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Coolest volunteer abroad opportunities

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of  topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...

Give back and have fun!

Want to get more out of your next trip and lend a helping hand while you're at it? We're rounding up some of the most fun and interesting volunteer opportunities around the world.

Volunteer as a family in Kenya

Volunteer as a family in Kenya

As fun as they are, not every family vacation needs to involve theme parks or all-inclusive resorts. If you and your brood are looking for something different, think about volunteering in Kenya. Camps International Family Volunteering Expeditions offers families a chance to make a difference — together. Many families with children of all ages visit the camps and volunteer on various projects such as repairing school buildings, planting seedlings, or installing clean water. Participants also learn basic bush skills and even head out on a safari.

Help protect manatees in Belize

Help protect manatees in Belize

Sometimes referred to as “sea cows” these gentle aquatic mammals are endangered. Help conserve their habitat by signing up for the Oceanic Society Manatee Conservation VolunTour, where you’ll stay at the Blackbird Field Station in comfortable cabins on the beach. The focus of the project is to collect biological data necessary for manatee protection and habitat management and to observe behaviors. Accompanied by a marine biologist researcher, you’ll learn about the animals and the importance of monitoring and protecting the habitat. One day will be spent on a beach clean up, but there will also be lots of free time for snorkeling, bird watching and other activities that make Belize a must-visit vacation spot.

Give and surf in Panama

Give and surf in Panama

Give and Surf provides volunteers a unique chance to have fun, surf and explore beautiful Bocas del Toro, Panama (they don’t call it an island paradise for nothing), while also giving back to the local community. Give and Surf’s mission is to empower the indigenous people of Bahia Honda through education and community development. You’ll get to do this by volunteering at a preschool, with adult and teenage ESL classes, summer school, an after school program, sustainable chicken egg project, Bahia Honda baseball team, and many community development and construction projects that are continually being developed.

Save elephants in Thailand

Save elephants in Thailand

Save Elephant Foundation's Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Chiang Mai, Thailand is home to more than 30 rescued elephants from the tourism industry, forced breeding, street begging, illegal logging and more. You can help rehabilitate and get to know these gentle giants through a unique experience offered by ENP that lets volunteers spend time with elephants while helping to give back not only to the animals, but also to the 250-acre park, local community and other rescued animals. Programs include lodging for six nights, three meals a day, all activities and, the best part, all volunteer fees go directly back to the park and animals.

Build a school in Nepal

Build a school in Nepal

This year Edge of Seven, a non-profit organization that works to educate and empower girls and women in the developing world, will be working to build a school (the project is third listed on the page) in Nepal's Everest Region that will provide more educational access for girls in the region. They are seeking volunteers to help with the project, which involves expanding on a higher secondary school campus that they started in 2012, the only higher secondary school in this particular region. For the second phase of construction they will be building additional classrooms to accommodate more students and to allow for the expansion of curriculum at the school to include English language and business development courses

Island hop and volunteer in the Galapagos

Island hop and volunteer in the Galapagos

Along with swimming with sea lions, meeting giant tortoises and sharks, visiting amazing beaches and island hopping in and around the amazing Galapagos, you’ll also be doing conservation work. The True Galapagos Experience offers a great way to see this stunning part of the world while also helping out with reforestation, habitat reconstruction, and helping to promote sustainable and organic farming.

Restore art in Italy

Restore art in Italy

If you have an interest in art history and have always wanted to go to Italy, the Art Restoration Workshops are a great way to combine both. The experience educates volunteers in the process of conservation and restoration of frescoes, canvas, wood, stone, decorative paintings and plaster in the Puglia region. By learning and actively working, participants also contribute to the conservation of the art and historical heritage of the region. The workshops are complimented by seminars in art history and include several field trips, including visits to Pompeii, Sassi of Matera (Unesco World Heritage site), the Rupestral Churches Park, museums and art exhibitions.

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