On this page you can find out more about family volunteering abroad, advice & considerations for volunteering abroad with your family, and details on family volunteer opportunities available. Please see below for a personal letter from WorkingAbroad.com Co-Founder Vicky McNeil, who has volunteered abroad numerous times with her children, and a list of our current projects which are suitable for family volunteering abroad.
My name is Vicky McNeil and I am the co-Founder of WorkingAbroad and also a mother of two girls aged 9 and 12 years old. I have been involved with volunteering programmes since I went off backpacking and volunteering around in the mid 1990s with my partner - and in 1997, we founded WorkingAbroad.
Voluntary work overseas has been traditionally for those who don’t have children. Since taking our girls to visit our sea turtle programmes in Grenada and Costa Rica and to the townships and game reserves in South Africa, we want to open up the family volunteering sector and offer this to other parents.
There are multiple projects abroad that can host families as the work engages volunteers to observe wildlife and gain hands-on experience, such as fin profiling dolphins and whales, tagging sea turtles or counting turtle eggs, or plotting GPS co-ordinates for predators in national parks, to teaching and working with children in preschools. Most of this work can be undertaken by parents whilst the children learn and take part. The work often takes place over half-days, leaving the rest of the day to engage in beneficial recreational activities, snorkelling, hiking, tracking, and so on.
I have seen what works and what doesn’t work for a family volunteering abroad, and I am delighted to be able to help new families to go out and have a “once in a lifetime” experience.
Being with our children is the most precious time we have, and we spend a lot of our time doing school runs, and being caught up in a stressful working week cycle. A family volunteer programme abroad will be a great challenge, far removed from every day life at home, and away from a typical holiday sitting on a beach all day watching your children hooked on the iPad. A family volunteer programme will enable you and your children to go out, learn, volunteer and experience something worthwhile far away from the school classroom, which will be remembered for the rest of your lives.
Below, you can find our current programmes that are most suited to family volunteering abroad - where there are specific family dates, we have listed them. For any questions on family volunteering abroad or if you are looking for some guidance, please email me!
Elephant Volunteer Project, Thailand - Volunteer at an Elephant Sanctuary and home for old elephants in Mae Chaem, situated in the countryside of Northern Thailand near Chiang Mai. Help to give elephants a chance to live free. Families can join all year round, but children must be over the age of 10 to join this project.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Project, Costa Rica - Volunteer with sea turtles and help to conserve the populations of critically endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtles in Costa Rica. Families can live in a homestay and we will make sure to place you with a Costa Rican family with children of similar ages.
Playa Tortuga Conservation Volunteer Project, Costa Rica - Volunteer in Costa Rica and live and work in a biological research station and take part in sea turtle, butterfly, crocodile, mammal research and environmental education. Families with children over 10 yrs old welcome all year round.
Desert Elephants Volunteer Project, Namibia - Track desert elephants and take part in community building volunteer work in the beautiful Damaraland region of the Namib Desert. **Special Family Volunteering Dates - 31st July to 9th August 2017**
Bear Tracking Volunteer Project, Sweden - Volunteer to take part in a short-term bear and wildlife tracking project in the Sånfjället National Park, Northern Sweden, and learn about wilderness tracking and survival techniques. Children of all ages welcome - we can tailor family dates for the summer or you can join the groups in August.
Bottlenose Dolphin Volunteer Research Project, Croatia - This project is the longest ongoing study of a resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea. Families welcome if you are 4-5 people and then we can reserve the volunteer house for you.
Dolphin & Whale Volunteer Research Project, Italy - A sailing-boat based cetacean volunteer research and conservation programme in the Western Mediterranean located between Italy and France from May to September each year. Families will share 4-bed berths in the sailing boat.
Shamwari Game Reserve Conservation Volunteer Programme, South Africa - Join an award-winning conservation team in a Big Five Game Reserve in South Africa, boasting a huge variety of game over a vast 25,000 hectares. Suitable for families with children over 15 years old.
Cloud Forest Conservation & Sustainability Volunteer Project, Ecuador - Become an environmental volunteer in Ecuador to conserve a part of the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest and get involved in reforestation, organic agriculture, sustainable living and building projects. Families of all ages are welcome all year round.
Volunteer in Spain - Our language & volunteer programmes in Valencia are specifically designed to fit the lifestyle and requirements of each individual family. Children (must be over 10 years) can join our exciting junior or teenager summer courses, while parents share their international learning experience with other adults from around the world. It’s a perfect combination of language lessons, volunteering, tours, activities and excursions.
Dolphin Research Volunteer Project, Greece - Become a marine conservation volunteer and participate in dolphin research in the Ionian Sea, helping to provide a marine environment that provides long-term viability for the species. Children over 13 years of age can join with an adult. Alternatively, all ages are accepted when booking as a family group of 4 or 5 people.
Amazon Basin Research & Conservation Programme, Peru – Volunteer in some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the Amazon rainforest with your family and assist in a wide range of tasks that our local project partners are engaged with. This can be tasks such as primate research, Macaw birds monitoring, wildlife research and tracking, identification of reptiles and amphibians, visit local native communities and patrolling the boundaries and rivers of the rainforest. Children from 4 years can join with their parent(s), however, some programmes only allow children from 8 years.