Volunteering overseas is a wonderful way to travel and discover other cultures while also doing some good in the world. However, it often involves a significant time commitment, which is not always an option. Short-term volunteering -- usually defined by a placement that lasts up to two weeks -- allows people to enjoy the benefits of volunteering overseas without having to interrupt their careers, education, or other important life events.

Despite the brief time frame, a short-term placement can have a great impact on a local community. This kind of placement is perfect for seasonal work in agriculture and conservation and is well-suited to other types of short-term tangible projects. It also allows people who would not otherwise be able to volunteer to do so and helps tourists form a more meaningful and socially conscious connection with the places they visit.

A short-term volunteering placement should be relatively easily accessible -- there is little point in journeying to a remote village in Central Africa if you need to make the trip back within a week or two. Aim for placements in destinations that aren't too far, have good transport networks, or are easily incorporated into a longer trip overseas.

Cambodia

Beyond the beautiful temples and culture, Cambodia still faces widespread poverty and social inequality. A short-term volunteering placement in Cambodia can easily fit into a Southeast Asian trip while offering a deeper insight into this fascinating country than you would get as a tourist.

Opportunities exist in areas such as medicine, farming, wildlife conservation, and construction. However, be generally wary of placements in orphanages, which are common in Cambodia. Short-term work is not ideal in this area as a regular turnover of volunteers doesn’t provide a stable environment for the children and may ultimately do more harm than good.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to volunteer in wildlife conservation due to its astounding biodiversity. Volunteering with the sea turtles, where you can help protect these vulnerable animals during their hatching season, is particularly popular and can easily be done on a short-term basis.

Best of all, the country’s location in Central America and good transport hubs makes is quite accessible for people based in the U.S. and for those traveling around Latin America.

Spain

Many people don’t think of developed European countries like Spain when considering volunteering trips, but there is plenty you can do there in a couple of weeks. For instance, Spain has incredible marine conservation projects along its coast as well as sustainable farming projects around the country. Many of these are based either in or close popular destinations such as Valencia, Ibiza, and Madrid.

Spain is a major global tourism hub, meaning it is easy to get to, and a short-term volunteering placement is a great starting point for travel throughout the country and Europe in general.

Short-term volunteering is ideally suited to projects that can be fully delivered in a timeframe of two weeks or less. Look for structured projects that are clear about their timeline and the deliverables of your placement. This will not only give you a tangible sense of achievement from your volunteering but will also ensure that your work has real value for a community.

Marine Conservation

Though working in marine conservation usually requires years of training, there are many volunteering opportunities available for people with little to no experience who are passionate about preserving oceanic life. Many organizations often need people to count and monitor species such as seabirds and turtles, while large teams of short-term volunteers are always needed for ocean cleanup work.

Construction

For those who don’t mind hard manual labor, building homes, schools, or community centers in areas with poor infrastructure can be a great way of helping out in a short space of time. This is a particularly good option if you have some experience in construction work, although novices can also help out in a variety of ways.

Construction projects work well for short-term volunteering since they are measurable and tangible. However, if you opt for a construction placement, make sure the organization has a good track record for delivering durable, sustainable construction projects.

Farming & Agriculture

Every year, thousands of volunteers head out to rural areas around the world to help with planting, harvesting, and other labor-intensive farming processes. These roles are usually with charitable organizations aimed at empowering local communities through farming. In particular, NGOs helping women achieve financial independence through agriculture are becoming increasingly widespread.

These placements are ideal for short-term volunteering as they allow you to provide tangible support to a community that is not mitigated by turnover of volunteers.

Short-term volunteering is usually arranged through a sponsoring organization, meaning most of the planning and administration will be done for you. Your only task is to choose the sponsoring organization that best aligns with your goals, beliefs, and budget.

How to Choose a Short-Term Volunteer Program

Short-term volunteering has come under fire recently, with many declaring it the pinnacle of “voluntourism," which seeks to benefit the volunteer and sponsoring organization rather than the local community. The truth is that while short-term volunteering can be a wonderful way to make a difference, when not practiced correctly it can be detrimental to the people it seeks to help.

Before confirming your place in a program, make sure you are choosing ethically. Look for highly respected sponsoring organizations with great track records and solid accountability around where your money goes and how your work will benefit the community. Ask yourself what skills you bring to the table, and try to find a placement that you are genuinely passionate about.

In particular, think twice about any projects that seem like they should involve long-term relationship building, such as teaching children, social casework, and working in orphanages. The constant shuffling of short-term incoming volunteers can lead to a loss in quality of the work and can be especially traumatic for children.

