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Planning Retirement Online

Voluntary Work - Volunteering Overseas

Many people now take a 'gap year' before they settle down to retirement - it's not just the young who do it!

One of the ways in which many of us spend this gap year is to do voluntary work overseas, in which there is a large and ever-expanding range of opportunities. In fact, with some organisations there is the chance to spend up to two years on a project, whilst we can also do as little as five weeks or so.

So there is a wide range of opportunities to do all kinds of projects and, basically, for as long as we wish to do them. They provide us with the chance to do something different and to have an adventure before we settle down to retirement. It is, of course, also an opportunity to make a difference to people's lives.

Most of us probably remember VSO, Voluntary Service Overseas, from when we were young. VSO is still going strong and their upper age limit for volunteering is 70. You can volunteer for periods of a few weeks up to two years, so have a look at their website and see which vacancies are available.

In our youth, they were one of the very few organisations through which we could volunteer abroad. Now there are many more and some of them are listed below:

  • Finding Voluntary Work Abroad: All the Information You Need for Getting Valuable Work Experience Overseas (How-to)Bamboo-GVN. This organisation provides volunteering opportunities for the over 50s in South America, Africa and Asia. There are currently 63 projects in areas such as teaching, chilcare, wildlife etc.
  • Twin Work and Volunteer provides a wide range of volunteer programmes all around the world. A gap year experience abroad will help you discover new cultures and gain new experience and skills. Projects are anywhere from three weeks to six months.
  • The Global Volunteer Network (GVN) offers volunteer service opportunities in community projects. Volunteers support the work of local communiuty organisations in developing countries throughout the world. There are currently projects in 21 countries. GVN believes that local communities are in the best position to determine their own needs and the volunteers help them to achieve their goals. Some projects have an age limit of 65 but GVN has placed people well into their 70s. Take a look at the website for a list of their programmes and more details.
  • Inspire Volunteer Abroad. This organisation organises projects for between one and six months in Africa, Asia and South America. They are community-based, which means that you live and work alongside local people.
  • Real Gap Experience. You can volunteer in many countries through the world with realgap in community, conservation or wildlife projects. Some of them are very exciting so if you're looking for something different, have a look.
  • Global Vision is another organisation with exciting projects in many different countries ranging from a few weeks to much longer opportunities. There are opportunities for such diverse things as marine conservation to teaching English.
  • Openmind Projects offer opportunities for all ages to do projects in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal on a wide range of different projects including wildlife, teaching, conservation and many others.
  • The US National Parks Service are open to volunteers from all over the world – you pay for your own flights and for food but get accommodation. Become a US park Ranger!
  • Helpx- exchange a working holiday all over the world (usually 4 hours per day) for accommodation and board on farms etc. Some listings give extras like horse riding lessons in exchange for additional work. Breaks can last from 1 week to months. Many suit individuals and others couples or even groups of 4+

Guide to Voluntary Work links

Guide to Voluntary Work

What You Can Do

Where to Look for it

Volunteers Required


If you're unsure about the credentials of some organisations and you want to be sure that you are volunteering for a reputable organisation, take a look at Ethical Volunteering. This site will tell you what to look for when you are assessing a voluntary organisation that is offering opportunities overseas.

More and more of us are now participating in opportunities to do voluntary work overseas. It can be challenging but it can also be a lot of fun and an ideal way to see parts of the world that we may not otherwise get the chance to see. Have a look at some of the links above and see if there is something that tempt you.

Go to the links in the box to get further information on voluntary work in retirement.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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