Are you wondering how to fill your time after you stop working? Do you need a shake-up to discover your second act? Do you love to travel but want to have a positive impact on the communities you visit? Do you believe you’re never too old to change the world?
You’re in luck. Your skills and enthusiasm, and perhaps more importantly, your availability of time is in demand. Healthy baby boomers, seniors, retirees, or any capable adult over 55 who has a sense of adventure and a desire to help others around the globe might want to consider a volunteer vacation or philanthropy abroad program.
Wanting to have a fulfilling sense of purpose and to make a contribution to the world through volunteer abroad opportunities is not the exclusive domain of youthful backpackers and college kids on a gap year. There are plenty out-of-the-ordinary programs and organizations that are open to or specifically geared towards older, mature participants. While younger people might have more energy and tolerance for risk for these types of ventures, more “seasoned” participants often bring experience, wisdom, levelheadedness and a strong work ethic to the project. Most of these programs combine a good balance of volunteer work and free play, so don’t worry – you get to have some fun while doing good. These aren’t laid back holidays, but often side-trips, immersive cultural experiences, language instruction or other perks are part of the program.
Note, these are not money-making opportunities, and in fact there is often an administrative fee to participate. The satisfaction of helping others while you have a life-changing adventure is your personal enrichment. Some of these programs require just a week or two’s commitment, while others can extend to months or even years.
Read on and see if one of these international volunteer opportunities might inspire you in your retirement years.
This organization has been around for over 25 years, and annually sends over 10,000 volunteers to programs throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, the South Pacific and the Caribbean. Projects range from archaeology, conservation and medical assistance to teaching, child care and more.
Older volunteers with particular skills or experience are certainly welcome, and they have a whole section of opportunities called Grown-up Specials. These are set trips tailored specifically for those age 50 and up. The projects are designed to help you volunteer in a safe and supported way, following a daily schedule, often living with a host family and volunteering with like-minded people.
This reputable ecotourism outfit offers carefully vetted volunteer projects and ensures high standards for safety and quality. Founded in 2006, they have already placed over 15,000 volunteers in programs around the world. GoEco has more than 150 initiatives with plenty of volunteer abroad opportunities suitable for senior and retiree volunteers. For example, they work with sea turtle rescue and conservation in Bali, sustainable community projects in South Africa and ecological farming initiatives in Spain.
Global Vision International
With over two decades of experience in international volunteering, GVI runs adult volunteer abroad programs in partnership with global NGOs like The Red Cross, Save the Children, WWF and PADI. It’s ideal for more mature participants because it matches personal passions and experience with projects.
Volunteers can opt to work for as little as one week or up to a year, and can even combine projects to create multi-country adventures. Current opportunities are based in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Latin America and include teaching, construction, marine and wildlife conservation and working with children.
Cross Cultural Solutions has coordinated international volunteer programs for over 20 years. They operate in nine countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. As a leading force in the field of international volunteerism, Cross-Cultural Solutions focuses on global health, child development, plus girls’ and women’s empowerment.
More than 35,000 volunteers have worked with this organization, known for its high standards of safety and well-being for their participants. These aren’t just temporary do-good projects with minimal impact. They offer a year-round meaningful presence in the communities and a full-time team of local staff who support the volunteers.
Many people are unaware that the Peace Corps has no upper age limit. One recent participant was an 87 year old woman. While it attracts many globally-minded post-college youngsters who want to combine work experience and international adventure, older adults are welcome to serve and make a difference, too. They are even accommodating to retirees who wish to serve with a spouse or partner. Previous professional experience is considered an asset to the host country you’re assigned to, the local community members you interact with and your fellow Peace Corps volunteers. It’s a chance to share your expertise while being enriched by new experiences.
Rather than assigning you to a random project, the Peace Corps is takes your preferences into consideration. You can select what country you want to serve in, the type of work you want to do, and when you want to depart. After three months of training, volunteers serve for two years for a truly immersive opportunity. If you have specialized technical or professional experience, you can apply for a Peace Corps Reserve position, which requires a three month to one year commitment.
A small monthly living stipend and a readjustment allowance are provided to volunteers, so if you’re over 65, look into how that might affect your Social Security and Medicare benefits.