Growing wild

Volunteer opportunities for teens

Duration: 2 weeks
Age: 15-17
25+ years experience
25+ years experience
+30,000 participants
+30,000 participants
1:6 participant to staff ratio
1:6 participant to staff ratio
British standards compliant
British standards compliant

So you’re looking for an exciting adventure that empowers you to make a difference in the world? You’re in safe hands with our award-winning range of volunteer opportunities designed for young people looking to challenge themselves. Contribute to ethical on-the-ground conservation initiatives that run all year round.

We offer teen volunteer programs in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, focusing on wildlife, marine and environmental conservation.

Under 18s brochure
We've got amazing programs tailored for young adults.
Critical science

Critical science

You'll contribute to vital conservation research targeted at protecting the earth's most valuable ecosystems.
Ethical engagement

Ethical engagement

Using the UN's SDGs as a framework, we've made a commitment to positive, constructive and sustainable impact.
Beautiful adventures

Beautiful adventures

You'll spend your days exploring some of the world's most breathtaking, exhilarating and remote wildernesses.

Overview
Locations
Adventure
Health and safety
Leadership
FAQs
Funding

Volunteering for teens is a transformative experience that offers young adults the chance to: 

Have an adventure with a group of like-minded people

Get involved in real-world conservation efforts and join exciting outdoor adventures like hiking and camping. This is your opportunity to make unforgettable memories while actively making a difference in saving our planet.

Experience diverse cultural settings

Get ready for an incredible adventure that will broaden your horizons and allow you to see the world in a new way. Plus, you’ll get to explore incredible destinations and have tons of fun along the way. 

Contribute to crucial conservation efforts

Join a team of conservationists and unleash your inner eco-warrior. You’ll get to participate in hands-on projects, such as tracking animals and restoring habitats, that directly contribute to the conservation of our planet.

Level up your personal and professional game

Team up with a group of volunteers from around the world, and cultivate invaluable interpersonal, leadership and communication skills that will set you up for success in every part of your life.

Learn what it means to be a global citizen

Experience different cultures, connect with people from every corner of the world, and leave your mark by contributing to sustainable change. Get ready to redefine what it means to be a young trailblazer on a mission to change the world.

Set yourself apart from the crowd on university and job applications

Make your application shine! Real-world practical experience shows admissions officers and employers that you’re not just passionate, but also proactive when it comes to making a positive impact in the world. 

Apply for the ASDAN or Duke of Edinburgh Award

After completing your teen volunteering program, you’ll gain a major competitive edge in your UCAS applications for university (UK only). Don’t miss this opportunity to increase your chances of securing a spot at your dream university.

Volunteering for teens with GVI includes

Wildlife, marine or environmental conservation project work

Get ready to unlock epic experiences. Dive into the depths of marine ecosystems, track elusive wildlife through breathtaking landscapes, or contribute to important environmental initiatives. 

Community development project work

Engage in hands-on activities, cultural exchanges and team projects that make a difference. From school renovations to supporting education and healthcare initiatives, be a force for positive change.

Adventure activities like white-water rafting, zip-lining and surfing

Take part in thrilling adventures! Feel the rush as you navigate through exciting rapids, soar through the treetops and catch some epic waves in the ocean.

Language lessons, traditional dances and cooking local dishes

Get ready for an awesome cultural adventure. You’ll have the chance to learn new languages, give traditional dances a go, and become a pro at cooking up tasty local dishes.

Learning about international sustainable development

Through engaging talks by local experts who really know their stuff, you’ll gain insights into global issues, innovative solutions and the importance of sustainable practices. Get ready to flex your brain muscles!

Accommodation in nature

Living at one of our bases set among beautiful landscapes, you’ll wake up each day to stunning views. With a squad of global adventurers, you’ll make the kind of memories that stick with you forever.

Three delicious meals a day

Mealtimes are not just about food. They’re moments to kick back with your crew and share stories about the day’s adventures. It’s a chance to bond, connect and have a good time while enjoying some seriously tasty eats.

