Volunteer Vacation Questions and Answers

Service. Seriously.

A short-term volunteer vacation can be your most important and meaningful travel opportunity this year. Since 1984, Global Volunteers has engaged families, couples, seniors and groups of all kinds in tax-deductible volunteer programs worldwide.  Join us to experience true cultural immersion while you give back to the world. We’re a long-standing and highly respected USA-based NGOs offering genuine development programs.  Our focus is on levering volunteers’ skills for the benefit of our community partners.  The following are the most common questions our volunteer coordinators receive about a short-term volunteer vacation.

Is a Volunteer Vacation Right for Me?

Volunteer Vacations FAQs

Volunteer Vacations FAQs

What Can I Do on a Volunteer Vacation?

Simply, as a short-term volunteer, you help children thrive.  You contribute to health, nutrition and education projects. You nurture babies, tutor homeless children, help students study, model proper hand washing, help plant and maintain school gardens, teach English, help provide clean water, paint dormitories, help supply safe cooking stoves, promote girls’ education, provide psychosocial support and much, much more.

Doubting your volunteer vacation makes a difference?  Don’t.  You’re an essential link in a long chain of those who have come before, and will follow, to ensure long-term development support. In fact, we helped set the standard for short-term international service in 1984 – and made these opportunities accessible to the “average” volunteer.

Who Serves on a Volunteer Vacation?

People of all ages and from all walks of life are valuable resources on our volunteer vacations. Couples, retirees, students, working professionals, families, individuals and groups all join Global Volunteers service programs. Teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses, bankers, homemakers, lawyers, administrators and all have much to share, and help form strong teams. Volunteers routinely report that the team dynamic is one of the most satisfying aspects of our program. More than 30 percent of our volunteers join future teams; returning to the same host community, or serving on a different program. Some 40 percent of volunteers have served on three teams or more; and more than 20 percent have joined more than five teams. Some volunteers have served more than 30 times!  Join like-minded, flexible and compassionate people from all over the world on a volunteer vacation of your choice.

Read more about Global Volunteers teams here.

Volunteer Vacations FAQs
Volunteer Vacations FAQs

How do I Join a Volunteer Vacation?

Depending on your appetite for challenge and adventure, your volunteer vacation can be close to home, or in a community remote and unseen by conventional tourists. And, you can choose between rugged, physically-challenging environments or the familiarity of a classroom and comfortable hotel in a small town or urban setting.

Each service program has individual requirements. Because of the diversity of essential services projects, you can normally employ your professional or avocational skills on a service project.  We encourage families to serve together on a volunteer vacation. All minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and submit a minor application. Our volunteer coordinators will work with you to choose a volunteer vacation best suited to your interest, skills and abilities.  Or you can register online here.

Call 800-487-1074, chat with us online, or send us a note on the contact form below.  We can’t wait to work with you!

“One of the best things about a Global Volunteers program is that you can be dropped into a setting in another part of the world for just a few weeks. Things are already set in motion, and you pick up where the last team left off. Being part of one team in a series, part of a long-term commitment served by many teams, I realized that my volunteer vacation was part of something much bigger. It was perfect for me because I only get a few weeks’ vacation each year. And yet, it was one of the most thrilling and rewarding things I have ever done.”

“I believe in spending the gift of time well, so when I heard about Global Volunteers, it seemed my love of travel and my wish to help others were perfectly matched.”

“Global Volunteers always does a good job preparing their people before they go out, so that they are well-organized and well-focused when they are out in the field. They are definitely an organization that we look up to.”

“Global Volunteers was one of about a dozen NGOs I researched. We chose Global Volunteers because they supplied excellent information, and we liked the fact that all projects are in partnership with local people.

“Global Volunteers’  vision of 1984 has helped not only the many countries, but made remarkable changes in the volunteers — at least my wife and I — in how we can help others.”

“My best life-changing experiences are with Global Volunteers.”

