Volunteer Abroad

7 Summer Volunteer Programs to Book in 2021

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.

Here at the beginning of 2021, it’s never too soon to start thinking about plans for the summer. If making a difference, seeing more of the world, and having life-changing experiences sounds like your idea of a great summer, volunteering abroad is for you.

Though some sweat and elbow grease might be required, volunteer work can be incredibly rewarding as you go beyond the tourist sites and meet the beautiful people and cultures of other countries firsthand.

To help you get started on your summer plans, we’ve put together a list of the top summer volunteer programs that you can book directly on Go Overseas. In addition to learning more about each one, you can read reviews from other travelers and compare programs in terms of impact, support, fun, safety, and value.

1. Love Volunteers

From Jamaica to India, Cameroon to Turkey, this program sends volunteers all over the world. No matter what your interest or skill set, Love Volunteers offers placements in almost every field, whether you’re interested in giving your time and energy to children, special needs populations, animal shelters, marine, and environmental projects, or even a medical internship. Working closely with local organizations, the program strives to keep costs as low as possible for volunteers, and despite the small fees, reviewers are unanimous when it comes to the incredible support this program provides its volunteers. With the ability to choose the duration of your placement, Love Volunteers gives you valuable flexibility for your summer plans.

Read what past participants had to say about Love Volunteers:

  • “The affection, smiles, and laughter from the children I worked with will be in my thoughts and heart forever. The Love Volunteer staff members were so helpful in creating a smooth process from start to finish with regular check-ins, and always being available to assist.” –Kaveri
  • “Love Volunteers was there every step of the way. They answered my emails so quickly and were checking up on me constantly. As a smaller volunteer organization, I feel they really created an authentic experience! I am forever grateful to them!” –Rachel

Volunteer in Nepal with Love Volunteers:

9.08 Rating
based on 13 reviews
  • Impact 7.6
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 8.9
  • Value 8
  • Safety 9.2

2. Village Book Builders

Build a library and bring the joy of reading to communities in Mexico, Peru, or Belize this summer. Village Book Builders is looking for volunteers willing to roll up their sleeves on a construction project and to engage children and families in one-on-one settings in massive efforts to encourage reading and literacy. In addition to reading books with kids, you’ll have the chance to lead workshops to teach important life skills and imagination. In your free time, all-inclusive expeditions provided by Village Book Builders will give you opportunities to try new foods, go swimming in underground lakes, and even raft down the Himalayas! Between getting to share the love of reading with families and the cultural experiences, travelers say the experience is well worth the hard work.

Read what past participants had to say about Village Book Builders:

  • “I highly recommend Village Book Builders. You can be sure every dime is going to improve the lives of people who truly need it! I plan to volunteer at another library with them soon!” –Gayle
  • “I loved traveling with Village Book Builders. It's a smaller organization, which I loved because it's more personal. You really get to know the coordinators and people you're traveling with.” –Katelyn

Volunteer in Peru with Village Book Builders:

9.89 Rating
based on 27 reviews
  • Impact 9.8
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.8
  • Value 10
  • Safety 9.8

3. The Tarzan Way

This travel experience takes you into the heart of Delhi, the capital of India, to make a difference in the lives of the diverse communities of this culturally and historically rich city. Projects in child care, marketing, community service, animal care, and women empowerment allow you to get involved in endeavors with lasting impact. The Tarzan Way emphasizes a slow pace and deep immersion into Indian culture, meaning that in addition to your placement, you’ll learn about the culture through classes in Indian cooking and Hindi language as well as trips to the street markets and historic sites of Agra, the Taj Mahal, and Varanasi. For volunteers who want to stay longer, the Tarzan Way is more than happy to help you create a personalized travel plan.

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

  • “The Tarzan Way was also awesome. They supported me with everything and never made me feel alone. I would definitely recommend coming to India through them.” –Laura
  • “I would definitely recommend coming to India through The Tarzan Way. They really take care of each participant and make sure we are comfortable. Having support like this in a new country really made me feel safe.” –Alyona

Volunteer in Dehli with The Tarzan Way:

9.82 Rating
based on 11 reviews
  • Impact 9.7
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.9
  • Value 9.9
  • Safety 9.9

4. Dream Volunteers Service Trips

Designed to empower exceptional students to become globally-minded leaders and dreamers, this program endeavors to weave together service work, cultural immersion, conservation, and adventure. Your placement with Dream Volunteers is influenced by your interests, but whether you find yourself in a classroom or planting trees, you will be given responsibilities and decision-making authority. This program emphasizes reflection as much as it does service, and you’ll have the opportunity to consider what you’re learning as you go and to take advantage of a healthy balance between work and leisure, getting to know your host family, playing soccer, and maybe even riding an elephant.