All transport, including airport pick-up and drop-off 

Throughout your volunteering journey, we’ll take care of all transport needs. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as we take you to incredible destinations.

Support throughout your trip

When you join a GVI teen program, safety and support take centre stage. Our dedicated team implements strict safety protocols, and prioritises your well-being at every stage of your journey.

Teen volunteer summer programs 

So you’re almost through the essays, assignments and exams of another academic year. You’re thinking about the future, but you’re also in need of some well-deserved fun. How can you spend your summer break doing something meaningful that also allows you to make new friends, learn skills and travel abroad?

Well that’s easy. GVI offers award-winning summer volunteer programs abroad that are perfect for high school or college students looking to make an impact in the world. These summer volunteer opportunities fit perfectly into any full-time student’s schedule and offer ample opportunity to experience some of the world’s top travel destinations. 

Summer is the perfect time for teens to volunteer, offering a blend of volunteering, cultural and language immersion, skills training and adventure activities. To read more testimonials from other high school students about their teen volunteer experience abroad, view our high school testimonials.

For educators looking to help their students, you can find more information on volunteering for teens as a group on our school groups volunteer programs page

High school students

For those between the ages of 15 and 17, the first step in securing your spot in a summer volunteer abroad program is getting permission from your parents or guardians. 

There are a number of resources available on our website that’ll describe what our summer volunteer opportunities are all about – like our parent pack, which will fill your folks in on everything they need to know about our volunteer abroad summer programs. You’ll also find parent testimonials that can give your parent or guardian a taste of how safe and beneficial GVI’s summer volunteering programs abroad really are. 

Have a look through some of our best summer abroad volunteer programs in this article: Volunteer summer programs for high school students.

And if your parents or guardian is still unsure about letting you participate in a summer volunteering program, you can show them this article: Should I let my teen volunteer abroad?

We could even set up a meeting with yourself, your parents and a GVI alumni or staff member to give you a first-hand account of what volunteering for teens over summer is like. 

Gap year programs 

For those teens who have graduated high school, and who are looking for an adventure as well as extensive personal and professional development before committing to a four-year institution, we also offer teen volunteer opportunities across our gap year programs. 

GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.

Volunteering for teens – conservation programs 

Costa Rica

Teen volunteers who are interested in visiting Central America during their summer, and who’d like to explore a career in rainforest conservation can join our volunteering for teens project in Costa Rica’s Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve. With experienced leaders by your side, you’ll embark on jungle hikes, navigate through forest canals on canoe excursions, and contribute to important conservation efforts through beach cleanups and bird surveys. But that’s not all! You’ll also have the chance to meet and connect with fellow teens from around the globe, forming lifelong friendships and developing valuable skills like teamwork, leadership and intercultural understanding.

Greece

Teen volunteers can also choose to spend their summer along the Mediterranean Sea, helping with the conservation of the protected loggerhead turtle and the endangered green turtle. Located in Argostoli, a picturesque coastal town on the island of Kefalonia, activities include monitoring sea turtle behaviour, taking part in seagrass surveys whilst snorkelling, assisting with beach surveys – which may consist of protecting freshly made turtle nests or assisting newly hatched turtles in making it safely to the sea (seasonal, not guaranteed) and helping to clear local beaches of plastic and other types of pollution. It’s a chance to experience the local culture, enjoy delicious food and delve into the rich history of this ancient region.

Mexico

Mexico is the perfect option for teens thinking of pursuing a career in marine conservation. Volunteering for teens in this tropical paradise includes completing either your PADI Open Water or PADI Advanced Open Water qualification before heading out into the ocean. In the water, you’ll explore the vibrant underwater world of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest coral reef in the world. You’ll learn how to conduct coral health surveys and visit a local laboratory where researchers grow corals to later transplant onto the reef. Visits to Mayan ruins and Mexican cenotes are also included in the trip. 

