Volunteer abroad with IVHQ

International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ

COVID-19 Program Updates

Due to global health & safety concerns and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus, International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ has decided to offer flexible booking options for some of their upcoming programs. Learn more about COVID-19 updates to stay tuned regarding program information.


IVHQ is the world’s most trusted and affordable volunteer abroad organization, offering the largest range of safe and impactful volunteer programs in 50+ destinations.

Over 113,000 travelers have volunteered abroad with IVHQ over the past 13 years, making IVHQ the world’s most experienced volunteer travel organization with the best safety record.

With programs ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks, it's easy to customize a program to fit your schedule and volunteering goals.

Programs are available in these destinations: Bali, Costa Rica, South Africa, Greece, India, Portugal, Peru, Fiji, Nepal, Peru, Jamaica, Madagascar, Spain, Australia, Croatia, Jordan, Belize, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Italy, Tanzania, Cambodia, Victoria Falls, Laos, New Zealand, Belgium, Morocco, Brazil, China, Ghana, Zambia, Ecuador, Uganda, Indonesia, Colombia, Argentina, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Thailand.

Explore the programs below and visit the IVHQ website for more information.

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99 Devon Street West
New Plymouth 4310
New Zealand


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Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering at the Nakavango Conservation Programme in Victoria Falls was one of the best experiences of my life. The project leaders on the ground were great; supportive throughout and very open to discussing the issues they face and some unexpected solutions to environmental and conservation issues that are applicable across the world. I learnt a huge amount about reading the story that any environment presents and had a great time doing it. There is a good mix of activities and rest time and the accommodation was great. We had individual rooms and the staff couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. I felt valued and looked after.

IVHQ was great in the run-up, from the perspectives of both pre-planning generally to the specific needs of the programme (particularly having the correct paperwork for visas and travel).

I recommend both the Nakavango Conservation Programme and IVHQ to anyone considering a volunteer program. You will be in very good hands.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would take advantage of opportunity to track animals on foot. Unfortunately we had a few days of heavy rain which stopped us going out. A couple of those would have involved tracking animals on foot.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Over the Christmas holidays, I was fortunate enough to travel to Kandy, Sri Lanka on my second volunteer aboard program with IVHQ. During my first two-weeks I completed a volunteer placement teaching English and in my last week I did the trekking week add-on which was completely organised and facilitated by the local team. Although the trekking week was full of outdoor activities, beautiful hikes and waterfalls I found the volunteering was the highlight of my experience. I thoroughly enjoyed Teaching English to the local children – it was both a challenging and rewarding experience which taught me a lot about myself and what I am capable of. The local team were very accommodating, and we were given many options and were not just limited to the program we had initially signed up for. Within the teaching program, there were two options available for which we could chose to participate in one or both – a morning session teaching English to Monks and an afternoon session teaching English to the village kids. There was a scheduled lunch break between each session.

I chose to participate in both programs and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of teaching two very different groups. This allowed me to spend more time with my fellow volunteers and helped enrich my experience. I was intimated at first as I had no previous teaching experience but the local team, my fellow volunteers and the children were all very supportive. Although I was the teacher, I learnt a lot from my students – they taught me to be creative with my teaching methods and how we could create a fun and educational environment with little resources. It was refreshing to be in the absence of computers and to rely on talking, drawing, and playing and creating games from sticks, stones and bottle caps found on the ground. My favourite memory was on my last day of teaching I gave one of my students some ribbon from my Christmas wrapping (she loved to tie her hair in ribbons for school). I will never forget the joy on her face and how she hugged me after receiving this gift. It was something so small yet it brought so much happiness. Volunteering here has taught me that I should never underestimate myself, especially my own ability to make a difference no matter how small or simple my actions may seem.

