International Volunteering for Professionals

Retirement volunteeringThere is a demand for professional service volunteers in the developing world and international volunteering can add a fulfilling dimension to your life. A volunteer has the ability to travel, learn new cultures, and contribute to the enhancement of others’ lives while enhancing one’s own.

Volunteer sending organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are seeking qualified professionals to serve in both short-term and long-term international volunteer positions. Accountants, lawyers, engineers, teachers and medical professionals are just a few of the specialties that are needed.

A prospective volunteer should begin the search for volunteer and/or job opportunities by visiting the websites of pertinent organizations. Some specialize in a particular profession while others have a need for many backgrounds. In this article I have described 15 organizations who use individuals with professional experience as either volunteers or as short-term employees. I have contacted these organizations and know they use volunteers and/or short-term employees over 50 years of age.

The Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC) uses volunteers with a financial or accounting background. Their core work concentrates on strengthening commercial banking systems, developing central bank capabilities and building capital markets. The FSVC prefers mid-to-late career professionals. The International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP) recruits highly skilled experienced lawyers. The core areas of ISLP include advancing the rule of law, protecting human rights and promoting equitable economic development. The mission of Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) employs the skills and expertise of members/volunteers to address the most significant issues affecting world health and poverty including water purification and delivery, sanitation and sustainable energy systems. You don’t have to be an engineer to be involved. CNFA is dedicated to increasing and sustaining rural incomes in less developed areas of the world by empowering farmers and rural entrepreneurs. They offer volunteer opportunities to farmers and agribusiness professionals in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.

There are a number of organizations seeking teaching backgrounds and skills. Some are paid positions with a long-term contract and others are volunteer positions for both short and long-term commitments. International School Services (ISS) assists qualified teachers and administrators in their search for opportunities in 200 American and International schools around the world. TeacherHit is resource for finding opportunities to teach or volunteer with educational institutions in Europe. They primarily offer positions in Spain, France, Italy and Russia. World Teach provides opportunities for volunteers to teach in developing countries that are in great need of teachers. Most volunteers teach English. In some countries, volunteers may also teach math, science, computer skills, or HIV/AIDS awareness. Travel-to-Teach was founded by volunteers in 2002 in Thailand, Travel to Teach is a non-profit organization that links volunteers of all ages from all over the world with grassroots community projects in the developing world.

Volunteers with health and medical backgrounds have many opportunities to volunteer worldwide. Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters, or exclusion from health care in nearly 60 countries. MSF recruits doctors, nurses, logisticians, water-and-sanitation experts, administrators, and other medical and non-medical personnel to provide medical care to people in crisis. Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) works to improve health through education, clinical training and educations programs. HVO uses physicians, nurses, dentists, physical therapists and others. Volunteer assignments can run from two-weeks to a year or more with the average assignment being one-month. The mission of International Medical Corps (IMC) is to improve the quality of life through health interventions and related activities that build local capacity in areas worldwide. By offering training and health care to local populations and medical assistance to people at highest risk, and with the flexibility to respond rapidly to emergency situations, IMC rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance. Mercy Ships has operated hospital ships in developing nations since 1978. Mercy Ships “brings hope and healing to the forgotten poor by mobilizing people and resources worldwide, and serving all people without regard for race, gender, or religion”. Short-term crew can volunteer from two weeks to two years depending on the position and typically fill service roles or very specialized medical or technical positions.

There are organizations that use many different professional backgrounds in their international volunteer operations. ACDI/VOCA is a non-profit international development consultancy firm that delivers technical and management assistance in agribusiness systems, food security, financial services, enterprise development and community development in order to promote broad-based economic growth and vibrant civil society. Their volunteer assignments run from 2 to 6 weeks. International Executive Service Corps (IESC) is a not for profit economic development firm that uses volunteer experts, paid consultants, and professional staff to promote prosperity and stability through private enterprise development. Their programs are funded primarily through grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts — most often with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). CHF International is a non-profit organization that works in conflict-affected and developing countries around the world. It has active programs in the Middle East, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe. In the Visiting International Professional (VIP) program, CHF International recruits experienced subject-area experts for a variety of short volunteer assignments.

There are more international professional service volunteer programs who use professionals over the age of 50. If you would like to find others I suggest either doing a web search or contacting professional membership organizations and guilds that may have volunteer opportunities. Also, in the interest of brevity, I have listed just one faith-based organization, Mercy Ships. There are many more. If you are interested in faith-based programs I suggest a web search using “faith-based international volunteer programs”.

Links to the sites mentioned above can be found in the bio section of this post


  1. I want information on International Volunteering for a short position with accommodation and flight paid for position in Kenya, Mombasa and Malindi and Tanzania, Dar es salaam and Arusha

  2. Kenya Tourism Federation, is the umbrella body for private sector tourism associations. We are looking for a volunteer to help turnaround the Federation and make it more vibrant and financially stable.

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