South Africa 

Teens dreaming of pursuing a career in African wildlife conservation can join us on a conservation expedition in South Africa. You’ll live and work in a private nature and wildlife reserve an hour from the famous Kruger National Park, and learn about tracking lions and cheetahs using telemetry equipment and how more elusive nocturnal animals like leopards, hyenas, porcupines and pangolins are monitored using remote camera traps. Adventure activities include a trip to the Blyde River Canyon where you can swim and tube down the river.

Tenerife, Canary Islands

In Tenerife, teens contribute to whale and dolphin conservation while exploring the Spanish island’s tropical waters. We’re talking about real hands-on action here: recording marine mammals’ behaviour and collecting data. You’ll also soak up the island’s beauty and biodiversity, above and below the water’s surface. This is your chance to dip your toes into the world of marine biology and conservation, while meeting fellow teen conservationists from all corners of the globe. Oh, and did we mention the cool adventure activities and guided island tours? 

Thailand

Thailand is the perfect destination for teens looking to fill their summer break with adventure, culture and paradise. Our volunteering for teens programs in Thailand include both conservation and community development initiatives, but your main focus will be helping our local partners in Thailand protect endangered baby sea turtles. Your trip also includes all the best sights of this amazing country, including a guided tour of sacred Buddhist sites, visits to national parks and a trip to Phuket. 

Volunteering for teens – community programs 

At GVI, our core mission is based on creating, supporting and empowering communities. The community we create together as volunteers, and the communities we live and work in. That’s why in addition to our conservation work, we also offer community development volunteering for teens in three locations: Costa Rica, Nepal and Thailand.

Attention all adventure-loving teens! Get ready to embark on a journey of a lifetime, filled with thrilling experiences. Here’s a taste of the incredible adventures waiting for you:

Costa Rica

  • Trek through lush rainforests, discovering hidden waterfalls and encountering exotic wildlife.
  • Zip-line through the treetops, feeling the rush of adrenaline as you soar above the canopy.
  • Surf the Pacific waves, riding the perfect breaks along pristine coastlines.
  • Conquer rolling rapids as you go white-water rafting through Costa Rica’s stunning rivers.

 

Thailand

  • Discover vibrant marine life as you snorkel and scuba-dive in beautiful coral reefs.
  • Experience the thrill of kayaking through mangrove forests, surrounded by stunning coastal landscapes.
  • Hike through stunning national parks, surrounded by breathtaking waterfalls and panoramic views.

 

Nepal

  • Challenge yourself with high-altitude treks in the majestic Himalayas, taking in spectacular views.
  • Feel the thrill of paragliding, soaring through the sky and embracing the freedom of flight.
  • Brace yourself for an adrenaline-pumping white-water rafting adventure down Nepal’s exhilarating rivers.

 

Tenerife

  • Hike through volcanic terrain, exploring lunar-like landscapes and stunning viewpoints.
  • Sail the turquoise waters and encounter playful dolphins and majestic whales in their natural habitat.
  • Grab a paddle and kayak along the beautiful coastline, discovering hidden caves and serene beaches.

 

South Africa

  • Go on safari game drives, getting up close with the iconic Big Five and other captivating wildlife.
  • Participate in bush walks, led by experienced guides, and learn about tracking animals and identifying their behaviours.
  • Experience the thrill of sleeping under the stars in a traditional bush camp, surrounded by the sounds of nature.

 

Mexico

  • Snorkel through captivating cenotes, exploring ancient underwater caves and their ecosystems.
  • Explore ancient Mayan ruins, delving into the rich history and cultural heritage of the region.
  • Dive in vibrant coral reefs, encountering a wide variety of marine species, from colourful fish to graceful rays.

 

Our safety standards 

GVI has been running volunteer abroad programs since 1998 and volunteering for teens since 2012. Our expertise managing youth volunteers in international destinations has secured us British Standards 8848 compliance. These guidelines protect those booking adventure travel packages outside the UK from both safety and financial risks. 

The health and safety guidelines we follow when looking after all our participants are already of the highest quality standards. In fact, they’re award-winning. But due to the vulnerability of volunteers between the ages of 15 and 17, we apply further regulations. 

