Volunteer in Sri Lanka
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- 8 meaningful project options including Temple Renovation and Wild Elephant Conservation
- Projects based in and around the sacred city of Kandy
- Accommodation in volunteer houses and homestays
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
- Affordable program fees
- A special orientation program is available
- Between 10 and 40 volunteers start in Sri Lanka each month
- Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organization in Sri Lanka to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Sri Lanka will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
- Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
- Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
- Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organizations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
- New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travelers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
- Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Sri Lanka with your new-found friends.
The IVHQ Sri Lanka volunteer program is based in the sacred city of Kandy, with placements located in and around the city and further afield. The Rural Community Development project is based in both Hanguranketha in Nuwara Eliya and in the surrounding areas of Sigiriya, in the Central Matale District. The Wild Elephant Conservation project is based in the Wasgamuwa National Park. Volunteers are required to fly into Colombo, which is a 11 hour flight from most major airports in Britain.
The IVHQ Sri Lanka volunteer program begins every Monday. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 12 weeks. The Wild Elephant Conservation project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks.
Due to a lack of resources and limited staff, volunteers are in high demand to assist with caring for children in childcare centers and orphanages in Sri Lanka. Through providing attention and care to the children, volunteers help build a positive and loving atmosphere within the centers, fostering the development of greater levels of confidence in the children. Volunteers can also help with basic maintenance at some of these centers, which may include gardening, painting and cleaning. Childcare work varies and volunteers may assist with teaching English and providing guidance with homework, arranging games and activities. Some volunteers will also assist staff with washing the children’s clothing. Children in the centers range in age from 4 to 18 years old.
Volunteers on the Elderly Care project are placed in an elderly home that provides free accommodation and care for around 75 adults, who would otherwise have little or no support in their old age. Although the home provides food, clothing and a medical facility for the elders, it is in great need of volunteers to provide the company, love and companionship that the elders are missing. Volunteers spend time talking with the elders, helping sick elders in taking their medicines, assisting with their cleaning and bathing, and helping the sisters with cleaning the home and preparing food if required.
Volunteers on the Medical project are placed in a hospital in Kandy, where they have the opportunity to work alongside local hospital staff and learn how to perform medical procedures with basic medical resources. The hospital our volunteers work in is a training hospital and it is important to note that only Medical students are eligible for this program. Additionally hospitals in Sri Lanka cannot allow volunteers to work alone, which means your work within the hospital will be primarily observational. There are many departments in which volunteers can request to be placed and if you have a specific skill set or area of interest, please make a note of this in your application form. We cannot guarantee that all requests will be met, however our local staff will do their best to match your skills and preferences to a relevant department.
Volunteers must be a student in Medical School in order to be eligible to apply for this program. All Medical volunteers are required to provide the following to our program partner once they have registered, no later than 4 weeks before their program starts:
- Proof of current level of study
- CV/resume specific to Medical skills and experience
- Letter of recommendation from a tutor or supervisor in the Medical field
- Letter of intent from the volunteer, outlining why and what you are hoping to gain from your volunteer program
Prospective volunteers must therefore apply for the Medical project no later than 6 weeks before they wish to begin. It is important to note that if the above documents are not received by our local staff at least 4 weeks prior to the program start date, volunteers cannot be guaranteed a Medical placement and should expect to work within another project.
The central focus of the Teaching project in Sri Lanka is to offer English classes to locals who are unable to afford private language lessons. You could be placed in local temples, monasteries, pre-schools, disabled schools and village homes, where you will usually take one class per day with students ranging in age from 3 to 20 years old.
If you are placed at a village home, the class sizes vary depending on attendance each day as these classes aren’t mandatory for students. This also means that you will need to be creative and flexible with your lessons to suit the group at that time. Teaching in the village homes usually takes place in the afternoons as some children will attend school in the morning.
