Volunteer in China
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- Teaching English, Special Needs Care and Summer Outreach Teaching projects available
- Projects based in and around the ancient Chinese city of Xi’an
- Accommodation in volunteer apartment or homestay
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
- Program fees from $280 for 1 week
- Between 10 and 30 volunteers start in China 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 China to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in China 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, organisations 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 China with your new-found friends.
The IVHQ China program is based in the ancient Chinese city of Xi’an (home to the world famous Terracotta Warriors), where orientation and general administration is carried out by the local team. Projects are located in the cities of Xi’an and Weinan, and in villages within the Shaanxi province, 1-4 hours drive from Xi’an.
Volunteer programs begin on the first and third Monday of every month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks.
The Teaching English project focuses on instilling basic English skills for young children. Volunteers are predominantly placed in Chinese government owned schools at a Kindergarten or Primary School level in the cities of Xi’an and Weinan. With the unprecedented economic growth China has experienced in recent years, the importance of English education has also grown considerably. There is a need for volunteers to teach English at an entry level so the students learn best practices and pronunciation from the beginning of their English studies. You could teach classes independently in some placements, or you could work together with other volunteers and/or the school’s English Teacher. During July and August, schools will have their summer break, so the Teaching English project will be closed and you can instead join the Summer Outreach Teaching project.
Many of the English teachers within these schools struggle with their spoken English and as a result there is a high demand for native English speakers to assist with these classes. You simply need to have a great deal of enthusiasm, an open mind, a caring nature and patience. It is also important to be self-directed and creative, don’t expect to be told what to do!
As volunteers work with the support of IVHQ’s local team and placement staff, they do not need to be qualified or experienced teachers to participate. However, 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-recognized TEFL certification at a discounted rate.
Special Needs Care
Many parents in China cannot afford special education or focused care for their children with physical or mental disabilities. There are however, community and government centers which offer programs for children with special needs, who come from poor backgrounds and are unable to receive an education through the mainstream school system. There are also orphanages set up for people of all ages with special needs who have been abandoned and often left on the streets by their families who aren’t able to support them. Volunteer assistance is desperately required as these centers and orphanages are very understaffed, underfunded and under resourced. On the Special Needs Care project, you will work in a community center or orphanage alongside a small team of local staff, assisting children, teenagers and adults with a range of physical and mental disabilities.
You will assist with daily operations, such as preparing food, serving meals, cleaning, and arranging games and activities for the children and adults. The most valuable contribution you can offer is providing love and support that these children and adults wouldn’t receive otherwise. Specialized Special Needs Care is relatively new in China, so the local staff can benefit and learn from your involvement if you have experience in this field.
It is important to note that the staff at these placements don’t speak English so the local team will do their best to place at least two volunteers together, providing you with another level of support. The local team also encourage volunteers to use a translation application on their phones to communicate with the staff. If you speak Chinese, you may be placed at a placement independently.
Summer Outreach Teaching
As a volunteer on our Summer Outreach Teaching project, you will provide students in rural villages with the opportunity to develop their English skills, particularly with a focus on pronunciation. Your contribution is hugely valuable to the community, as the students would otherwise not have access to this level of support. This project only runs over the summer holidays in July and August.
This project is well suited to volunteers who have a lot of initiative and confidence, as you need to be self-directed and driven in planning your lessons and be able to adapt to an environment where English is not spoken. If you have experience in teaching English and a passion for immersing yourself in different cultures, you will enjoy this project.
When volunteering on the Summer Outreach Teaching project, you will teach students between the ages of 10 and 18 years of age and there will be 30 to 40 students per class. Classes are run during the holidays and therefore don’t follow a curriculum, which allows room for creativity and flexibility in your lessons. There are local teachers present to assist with running the class, however it will be your responsibility to lead the class and lesson plans. The students’ level of English skills is basic so it is best to incorporate games and songs into your lessons to keep them engaging. While the students have learnt English since kindergarten, they have often learnt incorrect practices and need to develop their pronunciation, which should be a focus of your lessons.
The villages where volunteers work are typically 1 to 2 hours drive from Xi’an and you will be accommodated in either a homestay with a local family or in a dormitory with other local teachers in the village where you are placed.
You are not required to have teaching experience or hold a qualification to participate on this project, however you need to be fluent in English and also confident to take lead of the class with the help of the other volunteers. 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-recognized TEFL certification at a discounted rate.
The program orientation begins on the first and third Monday of the month and volunteers need to arrive in Xi’an before 4pm on the Sunday before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Xi’an Xianyang International Airport (XIY). 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 Xi’an. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the Sunday night before your program orientation.
If you are traveling in China prior to your volunteer program, our local team can arrange for you to be picked up on the Sunday before your program begins.
Orientation is hosted by our China team at the volunteer house in Xi’an. Orientation is held on the Sunday evening, and your volunteer program begins the following day. Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in China – Introduction to China, Culture and Customs, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities, Introduction to Project and Placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.
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 on the Teaching English and Special Needs Care projects are as follows:
7.30 AM - 8.00 AM Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation.
8.00 AM - 8.30 AM Travel to your placement to join local placement staff. Start time and daily workload depends on the project that you are participating on.
12.00 PM – 2.00 PM Lunch break. In China, all workplaces have a lunch break for about 2 hours in the afternoon. Some start earlier, some later. You are welcome to stay at your placement with the children in the orphanage or in the office. All placements will offer you food.
4.00 PM - 5.00 PM Work at your placement usually ends.
4.30 PM - 5.30 PM Dinner at your placement. You are free to travel home, sight-see or go shopping.
Please note, this schedule can vary depending on the project the volunteer is participating on.
Your accommodation will be in either a volunteer apartment or in home-stay accommodation near your placement.
If you are staying in Xi’an, you will be accommodated in a volunteer house which is located in a compound of apartments with a security guard and a security gate. You can expect to share a bedroom with up to five other volunteers of the same gender. Bedrooms are comprised of single beds and bunk beds with bedding provided. Living is basic but comfortable and the volunteer house has electricity, running water and western bathrooms with hot water. In the volunteer house, there is a cook who cooks breakfast for you. Lunch and dinner are provided at the placements.
WiFi is available for volunteers to use at the volunteer house in Xi’an. You can also purchase a local SIM card with data for an unlocked mobile phone to keep connected.
If you have a Teaching placement located in Weinan, you will be accommodated in an apartment within the school grounds. Living is basic but comfortable and you can expect to share a bedroom with up to five other volunteers of the same gender. Bedrooms are comprised of single beds and bunk beds with bedding, WiFi and western bathrooms provided, including hot water. Weinan is a 1.5 hour trip from Xi’an City and you will travel by metro and train.
If you have a Teaching placement in the villages, you will stay in a home stay, which has electricity and very basic facilities including a squat toilet. Due to the lack of heating in these homes, you would typically only be placed in a village during the summer months. Staying with a family is a great way to learn the Chinese way of life, meet local people, eat local food and engage in local customs and traditions. We give that family money from your fee for support, food and board. You can expect to share a room with one other volunteer in their home stay. The village placements are located 1-4 hours drive from Xi’an and you will be driven by taxi.
Both home stays and school apartments have been inspected thoroughly by local staff and chosen because of their safety and security. If you would prefer to not live in a dormitory situation with shared facilities, there is the option of upgrading to a 3-star hotel located nearby the volunteer house in Xi’an. You will have a private room and bathroom with breakfast provided in the hotel restaurant and lunch and dinner is provided at your placement. The upgrade costs an extra US$25 per person per day for a single room, or US$15 per person, per day for a twin/double room (two of you traveling together).
Cuisine in Xi’an blends traditional Chinese and Middle-Eastern style cooking with flat bread, pita bread and barbecued meat, often sold at street stalls. Noodles, soups, dumplings and steamed buns are some of the favorite dishes in Xi’an and meat is a staple part of the Xi’an diet however, there are plenty of vegetable options on offer. Unlike other areas in China, food is generally spicy in Xi’an.
You will be provided with three meals per day for the duration of your stay (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Typically, volunteers eat breakfast at their accommodation, with lunch and dinner provided at their placement. It is important to note that during weekends you will be provided with brunch, rather than breakfast and lunch. Bottled water is readily available in China and you should budget approximately US$5 per week for this (2 liters per day). Filtered water is also provided in some of the accommodations.
If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know and the local team will do their best to accommodate these. However, we need to stress the point that you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home. We will do our best to see that you are well taken care of, but as a volunteer, there is a need to be flexible.
“I felt very helpful at the school as I was the first foreigner that most of the students had met. I felt that I was really able to help them, not only with their English studies, but also with their knowledge of the western way of life in general. It was wonderful living in the volunteer house with the other volunteers and our Chinese hosts. The house was very comfortable, very clean and located in a very nice area with everything we needed close at hand.” - Naama Hecht (Teaching English Volunteer in China)
During the weekends, volunteers have spare time to relax or take the opportunity to explore Xi’an and wider China. Popular tourist activities and destinations include visiting the Terracotta Warriors and Xi’an City Wall, traveling to Beijing or Shanghai, checking out Tiananmen Square and the Summer Palace, walking the Great Wall of China, cycling through rice fields of the Guangxi province, or viewing the incredible limestone peaks of Yangshuo.
See our China Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in China!
|Currency||Chinese Yuan (CNY)|
Weather and climate: The climate of China is extremely diverse; subtropical in the south to subarctic in the north. Xi’an has a continental temperate climate with four distinct seasons; dry winters, a warm but variable spring, hot, wet summers and cool and rainy autumn. The warm season lasts from May to August with an average daily high temperature above 26°C (78.8°F) and monsoon rains are heavy and frequent. The cold season lasts from December to February with an average daily high temperature below 9°C (48.2°F). The coldest time of the year is mid-January, with an average low of -7°C (-19.4°F) and high of 3°C (37.4°F).
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. Volunteers are to provide a letter from their local doctor or a medical certificate declaring them fit and healthy with no known transmittable medical conditions (this is a requirement from local officials for working with children). All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ’s local team on arrival in China.
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.