Enhanced supervision and safety measures for teens

Usually a minimum of one GVI staff member is assigned to a group of six participants. But for teen volunteers the ratio is often as high as one staff member to every three participants. Teens are also supervised by our chaperones throughout their stay. 

Flight chaperones: additional support for teen volunteers

Flight chaperones can be arranged for teen volunteers. While flight chaperones aren’t automatically included when booking a GVI teen volunteer program, the service can be booked by speaking to one of our enrolment managers. Each volunteer is assigned an enrolment manager when applying for a GVI program.

Smooth airport transfers and communication

To effectively manage airport arrivals, we set up groups on instant messaging applications that facilitate communication between teens, parents and GVI staff members. GVI staff members meet teens at the airport upon arrival. They are then transported to their accommodation and parents receive a confirmation email. All transport during the project, as well as the final airport drop-off, is provided by GVI staff members. 

Our commitment to child protection, safety and personal growth

GVI is a parent-run organisation – family is at the heart of what we do. We’re incredibly serious about child protection, and health and safety. We also care deeply about making learning more engaging. After over two decades of experience, we have discovered that if you give young people age-appropriate challenges and support, they quickly start to forge a path that is uniquely their own, personally fulfilling, and aligned to the well-being of our planet and global community.

Parent info

If you’re a parent or guardian considering a volunteer program for your teen, take a look at our parent information page, where you can download our parent information pack. You can also take a look at the FAQs section where we’ve listed our answers to the questions most commonly asked by parents or guardians. You can rest assured that at GVI safety is our top priority. From thorough risk assessments to highly trained staff and strict safety protocols, we ensure your teen will be in good hands throughout their volunteer program.

Build on your professional development 

There are many advantages to the volunteering for teens experience – adventure, friendship, personal growth, making an impact. But you also have an invaluable chance to upskill your interpersonal skills. These are skills like communication, project management and, most fundamentally, leadership. 

At GVI we know a thing or two about leadership, and we’re very proud to be leaders in our industry, and to be able to forge ethical, passionate and dedicated leaders through our work. 

Academic knowledge is very important, but equally important when making your way in the world, is developing the essential skills needed to become an industry leader in your own right – teamwork, cross-cultural communication, creative problem solving and so much more. 

Our mission across our volunteering for teen experience is to help you develop and practise these skills, setting you up for future success no matter what path you choose to take. 

Take a look at our article to find out more: What are soft skills and why are they important?

Why should teens volunteer? 

Volunteering is an incredible opportunity for teens to develop skills like leadership, teamwork and communication, which are essential for personal growth and future prospects. It’s a chance to expand their horizons, embrace diverse cultures and foster a global mindset. By volunteering, teens can learn, grow and meet new people, while making a positive impact in areas like wildlife conservation, community development and sustainable initiatives. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, try new things and create lifelong memories.

What are the best volunteer opportunities for teens?

When it comes to the best volunteer opportunities for teens, it’s all about finding experiences that blend meaningful impact with unforgettable adventures. Opportunities that involve conservation work, community development projects and sustainable development initiatives can provide teens with valuable experiences that can help shape their future. These volunteer experiences offer teens a chance to learn new skills, create lasting connections and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Where are the best places for teens to volunteer? 

Our volunteer programs take participants to some of the most extraordinary destinations on the planet. In Mexico, learn how to scuba-dive while you contribute to protecting coral reefs and marine life. Thailand’s Phang Nga province will see you working alongside experts to protect sea turtles. In Tenerife, be part of a dolphin conservation project, assisting in the research and preservation of these intelligent creatures. In Costa Rica you can get hands-on with conservation initiatives and work to preserve precious ecosystems. And in South Africa, you’ll get up close and personal with magnificent wildlife as you contribute to the protection of endangered species.

What are the benefits of teen volunteering? 

Volunteering as a teenager offers many benefits, including the opportunity to make a positive impact on communities and the environment, gain valuable skills and experience, and develop a sense of empathy and compassion. Teen volunteering can also help boost confidence, build new friendships and provide a unique perspective on different cultures and ways of life. Volunteering also makes a great addition to college applications and CVs, showing a commitment to social responsibility and community involvement. 