Other Frequently Asked Questions About a Volunteer Vacation

Not all volunteer vacations are created equal. The most important question you can ask when seeking the most ethical volunteer opportunity is: How are my time and my financial contributions in the community leveraged? When you contribute your energy and knowledge on a Global Volunteers team, you become one of the community’s greatest assets. Mutually beneficial international volunteer opportunities are full-time programs, and prepare volunteers to serve ethically and sensitively in the host country. Many other volunteer programs offer only part-time or loosely planned efforts.  By contrast, true international partnerships focus on ongoing local investment, and engage team members in work projects that support local leaders’ vision, commitment and contributions. Global Volunteers programs, for instance, are grounded in long-term, sustainable community development, and contribute volunteer expertise in a manner to maximize outcome. Simply stated, you’re a most valuable link in an endlessly renewable chain of volunteers focused on creating, nurturing and sustaining the well-being and human potential of children worldwide.

Some volunteer vacations require visas.  Some programs fill up months in advance.  If you desire a single room or assignments to limited projects, registering early is advised.  Once you secure your place on a team, you can study your service program manual and review the culture and history of your host country, learn some phrases in the local language, and ask questions about potential service projects. However, if you’re making last-minute plans, we’ll do our best to accommodate your preferences and needs.

Because Global Volunteers is a long-standing 501C-3 tax-exempt organization, all expenses of your volunteer vacation – including air fare – are tax-deductible for U.S. citizens.  IRS rules require you be engaged in an average of 40 hours per week of genuine community development projects.  Our community partners and local staff ensure you meet these requirements – and have enough time at the end of the day and on weekends to explore the natural, cultural and historical attractions of the area.

No special skills other than the ability to speak English are required on a volunteer vacation. Depending upon your service preferences and community project assignments, you might employ your professional skills, or brush up your avocational talents.  In many cases, labor projects require no previous experience – such as painting, planting gardens or packing and moving donations.  You’ll be given choices at the time of your registration and upon orientation in the partner community.

Every volunteer vacation is different – and is defined by the collective skills and energy of each team member.  You contribute to a team effort to meet the current needs of our partners. Your Personal Information Questionnaire (PIQ) guides us in matching your skills and interests to specific project assignments.  Our local partners and team leaders strive to help you make the greatest contribution in the time you have chosen to serve.

Learn more about our philosophy of service and how we measure our impact.

Your health and safety are our top priorities on all volunteer vacations.  “Safety Trumps Everything,” our motto for over three decades, is primary in all we do:

  • Monitoring US State Department bulletins
  • Suspending programs upon US travel warnings
  • Escorting volunteers to/from the gateway airport
  • Arranging commercial lodging and meals (in most countries)
  • Furnishing bottled or purified water daily
  • Securing commercial transportation and reputable drivers
  • Supervising every service project assignment
  • Recommending team security measures
  • Coordinating collaborative service daily

You’ll have ample free time in the evenings and on the weekend to participate in community events, or people-to-people activities arranged by your team leader.  Examples in some communities include: Language lessons, cooking demonstrations, presentations by local leaders, dance and music concerts, craft making and the like. With your team mates or independently, you can explore the area’s natural, historic and educational attractions at the end of each work day.

We work exclusively at the invitation and under the direction of our community partners.  In most countries, our long-term country managers are staff hired from the community or region where we work.  Your volunteer vacation is led by local staff who are trained in CPR and first aid, and have years of volunteer management expertise.  Together, they respect and uphold the needs and culture of our partner communities, and strive to ensure you are fully engaged in long-term projects. Other staff, such as lodging managers, caregivers, cooks and drivers are deeply committed to Global Volunteers’ Philosophy of Service and local people’s vision for development. Learn more about our outstanding international staff here.

Many of our program alumni are happy to speak to prospective volunteers about their service programs. Please request contact information of volunteers to the countr(ies) of interest.  You may also learn about our programs from volunteers’ point of view on our program blog.  Read firsthand accounts of Global Volunteers programs from the field.  Learn about work assignments, cultural activities, community partners, safety precautions, food and lodging, and more in each of our host countries!

Most lodging around the world is in secure and comfortable tourist-class hotels with en suite bathrooms, showers and hot water.  Some teams stay in Global Volunteers guest houses, and in the USA, volunteers are housed in community dorms.  Most guest rooms are double-occupancy, with single rooms available for an additional fee where available.

Three communal meals of local cuisine are provided daily while in the partner community during service programs, with many options for you to occasionally dine individually at your own expense.  Bottled water is included.  Dinners in most countries are at area restaurants, with packed lunches and breakfast at the hotel in most cases.  In remote communities, local cooks are hired to prepare safe and nutritious meals.  Vegetarian options are usually available.

You will need a passport to travel outside your home country.  USA volunteers don’t require a passport to serve in Appalachia or on the Blackfeet Reservation.  For programs outside your country of citizenships, you must obtain a passport that is valid for six months after the conclusion of the service program. A visa may also be required, depending upon your country of citizenship. Your volunteer coordinator will explain the requirements to you, and provide you with resources for obtaining the required documents.

We encourage volunteer service into your 90s, as long as you’re healthy and mobile.  Our oldest volunteer has been 95, and our youngest has been 5.  Families with young children are welcome on most of our programs.  Parents and legal guardians of minors – under age 18 – must complete a Minor Registration and travel with their children. Refer to minimum ages here.  Children 15 and under must work closely with their parent or legal guardian on family service projects. LGBT and non-traditional families are welcome on our family volunteering programs.

We encourage student, corporate, family and other groups to serve together.  Depending upon the size of your group, you can select a regularly scheduled program, if the maximum capacity has not yet been reached, or request custom dates.  Learn more about group volunteer vacations.

We offer volunteer abroad discounts, credits and fundraising assistance to make it easier for you to serve. Alumni volunteers, students, families, groups and children under 12 are eligible for discounts.  You can earn a $100 credit toward your next service program for each individual you refer who joins a service program. There’s no limit to the number of volunteers you may refer. Additionally, engage friends, family members and colleagues in your service through “social fundraising” through our website.  Learn more about discounts, credits and fundraising here.

Fill the form below for more volunteer abroad information, or call: (800) 487-1074

Please take a moment to answer these questions so that we can best help you.

We will immediately direct your inquiry to our Group Coordinator, who will contact you shortly. In addition, please answer the following:

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Global Volunteers is a U.S. based NGO in the central time zone (UTC -6). Because tax-deductibility, visa requirements, and language proficiencies vary, please choose the country you’re inquiring from to enable us to provide you the most appropriate information.

Thank you for your interest in a development partnership with Global Volunteers. We're unable to expand our programs at this time. As our website portrays, our current service programs center around providing the 12 Essential Services for our Reaching Children's Potential Program. But for future reference, please send any information to: partnershiprequest@globalvolunteers.org

As a private, non-profit organization independent from government and religious funding, Global Volunteers’ programs are financed almost entirely by volunteer contributions. This is important because our community partners cannot afford the “open market” costs of the services and materials we provide. Your tax-deductible service program contribution pays your expenses in the partner community. These include your food, lodging, work site transportation, program materials, team leadership, emergency evacuation insurance, and administrative costs. In addition, we provide supplemental financing to help meet our host’s many, on-going and special needs.

While English fluency does not disqualify you from participating on any of our programs, Global Volunteers is a U.S based NGO with your teammates, training materials and other communications being conduced primarily in English.

We’re unable to provide any assistance in obtaining your passport or visa. You'll need a passport to travel abroad and for some countries, you’ll need a visa.  Please keep this in mind when planning your travel schedule. If you live outside the U.S., you may have additional restrictions for participating on U.S. programs.

To provide you with information to match your specific interests, please tell us a little about you:

Many employers help cover part of the service program contribution. Providing this information can help us determine if this is available to you.

Our volunteer coordinators are available from 8:30AM to 4:30PM Central Time and will email you during that time on the next business day. If you prefer, you may chat now, or call 651-407-6100 if you’re inquiring during office hours.

Please choose up to 4 program locations and projects that interest you.

By providing my phone number to Global Volunteers, I agree and acknowledge that Global Volunteers may send text messages to my wireless phone number for any purpose. Message and data rates may apply. We will only send one SMS as a reply to you, and you will be able to opt-out by replying "STOP". For more information on how your data will be handled please visit https://support.8x8.com/business-phone/voice/work-sms/SMS_Campaign_Registration%3A_SMS_Usage_and_Content_Policies. No mobile information will be shared with third parties/affiliates for marketing/promotional purposes. All the above categories exclude text messaging originator opt-in data and consent; this information will not be shared with any third parties.