Volunteering abroad for Under 18s

Outreach International are one of the few organisations offering overseas volunteering opportunities for under 18s.

We offer a highly personal and supportive approach, using our 1st hand knowledge of projects and consultative interviews with volunteers & parents to match each volunteer with a challenging but rewarding experience.

The volunteer opportunities for under 18s are in countries and charitable projects that offer a higher level of support and access to services, yet they continue to offer an independent travel experience suitable for mature young adults.

Volunteers under 18 want to make a difference – with Outreach they can do this in an experience that develops their maturity and life skills. Removed from the cosseted group travel ethos of school trips, independent volunteering can help a mature young adult take that next step, prior to the challenges of higher education and starting a career.


What volunteer opportunities are there for volunteers under 18?

sea turtle conservation 14

Turtle conservation

The projects shortlisted for volunteers under 18 are primarily in the beautiful countries of Mexico, Ecuador & Galapagos. Charitable projects have been carefully selected as suitable based on their location, volunteer roles, levels of support and accommodation.

There are plenty of choices for a young volunteer, from volunteering in conservation & the environment, to supporting disadvantaged social groups.

Your volunteer role might be sports coaching, organising art activities for kindergarten children, providing care and stimulation for children with disabilities, or helping to conserve the precious marine environment of Mexico’s Pacific Coast on our Sea Turtle project.

These projects benefit from the energy, commitment and capacity that young volunteers bring, rather than specialist skills. It is important that our volunteers under 18 demonstrate the maturity to deal with a more independent travel experience.

Click on the orange button to see all projects we believe are suitable for u18s, or tell us about any particular experience you have that might mean you could go that little bit further.


When can I go? Volunteer Abroad ORI

The projects we support are sustainable projects being led by their local community. As such they are always working and you can join them in your own timescales – there are no group departure dates.

For volunteers under 18 this usually translates into volunteering over the extended summer break, or during Christmas and Easter. We will talk to you about your options as part of your consultation.


How long do volunteers under 18 go for?

We recommend that volunteers u18 go for a month to 6 weeks, depending on the project and their prior experience. Shorter placements of 2-3 weeks are possible in conservation projects.

In reality the school term sets some maximum boundaries, and unless a volunteer has experience of living away from home for extended periods we would be unlikely to endorse a placement over 6 weeks.


Supervision for volunteers under 18

Volunteers and parents must recognise that volunteers live and work under indirect supervision. This means that our country coordinator and family will be looking out for you in the home and overnight, but they will not be with you 24 hours a day.

volunteering for u18s

Monika – coordinator for Ecuador

Volunteers are expected to get yourself to and from the volunteer place of work, be self-organised and mature enough to work unsupervised in appropriate roles they have been briefed on.

Volunteers are given an extensive pre-trip briefing and an orientation and briefing when they arrive, including all the local knowledge relating to safety and welfare, but the volunteer takes on the responsibility for following the advice given.

When occasionally volunteers (of all ages) find the experience to be challenging, then our capable country coordinators also act as friend, coach or aunt, to provide the advice and reassurance to help volunteers get back on track. They will also coordinate with the UK office and parents as required.


Support for parents and staying in touch

Volunteering abroad can sometimes be challenging not only for our volunteers but also for parents. We’ll support you through the process. You’ll participate in the initial consultations to select a project, be included in correspondence and attend the pre-trip briefings to ask questions and stay informed.

Technology is great for staying in touch these days, whether by phone, Skype or social media apps such as Whatsapp. As an independent experience, however, we encourage parents not to over-monitor their children, expecting too much in the form of regular updates and communications.

Different time zones, lack of reliable access and cultural differences will often mean it is not easy or appropriate to be contacting each other regularly, at a time when a volunteer is trying to enjoy a new country and build new relationships.

We encourage parents and volunteers to manage each other’s expectations in advance of travel, so no one is unduly worried if communication is infrequent.

Perhaps give technology a miss and try something new – a letter.


Is volunteering abroad safe for under 18s?

volunteering for under 18s

Greta – country coordinator Mexico

Travel is never risk free. We typically only accept volunteers under 18 on selected projects in Mexico and Ecuador. The medical care, communications and transportation are of a relatively high standard, and our host families provide overnight supervision.

The most important factor is the ability of a volunteer to follow the safety briefing they are given in advance of travel and on arrival.

At any age volunteers might experience petty theft, bad stomachs, lost passports and homesickness, so it is a comfort to know that experienced local coordinators are on hand to support volunteers if they encounter problems.


Will I travel with other volunteers?

You do not need to have travelled independently before, but having some international travel experience with school trips or family holidays does help. All international airports follow the same predictable routines, even if the airports are of varying size and glamour.

If other volunteers are travelling at the same time we will pair you up, ideally with someone of a similar age. This may not always be possible, however, and volunteers should be prepared to travel internationally by themselves as this is a supported individual experience.

All volunteers will be met at the destination airport arrivals.


Why under 18s choose to volunteer overseas?

Good qualifications are not enough for today’s employers. So a well organised and challenging volunteer experience provides an opportunity to demonstrate initiative, maturity and new skills.

Galapagos volunteer with children 7

Kindergarten, Galapagos

Our under 18 volunteer projects will encourage you to develop work skills such as problem solving, timekeeping, working with people, individual initiative, cross-cultural communication, organisational skills, to name a few. You might also choose to develop specialist skills, learn Spanish or gain medical experience before applying to study at university.

Under 18s volunteering abroad will need to exercise independent living skills. Living in a homestay will give you the chance to practice. Three meals a day are provided to you but you’ll be expected to pitch in and help prepare food, keep the house or camp tidy, and organise your time generously to help the household you are living with. What better way to learn than living in a culture where participating in family life is the norm.  You can also learn to cook exciting local cuisine while you are overseas.

Developing a wider view of the world, seeing how others live and giving something back are just some of the insights volunteers under 18 gain while travelling abroad.



Volunteering opportunities for volunteers under 18, in the summer holidays and Christmas & Easter breaks, are available in: