Best Volunteer Abroad Programs For Grown Ups
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 volunteers aged over 30 join our programs each year, all with their own unique skills and knowledge. Made up of Grown-up Gappers, Career Breakers and Retired volunteers. So instead of asking yourself, am I too old to volunteer? Ask yourself which destination you’d like to volunteer in most! Here you will find a helpful guide that answers the top questions we get from grown up volunteers.
Why take a gap year for grown ups?
Whether you’re over 30, over 40 or over 50 there are many ways a gap year for grown ups 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 often a perspective college students haven’t yet experienced. If you’re taking a career break or retiree 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 3 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 2 weeks
What are the requirements for volunteering with IVHQ?
IVHQ offers volunteer programs in over 35 destinations, across 250 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 they must meet a few basic requirements:
- Aged 18 years or older (Under 18s can travel with a guardian)
- Ability to provide a criminal background check
- Secure adequate travel insurance
- Make payment of both your registration and program fees
Once these requirements have been meet, your skills and experience are the most important factor in being accepted on the 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! For you the accommodation might be an important part of your consideration, or 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 what you’ve signed up for 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 specialized skills or previous experience. Let your personal situation, your career or life experience and skill-set 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. You will quickly find that some destinations jump out at you more than others. Therefore our recommendation is to research the countries you’d like to visit and ask yourself questions such as: Do I want to know more about the country’s culture? Can I see myself immersed in their way of life? Are there nearby touristic sights that I want to explore?
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.
Who will join me on my program?
IVHQ programs attract a broad range of volunteers from all walks of life, although a majority of these volunteers are young adults, there is a growing number of mature volunteers taking part on our programs. With volunteers traveling abroad year-round on a range of programs, it’s hard to predict who exactly will be taking part on your selected program. Depending on the destination you select, you can expect to be in the company of 5 - 15 like minded volunteers, which fosters an environment enjoyed by 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. Depending on the destination you select, there is accommodation upgrades available and our dedicated program managers will be happy to assist you with securing this arrangement where possible.
Best volunteer abroad programs for grown ups
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, and none is bigger than Machu Picchu. So those with an inner desire for exploration will feel right at home. Project work on the Peru - Cusco program is aimed at immersion within the community and there is wide variety for every skill set. No matter your project, you will be blown away by the warmth of the people and feel the gratitude of your contributions on the program.
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 for volunteers on Teaching English, Special Needs Care, Childcare, Medical, Animal Care or Construction and Renovation you will be accommodated in Cusco in a homestay hosted by a local family. For those on the Jungle Conservation project you will be accommodated onsite in a bungalow with dormitory style rooms. On the Andean Immersion project, you stay onsite with a local host-family. Upgrades are available with some projects.
How much? Volunteer program fees range from US$295 (1 week) to US$3,535 (24 weeks)
Wonderful experience and I will highly recommend your program to others. Very organized and the ongoing support is incredible!! My favorite moment was seeing how eager the students were to learn and hearing about their lives. 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 1 week
You can be excused for not being able to pin point a select island when someone refers to Indonesia, as the country is literally made up of thousands of islands, however the one constant is the tropical beauty of each of them. The IVHQ Indonesia program is based off the west coast of Sumatra, on the island of Simuelue. Notorious for its world class surf (we have other fantastic surf destination options), this secluded island program is a custom fit for those aged over 30 or families and it’s our only program with an over 30 restriction. With the primary focus on the program Island Conservation where work plays an important role in preserving the local eco-system of the island. There is also opportunity to provide education within the local community. Whether you want to open your family to a new experience or take a solo trip to further your skills and knowledge, the IVHQ Indonesia program has something for everyone.
Project: Island Conservation
When? Volunteer programs start the first and third Monday of every month.
Where? Volunteer placements are located on a Conservation Resort on Simeulue Island.
Accommodation Overlooking a world class surf break, you will be accommodated in a dormitory style villa. If you wish to upgrade, there are also private villas avilable.
How much? Volunteer program fees range from US$675 (1 week) to US$1580 (4 weeks).
This east African country has become synonymous with the majestic wildlife that roam its plains and the vast landscapes that are Kenya. Volunteers instantly feel a part of the unique culture upon arrival and with the countries capital, Nairobi having the feel of a western city, it’s perfectly contrasted by the environment and wildlife that has made the country famous. Volunteer work is aimed at supporting local suburbs that are constantly under resourced and the effects are felt throughout the community. If you’re a volunteer looking for meaningful community work with a thirst for the wild, Kenya is the program for you.
Projects: Childcare Childcare - Mombasa Teaching Teaching - Maasai Teaching - Mombasa Music Sports Education Women’s Education 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 home-stays 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? Volunteer program fees range from US$270 (1 Week) to US$1370 (12 weeks).
I was placed at a nursery school in Kibera with 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 a 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 4 weeks
Based on the island of Oahu, one of Hawaii’s most populous islands. The IVHQ Hawaii program is focused on Beach Conservation, which provides a unique opportunity to work on a range of activities focused on conservation and environmental restoration on Oahu. With the local indigenous community at the heart of the project, work typically consists of beach clean-ups, analyzing debris and ancient fishpond restoration. You will only need to step off the plan to be blown away by the paradise that is Hawaii, with its beautiful beaches and vivid coral reefs, which gives even more meaning to project work.
Volunteer programs start every Monday.
