If you’re looking for your next challenge in life, then volunteer work abroad for grown ups is a great place to start, and often not as daunting as you might first expect! IVHQ has thousands of travelers that volunteer abroad over 40, 50 and 60 years old every year, all with their own unique skills and knowledge. They can be grown-up gappers, career breakers, over 50s or retired volunteers.
The first thing you need to know is that your age is NOT a barrier. In fact, your experience and wisdom can be a huge advantage to volunteering abroad.
The second thing you need to know is there’s no difference to volunteering over 50 than if you’re slightly younger than that. This helpful guide answers the top questions we get from those wanting to volunteer abroad as an adult.
Why volunteer abroad over 50?
There are many ways a gap year for adults can provide an enriching experience no matter your age! At IVHQ, we find older volunteers have a wealth of experience and knowledge to offer, and a perspective that college students often don’t have. If you’re taking a career break or a retirement trip, volunteering abroad can act as professional and personal development, as well as broadening your cultural understanding.
You may not be able to change the world, but you will be able to fill a child’s heart, and your heart will never be the same. You will grow in ways you didn’t think were possible. If possible, come for at least three weeks. At the end of two weeks, we were just getting the hang of things and just getting to know the children and then had to leave. Spend as much time as you can. IVHQ is an incredible organization and will treat you wonderfully. Kathi Cooley, American, 55, volunteered in Tanzania for two weeks
What are the requirements for volunteering with IVHQ?
Once again, your age does not prevent you from volunteering abroad. It’s your passion to travel and give back that’s important. So whether you’re looking for volunteer vacations for seniors, service trips for adults or travel programs for over 40s, there’s a meaningful opportunity for you.
IVHQ offers volunteer programs in more than 50 destinations, across 300+ projects for individuals and groups who have the skills and desire to help foreign communities in need. Before volunteers can take part in a program, you have to meet a few basic requirements:
- Provide a satisfactory criminal background check
- Secure adequate travel insurance
- Pay both your Registration and Program Fee
Once these requirements have been met, your skills and experience are the most important factor in being accepted on your desired program, which will be further detailed in your planning stages.
How do I find the right program/project for me?
When it comes to planning a volunteer trip, no matter your age, it’s an extremely personal decision. Only you know where you’d like to be placed!
You might prefer a certain type of accommodation, maybe you want to be located in a rural setting or on a specific project. There is a lot to think about, but the more time you put into researching the available destinations, the more informed your decision will be. This means when it comes time to pack your bags, you can set off knowing that what you’ve signed up for is exactly what you want and that a life-changing experience awaits you!
An important consideration is whether you have any specific skills that you can contribute. Some volunteer projects are skills-based, while others don’t require any previous experience. Let your personal situation, your career or life experience influence your decision. Matching your skills with a certain project type will dictate where you can volunteer, as each destination offers a unique set of projects.
IVHQ offers projects in Childcare, Teaching, Sports, Art and Music, Medical and Health, Wildlife and Animal Care, Environment and Conservation, Construction and Renovation, NGO support, Community Development, Elderly Care and Special Needs Care.
Another way to find something that suits you is to first choose where you want to volunteer. There are more than 50 destinations to choose from, and you may find that some appeal to you more than others. You may already know where you want to go. If that’s the case and you’re happy to help out wherever you’re most needed, pick your preferred program destination and see if it has a project that you’d like to work on.
There’s no right or wrong way to find the best combination for you - but with so many to choose from, you’re sure to find a good fit!
Who will join me on my program?
IVHQ programs attract a broad range of volunteers from all walks of life, and while most of these volunteers are young adults, there is a growing number of volunteers over 50 going abroad. Volunteers travel abroad year-round on a range of programs, so it’s hard to predict exactly who will be taking part on your selected program.
Popular programs can accommodate more than 40 volunteers at a time, while others can have just five. Depending on the destination you select, you can generally expect to be in the company of 10 - 15 other volunteers. You’ll forge relationships with fellow volunteers quickly, and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being in an environment of like-minded volunteers of all ages.
What’s my accommodation going to be like?
At IVHQ, we work with our local teams to provide the fairest priced accommodation possible, which is provided in a mix of dormitory style living and homestays. Both of these options have the benefit of being social places that accommodate your living requirements. Depending on the destination you select, there may be accommodation upgrades available, which can be private or double rooms. Your dedicated Program Manager will be happy to assist you with this if it’s possible.