At the monasteries, volunteers are provided text books and a syllabus to use for preparing lessons. Classes usually have 15-30 students and take place in the morning as most monks visit village ceremonies in the afternoon. You will therefore plan your lessons in the afternoon of the previous day, or help with the maintenance and repair of classrooms, once you finish teaching in the morning.
Teaching in pre-schools takes place in the morning and you will be given guidance with lesson plans and goals for each class. The classes usually have 20-30 students and you will be working alongside a permanent teacher.
Volunteers must be fluent in English and confident in their ability to teach both written and verbal English skills to students of all ages. We encourage volunteers to come prepared by completing some relevant training, like a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course. Visit our Online TEFL course page to learn how to gain an internationally-recognised TEFL certification at a discounted rate.
Through the renovation of Buddhist temples, this project offers a unique opportunity for volunteers to do some physical labor while learning about Buddhism and some of the constructions methods used to build the temples. Construction activities will take place only if such work is available at the temple. Temples in Sri Lanka are held in high regard by the community and therefore must be presented well. Local communities will volunteer their time to help with cooking for the monks at their local temple but there aren’t enough hands to help keep the temples in good order. The temples our volunteers work at are in need of cleaning and often repainting. All materials are provided and there is an onsite coordinator to provide guidance to volunteers. Volunteers who have illustration skills may also have the opportunity to restore existing paintings or paint a new illustration if required. If this is of interest, it is recommended that volunteers do some research and come with some ideas of a potential image they can paint. Volunteers will need to bring or purchase their own tools and materials for this. Volunteers on the Temple Renovation project are able to gain a greater appreciation of the Sri Lankan culture through interacting with villagers and children, to whom the temples hold great significance.
Wild Elephant Conservation
Together with the local wildlife conservation society, volunteers on the Wild Elephant Conservation project assist in observing the behavior of wild elephants and carry out research-related tasks within the Wasgamuwa region, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Elephants hold great cultural and religious significance in Sri Lanka, however elephants are viewed as a nuisance by many rural people, as they invade farms looking for crops. The aim of the Wild Elephant Conservation project in Sri Lanka is to develop effective measures to resolve human-elephant conflict and to ensure wild elephants are no longer being killed by local farmers.
Volunteer tasks include assessing human-elephant conflicts, mapping biodiversity using surveying techniques, assisting with the implementation of human-elephant conflict resolution projects, and developing sustainable rural livelihood initiatives.
Volunteers on the Wild Elephant Conservation project in Sri Lanka are involved in the following activities:
- Observing wild elephants and human-elephant interactions
- Monitoring the behavior of wild elephants and observing birds and other wildlife
- Trekking to observe wildlife and birds, looking for signs of leopard and elephant activity
- Observing various habitats and visit forest hermitages
- Birding and observing nature around the volunteer camp
- Monitoring electric fences erected to stop elephants from raiding village homes
- Meeting with community leaders and members to monitor human-elephant conflict resolution projects
- Gaining experience in the use of GPS
- Getting involved in initiatives such as ‘Project Orange Elephant’ and using honey bees as an elephant deterrent. These initiatives aim to develop conservation strategies focused on mitigating human-elephant conflicts and conserving elephants, leopards, other wildlife and their habitats in the central and north-central provinces of Sri Lanka
It is important to note that volunteers on the Wild Elephant Conservation project do not interact with the elephants, but rather observe their movements in the jungle. The Elephant Conservation project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks and all volunteers take part in Orientation Week in Kandy from Monday to Friday, before traveling to the project site on Sunday. Prospective volunteers must apply for the Elephant Conservation project no later than 2 weeks before they wish to begin.
Working in a special needs setting can be a very rewarding experience and is well suited for active volunteers who are passionate about looking after children and young adults with a range of mental and physical disabilities. Children and adults with physical and mental disabilities are often not well cared for in Sri Lanka due to a lack of knowledge and cultural acceptance within their communities; as a result many are taken to special care facilities and/or schools where they are able to receive appropriate treatment, care and education. Volunteers are placed in special needs schools, homes and care centres throughout Kandy, these facilities are under-resourced and can really benefit from the skills, time and involvement of volunteers. Volunteers on this project will assist local staff in classroom based activities, general care, play time, and meal breaks.
