat through over the years will come in handy when volunteering abroad. Your project could benefit from your constructive feedback, problem-solving skills, and unique ideas to improve programmatic functioning.
How volunteering abroad benefits volunteers
- Enhanced CV: volunteering abroad within your field can show the depth and breadth of your skills. Whether that means working with patients in low-resource areas or teaching students with nothing more than a blackboard, you'll demonstrate your creativity and resourcefulness.
- Networking: working alongside local experts as well as other volunteers can help expand your professional network. This is not only an invaluable learning experience but a way to gain contacts overseas.
- Personal satisfaction: helping others can make you feel happier. While it's important to focus on others while volunteering, it's totally OK and normal to enjoy a sense of personal satisfaction.
Where are young professionals most needed?
Young professionals across a wide range of disciplines can use their valuable insights and talents in volunteer programs around the world.
- Medical and healthcare: nurses, doctors, physical therapists, emergency medical technicians, and other healthcare professionals with appropriate training and licensure are highly valued for public health and medical clinic projects.
- Teaching: teachers are invaluable for teaching a variety of subjects from English as a foreign language to vocational skills.
- Veterinary: wildlife projects, as well as inner city dog and cat rescues, benefit from trained veterinarians and vet techs able to lead and assist with procedures.
- Tech: for countries with developing IT infrastructures, the benefits of programmers, database administrators, and network specialists are innumerable.
- Community-building: community planners, international development professionals, social workers, and anyone else working to support individuals where they help can help to build stronger, more equitable communities.
Best volunteer abroad programs for young professionals
We've picked the best volunteer programs for young adults based on popular fields of work and we're hoping it helps guide you to the best overseas project to share your talents as a young professional. The pros and cons we've included are intended to give you important points to weigh when making your decision.
Best for medical professionals: IVHQ
- 24/7 support is available to volunteers while on placement
- All meals are included
- Comprehensive orientation gives background on both Ghana's culture and customs but also allows for volunteers to network and exchange contact information
- Those with less experience may not have as much hands-on contact with patients
- Volunteer accommodation isn't equipped with wifi
- Clinic-based work tends to be more administrative
IVHQ offers affordable and versatile volunteering projects in Ghana for qualified medical professionals. Experienced doctors and nurses will help in a local clinic two days a week while spending the remaining three participating in mobile wound care outreach.
Volunteers will start each day with breakfast at the volunteer house at 7:30 am. After arriving at the placement site, you can expect to work from 8 am with days usually ending anywhere between 2 pm and 5 pm. Weekends are free for local exploration, checking out Accra or traveling further afield to neighboring Togo or Côte d’Ivoire.
"I did the medical program, where I was able to travel from village to village and test people for malaria, provide wound care, blood pressure checks, and provide some medications. Elvis was our coordinator and stayed with us for the whole trip, and helped make it an unforgettable experience! I can’t wait to return!"
Best for teaching professionals: The Real Uganda
- Founder and volunteer coordinator Leslie Weighill is hands-on, providing detailed information and support
- Volunteering in a village makes you feel like part of the family
- Students are warm and welcoming, rekindling your passion for teaching
- Getting used to using a cold water bucket shower and latrine pit may be difficult for some
- Rural life can feel isolating
- No more than two people can volunteer together so this is not ideal for friend groups or families
Teachers looking for a friendly and immersive classroom experience will feel right at home with The Real Uganda. You'll be housed in a private room at a rural boarding school where you'll be provided with three meals a day (with special dietary needs catered to!). Teachers will teach classes, tutor individual students, and help with cooking and other daily tasks around the boarding school to support the kids.
Because these are low-resource areas, students come to school with only a pencil and exercise book. This is the perfect opportunity to let your creativity run wild -- bring additional supplies to Uganda or focus on songs, games, and physical activity to direct your lessons. This is where your skills and teaching prowess will really shine!
There are also opportunities to work with special needs students so don't hesitate to ask!
"The students were amazing, full of joy and very eager to learn. It was such a pleasure to teach them."