Volunteer placements are located on the island of Oahu.
Volunteers are typically accommodated in a dormitory-style volunteer house in Kahalu’u.
Volunteer program fees range from US$510 (1 week) to US$910 (2 weeks).
The Hawaii project was my seventh international volunteer trip. Though it was short, only two weeks in duration, it was right up at the top in terms of meaningfulness, effective organization, variety of experiences, excellence of local staff, and easy availability of a wide variety of educational, historical, interesting and pure fun activities! The Sustainable Coastline project, in concert with at least three other non-profit organizations devoted to specific aspects of restoring and maintaining original Polynesian conditions, takes you from the mountain tops to the sea and you are working in the same ways on the same things in the same places as did the ancient Hawaiians. There is nothing else like it in the world!.. Russ Livingston, American, 72, volunteered in Hawaii for 2 weeks
This program is ideal for someone who has come from a teaching background, as a majority of the projects follow a set structure and those with prior teaching experience will fit in seamlessly. If a journey into unique beauty is on your must do list then our Romania program will have surprises around every corner for you. With historic castles, churches and villages boarded by luscious hills you will be excused for thinking you’ve taken a step back in time. Volunteers on these projects work to supplement the existing support networks in place and there is a constant need for volunteers, especially working with disadvantaged youths. Living with a local family you will quickly feel immersed in the culture, with endless opportunities to explore Romania during your stay, you will not leave disappointed.
After School Support
Special Needs Care
Volunteer programs start on the first and third Monday of the month.
Volunteer placements are located in the town, Miercurea Ciuc, Harghita which lies in the Székely Land, an ethno-cultural region in eastern Transylvania, and is situated in the Olt River valley.
Volunteers are accommodated in either a dormitory style volunteer apartment or homestay, in both rural or urban locations within the Harghita area.
Volunteer program fees range from US$335 (1 week) to US$3505 (24 weeks).
Morocco offers projects that positively impact the social standing of its people, a real highlight is the Sports Development project, which allows volunteers to introduce new sports and teach existing favorites such as, rugby, basketball, handball, volleyball, soccer and athletics. It’s also a great way to integrate with the local youths in the community. This north African country is a unique blend of European, Arabian and Berber heritage. Giving Morocco a unique culture and feel from their African neighbors. Boarded by the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, you will find a true oasis in the desert. With the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert as national icons, it’s truly a country made for discovery.
Volunteer programs start on the first and third Monday of every month.
Volunteer placements are located in the Moroccan capital of Rabat and surrounding towns and rural villages.
Volunteers are accommodated in a home stay where they will live with a local family and other volunteers.
Volunteer program fees range from US$310 (1 week) to US$3500 (24 weeks).
If you have a love of nature and caring for the environment, then our New Zealand program is perfect for you. This island nation is home to breathtaking landscapes, laid back people and most importantly, some of the best environmental projects on offer! Unlike other urban centers, Auckland offers the unique ability to be in the heart of CBD hustle and bustle and then 20mins later be located at a quiet park or beach. This flexibility has been popular with volunteers looking for the best of both worlds. During your volunteer experience you will be working with the local team to enhance their conservation efforts and follow on the efforts from past volunteers. If you’re looking for a program that provides a familiar urban setting, whilst still providing a scenic adventure then New Zealand is the program for you.
Coast and Waterway Conservation NGO Support
Volunteer programs start on the first and third Monday of the month.
The IVHQ New Zealand Program is located in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. Volunteer placements are located throughout the wider city area of Auckland.
Volunteers are accommodated in a dormitory style hostel in Britomart, a trendy, centrally-located area of Auckland.
Volunteer program fees range from US$885 (2 weeks) to US$5025 (12 weeks).
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 that need support, there is something for everyone. Let the adventurer in you run wild as you visit the truly spectacular Nepal. World famous for Mount Everest, Nepal is a country of rich history, culture and adrenaline filled adventures. After the 2015 earthquakes Nepal entered a phase of rebuilding and is now slowly beginning to flourish again. Whether your motivations are to continue this restoration or spread knowledge to the children, you will be welcomed with open arms and quickly feel at home in your new environment. The local home stays provide a first hand experience in Nepalese style living and you will quickly fall in love with what the country has to offer.
Childcare – Kathmandu
Childcare - Pokhara
Construction and Renovation
Volunteer programs begin on the first and third Monday of every month.
Volunteer placements located in three main areas within Nepal - Kathmandu, Chitwan and Pokhara.
On arrival in Nepal, volunteers are accommodated in a guesthouse in Kathmandu for the 3-day duration of orientation. Volunteers are then accommodated together in homestays run by local host families, who have been approved by our program staff.
Volunteer program fees range from US$250 (1 week) to US$1350 (12 weeks).
It’s easy to see why Costa Rica is a popular destination for many travelers, with its rich eco-system of waterfalls, lakes, jungles and glistening coastlines. Like any developing country, there are elements of the community that require additional resources, the volunteer program is based in San Jose and the key focus is bolstering the efforts on the ground in the community with projects such as teaching and healthcare. If your skills and knowledge are more conservation focused, there is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local environment through turtle conservation and eco-agriculture.
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 on 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 home-stay with a local host family or the 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? Volunteer program fees range from US$345 (1 week) to US$3640 (24 weeks).
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 2 weeks
So what are you waiting for?
The biggest regret we hear from grown up gap year volunteers 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 2018?
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