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Food Outreach Volunteer Program in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

Food Outreach Volunteer Program in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

Support low-income communities
Start dates
Programs start every Monday
Choose from 1-12 weeks
Volunteer hours
Up to 6 hours a day
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Dormitory-style within a tourism college
Program fees
From £325 for 1 week
What's included
Find out here
Apply for free
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Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

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This program is ideal for:

Energetic volunteers with good initiative will be well suited to the fast pace of the busy soup kitchen at lunchtime. As you will be volunteering alongside our local team and placement staff, you do not need to have prior food preparation or hospitality experience to participate on this project.

Project details

Inspired to be a Food Outreach volunteer in Vietnam? International Volunteer HQ’s Food Outreach project is a great opportunity for volunteers to make a meaningful difference to the lives of people in Ho Chi Minh City who aren’t able to feed themselves and their families. Volunteers gain community outreach and cooking experience while working at a soup kitchen where low-income workers, the elderly and others choose to pay what little they can afford for a hearty lunch.

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

For many locals in Ho Chi Minh City, food is expensive and unaffordable. However, local soup kitchens are available to all and provide a high value meal every lunchtime. Volunteer assistance is important to help keep these kitchens open and serve meals to those who need them.

Meals are available for a fraction of the price of other options. Locals prefer to pay for meals, even if it’s a very low price, to avoid the stigma of accepting free food. The soup kitchen is popular and busy, serving up to 800 meals to low-income workers, the elderly and anyone else who requires lunch.

As a Food Outreach volunteer your role is to provide assistance with:

  • Food preparation
  • Assist in cooking meals
  • Serve meals to a group of 300 - 500 local individuals
  • Ensure cleanliness of cooking equipment
  • Maintain cleanliness and sanitation in kitchen area
Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #2: Zero Hunger

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #2: Zero Hunger

Current estimates show that 8.9% of the population are hungry, with the global pandemic threatening to double that number. Swift action needs to be taken to provide food and humanitarian relief, whilst agriculture and food production must become more sustainable.

Why do Food Outreach volunteering in Ho Chi Minh with IVHQ?

When you volunteer in Vietnam you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Improving access to food sources for disadvantaged communities
  • Supporting local initiatives to increase food security
  • Developing your communication skills
  • Gaining cooking and food preparation experience
  • Immersing yourself in Vietnamese culture
  • Exploring Ho Chi Minh City

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
  • Volunteers aged 16 or 17 on their program start date are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional document to the local team.
  • All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
  • All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
  • To respect the local culture and customs in Vietnam, volunteers should be aware that they’re unable to have anything obstructing their face while at their volunteer placement.
  • All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

Apply for free

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'Who is going' users image
Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

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What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

Julianna Huang
04 Jul 2024

Volunteering in food outreach was incredibly rewarding. It taught me empathy, improved my communication skills, and gave me a deep sense of fulfillment. I built meaningful connections with the community and gained a better understanding of the challenges low-income families face. If you're hesitant, remember that your efforts can truly make a difference and you'll grow personally from the experience.

Sharon Kunasagaran
30 May 2024

The staff in the soup kitchen took pride in preparing the meals. The volunteers were passionate about their mission and vision. The Food Outreach project made me reflect on my thoughts and how I do things back home. Real Eye opener, people considering this project should give it a shot!

Amber Spearing
13 May 2024

For anyone who is debating whether to undertake a volunteering programme with IVHQ, don't delay- go for it! You will not regret it. It will open your eyes to new cultures, ways of life, standards and make you feel lucky and privileged. It is one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I also get to watch my students grow immensely, out of their comfort zones in challenging conditions and see the pride in them when they complete their volunteering work. You will have no regrets and it will be one of the most satisfying experiences of your life. I can't wait to go back with a another group of students and watch them grow and develop through charity work.

Danielle Danby
07 May 2024

This experience was amazing, and really helps you grow as a person. I was hesitant before I got involved, but everyone makes you feel so welcomed and comfortable. Knowing I made a difference to people really boosts your confidence and makes you feel good about yourself. I would really recommend this project to anyone who is thinking about it.