Best volunteer abroad programs for over 50s
Peru - Cusco
Cusco is a wonderland of natural beauty and cultural diversity, so it is no surprise it’s on many bucket lists. A region blended with ancient Inca ruins and Spanish colonial cathedrals, there is no shortage of points of significance to visit - none more popular than the iconic Machu Picchu. Those with an inner desire for exploration will feel right at home.
Project work on the Peru - Cusco program is aimed at fostering a two-way cultural exchange and providing support to communities with limited access to resources. No matter your project, you will be blown away by the warmth of the people and feel their gratitude for your contribution.
Projects: Childcare, Teaching English, Medical, Animal Care, Jungle Conservation, Construction and Renovation, Andean Immersion, Special Needs Care, Holiday Experience, Spanish Service Learning Course
When? Volunteer programs every Monday.
Where? Volunteer placements are located in Cusco and surrounding valleys.
Accommodation: Depending on the project you select, there are a number of accommodation options available. Volunteers on the Teaching English, Special Needs Care, Childcare, Medical, Animal Care or Construction and Renovation projects will be accommodated in Cusco in a homestay hosted by a local family. Those on the Jungle Conservation project will be accommodated onsite in a bungalow with dormitory-style rooms, while Andean Immersion volunteers stay on site with a local host family. Upgrades are available on some projects - please ask your Program Manager.
How much does it cost? Volunteer program fees start from US$320 for one week.
Wonderful experience and I will highly recommend your program to others. Very organized and the ongoing support is incredible!! My favorite moments were seeing how eager the students were to learn, hearing about their lives and having the feeling that I was providing them with valuable skills. Wish I could have stayed longer! Cheryl Button, Canadian, 59, volunteered in Peru - Cusco for one week
Kenya is known around the world for its stunning landscapes and the majestic wildlife that roam across them. The charming local people help volunteers to instantly feel a part of the unique culture, while the capital city, Nairobi, has all the comforts of a western city.
Volunteer work is aimed at supporting local suburbs that are under resourced and addressing the flow-on effects that are felt throughout the community. If you’re a volunteer looking for meaningful community work and a chance to get into the wild, Kenya is the program for you. Volunteer projects are available in Nairobi, as well as the coastal city of Mombasa, or in the more rural Maasai region.
Projects: Childcare, Childcare - Mombasa, Teaching, Teaching - Maasai, Teaching - Mombasa, Music, Sports Education, Women’s Education, Women’s Education - Mombasa, Special Needs Care
When? Volunteer programs start on the 1st and 15th of every month.
Where? Volunteer placements are located in Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa, Maasai and surrounding rural villages.
Accommodation: On the Kenya program you will be accommodated in homestays with local families, which provide a unique opportunity to learn about the Kenyan way of life and fully immerse yourself in local languages, food, customs and festivities.
How much does it cost? Volunteer program fees start from US$280 for one week.
I was placed at a nursery school in Kibera with a baby class (children start school at three in Kenya). My placement was amazing and I so enjoyed my interactions with the babies, although there was a language barrier. The staff are amazing people who care about their young charges. I instantly felt a bond with other members of my group. Everyone was very accepting and fun. This helped as it gave me people to hang out with on weekends. I was placed with wonderful house moms who I grew to love. Kenyans are wonderful people who are friendly and helpful. I loved every minute of my experience and have left a piece of my heart in Nairobi. Barbara MacNaughton, Canadian, 45, volunteered in Kenya for four weeks
If a journey into unique beauty is what you’re looking for, then you need to consider our Romania program. Romania has surprises around every corner, with historic castles, churches and villages all set among luscious hills.
Volunteers work to supplement the existing support networks for under-served communities, with a focus on local youth. Living with a local family, you will quickly feel immersed in the culture, and with plenty of opportunities to explore the under-rated Romanian landscape, history and culture, you will not leave disappointed.
Projects: Childcare, After School Support, Teaching, Agriculture, NGO Support, Special Needs Care
When? Volunteer programs start on the first and third Monday of the month.
Where? Volunteer placements are located in the town of Miercurea Ciuc in Harghita county. It’s a four hour drive north of the capital, Bucharest, in an ethno-cultural region in eastern Transylvania.
Accommodation: Volunteers are accommodated in either a dormitory-style volunteer apartment or homestay, in both rural or urban locations around Miercurea Ciuc.
How much does it cost? Volunteer program fees start from US$360 for one week.
Morocco is a unique blend of European, Arabian and Berber heritage, which mix together to give it a unique culture and feel from its African neighbors. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, you will find a true oasis in the desert. The Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert are iconic natural landscapes that present plenty of opportunities for discovery and adventure.
Volunteer projects aim to positively impact the social standing of its people by increasing access to education and other opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.
