Volunteer Abroad

7 Summer Volunteer Programs to Book in 2020

Stephanie Topacio Long

Stephanie is a writer with a love for travel, languages, and exploring other cultures, including her time studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.

Summer 2019 is coming up fast, and if you’re trying to figure out what to do with your time, a trip that combines travel and volunteerism (aka “voluntourism”) can be rewarding and even life-changing. There is a wealth of volunteer abroad programs out there, and they can be a great way for you to interact with locals, learn about the community, and make a positive impact. Some of my own best travel memories have come from volunteering abroad.

To help you sort through your many options, we’ve put together a list of top summer volunteer programs that you can book directly on Go Overseas. Not only can you read about what each one offers, but you can also peruse reviews from past participants and compare them based on impact, support, fun, safety, and value.

Wildlife & Sustainability Volunteering in Costa Rica with Planet One World

You can spend the summer volunteering in a tropical rainforest with Planet One World’s Wildlife & Sustainability Voluntourism program. Planet One World is an agro-ecological farm in the Los Gardianes Wildlife Refuge where volunteers learn about sustainable living and farming, wildlife protection, animal husbandry, and more. When you’re not working on the farm, you’ll have a chance to do activities and tours, like a rafting trip in the BriBri reserve and getting to know the indigenous culture.

Read what past participants had to say about the volunteer program in Costa Rica:

  • “The program was just perfect. We did so many activities inside and outside the farm, it didn’t feel like work. … I really connected with the BriBri culture and I am so happy to see that my support in the community really helped.” -- Aroa
  • “I had a great time, met incredible people, made some friends for life and learned a lot about animals, plants, farming techniques and the indigenous culture. The spirit which is driving this project is unbelievable.” -- Ronja

Teaching English in India with iSPiiCE

iSPiiCE’s Teach English in the Himalayan Foothills of India program aims to improve educational opportunities in Dharamsala, where schools and students suffer from a lack of resources. Summer volunteers (as well as year-round ones) have an impact by assisting local staff and giving lessons to local students, usually on English or computers. There are also opportunities to take yoga classes, explore your local village, and go on weekend trips.

Read what past participants had to say about the volunteer program in India:

  • “I must say that iSpiice will challenge you, inspire you, and change you. I will never forget my great experience volunteering in India with iSpiice.” -- Kamiya
  • “The iSpiice team is making a noticeable difference in the community and I am thankful to have been a part of it. Everything was so carefully organized and cared. The iSpiice team is so dedicated to their jobs and everyone in the community is thankful for your hard work.” -- Sharron

Marine Conservation Volunteering & Scuba Diving in the Caribbean with CRB

Caribbean Reef Buddy’s Marine Conservation Volunteering & Scuba Diving in Caribbean program offers dive courses in conjunction with training in coral reef conservation. You’ll work with dive professionals and biologists alike, not to mention enjoy the beautiful island and see some incredible marine life. There are also opportunities for snorkeling and hiking excursions, and you can enjoy relaxing on the beach.

Read what past participants had to say about the volunteer program in the Caribbean:

  • “The Divemaster course that CRB offer is undeniably an extraordinary experience. From gaining multiple PADI qualifications to helping take care of the delicate ecosystem myself, it was a truly unique and rewarding experience.” -- Bob
  • “The incredible diving experience is underscored by a strong and coherent environmental effort by the entire team, doing their utmost to protect the wildlife they love so much! Overall I would thoroughly recommend this program to those who are looking for a bit of an adventure within the relaxed comfortable lifestyle of a Caribbean island.” -- Edward

Wildlife Rescue Volunteering in Indonesia with Fuze Ecoteer

The Wildlife Rescue Centre, Indonesia program offered by Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures is for animal lovers who want to volunteer in the summer. It offers a unique opportunity to volunteer with orangutans, gibbons, crocodiles, birds, and more. You’ll shadow the center’s animal keeper and learn about issues like wildlife care and smuggling problems. In your free time, you’ll be able to enjoy Yogyakarta, which is known as the cultural capital of Java.