Read what past participants had to say about the Dream Volunteers Service Trips:

  • “I will forever be grateful for Dream Volunteers helping me discover my passion for service work.” –Aminah
  • “I truly cannot do this excellent program justice alone in one short paragraph. It honestly is an eye-opening experience and one that definitely changed my life for good. You won't regret it!” –Emilio

5. Honduras Child Alliance

Quickly integrate into the life of El Porvenir and the rich, lively culture of the Honduran people as you help provide education for children in grades 1 through 6. Through small group instruction, volunteers teach kids skills in English, computers, and other fields that will allow them to pursue opportunities for their future. With Honduras Child Alliance you’ll also be invited to design and implement new programs such as bathroom construction or healthy snack distribution to improve the quality of the life for the whole community. Living near the picturesque sea, pineapple fields, and mountains of Honduras, volunteers make profound impacts in the lives of children, learning as much from the kids as they teach, and it’s no surprise that a number of the reviewers of the Honduras Child Alliance program say they wished they could have stayed longer.

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

  • “My time in El Porvenir was really rewarding; I look back fondly and often remember amazing times—and whenever I do, temptation strikes and I start looking at flights. I'll be back one day, for sure!” –Laura
  • “In the past five months, I have felt so safe and supported during my time in El Porvenir, and have had the opportunity to get to know people from all over the world and make a difference working with kids.” –Grace

Volunteer in Honduras with Child Alliance:

9.67 Rating
based on 12 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.4
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.7

6. Oceans 2 Earth Volunteers

If you’ve always wanted to cuddle a baby kangaroo or work with wombats, Oceans 2 Earth is for you. Animal lovers are invited to join in Australian animal welfare projects, supporting efforts to rescue, care for, and release wildlife back into their natural habitats.

Volunteers will feed baby bats, exercise wombats, collect gum leaves for koalas, scrub sea turtle shells, and provide emergency treatment and rehabilitation for a wide variety of other species, including wallabies, possums, bandicoots, echidnas, and many other species unique to Australia. This country is known for its vast diversity not only in its wildlife but in its geography as well, and you can lend support to other environmental efforts from beach cleanup to reef monitoring. You can even assist in research using GPS tracking and provide public education about the fascinating wildlife that calls Australia home.

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

  • “I had an amazing time in the Wallaby, Kangaroo and Possum Care program out of Brisbane, QLD. I got lots of hands on time with the animals and learned so much.” –Shannen
  • “I loved cuddling with the kangaroos and feeding them. The people at the Shelter are just the best and they are very kind. I would definitely recommend this project to anyone who loves animals and who doesn't mind working hard!” –Ilse

Volunteer in Australia with Ocean 2 Earth:

9.21 Rating
based on 28 reviews
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.1
  • Fun 8.7
  • Value 8.5
  • Safety 9.4

7. Volunteer Programs Bali

Volunteer Programs Bali seeks to empower Balinese people through volunteers engaging in the day to day rhythms of communities. Placements range from planning lessons and teaching children to assisting local businesses. Working alongside local Balinese staff members, you will gain an appreciation for the culture that goes beyond simply seeing the temples and rice terraces. Outside of your formal placement, you have the opportunity to participate in workshops, recycling events, cultural exchanges, and festivals. This program strives to provide you with the best experience possible, and so they provide a thorough orientation to introduce volunteers to this vibrant culture. During your stay, you’ll also live with a Balinese family, which might become a second family to you before you leave. With three day weekends, you’ll also have time to explore the country on your own.

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

  • “Bali was one of the best experiences I've had so far and VP Bali made it even better!” –Emma
  • “I was thrilled to have taken part in such a wonderful program and I am most definitely going to be going back soonest possible. So much love to Kim, Tutik, Eka, Indra & the rest of the beautiful team that makes VP Bali what it is.” –Nathalie

Volunteer in Indonesia with Volunteer Programs Bali:

9.59 Rating
based on 235 reviews
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.5
  • Safety 9.7

Pack your bags this summer for experiences of a lifetime! There are projects all over the world in need of enthusiastic volunteers willing to give their time and energy to meaningful and lasting work to improve the lives of people everywhere. Book your volunteer program today for a summer you won’t forget.

How did we pick these programs?

In choosing the best programs to be included in this article, we took into account two main factors: the review scores of each program and the number of reviews that program had received.

For all programs on Go Overseas, we ask reviewers to rate six key variables that reflect the core components of any experience. These vary depending on the type of program, but include items such as Housing, Support, Fun, Value, Safety, and an Overall score. We average these scores in order to find a numerical representation of the typical experience, and we use this number to compare all of the many programs in a certain category.

From there, our goal is to choose those programs which are truly the best: they have more and better reviews than the average for similar programs and are verified by enough reviews for us to feel confident giving our stamp of approval. Lastly, we base these decisions on our own industry knowledge. We want to make sure we're recommending programs that are vetted both by you, the users, and us, the experts, so that we feel confident the programs included are the best of the best!

The programs listed below are not ranked in any particular order; instead, they reflect a breadth of excellent program options.