A childcare volunteer in Ecuador supervises children during playtime

Can I Volunteer Abroad for Free?

Not quite. And we’ll explain why

By Nadia Moore | 17th May, 2019
Updated on 28th July, 2023

We often get asked, “can I volunteer abroad for free?” or, “can I get paid to volunteer abroad?”. If we had to limit our answer, we’d say “no, you can’t”. Don't click away though, because we're sure we can convince you of the benefits of paying.

Let's face it: if volunteering abroad for free sounds too good to be true, then it is. It's extremely difficult to take part in a volunteer project without contributing financially. At Projects Abroad, we don't ask our partners in developing countries to pay in exchange for assistance; we rely on the fees paid by volunteers like you.

Here are four reasons why you can’t travel and volunteer abroad with us for free.

1. If you don’t pay, who will?

Think about it for a moment. Our local partners, like childcare centres in South African townships or nomad communities in Mongolia, can't afford to cover the cost of your project. Our goal is to make sure that our partners receive the help they need from volunteers like you, without them taking on an additional financial burden.

We’re an independent organisation, and we don't receive funding from governments, other companies, or our partner organisations. We can't function and provide sustainable, long-term assistance to people or causes in need, without your project fee.

For example, long-term assistance includes regular medical community outreaches where we record patient information in our confidential Global Impact Database. From this information, we’re able to refer patients for treatment during these outreaches and continue to monitor their health afterwards.

In addition to ensuring long-term assistance, your payment covers many things for your trip directly. This includes:

  • Meals and accommodation

  • 24/7 support from our local staff in the event of an emergency

As you can see, every penny goes a long way!

A Mongolian nomad woman and child sit in their ger

2. A portion of your money goes directly to your placement

Some (but not all) of your money will go to your project. For example, if you join a Building Project, money is used to buy the bricks and equipment needed. We’ll also use your funds to employ local masons, architects, and engineers who manage and supervise the building work. They’ll be there to guide your efforts and ensure you have a tangible impact on the community you’re working in.

The green shirts of our volunteers are seen around the world, from kindergartens in Cambodia, to Peru’s Amazon Rainforest. Besides contributing directly to your project, your fees also contribute to our global fund. We draw from this fund to help projects in other countries, especially during periods when there are fewer volunteers. Read more about this in point 3.

A conservation volunteer in Kenya searches for wildlife

3. You’re contributing to projects across the globe

Your money doesn’t only help people at your placement, it goes to our projects all over the world where there’s a need. For example, you'll pay a fee to volunteer in a country like Tanzania, because it's difficult to volunteer in Africa for free. But, part of your contribution also supports our work in other countries on the continent, like Kenya and South Africa. It enables us to run all our projects in a sustainable way.

Because of volunteers’ fees, we can be reactive and respond quickly when the need arises. We do this by setting up projects and sending volunteers into those areas. Your fees are not only a once-off donation to your chosen project but a contribution to our global efforts.

When the deadly earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015, we were able to launch our Building Project to provide longer-term assistance in the wake of immediate relief efforts. Years after the disaster, our Building volunteers are still assisting with the reconstruction of schools and classrooms to ensure children have a safe place to learn.

Your financial contribution also supports the expert staff we hire and train to run our projects. The majority of our staff are experienced professionals, like conservationists, nurses, and lawyers. This is crucial to helping us fulfill our goals, and it’s another reason we can’t offer free volunteer abroad programmes.

A group of volunteers dig foundations for a school at the 2015 Disaster Relief placement in Nepal

4. Your health, safety, and happiness matter to us

Your safety and wellbeing are our priority. Because we care, we have stringent guidelines in place to ensure you have a hassle-free experience while you’re overseas. The fees you pay help us organise the following for you:


  • Local, experienced teams ready to support you before your departure, and 24/7 support during your time abroad

  • Visa advice

  • Airport pickups and drop-offs

  • A local host family or organised accommodation

  • A medical advisor ready to assist with any queries you have

Madagascar staff wait for volunteers to land at the airport

How can I raise money to volunteer abroad?

So now that you have an idea of how we operate, we’d love to encourage you to fundraise for your volunteer abroad trip. You can:

  • Marie Kondo your life and sell unused clothing, books, or home items for extra cash

  • Set up a crowdfunding campaign

  • Use your skills to bring in extra cash ie: photography, sewing, coding, tutoring, babysitting, baking, or waiting tables

  • Adopt a new mantra: save, save, save

With us, you don’t get paid to volunteer abroad, but your money is used for good. You’ll help people at your placement and others at projects around the world

A high school volunteer plays a game with a young boy during her class in Cambodia

If you’d like to volunteer with us, check out our pages about volunteer work and international internships. On each of our project pages, we have a nifty price calculator to help you figure out how much you need for your trip. As an example, have a look at our Thailand Conservation Project’s price calculator.

Still got questions? Get in touch with us - we’d love to chat!  

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Want to know more about volunteering or interning abroad?

Get in touch with our Projects Experts. They'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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