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The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide


The Ultimate Short Term Volunteer Abroad Guide

Whether you’re swamped in university study or stuck at the office desk, it can be difficult to find time to take a vacation.So when you do get the opportunity to take a break, you want it to be meaningful, right? For those seeking meaningful volunteer vacation opportunities, IVHQ offers affordable short term volunteer abroad programs for durations ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks in over 50 destinations. Whether you’re traveling solo or with a groups of friends, there are short term volunteering opportunities available to suit your schedule, enabling you to make a valuable contribution to a community abroad at any time of the year.

With volunteer programs across Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America, South America and the Caribbean and Pacific, IVHQ offers a wide range of project opportunities in areas like education, construction and renovation, childcare, conservation, wildlife and animal care, community development and social enterprise. We’re well experienced in supporting volunteer travelers to have impactful volunteer experiences, regardless of whether you’re volunteering for one week or six months.

What is “Short Term”?

A short term volunteer program can be whatever length you think it is. That can mean one week, or it could mean four weeks. They’re no different because of their length, it’s just about fitting it into your schedule.

If you only have 1 or 2 weeks to volunteer abroad, you can feel confident knowing that you’ll be building on the work of previous volunteers and that your contribution will be sustained by future volunteers after you’ve returned home. By working with local organizations who are in the best position to identify areas in need of volunteer support, IVHQ ensures that you’ll be working alongside local people and that your contribution is always appreciated by your host community.

In this guide, we’ll explain how to organize a short term volunteer abroad opportunity as an individual or as a group of friends, suggest some recommended volunteer abroad programs for you, and provide some tips for how to be a valuable short term volunteer.

Short-Term Volunteer Abroad Guide:

The Ultimate Short Term Volunteer Abroad Guide

What Are The Requirements To Volunteer Abroad?

At IVHQ we want to give everyone the opportunity to do their bit for the global community and we have a set of requirements that volunteers must meet to join one of our volunteer programs:

  • For the majority of IVHQ’s volunteer programs, you need to be aged 18 years or older before beginning your solo volunteer program, although volunteers under 18 can volunteer on select programs with parental permission.
  • Some IVHQ projects require volunteers to have certain qualifications in order to take part on the program. For example, our Medical projects require a Pre-Medical level or higher, so it’s important to find a project which aligns with your existing skills and qualifications.
  • You must have a valid passport to travel abroad. Many of our destinations have set guidelines on which are found in your IVHQ program guide, which you will have access to once you register.
  • You need to provide a criminal background check in order to participate on an IVHQ program.
  • It’s a requirement for all IVHQ volunteers to travel with adequate travel insurance.

How To Choose A Short Term Volunteer Abroad Program

When you’re trying to find the right volunteer opportunity for you, it’s important to consider what your motivations are for volunteering abroad. Are you volunteering to immerse yourself in a new culture, to develop a special skill, to add to your resume, or give back? Figuring out why you want to volunteer abroad will help guide your research and support you in finding a program that will meet your expectations and make your time abroad a worthwhile and rewarding experience for both you and the community that you will be immersed in.

Whether you’re a jet-setter or a first time traveler, it can be difficult to decide where to volunteer abroad. With so many things to consider, we often say it’s best to keep things simple during the decision making process. Ask yourself questions such as, what am I passionate about? Where can my skills be best put to use? And which destination would I like to visit? Asking yourself these questions will help tap in into what’s really motivating you to volunteer abroad.

If you’re still finding it difficult to decide on the right short term volunteer abroad opportunity for you, we recommend offering your time in your local community to experience the kind of volunteer work you might be taking part in abroad. In addition to supporting your neighborhood, this will help you to learn more about yourself and the work you’re most passionate about. Once you’ve put the time into thinking about where you’d like to volunteer abroad, the next step is to visit our website where you can choose to search by destination or project.

The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

How To Book A Short Term Volunteer Abroad Program

Once you’re sure of your destination, project and a date you’d like to start volunteering on, you will need to submit an application to volunteer with IVHQ.