Rural Community Development
The Rural Community Development project provides the unique opportunity to experience traditional village life in the rural community of Hanguranketha in the Nuwara Eliya district or in the surrounding areas of Sigiriya, in the Central Matale District. Rural communities in Sri Lanka are still largely underdeveloped with a lack of access to resources, skilled staff and economic development. Volunteers assist with the long term development of local communities and the education of local villagers via teaching, childcare and renovation activities in pre-schools, high schools, monasteries and temples. It is common for volunteers to have flexibility within their working day and join a number of activities in one day. This project is perfect for volunteers wanting an authentic experience of rural Sri Lanka, with its quieter pace of life and friendly locals. Volunteers are able to contribute their enthusiasm, English language skills and time, to improve the daily life of local villagers and the community as a whole.
The program orientation begins every Monday and volunteers need to arrive in Colombo anytime on the Saturday or Sunday before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) on Saturday or Sunday. Your airport pick-up over the weekend is included in your Program Fee.
After you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Kandy. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the Sunday night before your program orientation.
If you are traveling in Sri Lanka prior to your volunteer program, you can meet the local team at the airport in Colombo on the Sunday before your program begins, or make your own way directly to the local team’s office in Kandy.
Orientation is run by the local team in Sri Lanka, beginning on the Monday morning of your start date. The length and location of the program orientation you receive depends on your project and the duration of your stay. If you are joining any project for two weeks or longer, you will be given a one-week orientation in Kandy and if you are joining the Wild Elephant or Rural Community Development project, you will then be transferred to your project location on the Sunday prior to your second week. If you are joining the program for one week, you will be given a one day orientation in the location of your project so if you are on the Rural Community Development project, you will go directly to Sigiriya or Hanguranketha once you have been picked up from the airport. The orientation will give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.
The first day of the orientation week involves a standard IVHQ country orientation, which includes an introduction to Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan customs, rules and expectations, safety in Sri Lanka, travel opportunities in Sri Lanka, introduction to your volunteer project and placement, Kandy city tour, cultural show and Sinhala lessons. After the first day of orientation, short term volunteers (1 and 2 week volunteers) are given the option of starting their projects straight away, while the remaining volunteers (staying for a duration greater than 2 weeks) continue with the full orientation week. Shorter term volunteers are able to continue the orientation week if they wish. The remainder of the orientation week is spent joining a variety of local tours, sight seeing, Buddhism lessons, Sri Lankan cooking lessons, Sinhala lessons and experiencing an Ayurvedic massage. The orientation week is a fantastic introduction to Sri Lanka and gives you a chance to experience Sri Lankan culture first hand, while also getting to know the other volunteers.
First Day: On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.
Weekdays: A typical volunteer day is as follows:
6.00 to 7.30 AM Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation.
7.45 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
3.00 PM Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel home, prepare for the next day or do some shopping and sightseeing.
6.45 PM Dinner at the volunteer house.
Please be aware there is a curfew at 9.00 pm every night for all volunteers. This curfew is in place to ensure the safety of our volunteers. Volunteers who wish to go out past 9.00 pm must discuss this with the local staff and arrange alternative accommodation for that night.
Volunteers in Kandy are accommodated in a volunteer house with other volunteers. Bedrooms are comprised of bunk beds and you can expect to share a room with four to ten other volunteers. Homestay accommodation is also available in Kandy, which is a popular option for couples or older volunteers. This option can be arranged with our local team for an additional US$35 per week and volunteers may either have their own room or share with one or two others of the same gender, depending on how many other volunteers have requested homestay accommodation. Alternatively, private rooms and matrimonial rooms can be arranged for an additional US$70 per room, per week, subject to availability at the time. Living is comfortable and all accommodation has electricity and running water. Bathrooms in the volunteer houses and homestays are all western style with a shower, toilet and basin. While bedding is provided, it is recommended that you bring your own sleeping bag liner for weekends away, along with a towel and toiletries (including hand soap and toilet paper).
