Volunteer Abroad Opportunities: 15 Organisations That Welcome Expats
The expatriate life can be busy. There’s the move itself, then finding a house and settling the family in, and then getting acclimated to a new language and culture.
So, why do so many expats make the time to go volunteer?
Reasons range from pure altruism to simply being social. Volunteering helps you meet new people, get to know the city you’re in and learn new skills you may not have considered back home.
We’ve come up with a list of 15 international volunteer organisations you can join as an expat below. Some have chapters across the globe, and others are specific to one city, but all do good work to make life better for everyone.
International Voluntary Services From Around the World
A Broader View
Based in the US, A Broader View is a nonprofit volunteer charity organisation that has outreach programs in 25 countries. If you’re an expat already living in Costa Rica, for example, you can volunteer in some San Jose-based projects that range from orphanage support to healthcare work and teaching. There are sea turtle preservation programs, as well, along both coasts.
Promoting peace through global volunteerism, Service Civil International offers short- and long-term projects across the globe. You can almost always find a program in your current country of residence looking for volunteers. Open opportunities in Thailand, for instance, currently include teaching English, and helping with the preservation of traditional lifestyles and organic farming methods.
More than 32,000 volunteers have taken part in Global Volunteers’ 33-year history. Their work has included teaching, childcare, medical projects, community development and construction and renovation jobs around the world. The organisation has partnerships with host communities in dozens of countries, including Greece, Italy and Portugal. Programs are short, between one and three weeks in duration, and volunteers work alongside local project leaders.
Cross-Cultural Solutions, Greece
One of the nine countries CCS offers volunteer opportunities in is Greece, with its Syrian refugee program. Volunteers can choose from several projects:
- working with refugee children;
- supporting vulnerable women;
- advocacy work;
- food and supplies distribution;
- and construction.
The length of stay ranges from one week to three months, and the volunteer home base is in Chalkida, just north of Athens.
No matter how long you are away, your exchanged money is safe with CurrencyFair at all times until you need it. Read more about how to travel in cash-only countries here.
Serve the City, Madrid
Serving the underprivileged in the Spanish city of Madrid might mean handing out bath kits or coffee, working on crafts for a fundraiser or taking part in an activity with young people who have autism.
Some opportunities are held in collaboration with other agencies, and may require a commitment of several hours a day, a week or a month. That said, Serve the City projects are usually one-off events, a few hours long, held on the weekend. Some require volunteers speak Spanish while others are held in English.
Access, the Netherlands
There are volunteer organisations that help other expats, and one such organisation that’s been around for 30 years is in the Netherlands. Dutch nationals and English-speaking expatriates make up the 140 volunteers that run Access from its offices in The Hague, Utrecht, Amsterdam and Leiden.
Volunteers must have significant expatriate experience and be able to commit at least six hours per week (during office hours) for three months. The Access team provides practical information and advice on matters that include how to open a bank account and hook up utilities, finding a dentist, public transit queries, health insurance questions and more.
Dubai is built by workers from south Asian and African countries who live in labor camps. SmartLife is a nonprofit, non-governmental organisation (registered with Dubai’s Community Development Authority) that tries to make life better for these workers. Projects include classes in meditation, personal finance management and art, as well as skills workshops.
First Hand, Singapore
First Hand works to prevent child trafficking in Cambodia, and to help in the rescue and rehabilitation of those children who have been exploited and trafficked. Partnering with NGOs in Cambodia, First Hand raises money through events held in Singapore and regularly visits Cambodia to deliver donations of supplies, labor and services.
The First Hand team tells us that English-speaking expatriates in Singapore are welcome to volunteer, and can find out more by attending an Information Day.
Downside Up, Moscow
You’ll need to know at least some Russian to be able to actually volunteer at the children’s center for this charity, which provides free daily programs for Russian families who have children with Down Syndrome.
If your language skills aren’t quite up to par, perhaps you could join fundraisers like the annual bike ride or take part in the next Kilimanjaro climb (the 2011 climb raised 2.5 million rubles). Since 1997, Downside Up has helped nearly 6,700 families with the education, development and social adaptation skills for children with Down Syndrome.
A volunteer project platform and networking system, Give Something Back to Berlin started in 2012 as a way to bring volunteers and local projects together. In its first 18 months, GSBTB writes that it “carried out over 50 extremely varied projects in Berlin with local organisations and 400 volunteers from over 35 different countries.” The NGO has since developed nine weekly volunteer projects of its own, and now reaches some 14,500 individuals in need annually.
Stepping Stones, Shanghai
Teaching English to disadvantaged children in migrant schools and community centers in Shanghai, as well as in rural schools outside the city, is Stepping Stones’ main mission.
However, the charitable organisation has other general welfare projects on the go, too, including an eye care program in which migrant children are screened for vision problems and given free glasses and corrective surgery, when necessary. Stepping Stones’ 300 teachers are expatriates and local Chinese volunteers, and teach some 5,000 students every week.
A leading children’s charity in the UK, Barnardo’s runs programs for abused children, offers fostering and adoption services, and offers vocational training. Every year, the organisation works with more than 200,000 children and their families. Volunteers have numerous options, including in children’s services, which includes mentoring, in the charity’s retail operations or in fundraising events.
Nikki’s Place Agape Home, Thailand
Nikki’s Place is a home in Chiang Mai for nearly 100 children who are living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS. Because of the nature of the work, volunteers are asked to commit a minimum of three months to helping care for the children. Volunteers, who work alongside Thai staff, must be at least 20 years of age. The home is licensed by the Department of Welfare in Thailand, but depends entirely on donations and sponsorships.
A not-for-profit organisation, TELL provides English-language telephone support and counseling services to expatriates in Japan. TELL’s Lifeline offers phone counselor training to English-speaking volunteers, who need to commit nine weeks to the training alone, with a further commitment after an apprenticeship of 10 hours monthly for at least one year. Other ways to volunteer at TELL include helping with fundraising events and at the office, especially with graphic design, database management and translation.
Pathfinders, Hong Kong
Volunteers with Pathfinders help realise the organisation’s mission to ensure that migrant children born in Hong Kong are protected. The infants and their mothers are given free access to healthcare, food and shelter, and the mothers are provided with counselling as well as access to education and legal support. Volunteers can assist with childcare services, and help with supplies distribution and outreach, while medical professionals are always in high demand.