Joseph Hee
30 Apr 2024

I feel like I've gained a deeper insight into Vietnam than I could ever have had just traveling. I also think that being a part of a group of people from around the world who have similar ideals really felt like home. The volunteer programme was intense but so meaningful, giving us the opportunity to work with those with special needs and to keep them active and entertained, and show them care in a world that largely ignores them. I would definitely encourage someone who is thinking about volunteering in Vietnam to take a leap of faith and sign up, because they'd be in really good hands and meet people in their life they grow to love and care about.

Louise Monk
16 Apr 2024

I would like to thank you all at IVHQ for being so supportive and organising such a wonderful opportunity for me to help at the Food Outreach, Ho Ch Minh City. It was absolutely amazing, I gained confidence and self esteem and learned about Vietnamese culture and socio-economic situation. It has been an invaluable experience and I met some great volunteers and residents. Dive in if you are hesitant, as you’ve found the website so you must be keen to explore. Be open minded and motivated to work hard.


To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

Academic course credit

Academic course credit through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

Academic course credit

Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!

Learn about course credit


Volunteer Abroad in Vietnam with IVHQ


Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is home to IVHQ’s Vietnam program. With high-tech industry, upmarket hotels, skyscrapers, shopping malls and buzzing nightlife, the city has a modern, dynamic atmosphere tempered by reminders of its history under French colonial rule and of its fall during the Vietnam War. While Vietnam has made great economic strides since then, the country is still recovering from the war and many people, especially ethnic minorities and those in rural areas, live without the basic necessities of life or find them difficult to access. Volunteers are needed to support efforts that help to further reduce poverty and hunger for these vulnerable people.

Arrival and orientation

The program orientation begins every Monday, and volunteers need to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City on the Sunday before orientation.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) in Ho Chi Minh City. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee.

When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.

If you are travelling in Vietnam prior to your volunteer program, you will need to make your own way to the volunteer accommodation on the day before your program orientation.

There are two options for orientation in Vietnam, a One-day Orientation and the Introduction Week Orientation.

One-day Orientation: This begins on your selected start date and all volunteers will attend. It covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Vietnam, including an introduction to the Vietnam program, the local team, general rules and a class on the local culture and language. In the afternoon, you’ll learn about the local projects, go on a walking tour of the local area, and arrange your SIM card. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.

Introduction Week Orientation: The Introduction Week begins on your selected start date and runs for five days. This option is very popular among IVHQ volunteers as you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the Vietnamese culture, a true appreciation of local life and have extra time to bond with your fellow volunteers. You’ll also get to see some of Ho Chi Minh’s notable landmarks, visit markets and take a Vietnamese cooking class. Plus, it’s a great way to help settle the culture shock you can face when arriving in Vietnam.

Introduction Week does incur an additional Add on for US$360 (approximately £293) to cover the additional costs. If you wish to participate in the Introduction Week, you can indicate this on your application form or let your Program Manager know once you have been accepted.

Volunteer schedule example


After the initial orientation day or week, you will work for approximately 4 to 6 hours per day. A typical schedule:

7:30 AM Breakfast at the college restaurant.
8:00 AM Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements. Work and hours are dependent on the project and placement that each volunteer is working at.
12:00 PM Lunch break. Lunch is served at the college restaurant or at the placement. However; volunteers are free to buy their own lunch​ at their expense​, which will usually cost between £1 - £3.
2:00 - 5:00 PM Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel home, prepare for the next day or do some shopping and sightseeing.
6:00 PM Dinner at the volunteer accommodation.


During the weekends, volunteers have spare time and usually just relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of Ho Chi Minh City or Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh itself boasts an incredible number of things to see and do. You could find yourself gazing up at the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, or down at the lights of the city below from a bar on the rooftop of a towering skyscraper. You might pick your way through the local morning markets, sample the city’s mind-blowingly delicious street food, squeeze through the underground Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war or admire a selection of ornate temples and pagodas.

Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to engage in tourist activities, such as trekking, joining Vietnamese history tours and visiting the Mekong Delta.