Read what past participants had to say about the volunteer program in Indonesia:

  • “I would definitely recommend the programme to anyone who loves animals, wants to learn and try something a bit different. My experience here has been one the most rewarding trips I have ever had and provided me with more confidence and experience to continue my studies and career in working with animals.” -- Gracie
  • “Was just overwhelmed from the start with how friendly and helpful the locals and staff at the center were with assistance from getting in out of Jogjakarta and driving us to Mount Merapi, plus everything in between. Would definitely recommend this program if you are after a social immersion [sic] experience as well as working with a wide range of animals.” -- James

Multiple Volunteering Programs in Guatemala with INLEXCA

INLEXCA’s Volunteer in Guatemala | Education, Wildlife Conservation, Medical or Sports summer volunteer program has various volunteer opportunities. Options include childcare, education, turtle conservation, microfinance, medicine, and more. You’ll be immersed in the local community, as you’ll live with a host family and volunteer 4-6 hours per day from Monday through Friday. You can also plan to visit Tikal National Park or hike up the Acatenango Volcano.

Read what past participants had to say about the volunteer program in Guatemala:

  • “Although I did come to Guatemala as a volunteer and the project was amazing, it was only one part of my experience. I don't feel as if I have visited Guatemala, I feel as if I have lived in Guatemala.” -- Apolonia
  • “For two weeks I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the town of Novillero in Guatemala and volunteer in the ecological park ‘Corazón del Bosque’. … Everyone I met in Guatemala, whether they were locals, other volunteers or members of the program, were incredibly welcoming and accomodating [sic] and made many efforts to make me feel comfortable.” -- Toyah

Volunteer with Children and Animals in South Africa with DAKTARI

DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage offers the unique Volunteer with Children and Animals in South Africa program for summer volunteers -- but remember it will be winter in South Africa!

Located in Limpopo province, it offers volunteers the opportunity to care for local species, while educating underprivileged children about the environment and conservation. There are also opportunities to get involved with the community through outreach in the local schools, such as the Job Hunting Program, which teaches youths the skills they need to find a job.

Read what past participants had to say about the volunteer program in South Africa:

  • “Daktari is a place filled with love. Love for the animals, love for nature, love for the children... It's impossible to describe what the people and the place can do with you, everyone makes you feel more than welcome!” -- Marloes
  • “My four weeks I spent at Daktari is, and will always be one of the best experiences I have ever had! If you love animals and kids this is the perfect volunteer programme for you!” -- Jodie

Learn Spanish & Volunteer in Guatemala and/or El Salvador with Monterrico Adventure

The Learn Spanish & Sea Turtle Conservation in Guatemala summer volunteer program offered by Monterrico Adventure is for those who want to do just what the title says. You’ll start your trip with a homestay in Antigua and daily Spanish lessons, and then move to the coastal village of Monterrico. There, you’ll volunteer with ARCAS, a wildlife rescue and conservation center with a focus on sea turtles.

Read what past participants had to say about the volunteer program in Guatemala:

  • “I wanted to combine volunteering and backpacking. This offers you best of both worlds.” -- Anne
  • “The town feels small, friendly, safe, and fun. … I met lots of interesting people in Monterrico, from other young travelers willing to party, to friendly expats willing to share their knowledge, to locals wiling to chat about life.” -- Aaron

Monterrico Adventure also offers the Learn Spanish & Adventure in Guatemala & El Salvador program for summer volunteers. It, too, starts with a homestay and Spanish lessons in Antigua, and then a stint in Monterrico. While you’re in the lively beach town, you’ll be busy with organized adventures and volunteer activities, including an expedition to neighboring El Salvador.

Read what past participants had to say about the volunteer program in Guatemala and El Salvador:

  • “I was looking for a program that combined Spanish classes, volunteering and travelling and Monterrico Adventure does exactly that. It’s a great mix between the three and there’s still plenty of time to relax and enjoy the beach.” -- Hanne
  • “I recommend the Monterrico Program for people who want to live a memorable and rewarding adventure. You get to meet tourists, be around locals and learn a lot about the country.” -- Alex

There’s no shortage of incredible summer volunteer opportunities out there, just as there is no shortage of work that needs to be done. If you see a summer volunteer program that appeals to you from this list, consider going for it. You can book these programs right now – and you may just have the summer of your life! You can also see the full list of summer volunteer programs you can book right here on Go Overseas.