Volunteer Abroad

10 Up & Coming Places to Volunteer Abroad in 2019

Photo of Jacqueline Peveto
Jacqueline Peveto
Topic Expert

Jacqueline is a writer, artist, and enthusiast for anything else involving imagination and paper. She both studied abroad and volunteered abroad in Japan.

Where to Volunteer Abroad - Romania

As a volunteer, the world is your oyster. There are opportunities and needs for volunteers in literally every country in the world, and all that you need to do is decide where to go. Where can you best use your skills, see the world, and give back to help others? That's a tough question to answer.

Some travelers might want to volunteer abroad in a popular, well-established volunteer locale. If that's you, don't worry: we also have a list of the most popular volunteer destinations for 2019.

If, on the other hand, you want to head off the beaten path, read on. The Go Overseas team has put together a list of other countries you might want to volunteer in this year. These are a little less popular, and perhaps a bit more exciting as a result.

Each of the countries in this list features exciting and unique volunteer opportunities for experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world! Interested in coral reef repair or working at an elephant village? Read on to discover where your efforts can make the greatest impact on people living in these lesser-traveled (but no less rewarding) destinations.

Vietnam

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Vietnam
Photo by Vanessa T., IVHQ Bali Alum

For many, Vietnam is known primarily for the war that took place between 1955 and 1975, yet thanks to recovery efforts, this beautiful Southeast Asian country has come a long way. Vietnam actively welcomes volunteers to join its efforts in developing education, improving healthcare, supporting human rights, and promoting environmental conservation.

Whether you are interested in climate change solutions or assisting children and veterans affected by Agent Orange, Vietnam offers several highly affordable programs. Get hands-on experience with professionals and explore the full range of this country’s diversity, from its quickly growing cities to its picturesque, remote villages. Volunteers can explore this rich and vibrant culture at placements in Ho Chi Mihn City (formerly Saigon) or Hanoi, and enjoy its natural splendor at sites such as Halong Bay, Sapa, and Ba Be National Park.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in Vietnam:

Romania

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Romania
Photo by Ece R., IVHQ Romania Alum

Calling all medieval culture and history buffs! Transylvania might be the largest and most well-known area of this Eastern European country, but from the Carpathian Mountains to the sandy edge of the Black Sea, there is so much more to discover in Romania.

Put your passion for history to work in a program to preserve traditional Romanian farming methods. Manage an archaeological site or protect bears at a local animal sanctuary. In addition to its historical appeal, Romania is a developing country facing economic and cultural changes and challenges. Due to these recent changes, Romania also needs volunteer support for projects working to help disadvantaged groups gain access to long-denied resources and opportunities.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in Romania:

Haiti

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Haiti
Photo by Aiko B., Sadhana Forest Alum

Since the devastating earthquake of 2010, Haiti has faced extreme challenges in providing some basic needs for many of its people, including clean water and access to electricity. Major improvements are needed in all areas, and understaffed organizations are eager for volunteers to lend a hand.

Placements for medical support, education and literacy promotion, and building projects can provide you with eye-opening experiences as you meet and serve people in impoverished communities. Joining the massive recovery efforts necessary to ensure Haiti’s temporary stability becomes permanent is a great way to experience the culture and stunning natural beauty of this struggling country.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in Haiti:

Dominican Republic

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Dominican Republic
Photo by Zoe G., Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children Alum

The Dominican Republic shares not only a border with Haiti but also the island they both inhabit: Hispaniola. The DR faces many of the same problems as its neighbor -- pressing needs for community development, improved medical care, and protection of its pristine beaches through environmental stewardship -- and many programs are looking for volunteers to take charge.

From developing a sports league for local youth to managing a non-government organization, you have the opportunity to step into a leadership role to improve life for the disadvantaged, many of whom live in poor communities called bateyes. Volunteers can make an impact on the families living in these neighborhoods by building houses, schools, and clinics or by working in them, providing services in areas where quality education and medical care are lacking. Join leaders implementing cutting-edge social programs and contribute to developing much-needed infrastructure.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in the Dominican Republic:

Bolivia

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Bolivia
Photo by Emma B., Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder Bolivia Alum

Set amidst the Andes Mountains, vast Amazonian rainforest, and Lake Titicaca, Bolivia is a stunning and ancient country, claiming the highest percentage of people with indigenous heritage (over 60%). It is also South America’s poorest nation. Poverty and lack of resources contribute to difficult living conditions for children and adults alike.

Whether it’s by training teachers, building houses, implementing public health policies, or writing grants, volunteer organizations allow willing participants to come alongside them in serving underprivileged communities. If you’re looking to put your time (and hiking boots) to good use, conservation work with wild animals, outdoor expeditions, and workshops in the rugged Andes might be the perfect fit for you.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in Bolivia:

Cuba

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Cuba
Photo by Nozomi A., Rustic Pathways Cuba Alum

Since 1959, Cuba has been affected by numerous political and social developments, including a U.S. embargo that has limited the country’s access to resources. However, despite some setbacks, Cuba has growing scientific development and sustainability sectors. In addition to its rich cultural mix, Cuba offers lush rainforest, extensive plantations, and even reefs -- all areas in which volunteers can find ready placements.

While general tourism is not allowed due to government restrictions, volunteering through a program will allow you to explore this vibrant Caribbean island. Community centers and agricultural communities from Havana to Trinidad are open to anyone interested in lending a helping hand, experiencing daily Cuban life, and learning more about this country’s history.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in Cuba:

Malaysia

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Malaysia
Photo by Joanna L., Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures Alum

Located in Southeast Asia, the tropical islands of Malaysia feature both extremely well-developed cities and untamed wilds. These two extremes mean if you’re interested in traveling to Malaysia to volunteer, you have a wide variety of options to choose from.

Volunteers in thriving city centers such as Kuala Lumpur can get involved in assisting special needs children, supporting refugee populations, or even delving into the development of new programs. For those looking to get even more hands-on, participants can join programs to fight poachers by walking jungle patrols and dismantling snares on the borders of Malaysia’s largest national park, repair coral reefs, or support conservation efforts by inspecting sea turtle nests or working with Orangutans. From animal rescue to teaching English, Malaysia has a place for everyone.

Bonus: Read Go Overseas teammate Jo's story about volunteering in Malaysia in 2018.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in Malaysia:

Thailand

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Thailand
Photo by Kelly M., IVHQ Bali Alum

Known as the Land of Smiles, Thailand offers volunteers a rare insight into its rich culture by allowing them to experience what daily life is really like. In Bangkok’s bustling city streets and tribal villages alike, volunteers are invited to go beyond the golden temples and breathtaking views tourists see and engage in the pressing concerns such as conservation, health and hygiene education in schools, and how to preserve traditions while encouraging modernization.

Since it shares borders with Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia, Thailand has long been ground zero for human rights agencies seeking to rectify histories of abuse and inequalities, and there is still much work to be done due to current challenges in the political landscape. As a participant in one of Thailand’s many programs, you can help doctors treat patients, play with needy children, teach English to young monks, or personally work to protect the native Asian elephant and gibbon population through rehabilitation and reintegration efforts.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in Thailand:

Swaziland

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Swaziland
Photo by Izzy W., All Out Africa Alum

Despite being one of the smallest countries in Africa, Swaziland features more than enough wildlife and beautiful scenery to satisfy the wanderlust of any traveler. For all its beauty, however, Swaziland also has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world and its people have been devastated by its impact.

As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of children and families affected by HIV/AIDS by improving care centers, planning activities, and teaching them life skills, English, and math. Participants can also engage with projects to build houses, gardens, and safe environments for kids. Programs are looking for volunteers to foster struggling communities by implementing several initiatives, some of which are (but not limited to!) introducing rugby to schools, providing HIV/AIDS educational programs, promoting savannah conservation, and supporting local businesses.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in Swaziland:

Laos

Where to Volunteer Abroad in 2019: Laos
Photo by Sophie B., GVI Laos Alum

The rolling hills and rice fields of Laos are a testament to a country that's retained its traditional culture and pastoral roots. However, poverty is widespread, and a large amount of volunteer help is needed to help improve living conditions and opportunities for the people of Laos.

As a volunteer, you’ll be invited into understaffed schools looking for English teachers and people to organize activities for needy children. Whether in Luang Prabang (a UNESCO Heritage city), a village near Vang Vieng, or Vientiane (the capital), volunteer programs strive to empower young adults and women, providing health and life skills to diminish the risk of exploitation and break the cycle of poverty that’s all too common in developing countries such as Laos -- and they need your help to do it.

Due to its location, Laos is also a major crossroads for illegal wildlife trading in Southeast Asia. Volunteers can also donate their time to the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary and help care for rescued sun bears, leopards, monkeys, and other endangered species while encouraging change in attitudes about illegal wildlife trading.

Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities in Laos:

See all volunteer programs in Laos →

Ready to pack your bags and volunteer abroad? In 2019, consider taking a journey that will not only change the lives of the people you serve but also your own through an experience in a country you didn’t know could feel like a second home.