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Volunteering at Christmas

For many, the true value of the holiday season is the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, and share their blessings with their wider community. This is why volunteering at Christmastime is such a beloved holiday tradition. Volunteering fosters a sense of togetherness beyond the sphere of your everyday life.

But though volunteering on Christmas Day is a common activity, many people put off deciding exactly where to volunteer for Christmas until the last minute. Come late December they are all typing “last-minute Christmas volunteering” and “places to volunteer on Christmas near me” into their internet browsers.  

Popular local places to volunteer on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve include homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Many volunteer at their local branches of the Salvation Army or other religiously-affiliated organisations. Local hospitals, especially children’s wards, are also common choices for volunteers. 

In recent years, many of these organisations have expressed concern at the number of people requesting to volunteer at Christmastime. They are often overwhelmed with volunteers on Christmas Eve, and even on the day itself. 

This is why many of these organisations suggest that those looking to volunteer at Christmastime should rather look to volunteer at other times of the year. 

But there is an alternative Christmas volunteering opportunity that is often overlooked – volunteering abroad

Christmas volunteering abroad gives individuals and families the option of getting away from the Christmas craziness, experiencing diverse natural landscapes, learning about a new culture, and contributing towards international sustainable development initiatives.

Volunteering abroad during Christmas also means that you’ll have a greater variety of Christmas volunteering opportunities available than if you choose to volunteer nearby during Christmas. 

Rather than volunteering at a homeless shelter during Christmas, you can assist English teachers or support women in their empowerment. 

If you choose to volunteer abroad over the Christmas break, you also have the option of conservation volunteering. You can help to reintegrate endangered Asian elephants into the wild or help endangered baby green sea turtles grow to a size where they are more likely to succeed in the open ocean.  

You also have the option of experiencing warmer climes when you choose to volunteer abroad – during what is likely to be your winter break. Locations in Southeast Asia, like Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, and Thailand, are excellent choices. They might be cooler during December than at other times of year, but they still average temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius or mid-70s Fahrenheit. 

Our ongoing volunteer activities continue over Christmastime in these locations. This is because the region’s most widely celebrated religious holidays don’t take place during December. 

While back home, your friends and family help to provide homeless persons with a comforting refuge from icy outdoors, you’ll be in Laos. In gilded temples, surrounded by tropical jungles, you’ll be teaching Buddhist novice monks, and learning how to chant and meditate. 

Other sunny Christmas volunteering abroad options take place in Africa and Latin America. Ghana and Mexico are the warmest of our locations during December, but South Africa, Peru, and Costa Rica, are not far behind. 

While Christmas is celebrated in these regions, our volunteers can assist with summer school activities over December. Volunteers also have a chance to learn about how different cultures celebrate Christmas. 

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to volunteer at one of our remote conservation research stations during December. They close down for repairs and allow our staff stationed here to visit their families back home during the holiday season. 

This includes our marine conservation projects on Fiji’s island of Caqalai and the Seychellois island of Mahe. It also includes our wildlife conservation projects on the island of Curieuse in Seychelles, in South Africa’s province of Limpopo, and at Jalova, our base in Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park. 

While GVI volunteering programs include challenging and rewarding work, we’ve also designed them to include plenty of free time. This allows all volunteers to explore the local area as part of their volunteering holiday abroad. All volunteer work with GVI is conducted during weekday office hours. This means volunteers often spend the evenings and weekends visiting well-known tourist attractions, exploring the natural scenery, and shopping at local markets. Some volunteers, looking to travel further afield during their time abroad, choose to visit other locations either before or after their GVI volunteering program.

Not sure whether volunteering abroad at Christmastime is for you? If it’s funding you’re concerned about, see our scholarship and fundraising pages. US citizens can also apply for a tax concession. 

Those of you thinking about the safety of travelling abroad, or the risks of adventure travel are encouraged to go through our strict health and safety policy. If it’s the ethics of volunteering abroad that’s on your mind, read about our progressive ethical standards here

If you’ve made up your mind about volunteering abroad at Christmastime but are still undecided about the exact place and project, why not speak to one of our enrolment managers? They are trained to match you to a volunteer program that is perfectly suited to your interests and preferences. 

If you’re still browsing, scan our Christmas volunteering opportunities below, or scroll through our in-depth article listing our picks of the best Christmas volunteering ideas. 

We hope to see you at one of our volunteering locations this holiday season.

Download our program brochures