Most short-term volunteer possibilities last up to 6 months and are with small, non-profit, non-governmental organizations. The following represent only a fraction of the existing possibilities. In addition to visiting our office, the book, “How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas,” can be a good starting resource for learning more about placement programs and other volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer projects known as workcamps pay only room and board, but they provide opportunities to work for social causes such as doing physical work for the environment, restoring historic buildings, putting together festivals, or caring for children or elderly people with special needs. Hundreds of opportunities are available around the world.
Despite their name, workcamps are usually fun and relatively easy-going, group-oriented international experiences. Each has around 15-20 volunteers from around the world, often with nearly every participant coming from a different country. The workcamp movement originated in Europe after World War I to increase cross-cultural understanding, and there it is still a popular form of international educational exchange.
Workcamps generally last 2-4 weeks in the summer, though a few last several months. Student status is not required. There is a registration fee for each workcamp and room and board are provided. Apply from late March through May to one of the U.S. based organizations listed below:
- Volunteers for Peace (VFP)
Over 3,000 projects offered in 100+ countries. Program fee varies.
- SCI-International Voluntary Service (SCI-IVS)
A smaller association which offers socially-conscious projects. Fees are low. U.S. residents only.
Two French-based organizations that specialize in short-term workcamps located primarily in French-speaking countries:
Workcamps opportunities in France, Algeria, Belgium, Morocco, and more. Most involve restoration/construction for awareness of cultural heritage. 12 volunteers per camp, 2-3 weeks in duration. Registration fee good for one year; pay room and board directly to individual camp's association.
- La Sabranenque
Volunteer restoration projects in Provence, France (and Italy) for preservation of the rural Mediterranean habitat. Two-week sessions held March-October. French skills not required.
Important note: Workcamps are sometimes available in countries that are on the U.S. Department of State Travel Warning list & also on the list of countries to which U-M restricts travel. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that the country he/she will be going to is not on these lists. Please see the U-M Travel Policy for more information.
Volunteer Abroad Placement Programs
Volunteer placement organizations provide a vast array of opportunities to volunteer in countries around the world.
- Persons of all types and levels of skills are needed.
- Many organizations provide substantial on-site support and local community connection.
- All charge fees to cover living expenses and program’s services.
- Search for programs on GoAbroad.com or through the International Volunteer Programs Assocation (IVPA)
- Examples of volunteer abroad organizations include:
- Amigos de las Americas (public health education in Latin America)
- Child Family Health International (clinical and global health experiences in Latin America, India,and Africa)
- Cross-Cultural Solutions (health, education and social services in Africa, Asia, and Latin America)
- ISA (International Studies Abroad) (various projects in Latin America and England)
- Foundation for Sustainable Development (health, education, human rights and environment in Latin America, Africa and India)
- Operation Crossroads Africa (general and health-related projects in Africa)
- Projects Abroad (health, education, construction, and environmental projects worldwide
- World Endeavors (various projects worldwide)
Service Learning and Internships
Service-learning refers to volunteering for academic credit:
- Many structured programs provide training or academic classes together with placement into service work or an internship
- Fees are higher for credit granting programs than other service opportunities
- Examples of service learning and internship programs include:
- Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates (GIEU) – UM Students Only
- International Partnership for Service Learning (worldwide)
- University of Minnesota MSID Internships (Africa, Ecuador, and India)
- Global Engagement Summer Institute (GESI) – Northwestern University
- ProWorld Service Corps (Asia, Africa, Latin America)
Government and International Organizations
The only short-term opportunities U.S. government agencies such as USAID, and large public multinationals such as the United Nations offer are internships. These tend to be for graduate students, and are unpaid. Some volunteer abroad programs (above) can place volunteers with these organizations
- See Field Specific/Government for more information.