Families who wish to volunteer in Sri Lanka are required to stay in a homestay at an additional cost of US$70 per room, per week. If your family has more than four members, two rooms may be required to accommodate all family members.
Volunteers on the Rural Community Development project in Hanguranketha are accommodated in a home stay within the village. Volunteers can expect to share their room with up to 4 other volunteers of the same gender and all bedrooms are provided with fans. The home stay has electricity and western style bathrooms. It is located within walking distance to local shops.
Volunteers on the Rural Community Development project in Sigiriya are accommodated in a rural volunteer house in Sigiriya, which is situated in an idyllic setting surrounded by an organic garden. There are bunk beds in the main bedroom which accommodates 10-12 volunteers and is mixed gender. This room has open walls so you are exposed to the outdoors, which is great for letting the breeze in. There is also a separate fully walled bedroom for females which accommodates 6 volunteers. Electricity and fans are provided at the volunteer house, which also has western style bathrooms. The volunteer house is 10 minutes drive from the nearest shops.
Volunteers on the Elephant Conservation project are accommodated onsite in a volunteer camp located 15 minutes from the entrance of the Wasgamuwa National Park. Volunteers can expect to share a room with 2 - 6 other volunteers of the same gender and all bedrooms are provided with electric fans and mosquito nets. The volunteer house within the camp has solar power (24/7) with western bathrooms and is located 10 minutes from the nearest village.
To access the internet during your program, we recommend bringing an unlocked mobile phone and purchasing a local SIM card when you arrive in Sri Lanka, as WiFi is not available in the volunteer accommodation.
Volunteers on the Sri Lanka program are provided with three meals per day during the week (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and twice during the weekend (breakfast and lunch are combined as brunch during the weekend). Breakfast includes toast, eggs, fruit, tea, coffee and milk. Sri Lankan foods served for lunch and dinner include roti bread, dal (lentil soup), curries, vegetables, salads. Meat is rarely eaten, except on festive occasions. Bottled water is readily available in Sri Lanka and volunteers should budget approximately US$5 per week for this (2 liters per day). There are also water filters in the volunteer houses and homestays. If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can discuss this with you.
“This project is so rewarding and I highly recommend it to anyone. I will always remember the smiles of all the elderly people in the home and playing my music and dancing to them.” - Cathy Binua (Teaching Volunteer in Sri Lanka)
During the weekends, volunteers have spare time and usually just relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of Kandy and Sri Lanka. Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to destinations, such as Colombo, Galle or even Southern India. Our local team also offer some great travel packages for volunteers over the weekend and after their volunteer program finishes.
Our local team in Sri Lanka can help you arrange any trips you wish to do in Sri Lanka, with some special packages available for volunteers, including Trekking Week (a week of hiking some of Sri Lanka’s most famous treks and mountains), Beach Week (a week of activities on Sri Lanka’s coast) and Body and Mind Week (a week of yoga and Ayurvedic massage at a retreat in Sri Lanka). All of the above can be enquired about directly with our program staff after registering on the IVHQ Sri Lanka program. These packages cost approximately US$330 for the week (including meals and accommodation) and can be paid for in Sri Lanka to our program staff.
See our Sri Lanka Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Sri Lanka!
|Capital||Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte|
|Languages||Sinhala and Tamil|
|Currency||Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)|
Weather and climate: The climate is tropical and warm, due to the moderating effects of ocean winds. Mean temperature ranges from 17°C (62.6°F) in the central highlands, where frost may occur for several days in the winter, to a maximum of 33 °C (91.4°F) in other low-altitude areas.
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ’s local team on arrival in Sri Lanka. Additional requirements apply for Medical and Teaching volunteers, please read the project descriptions above.
Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.