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The best Christmas volunteering opportunities

Article by Jana Jansen van Vuuren

Jana Jansen van Vuuren

Posted: October 31, 2022

 8 min read 

All across the world, thousands of people head to night shelters and food banks to volunteer for Christmas.

The Christmas season seems to bring out the best in us, inspiring donations of both time and money. And it makes sense since this time of the year is all about giving. 

Most schools and businesses close at some point between Christmas and New Year, which means more people have time to volunteer. But volunteer work focused around a specific date has a downside. Often organisations have to turn prospective volunteers away due to too many requests in December. 

They do, however, accept donations, so people wanting to volunteer can still make a contribution. And, volunteers who would prefer to donate their time can volunteer at another time of the year.

The benefits of Christmas volunteering

While both donating and offering your time are welcome, there are many benefits to volunteering over Christmas time.

Many of us wouldn’t have free time to volunteer if it weren’t for the holiday season. And, even if you did, the entire family might not be able to volunteer together at any other time of the year due to conflicting schedules.

For many people, the holiday season can be a stressful or lonely time. This might be because of too many family commitments or longing for loved ones who you can’t see over the festive season.

By volunteering during the Christmas period you can make a positive impact, and chase away any anxiety associated with this time of year. You’ll also have a chance to connect with other volunteers from around the world – and maybe make lifelong friends.


Why volunteer abroad?

Volunteering abroad is the perfect way to donate your time and energy to those who are vulnerable during the holiday season, especially if your local organisations are already stocked up on volunteers.

While volunteer organisations in your town or city may have plenty of extra hands to spare on Christmas Day, a town in another country might not.

This is why we run community development and conservation projects  around the world throughout December.



Where to volunteer this Christmas?

We have plenty of volunteer opportunities over the festive season, including teaching, public health, marine conservation, wildlife conservation, citizen science, construction, and community development programs. 

Christmas volunteering in Tenerife

When you join a volunteer program on our Tenerife base in the Canary Islands, you’ll be contributing to marine conservation programs, and can look forward to spending your days photographing and monitoring the behaviour of whales and dolphins. With between 20 and 28 species in the area, sightings of pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins can be a daily occurrence. 

If you’re passionate about marine conservation and how you can contribute to data collection and research that contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #14: Life Below Water, then our citizen science island conservation program is for you. This program focuses on the prevention and reduction of marine pollution. Here you can assist with quantifying marine debris and conducting island biodiversity surveys. 

With a warm and pleasant climate, Tenerife is a popular year-round tourist destination. From December to February the average temperature is 18–24 °C (64 –75 °F) and most days are sunny, making this an ideal December destination.


Wondering what a citizen scientist is? Read more about it here:  Here’s why citizen science is important, and how you can contribute.

Christmas volunteering in Fiji

If spending your Christmas holiday on a small island in the South Pacific sounds appealing, then you’ll want to look at heading to Fiji this December. With its warm waters, white-sand beaches, palm-lined islands and coral reefs, this is the perfect destination for those wanting to get away from the hustle of daily life. 

Living and working on the main island of Viti Levu in the district of Dawasamu, you’ll be away from the more touristy areas. From here, you can visit the capital city of Suva and the historic town of Levuka, hike through a rainforest reserve, go white-water rafting or spend a day at the botanical garden at the base of the Sleeping Giant Mountain in the town of Nadi. 

On a marine conservation expedition you can learn to dive in the warm waters of Dawasamu, with the chance that you could spot endangered species such as sharks, rays, humphead wrasse and turtles.


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Spend your days scuba-diving while learning about coral reefs and marine conservation issues.

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Join the fun


You could also join a program with a community focus. Contributing to rainwater harvesting and security, joining a public health volunteer program, or contributing to community development initiatives are just a few of the community-focused programs you could join in Fiji over December.

Christmas volunteering in Cambodia

Volunteer projects in Cambodia include teaching novice Buddhist monks, public health, early childhood development and women’s empowerment. You can expect hot and tropical weather conditions, with an average temperature of 26°C (80°F).

Cambodia is the perfect getaway for those looking to learn about Christmastime in another country. Most Cambodian people follow Buddhist practices, which means that Christmas isn’t really a national affair. 

Siem Reap, where our projects are based, is one of Cambodia’s biggest cities, as well as the gateway to the Angkor Archaeological Park. It’s also an easy place to travel from if you’re looking to see more of Cambodia. 

The major Cambodian festivals take place between late September and early November. Pchum Ben takes place in September, to honour the souls of the ancestors.

One of the most widely attended events in Cambodia, is the Cambodian Water Festival or Bon Om Touk, which takes place sometime in November or early October. It commemorates the time when the Great Lake reverses its flow, and the event is celebrated with competitive boat races. 

If you’re interested in volunteering in Cambodia, you’ll be glad to know that none of our projects are disrupted during December, so you can volunteer in Cambodia on Christmas Day.