If you would like to volunteer with a group of friends of 8 or more, we ask that your group leader or a member of your group contacts our dedicated Groups Manager, who will work with your group to create a customized itinerary for your group. Read our more detailed blog for volunteering as a group.

If you meet the program requirements, you will be accepted onto the program within two working days of applying. After being accepted, you will receive an email from your IVHQ Program Manager acknowledging your application and confirming your destination, project and dates. In this email, you will receive more information about your chosen program, as well as details on how to pay the Registration Fee, which is required to confirm your booking with IVHQ. It’s important to note that all IVHQ programs work on a first in, first served basis. Therefore, popular destinations are often booked months in advance.

As soon as your Registration Fee has been received, your MyIVHQ account will be upgraded so you have full access to our preparation tools. After registering, you’ll also receive dedicated support from your IVHQ Program Manager to help you prepare for your upcoming volunteer program.

Log in to your MyIVHQ account and follow these steps in your preparation checklist:

  • Read your program guide so you are informed on what to expect on your program, visa requirements, vaccinations, safety tips, local customs, packing lists and other essential information.
  • Book your flights and submit your arrival details so we can organize your airport pick-up with our local team.
  • Obtain a criminal background check and upload a copy to MyIVHQ.
  • Organize travel insurance and submit your policy details to MyIVHQ.
  • Complete your interactive volunteer training modules to build an understanding of the important aspects that need to be considered before setting off on your volunteer trip.
  • Pay your Program Fee (due no later than 30 days prior to your program start date).

Remember that your IVHQ Program Manager is there to support you throughout your preparations, so you can contact them at any time after registering.

To avoid disappointment, the best piece of advice we can give you is to apply for your chosen program well in advance and secure your place on the program by registering.

The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

Helpful Tips For Booking A Short Term Volunteer Abroad Program

  • Choosing a destination closer to home means you’ll cut down on travel time. This can also keep costs down, as flights can be your biggest volunteer travel expense.
  • Flight deals are also seasonal so keep an eye on these to help you in keeping costs down.
  • Keep visa requirements in mind, as each country has its own set of rules.
  • Traveling to foreign destinations can require personal vaccinations, so it’s always important to set aside time with your local doctor to assess what vaccinations are needed.

With over 50 IVHQ destinations to choose from, the options for short term volunteering can be overwhelming, so we’ve compiled our top recommendations for 1 or 2 week volunteer abroad programs below.


The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

IVHQ’s most affordable 1 week volunteer abroad program is in Peru’s capital, Lima. With accommodation and meals provided for the 1 week duration, this is an incredibly affordable way to volunteer in South America.

“After only one week in Lima, I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better. I met incredible people (other volunteers that I now consider family), and engaged in valuable work within the community”. Rachel Metcalf - IVHQ Volunteer in Peru - Lima

When Can I Start? Volunteer programs begin on the 1st and 15th of every month.

What Can I Do? Projects available:

  • Special Needs/Childcare
  • Teaching English
  • Medical (Recommended group option)
  • Construction and Renovation (Recommended group option)

How Much Does It Cost? Fees: 1 week = US$180 2 weeks = US$330

Costa Rica

The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

Costa Rica continues to be a popular destination for IVHQers. With the majority of volunteer projects based in the capital city of San Jose, there is never a shortage of work available. With a wide array of projects, Costa Rica has something for everyone.

When Can I Start? Volunteer programs begin every Monday.

What Can I Do? Projects available:

  • Childcare
  • Teaching English
  • Healthcare (Recommended group option)
  • Turtle Conservation
  • Eco-Agriculture Conservation
  • Construction and Renovation (Recommended group option)
  • Special Needs Care
  • Holiday Experience
  • Spanish Service Learning Course

How Much Does It Cost? Fees: 1 week = US$355 2 weeks = US$625

Colombia - Cartagena

The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

With placements located throughout the historical city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, you will be truly amazed at what our Colombia program has to offer. With a solid mix of volunteer work and cultural immersion, you can expect to put your skills to good use and still see what this beautiful country has to offer.

When Can I Start? Volunteers can begin the IVHQ Colombia - Cartagena volunteer program on the 1st and 15th of every month.

What Can I Do? Projects available:

  • Childcare
  • Teaching English
  • Sports Development
  • Community (Recommended group option)

How Much Does It Cost? Fees: 2 weeks = US$450

Victoria Falls

The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

If you want to step out of your comfort zone and experience the IVHQ Victoria Falls volunteer program, you will not be disappointed. This is a popular destination for travelers to Africa and offers the unique opportunity for IVHQ volunteers to join Wildlife Conservation efforts in close proximity to the spectacular Victoria Falls. The accommodation is comfortable single bedroom living with a private pool located on site. On the Wildlife Conservation project, the work is mostly manual labor and the results of your work are visible. Examples of volunteer work includes the removal of poisonous plants and creation of a water hole for nearby communities.

When Can I Start? The volunteer program begins on the first and third Monday of each month.

What Can I Do? Projects available:

  • Wildlife Conservation

How Much Does It Cost? Fees: 2 weeks = US$1000

Bali - Ubud

The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

Bali - Ubud is ideal for volunteers wanting to have a mix of sightseeing and meaningful volunteer work. A popular 2 week volunteering option is our Turtle Conservation project. Turtle Conservation volunteers spend one week in Ubud to gain a deeper understanding of the local culture, while visiting sights such as the water temple and monkey forest. You then spend your second week on the beach of Nusa Penida, working towards the conservation of the endangered sea turtles.

“My favorite moment was sitting around the bonfire and singing with the coordinators in Nusa Penida. Being a part of the Turtle Conservation project was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I honestly believed that working on Nusa Penida with such lovely people helped me grow as a person. I highly recommend this project and thank you very much IVHQ, I will never forget the time I spent in Bali”. Anya Suruda - IVHQ Volunteer in Bali

When Can I Start? Volunteers begin on the IVHQ Bali - Ubud volunteer program every Monday.

What Can I Do? Projects available:

  • Childcare
  • Teaching
  • Healthcare Education
  • Turtle Conservation (Recommended group option)
  • Environmental Education
  • Construction and Renovation (Recommended group option)

How Much Does It Cost? Fees: 1 week = US$295 2 weeks = US$440


The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

A truly awakening experience awaits you in Morocco with volunteer projects located in Rabat, Sale and Casablanca. Noted for its intense cultural immersion and local sights and sounds, Morocco often surprises those who have not visited the country before. You will be accommodated in a home stay where you will live with a local family and other volunteers, enabling you to learn the Moroccan way of life, meet local people, engage in local customs and traditions, eat local food and speak Darija, the local language. If you want a similar cultural experience in an alternative Moroccan setting, our Morocco - Marrakech program is also another popular option.

When Can I Start? Volunteer programs begin on the first and third Monday of each month

What Can I Do? Projects available:

  • Childcare
  • Atlas Mountain Community Immersion
  • Teaching English
  • Teaching French
  • Women’s Education
  • Sports Development
  • Ramadan Program

How Much Does It Cost? Fees: 1 week = US$330 2 weeks = US$610


The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

If you’re looking for a cultural orientation with a difference, look no further then our Philippines program. If you’re taking part on the 1 week program, you will spend 3 days soaking up everything the culture has to offer and 2 days volunteering. If you have 2 weeks to give your time, your first week will be an orientation and the second will be spent volunteering. This provides an insight into the Philippines and its people and culture before you immerse yourself into a project, working alongside local people.

When Can I Start? The Philippines volunteer program begins every Monday.

What Can I Do? Projects available:

  • Childcare
  • Teaching
  • Environmental
  • Construction and Renovation

How Much Does It Cost? Fees: 1 week = US$230 2 weeks = US$375

Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh

The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

A country steeped in culture, Vietnam provides volunteers with the option to take part on a 1 week program, where you will spend 3 days soaking up everything the culture has to offer and 2 days volunteering. If you have 2 weeks to give your time, your first week will be an orientation, with your second week spent working in the local community.

When Can I Start? The Vietnam program starts every Monday

What Can I Do? Projects available:

  • Special Needs/Childcare
  • Teaching English
  • Medical
  • Food Outreach (Recommended group option)

How Much Does It Cost? Fees: 1 week = US$245 2 weeks = US$385

How Does IVHQ Ensure Short-Term Volunteers Can Make A Valuable Contribution?