Accommodation and WiFi

You’ll stay in an IVHQ volunteer dormitory at ​a tourism college which is a 30-minute drive from the tourist area of Ho Chi Minh City.

You can expect to share a room ​with up to 8 other volunteers, all sleeping in bunk beds. Living conditions are basic; however, there is air conditioning and fans for the hotter months. The showers are with cold running water (nice and refreshing in the hot weather!) While bedding is provided, it is recommended that you bring your own sleeping bag/silk liner (these can be purchased in Vietnam) and a mosquito net if you wish to travel during the weekends.

WiFi is available in the volunteer dormitory, however the connection can be slow so we recommend bringing an unlocked mobile phone and purchasing a local SIM card when you arrive in Vietnam. The local team can assist you with this during your program orientation.

Some placements are located relatively close to the volunteer accommodation, however in some instances, volunteers may need to travel by public bus for 30​ to 40​ minutes to their placements. If this is the case, you will be accompanied by a member of the local team for the first 2 or 3 days to ensure that you know where to go and can find your way around easily.


Volunteers in Ho Chi Minh City are served three meals per day during the week.

Breakfast is usually toast, cereal, fruit, tea and coffee. Lunch and dinner are typically traditional Vietnamese fare and include a wide variety of rice, noodle and soup dishes with plenty of vegetables, meats and fresh herbs. On the weekends volunteers are only served brunch and dinner.

If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can make arrangements for you.


  • USD

Spots are limited. For a Registration Fee of just US$329 (approximately £267) you secure your spot and unlock all our preparation and training tools.

You don't need to worry about paying your Program Fee until you get closer to your start date.

Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
1 week $400 Equivalent to $57/day
2 weeks $550 Equivalent to $39/day
3 weeks $740 Equivalent to $35/day
4 weeks $910 Equivalent to $33/day
5 weeks $1,080 Equivalent to $31/day
6 weeks $1,250 Equivalent to $30/day
8 weeks $1,590 Equivalent to $28/day
10 weeks $1,930 Equivalent to $28/day
12 weeks $2,270 Equivalent to $27/day
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately £267) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh generally find US$50 per week to be sufficient for expenses.
  • Meals
  • Airport pick-up
  • Accommodation
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Personalised preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
  • Certificate of International Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • Return to the airport when your program finishes and transport to and from your volunteer placement each day
  • Flights
  • Visa (if required), travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check.
  • Personal spending money for snacks, laundry, public transportation, drinks and leisure activities during your free time.

Free-time experiences & tours in Ho Chi Minh

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in Ho Chi Minh! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ Ho Chi Minh program.

Cu Chi Tunnel
Cu Chi Tunnel

Embark on a captivating journey through history with our Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour. Delve into the wartime significance of this underground network, crawl through tunnels once used by guerrilla fighters, and soak in the lush green scenery en route. Departing from Ho Chi Minh City, our luxury transport takes you on a scenic 1.5-hour ride to the tunnels. Explore the intricate passageways and even witness remnants of battle. With all-inclusive amenities and expert guides, it’s a memorable adventure back in time. Please note that the Cu Chi tunnels tour is included in the introduction week so you will not need to add this to your itinerary if you are already joining the introduction week.

Food Tour
Food Tour

A Vietnam Food Tour for the food lovers! Eat like a Vietnamese for a night! We will take you to the most popular street stalls and hidden alleyways in the city, showing you where the locals truly love to eat! So, save your appetite, delight your palate, and let us fill your tummy with delicious and authentic Vietnamese food!

Vietnam Introduction Week
Vietnam Introduction Week

Gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Vietnamese culture.


Check what's required to visit Vietnam

Safety and support

Safety and support with IVHQ

Safety and support

IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.

  • All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
  • All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
  • All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
  • All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Essential country information

Capital Hanoi
Population 96 million
Languages Vietnamese
Currency Vietnamese Dong (VND)
Time zone (UTC+7)

Weather and climate

Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate, with humidity averaging 84 per cent throughout the year. However, because of differences in latitude and diverse geography, the climate tends to vary considerably from place to place.

Apply to check if you're eligible!

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How to get started

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