They say travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer and, in this case, it could not be more true. If you have any doubt in your mind about volunteering aboard, erase it and take the leap. You’ll make lifelong friends, create lasting memories and most importantly enrich your own knowledge and life experience.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you are only in the country for a short amount of time, use your weekends wisely to get the most out of sightseeing. You can talk to the local team about what you are interested in, how much time you have and what is feasible to do. They are very helpful and will help you arrange accommodation and transportation for weekends away or day trips.
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Reuben Ming Gui
Yes, I recommend this program

I had a fulfilling eight weeks on the Teaching English project in Bogota, Colombia. The stint was, in truth, more challenging than I had expected it to be. The vast majority of our students, all of whom endured difficult pasts and were placed in a rehabilitative home, spoke hardly any English and I had to conduct classes in my limited Spanish. There was also relatively little institutional knowledge we could work with and the unpredictability of our class configurations proved to be an obstacle. Our local team was, however, very supportive from the get-go and played an important role in ironing out certain issues. After navigating a steep learning curve, I found myself feeling a sense of fulfillment in teaching our students. It was hard work ideating and preparing our lessons but detecting a sense of achievement in the eyes of a few of our students, who found satisfaction in being able to construct English sentences, made all our effort worthwhile. In addition, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to teach and get to know our students and I was blessed by their warmth and respectfulness towards us volunteers. I was also blessed by the local team and fellow volunteers, and I'm glad to say that I've made friendships I will keep for life. The premature and abrupt end to my programme, however, brought about by the COVID-19 situation, left me feeling that I had unfinished business in Bogota. I'm nevertheless thankful for my time there and would happily return to serve on the project again in the future.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Although the ability to speak Spanish isn't an official requirement for the teaching programme, having at least an intermediate level of the language makes a huge difference in your programme experience. There is a palpable language barrier as the students start off with a very low level of English. Not speaking Spanish makes it difficult to communicate with them and to build meaningful relations. Pick up some Spanish and there'll be a world of difference!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Where to begin! I volunteered for 2 weeks at a Turtle Conservation Project in Sri Lanka. This was my first time traveling abroad and I couldn't have picked a more perfect place. This country has SO much to offer! Beautiful nature, city, food, animals, history, culture, and so much more. The whole experience was wonderful, but it was the people and culture that made the experience special. The Green Lion staff were some of the greatest people I've ever met! So kind, supportive, and full of humor! I cannot wait to go back one day!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Leave your expectations at home! Travel with an open heart and mind and you will create wonderful memories! I had certain expectations going in, but Sri Lanka surpassed them all! When I let go I was able to be present and enjoy every moment. Oh yeah, and don't forget to have fun!
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Yes, I recommend this program

I did the food rescue project with IVHQ in Lisbon, Portugal. The experience was truly an unforgettable one, I have made memories that I will cherish forever.

I would say that I am quite shy, and was really nervous about making friends during this, I quickly overcame all that and have made so many friends from this, friends from all over, and friends of all ages.

One moment I will never forget is when I saw a homeless man eating the food that I had just prepared, it completely warmed my heart and made me feel whole.

I got to experience such a rich and beautiful culture, I learnt some of the language, I learnt how to be more eco-friendly and sustainable, and I've become more aware of the world around us and how many people are in need.

I will definitely volunteer with IVHQ again, especially since I will be 18 next year and will be able to do so many more. As a high schooler, this helped me make friends with people my own age and people older than me, it helped me become more independent, and helped me see the world in a new way. Yes it did help for my university application, but it is so much more than that.

IVHQ is great for anyone and everyone, if you just want to help the world in a way, or if you're incredibly passionate about something, IVHQ has something for you. And if you're in high school, if you've just retired, if you want to travel or stay home, IVHQ has something for you.

I would recommend this to anyone and I hope that more people volunteer, as it is such a wonderful thing to do.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Do not be afraid to ask questions!! I made that mistake by not asking what exact items I'd need to bring to the residence, so unfortunately for the first 2 days I had no towels or body wash with me!! I had to borrow someone else's towel at first, but then luckily I had a friend in Cascais who let me borrow a towel of hers and I bought body wash. If you are unsure about absolutely anything, just ask, because the crew at IVHQ (especially in Lisbon) are super kind and accommodating.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Alexis Johnson

Alex was born and raised in Canada. She loves to travel, doing so in a variety of styles, and has always been interested in environmental concerns.

Why did you choose this program?