Best for veterinary professionals: Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary
- Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary maintains a cap of 6 volunteers on the program at any one time
- The center cares for over 50 species of native and exotic animals
- All meals and accommodation are included
- Days are long and labor-intensive so be prepared to work hard
- The limited number of volunteers is not ideal for large groups or families
- Seeing sick and injured animals can be emotionally taxing
Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary in beautiful Zimbabwe gets glowing reviews from its volunteers and it's clear why. Animal welfare is the focal point of the program and volunteers will see and feel the love and care given to all resident species. Their kindness and attention don't stop with the animals, however. Volunteers report feeling welcomed, supported, and extremely useful during their time with Twala Trust. The small size of the program ensures you'll have exposure to volunteer opportunities offering one-on-one, meaningful time rehabilitating animals. Get ready to make a difference!
On a daily basis, as a volunteer, you can expect to spend your time prepping food for animals at the rescue center, distributing those meals, and assisting with surgeries and other procedures. Both qualified vet techs and nurses and veterinarians are welcome to contribute their skills at Twala Trust.
"My most memorable moments of my time at Twala are caring for the baby vervet monkeys Artie and Benson. Benson in particular had an immense impact on me and one I was not prepared for. Benson arrived a few days before I left, and I became his substitute mom for that time. He was found dehydrated and alone; it is not sure what happened to his mom. The poor guy was quite traumatised. He was not able to sleep alone in his cage, so he slept snuggled into my neck. I completely fell in love with Benson."
Best for tech professionals: MovingWorlds
- Whether you stay for a week or a year, projects are tailored to your preferences
- Join in on local, socially impactful projects to contribute your skills where they're needed
- Choose from the affordable Experteering program or the intensive Institute Global Fellowship
- The 6-month Fellowship program can be pricey at $3,600
- Aside from accommodation, other things like meals are not included
- Individual Experteering free membership doesn't include networking or mentoring
Described as a "short-term Peace Corps alternative for skilled professionals", MovingWorld's professional volunteering programs screen and match potential volunteers with in-country projects to support development through fields like IT, software engineering, UX/UI design, web design, and more. Volunteers are given free accommodation in exchange for their time and contribution.
Choose from their intensive paid 6-month Institute Global Fellowship that develops existing skills and helps you discover new ones through expert professional guidance. Mentoring before, during, and after your experience helps you execute a meaningful project, and come away with a tangible, marketable portfolio as you continue your career through the Institute Global Fellowship.
For a more independent experience, Experteering individual memberships allow for more flexible time commitments at a lower price point. The $250 fee gets you 12-month access to volunteer projects around the world. Experteering does not include the extensive mentorship and networking included in the Global Fellowship.
Interested in where your skills can take you? Check out Darren's IT project with a business accelerator in Tanzania.
"Moving Worlds is amazing! They provide connections to volunteer opportunities all over the world targeting specific skills, and they also support through online training and a comprehensive document that becomes the pre-departure conversation between the volunteer and the organization. While I can only speak for the two organizations I volunteered with, I had experiences that both benefited my career and gave me new ideas for future endeavors."
Best for community-building professionals: Give a Heart to Africa
- Being 100% volunteer-led means all of your program fees go to support the mission
- Many women who graduate from the program go on to start their own local businesses
- Volunteers form strong bonds with students and fellow volunteers
- Only dinner is provided so breakfast and lunch are on your own
- Wifi connection is spotty
- The school is a 30-minute walk from the city center, although paid transportation is available
Give a Heart to Africa (GHTA) operates in Moshi, Tanzania, and works to train strong female entrepreneurs from the local community. Women are supported through education and vocational skills training. GHTA interviews 100 women and selects 50 per year to join the program. Priority is given to single moms with limited formal schooling and women over 30 with families facing extreme poverty.
Volunteers will be expected to help teach business skills and other subjects such as English and math. You will assist students with developing business and marketing plans while getting to know them and their unique challenges. There are also weekly home visits to current students.
GHTA's service trips for young adults aim to build stronger communities by supporting women to reach their entrepreneurial and educational goals. Want to see GHTA's impact in Moshi? Check out some of their graduates' success stories.
"The women that attend the school work extremely hard. In my short time here I've watched students stay late for extra help, hold their baby in their arms while writing notes in class and help other students. I can't wait to come back and stay for longer next time. Everyone here feels like family, and it's so amazing helping women in another country change their lives for the better."
Use your skills for good
Knowing how in-demand you are as a young professional volunteer abroad should give you that push to consider getting into it. Whether you take a gap year or short sabbatical or use your vacation time, volunteering overseas does a world of good.
Learn more about volunteering abroad to get started: