10 Best Places to Volunteer in the Americas in 2018

by Published

If you’re feeling unfulfilled and you don’t know why, maybe you need to try your hand at volunteering abroad. Giving your time and effort to others is a sure way to feel connected in a world flooded with superficial, virtual world relationships. Volunteering abroad is also a great way to meet new people on their turf and really understand their cultures. 

Landscape shot of sunset over fields

Let’s shine a light on the best places to volunteer in America!

Why not volunteer in America? In fact, the Americas is prime real estate when it comes to legit volunteer abroad opportunities. You can sign up for short term volunteer opportunities in the USA, by working in national parks or inner city community centers. On the other hand, you can volunteer in Central America, teaching English to underprivileged kids and adults and helping to save the rainforests. 

Why not explore the best volunteer programs in South America? Get a taste of the New World while helping out in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or devoting time to medical clinics in rural parts. Also, don’t rule out the Caribbean. Although people generally think these islands are just tropical paradises with no problems, they’re very wrong. There are lots of projects you can sign up for, including protecting sea turtles and coaching students. 

Ready to give back, do good, and have some fun while you’re at it? We’re here to report the 10 best places to volunteer in the Americas in 2018 according to our community of veteran volunteers and meaningful travelers.

1. United States

sculpture

Find America volunteer programs designed to help vulnerable populations all around the country.

Although it’s one of the most powerful nations on the planet, many people still fall through the cracks in the US. These include migrants who can’t speak English and the homeless in American cities. Work for America volunteer programs that improve their lives and help them gain a solid footing in American society. The best volunteer programs in the USA also include keeping America’s natural landscape beautiful by replanting trees and protecting endangered species. 

Recommended program: Volunteer in the US with International Volunteer HQ

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in the US

2. Haiti

Haitian boy

Want to volunteer in America? Make a difference in Haiti.

If there’s one country that’s suffered a lot in the New World, it has to be Haiti. Despite being the world’s first black republic, this French-speaking Caribbean nation still struggles with poverty, environmental devastation, disease, and political conflict, especially after the massive 2010 earthquake. Help construct homes, teach English, or volunteer in clinics and with other volunteer America projects to slowly rebuild an island that needs all the help it can get. 

Recommended program: Volunteer in Haiti with IMA

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in Haiti

3. Cuba

Children playing on a street in Cuba

It won’t be all work and no play while volunteering in Cuba!

Want to volunteer in a place where vintage Austins still roll by on cobblestoned streets? Cuba is a treasure trove of America volunteer programs. International volunteers can teach locals English and learn Spanish in return. They can also get down and dirty picking organic cocoa beans on plantations on the island. You can also learn how to roll the perfect Cuban cigar, paint murals to brighten up low-income communities, and help protect the island’s coral reefs. 

Recommended program: Volunteer in Cuba with IOI Adventures

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in Cuba

4. Canada

Homeless man in Canada

Extend a helpful hand to people down on their luck.

If you’d like to save the world one national park at a time, why not head to the Great White North? America volunteer programs in Canada include protecting endangered wolverines, beluga whales, and caribou in their natural habitats. Work with groups to clean up the natural environment and raise awareness sustainable development in the Canadian Arctic and Rocky Mountains. You can also volunteer to take care of cuties at a husky ranch and help with the rehabilitation of bears in the Yukon, or work with the homeless population that are struggling for survival and to make ends meet.

Recommended program: Volunteer in Canada with Fronteering

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in Canada

5. Peru

Two elderly Peruvian women chatting in the street

Try Peru, one of the best places to volunteer in South America.

One of the best places to volunteer in South America is Peru. For starters, the majority of volunteer organizations are based in Cusco so it’s a good idea to check these out first. You’ll also find plenty of volunteer opportunities in South America in Lima which is still dealing with the consequences of people moving in from rural parts since the 80s and 90s. Volunteer work in Latin America include medical volunteering, teaching English to the Quechua people, or helping with disaster relief projects. 

Recommended program: Volunteer in Peru with Maximo Nivel

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in Peru

6. Puerto Rico

Beach during a storm

Puerto Rico is still reeling with the aftermath of the hurricanes of 2017.

Since the wrath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico is still picking up the pieces. Today, there’s hardly any electricity, food, and drinking water on the island. Puerto Rico therefore needs lots of international volunteers urgently to help deal with a humanitarian crisis. You can also help plant crops, replant trees, and rehabilitate animals displaced by the disaster. Note: if you’re fluent in Spanish, it will make it much easier to volunteer in America during this time of need. 

Recommended program: Volunteer in Puerto Rico with Greenheart Travel

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in Puerto Rico

7. Costa Rica

Girl teaching a young girl

Volunteer in English teaching or community development while in Costa Rica.

Become a Latin America volunteer in a land where pura vida (the pure life) is a lifestyle choice. This peaceful Central American country has lots of volunteer opportunities in Latin America. Teach English in San Jose, protect and track the elusive jaguars in Tortuguero National Park, or sign up with sustainable development projects in Quepos. Ticos are a very warm and friendly bunch and will appreciate everything you do for their country.  

Recommended program: Volunteer in Costa Rica with GVI

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in Costa Rica

8. Mexico

Red Volkswagen parked next to a turquoise house by the ocean

Get to see real Mexico while volunteering abroad. 

Although part of North America, Mexico somehow suffers more than its prosperous neighbors above. This developing country needs volunteers pronto. Volunteer abroad in Latin America with several programs in Mexico. Find the majority of marine protection placements in coastal cities like Playa del Carmen and Tecoman. You can also teach English to the indigenous people of Oaxaca who speak seventeen different languages or work in social work and medicine in Guadalajara. 

Recommended program: Volunteer in Mexico with Love Volunteers

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in Mexico

9. The Caribbean

turtle under water
Go deeper with your Caribbean travel experience—volunteer there!

It’s unfortunate that many tourists think that locals lived a semi-charmed kinda life in the Caribbean. After all, the locals must be relaxing and sipping rum punch on the beach all the day, right? Wrong! These islands are still developing countries and deal with many social issues. Volunteers can find plenty work coaching sports teams, building schools, and protecting the native species in the warm Caribbean Sea and the islands’ tropical jungles. 

Recommended program: Volunteer in the Caribbean with Frontier

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in the Caribbean

10. Colombia

Street vendor selling oranges on a street in Colombia

Volunteer abroad in South America and learn some Spanish too!

Where can you find Latin American volunteer opportunities? Find volunteer work in South America in Colombia. This Spanish-speaking country is beautiful but also plagued with social ills due to poverty, natural disasters, and overpopulation. Take care of the elderly and the homeless in Bogota or teach vulnerable children in orphanages and under-resourced schools. You can also find volunteer programs in South America that serve those who suffer from malnutrition, HIA/AIDS, yellow fever, and malaria. 

Recommended program: Volunteer in Colombia with the Intern Group

See ALL volunteer abroad programs in Colombia

A note from GoAbroad

We’d like to thank our community for not only inspiring us daily, but for also giving us enough insight to share accurate predictions for meaningful travel in 2018.

Learn more our research methodology, recommended programs, and links here.

Read the full report here.

Browse more of this year's report on top destinations to find volunteer work abroad

Find your next great international volunteer project