I travel as much as my pay and vacation time will allow me, but I am single and usually travel alone. One day a coworker was asking advice on travel and asked if I ever joined groups (I did) and he asked if I'd ever volunteered while traveling (I hadn't). The question stuck in my mind as did the sudden realization that not only did I sincerely need a break from the drama of work and family, but I needed something in my life to feel I was connecting to something bigger, something important, something I could feel passionate and proud about.

Environmental protection had always inspired me. Was there a program that combined my two interests and the sudden need to express the part of me that longed to save the world? Yes! Of course; I knew I wouldn't save the planet, but everything about this program and company proved I could do something unique, something helpful, and that I could do so without paying a million dollars, having a special skill or going to extremes.

International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) also had so many options that I really just had to toss a coin to figure out where to go. Africa/Nakavango seemed like such a rare opportunity that I couldn't pass up the chance.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

IVHQ provided a list of things to complete before I left & checked them off as I went. They also connected me to travel insurance providers, a community of people who could answer those little questions we have when going somewhere unfamiliar, indicated which vaccinations I might need, and directed me to the host country's visa website.

Most importantly, IVHQ hooked me up with their flight center.

Their very helpful staff ensured booking flights from Vancouver to Zimbabwe went smoothly and was cheaper than I expected. One other volunteer claimed to have found her own flights cheaper, but I was more than happy to leave the stress of finding the cheapest & most convenient flights up to someone else. They also gave a very general packing list, which I followed as best I could.

Doing the actual legwork for most other things was my responsibility. I had to ensure I got vaccinated and obtained malaria pills, got a criminal record check (good indicator this is a reputable program), and obtained travel documents & items for visas for volunteering in Zimbabwe.

The program manager in Zimbabwe helped with almost everything while there, including booking a taxi back to the airport and booking weekend activities. She even gave me cream for fire ant bites. I loved that woman.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I have two pieces of advice, one for travel in general (which I've known for a long time) and one specific to this program.

1: Travel is like many aspects of life: it goes better if you use common sense to stay safe and keep an open mind and easygoing nature to stay happy. Sometimes unexpected things happen. That's life. Use common sense to survive it and be ready to shrug delays or mishaps right off your shoulders. I was bitten by fire ants. It wasn't an experience I'd like to repeat, but I treated the bites with creams, learned to wear long pants, and in no way did I allow it to dampen my spirits or my desire to experience what I could.

2: Don't be afraid. There are people to take care of you, systems to support you, and there's always a solution to a problem. What I learned in this program was that sometimes people surprise you with their kindness. Don't be afraid to believe in people (but always remember common sense!). The volunteers I was with and the program operators astonished me with their good hearts. It made me regret not holding a fundraiser at work for this program, a choice I made because I forgot that sometimes people are good.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I was only in Nakavango, Victoria Falls for two weeks and things will be different depending on how long you're there, time of year, and what is required (e.g. during the rainy season you might have to fix roads or clear debris from bridges).

Shifts for when I was there were about 1.5 hours each. Weekdays start at 6 AM. That means you have had your breakfast and are ready to go at 6 AM.

Monday we did game drives, getting oriented in the park or else doing an animal count. Tuesday we pulled datura in the morning. Datura was ridiculously satisfying to pull out and I could have done that nearly all day. In the afternoon, you might go to Victoria Falls or else do some chore around the compound.

Weds is the primary school where you'll garden or clear the field of rocks and the afternoon is enjoying the sunset with a beer after a drive around the park. Thurs we worked in the garden, digging garden beds and in the afternoon we packed camping gear and went camping. Friday morning half went pack to the compound and unpacked while the other half went tracking on foot. Friday afternoon we dug up lantana, which was the hardest work I had to do since the bush has to be taken out at the roots. All days we had about 5hrs between getting back to the compound for lunch and the 2nd shift of work or whatever afternoon activity was planned.

Weekends were usually spent in town doing tourist things.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear of going to Zimbabwe was simply getting a visa. I was terrified I would forget some little piece of paperwork and would be denied a visa. I got triplicates of every document and passport photos. Didn't get asked for any of it! This, however, doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared. It just means you shouldn't stress about things so long as you are organized.

The second biggest fear I had was that I wouldn't be able to contribute anything useful. I honestly had no idea what I'd be doing on a regular day. Thankfully, this program didn't require particular skills and we had people from 18-65 yrs participating. If you can prune a bush, you can do something in Nakavango. That IVHQ asked questions such as what skills I had encouraged me that I wouldn't be sent off to do something I wasn't qualified for.

What kind of travel style is this?

I compare the accommodations and services to a mix of camping and hotel or camping with a trailer/cabin with surprisingly comfortable beds. We had laundry services every Weds and, even though the washing machine was broken, the laundry was back by Thurs. Just note that apparently the guy who washes things likes to iron EVERYTHING.

While I was prepared for pretty much what we got, one girl was expecting to be out in the bushes without toilet paper. Seriously. She packed 9 packages of baby wipes, which she ended up donating (so, not a bad ending). We did have running water, electricity (carry a flashlight EVERYWHERE as power failures happen randomly), private rooms with a fan, wifi (not always working), a pool, absolutely excellent chefs (lots of pasta, rice, chicken, fresh veggies thanks to the garden, and fresh breads), cleaners, and the ability to choose our level of participation. If you really didn't want to do something, you might get teased or razed, but you weren't punching in a time card for work. One girl chose to do almost no work. As much as we disliked her for this lack of team spirit, it was her choice.

A little bit of advice is to bring more USA cash than you expect to use. There is an art market in town with plenty to offer (be prepared to be attacked on all sides by salesmen) and you will want to leave a bigger tip than you think for the staff at Nakavango. The cleaner not only had a nice little corner set up with trinkets that I wish I'd bought more from but he fixed my hiking boots. What did he do? He sewed through rubber so I could have my boots for another week. Apparently they will last another 20 years. I hate those stupid boots, but I wish I'd brought more cash to tip him, buy more of his artwork, and tip the chefs who were so committed to their job that I couldn't break it to them that I'd eaten in town and didn't need the dinner they'd set aside for me.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Julien Comeau

Julien is a former Canadian dentist and businessman who decided at age 75 to find a more fulfilling retirement. He enjoyed his 3 weeks in Ghana so much that he is planning more adventures in Africa. He also had the honor of being the oldest volunteer ever in Ghana... Quite an accomplishment and an inspiration for others.

Why did you choose this program?

The IVHQ program seemed to offer all that I was looking for: destination, available projects, affordability, plus the fact that it not simply an adventure travel company. Their programs were dedicated to helping communities in need. The schools where we worked had all been built by volunteers, and we provided materials and labor to renovate and build toilet facilities for the children. A few weeks of work by a few people eventually build a school.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

IVHQ assists with everything: flight information, visa and health requirements, airport pick up, travel to placement, orientation, daily visits to the worksites, and regular meetings at our residence to discuss any issue.

The website provides most of this information in advance, but it's reassuring to meet "face to face" with the organizers. On our own, we have to arrange emergency travel health insurance, criminal background report, vaccinations, and visa requirements if required.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

In Africa, bring as few clothes as possible, and nothing with long sleeves and long pants. Clothes can be washed daily if necessary. Insect repellents are only required at night, as they simply wash away in the daytime by the heat. Bring anti-malaria medication and personal toiletries, and a small first aid kit.

My advice: DO NOT WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING! You will be with an outstanding group of people and you will have a fantastic adventure.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Because of the heat in Ghana, all 10 of us only worked in the mornings.

In construction, we left for our 30-minute walk to the site around 6:30 am and it was an enjoyable walk, as everybody waved and greeted us. We returned to our compound around noon on motorbikes.

The childcare group prepared breakfast and lunch for the school children and were finished by 1 pm. Their school was only a 5-minute walk. Afternoons and evenings were spent reading, playing games, interacting with the children.

Weekends were for sightseeing, usually gone for 2 days (at our expense).

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I had no fears, no concerns. The website provides all the information that you need about your program. The country website (tourism) provides the rest.

As for safety, always remember that you are in a group. There are no safety concerns at the placement site, and we traveled on weekends in groups for 8 or more. Local people are very hospitable and helpful. You will soon discover that you have no worries.

Enjoy your stay.

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