Volunteers often ask us how their skills can be harnessed in a short space of time to still provide a positive impact in the communities they are volunteering. An important aspect of effective volunteer abroad programs is community involvement and for that reason it is imperative to have local stakeholders. This begins with volunteer programs being run by local people. At IVHQ, we have developed a bottom up approach to our volunteer programs, whereby we work with independent local organizations to receive IVHQ volunteers, place them on projects and take care of them throughout the duration of their program. Local organizations are in the best position to place volunteers within that country – they know the people, they speak the language, they can identify where volunteers are required, and most importantly they are part of the community.

An important aspect of ensuring volunteers are well prepared for their short term volunteer programs is the superior support service provided by IVHQ. To ensure you are confident in your role as an IVHQ volunteer, our experienced and friendly team is here to help you prepare for your volunteer trip through ongoing email and telephone correspondence. After registering on an IVHQ program, you’ll also gain access to a series of online volunteer training modules developed exclusively for IVHQ volunteers. These training modules provide guidance in areas such as how to stay safe while volunteering abroad and how to ensure you make a valuable contribution to your host community. You’ll also have access to a comprehensive program guide to give you all the information you need to prepare for your volunteer trip.

Once you arrive at your volunteer destination, our local teams take over. Our local teams meet and greet volunteers at the airport, run orientation and training sessions and provide 24/7 in-country support. After volunteers finish the program, they can stay involved with the IVHQ Alumni Network.

How the local communities see benefit from our short term volunteers is due to the fact that IVHQ is one of the world’s most popular volunteer travel organizations, sending thousands of volunteers abroad every year. Our consistently high volunteer numbers enable us to send a steady stream of volunteers to our partner organizations. That means local placements have consistent volunteer numbers throughout the year. At busy times of the year, some programs will reach capacity. Any further applicants will be held over for other dates, ensuring volunteer work is impactful throughout the year and not just during peak travel seasons. We’ve also developed a best practice framework for hosting and managing volunteers. Local teams can use this approach with volunteers to ensure your work is as effective as possible and you enjoy yourself at the same time.

The Ultimate Short-Term Volunteering Guide

Tips For How To Be A Valuable Short Term Volunteer

Have an open mind about what you expect to achieve

It’s awesome to be optimistic about what you’ll be able to achieve during your time on a volunteering program. After all, you wouldn’t volunteer if you didn’t think you had something valuable to offer, right? However, it’s important to be aware that more often than not, the contributions that volunteers make are incremental rather than grand. It’s highly unlikely an individual volunteer will change the world, eradicate poverty or educate the masses. Instead IVHQ volunteers will make a contribution to meeting the local needs of a community in a way that builds on the work of others and provides vital support in creating change.

Be prepared to learn first

Volunteering abroad is a big commitment! It’s a commitment of time and energy, and many IVHQ volunteers have taken time out from demanding studies or jobs to make a difference in a community abroad. So it’s important that none of this time is wasted and we see volunteers every day who are excited to get stuck in as quickly as they can. Having said that, it’s helpful to understand that you need to learn about the community you’re going to be working in before you can make a truly valuable contribution. This means researching the community before leaving home, thinking about how your skills can best be utilized and, most importantly, listening and taking guidance from the people who are running your project. They know their community and its needs and they know how best to make use of your support.

Focus on building capacity

The responsible and valuable volunteer should be doing everything they can to work themselves out of a job. This means being conscious of how you are helping local people to develop the skills or capacity so that they can do the work you’re doing after you’re gone. If you want the impact you have to be lasting, be conscious about how you are empowering local people.

This might mean providing the staff at an NGO with an understanding about how to write effective grant applications, or supporting a Childcare project to develop a basic curriculum that can be delivered by local staff. It should also be done with the intention of avoiding any dependency on volunteers.

Discover the full range of short term volunteer abroad programs with IVHQ, or apply today to take a meaningful volunteer trip with IVHQ.

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the Registration Fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!