Health & Safety

Many short-term placements are based in areas that are easily accessible. These areas tend to be closer to urban hubs and as a result require fewer vaccinations and precautions. Easily accessible areas are also likely to be closer to hospitals and emergency services. That said, most of the work in conservation and agriculture will be based in rural areas where the opposite is true.

Certain sponsoring organizations provide more support than others in terms of health and safety, so make sure you are clear on what is being covered by your fees. Depending on the organization, this can include an international emergency response service and full travel and medical insurance for your trip.

Other Need to Know

Short-term volunteering programs are almost exclusively run by sponsoring organizations since few NGOs will bother to directly recruit and train a volunteer for just a few weeks. As a result, you will most likely be paying a sponsoring organization to find, plan, and liaise with your placement. Costs for these types of providers average at around $2,000-$2,500, but will depend on the location, activities, and sponsoring organization.

As a general rule, this fee will cover all aspects of your trip except flights and visa costs. Some organizations will cover any necessary vaccinations or medications, but not all will. Make sure you consider these extra costs when budgeting for your placement.

Short-Term Volunteer Programs Abroad

Displaying 61 - 75 of 320 programs
Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad Volunteer Programs in Vietnam
Vietnam
8.67 •9 reviews

Projects Abroad has been providing volunteer placements in the...

United Planet
Volunteer Abroad in Ecuador with United Planet for 1-52 weeks
Ecuador
9.2 •5 reviews

United Planets Quest Volunteer Abroad program offers you or your group...

Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad Volunteer Programs in Samoa
Samoa
9.75 •4 reviews

Join Projects Abroad in Samoa in one of our volunteer programs...

Global Work & Travel
Namaste Nepal | Community Development & Orphanage Care in Nepal
Nepal
10 •2 reviews

Home of the world's highest peaks, and deepest canyons. Nepal is a...

Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad Volunteer Programs in China
China
8.5 •8 reviews

Join Projects Abroad as a volunteer in China and take part in any one...

Volunteering Solutions
Volunteer in Spain | Life Changing Volunteering Projects
Spain
9 •4 reviews

Volunteering Solutions offers 3 exciting opportunities to volunteer in...

Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad Volunteer Programs in Belize
Belize
8.29 •7 reviews

Projects Abroad offers volunteer projects in Placencia or San Pedro...

Volunteering Solutions
Volunteer in Sri Lanka | Most Affordable Projects Starting From $390
Sri Lanka
8.67 •6 reviews

If you are an animal lover looking forward to volunteer with animals...

Volunteering Solutions
Volunteer in Philippines | Most Affordable & Trusted Projects
Philippines
9.25 •4 reviews

Join Volunteer Solutions on a fantastic volunteer program in the...

Volunteering Solutions
Medical and Healthcare Projects with Volunteering Solutions
Asia
9.25 •4 reviews

The Medical & Healthcare projects are aimed towards providing better...

Volunteering Solutions
Volunteer in Women's Rights with Volunteering Solutions
Africa
9.33 •3 reviews

If you are interested in working to improve the lives of women around...

United Hatzalah Colombia
EMT Volunteer Program - International EMT Certification (Optional)
Colombia
10 •22 reviews

Learn First Responder Skills, Save lives and Experience Colombia. We...

Global Volunteers
Teach English to Children in Poland
Poland
9.87 •15 reviews

You're needed for one to three weeks as a volunteer to teach in rural...

Village Book Builders
Become a local HERO!-Build a LIBRARY in LATIN AMERICA!
Multiple Countries
9.88 •25 reviews

Share your love of books! You will join a group of book lovers on this...

Global Volunteers
Help Children in Crete, Greece Learn English
Greece
9.65 •23 reviews

Join Global Volunteers for one to two weeks and teach English in Crete...

What People Are Saying

I travelled to Greece in June 2018 and had the best two weeks of my life. Despite a rocky start of being refused boarding onto the airplane, from the moment I landed I felt both welcome and...

Sunset enjoyed from the beach

Prior to my trip, I didn’t have any experience travelling, and though the program had amazing reviews and I’d never be truly alone, I was away from my family for the first time. Hell I was terrified...

This was us, totally different people, from totally different places and backgrounds, all connected by our conservation interest. Always a party!

I have traveled three times with the organization Global Volunteers and have never been disappointed. I took the Greece trip with my 16 year old daughter. My husband is of Greek heritage and I wanted...

On a side trip to Chania

Related Volunteer Abroad Articles