Christmas volunteering in Madagascar

You’ll find our newest base on the island of Nosy Be in Madagascar. Also known as the “Perfumed Island”, from here we run a number of wildlife and community programs. Our base is bordered by a tropical beach and  located on the edge of Lokobe National Park. 

Located on the northwestern coast of Madagascar, the island is home to long stretches of white sandy beaches and has a year-round hot, tropical climate, with sea temperatures ranging from 26 °C to 29°C (79°F to 84°F). Make sure you pack your swimsuit!

Our wildlife conservation programs in Madagascar are focused on data collection of local reptile, bird and mammal species, including black lemurs, Hawks’ sportive lemurs, panther chameleons, dwarf chameleons, green turtles and hawksbill turtles.

When you join a lemur and wildlife expedition, you’ll work in the Lokobe National park, helping to protect three endangered species of lemur, including one of the smallest primates on the planet, the Nosy Be Mouse Lemur, and the Hawks’ Sportive Lemur which is found only in the Lokobe Reserve. Our local wildlife conservation partners are Madagascar National Parks, Lemur Conservation Network and Ampasipohy Lokobe (the locally managed protected conservation area). 

Or you might decide to volunteer on a project where you assist with teaching English.  Working with the Lokobe National Park, you’ll assist park rangers with improving their English literacy. Participants in this program also have the opportunity to work with teachers in the surrounding communities.

Want to know more about how we built our newest base from scratch? Read all about it here: GVI Madagascar: How it started vs how it’s going.

Christmas volunteering in Thailand

When you head to Thailand over December you can choose between our Chaing Mai base in the north or our coastal base in Phang Na.


In northern Thailand our base is a five-hour journey from the city of Chiang Mai and surrounded by mountains. Here you’ll live within a traditional Karen community and support wildlife conservation efforts. You can volunteer with elephants relieved from working in the tourism industry, a unique opportunity to observe elephants in their natural habitat and learn about elephant behaviour and social interactions. Or you could join a gibbon conservation program and contribute to the conservation of this endangered species. 

Heading south to the coast, our base in Phang Nga is situated on the Andaman Sea. Here you’ll be surrounded by tropical beaches, mangrove forests and limestone cliffs. In your free time you can snorkel among the reefs, visit Buddhist temples and enjoy authentic Thai cuisine. 

From our base in Phang Nga we run a number of marine conservation and community projects. You can contribute to the conservation of endangered sea turtles, join a coastal conservation expedition, volunteer on a public health program, or work on early childhood development initiatives. Want to read more about the best things to do in Phang Nga? Read this guide on the best things to see and do in Phang Nga Bay.

Christmas volunteering in Nepal

Volunteer opportunities in Nepal include volunteering with children, public health, construction, and women’s empowerment programs. Here, you can expect cool, but sunny weather, with an average temperature of 19°C (66°F).

Our community development projects in Nepal are set in Pokhara. The city is situated at the foot of the Annapurna mountain range, home to some of the highest peaks in the world.


Phewa Lake is located nearby, and in the centre, you can find a tiny island where the small but culturally-significant temple, the Tal Barahi, is set.

Nepal is a primarily Hindu state. This means that Christmas is not a major festival. But, December is the rice-harvesting season, and big events take place in Pokhara to commemorate this time of the year. 

The event celebrates Annapurna, the goddess of food, and commences on 28 December. And, it’s followed by the Phewa Festival on 1 January.

Both festivals take place on the edge of the Phewa Lake in an area known as Basundhara Park. 

December is a great time to visit Nepal to learn about the cultural attractions the region has to offer. The lakeside streets are lined with dancers and musicians, as well as food and craft stalls. These attractions fill the air with delicious smells and Nepali folk-music. 

An earthquake in Nepal in 2015 left a significant amount of infrastructure and monuments of national and spiritual significance damaged or destroyed. 

Although it’s been years since the earthquake hit, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to assist communities in overcoming the after-effects of the earthquake. And, as a volunteer, you can make a positive contribution in a number of ways. 

You can get involved by assisting with educational facility repairs, like painting and light construction. These activities aim to contribute to the objectives outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 4: Quality Education.

As a GVI volunteer in Nepal, you can also contribute towards creating awareness around health and well-being by conducting preventative public health workshops.

You could also volunteer on our women’s empowerment program in Nepal. Here you’ll support Nepali women to empower themselves socially and economically. 

If you still crave the sight of Christmas snow after working on one or more of these projects, you can trek to Everest base camp as part of a weekend trip. 

While in Nepal during December, you’ll learn to say “Namaste” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Namaste means “I salute the god within you”. What better way to honour the spirit of the festive season than by acknowledging each other’s values and experiences?

Find out more about GVI’s top Christmas volunteering opportunities, and get ready for a festive season you’ll never forget. 

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