Projects: Childcare, Teaching English, Teaching French, Women’s Education, Sports Development, Ramadan Program
When? Volunteer programs start on the first and third Monday of every month.
Where? Volunteer placements are located in the Moroccan capital of Rabat and surrounding towns and rural villages.
Accommodation: Volunteers are accommodated in a homestay, where you’ll live with a local family and other volunteers.
How much does it cost? Volunteer program fees start from US$245 for one week.
If you have a love of nature and care for the environment, then our New Zealand program is perfect for you. This modern island nation is home to breathtaking landscapes, laid back people and most importantly, some of the best environmental projects on offer! Our volunteer program is based in the city of Auckland, which offers vibrant city living, just minutes from untouched natural parks and beaches. This flexibility is popular with volunteers looking for the best of both worlds.
During your volunteer experience you will be working to help conservation efforts, building on the work of volunteers. New Zealand is a small but stunning country, and scenic adventures all around the North and South Island are just a short flight away. This is a great opportunity to explore one of the world’s most unique tourism countries in a truly authentic way!
Projects: Coast and Waterway Conservation, Environmental Education
When? Volunteer programs start on the first and third Monday of the month.
Where? The IVHQ New Zealand program is located in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, in the north of the North Island. Volunteer placements are located throughout wider Auckland.
Accommodation? Volunteers are accommodated in a dormitory style hostel in central Auckland.
How much does it cost? Volunteer program fees start from US$530 for one week.
Those with a can-do attitude and a spirit for adventure will be right at home on the Nepal program, with continued work needed on earthquake restoration and community projects. World famous for Mount Everest, Nepal is a country of rich history, culture and adrenaline-filled adventures.
After destructive earthquakes in 2015, Nepal is emerging from a phase of rebuilding and is now beginning to flourish, allowing adventurous travelers to run wild.
Whether you want to help continue this restoration, provide assistance in healthcare or help to nurture the next generation of children, you will be welcomed with open arms and quickly feel at home in your new environment. The local homestays provide a firsthand experience in Nepalese-style living and you will quickly fall in love with what the country has to offer.
Projects: Childcare – Kathmandu, Childcare - Pokhara, Teaching English, Medical Elective, Construction and Renovation, NGO Support, Sustainable Agriculture, Women’s Education - Kathmandu, Special Needs Care - Kathmandu
When? Volunteer programs begin on the first and third Monday of every month.
Where? Volunteer placements located in four of the main areas in Nepal - Kathmandu, Chitwan, Chitlang and Pokhara.
Accommodation: On arrival in Nepal, volunteers are accommodated in a guesthouse in Kathmandu for a three-day orientation. Volunteers are then accommodated together in homestays run by local host families, who have been approved by our program staff.
How much does it cost? Volunteer program fees start from US$250 for one week.
It’s easy to see why Costa Rica is a popular destination for travelers, with its rich ecosystem of waterfalls, lakes, jungles and glistening coastlines. The volunteer program is based in San Jose, where the key focus is bolstering important community initiatives in areas such as teaching and healthcare. Volunteers can also assist on programs in coastal Manuel Antonio or in the rural highlands.
The Costa Rica program also has plenty to offer volunteers interested in conservation, with the popular Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation projects both unique and highly rated.
Projects: Childcare, Working with Children - Manuel Antonio, Teaching English, Teaching English - Manuel Antonio, Healthcare, Healthcare - Manuel Antonio, Turtle Conservation, Eco-Agriculture Conservation, Construction and Renovation, Special Needs Care, Holiday Experience, Spanish Service Learning Course
When? Volunteer programs start each Monday of every month.
Where? Volunteer placements are located throughout Costa Rica, with the large majority based in and around San Jose.
Accommodation: Depending on volunteer numbers at the time, you can expect to be accommodated in a homestay with a local family or a volunteer house where you will stay in dormitory-style rooms. If you’re on the Turtle Conservation project you will be accommodated in dormitory-style lodging.
How much does it cost? Volunteer program fees start from US$370 for one week.
I had an absolutely amazing time on my Turtle Conservation project in Costa Rica. I love the home-stays, and getting a better insight into Costa Rican life from a local perspective. Also, seeing a nesting leatherback turtle is something I will never forget! Jessica Grima, Australia, 30, volunteered in Costa Rica for two weeks
So what are you waiting for?
The biggest regret we hear from vthose who volunteer over 50 is, I wish I just applied earlier. So leave your worries behind and don’t forget, we’re here to help you every step of the way on your volunteer journey! Try our QUIZ: Where Should You Volunteer Abroad In 2023?, or start your journey right now!