What kind of volunteer work can a teenager do?

As a teen volunteer with GVI, you can participate in wildlife conservation projects, working hands-on to protect endangered species and their habitats. You can also contribute to marine conservation initiatives, where you’ll have the opportunity to assist with preserving fragile marine ecosystems and marine life. We also offer community development programs that focus on education, women’s empowerment and classroom renovations.

Do GVI programs include flights and flight chaperones?

While flights and flight chaperones aren’t automatically included in a GVI program fee, these services can be selected when booking a GVI program. Excellent flight prices can be secured through our flight partner, Student Universe. Parents can also book a flight chaperone to accompany their teen from their home country departure to their on-location arrival. 

Do you offer airport pick-up and drop-off services?

All GVI teen programs include on-location airport pick-up and drop-off services. To manage arrivals we set up an instant messaging group connecting teens, parents and GVI on-location staff. 

Upon arrival at the on-location airport, teens are greeted by a GVI staff member holding a GVI sign. They’ll also usually be wearing a GVI T-shirt. Teens travel with the GVI staff member to their accommodation. 

Some teens will meet their fellow teen volunteers at the airport, while others will meet their teammates upon arrival at their lodgings. When everyone is settled in, parents will receive a confirmation email. 

Transport to and from the project as well as throughout the adventure portion of the trip is also provided by GVI. At the end of the trip, GVI on-location staff escort teens to the airport in time for their departure flight home. 

What are the on-the-ground medical facilities like?

All accommodation, project sites and adventure activity locations are risk assessed to make sure medical facilities are nearby. All our on-location staff are also emergency first aid trained and fully stocked medical kits are always on-hand. 

What if there’s an emergency while my teen’s volunteering abroad? 

We have crisis management plans as well as Emergency Action Plans in place at each of our locations. Our 24-hour emergency desk is also available to parents and guardians. Generally we encourage teens to unplug during their trip abroad and benefit from a digital detox, but if you’d like to get in touch, you’ll have access to the phone numbers of on-location staff members. 

What supervision is there?

GVI has, arguably, the highest staff to participant ratio of any international teen volunteer abroad program provider. We guarantee that there will be at least one GVI staff member for every six teen volunteers, but this ratio is often much higher and more like one staff member to every three teens. Unlike adult volunteers, who use their evenings and weekends to explore the local area, teens are supervised by GVI staff throughout their stay. 

Who are your on-location staff?

All our on-location staff are selected, vetted, trained and managed by GVI. They all undergo a police background check, as well as training on our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy. Many of our staff were once GVI volunteers and interns, so they know exactly what it feels like to volunteer abroad as a young adult and can effectively guide teens through the experience. 

What is the accommodation like?

Teen volunteers have separate accommodation to our adult volunteers. On-site risk assessments are performed before we agree to use any accommodation provider. The exact type of accommodation we offer differs depending on the location. Accommodation might be a little more basic than what teens are used to, but we always ensure that our health and safety is always of the highest calibre. 

Does my teen need a visa to travel abroad? Do they need to get vaccinated?

All visa and vaccination requirements are dependent on your teen’s nationality, their current residences and the location to which they wish to travel. While we won’t personally give any specific visa or vaccination recommendations, we can put you in contact with experts in your location so that you can learn more about your specific requirements. Your assigned travel support coordinator will also assist you with documents and packing lists in the months leading up to your teen’s trip. 

Do you offer travel insurance?

Travel insurance isn’t automatically included in our program fee, but it can be purchased through our insurance partner, CISI.

Why pay to volunteer abroad?

A common question we are often asked is: if I pay for volunteering, where does my money go? At GVI, we are committed to ethical, sustainable volunteering programs that are supported from within the communities in which we work. We want our work to have the maximum impact; this work requires funding. Transparency is important to us. If you, or your parents, would like to know more about how your money is used, visit our ‘how my money is spent’ page or speak directly to one of our enrolment managers. You can also read more on our blog.

Scholarships

Every so often, we offer time-limited volunteer and intern abroad scholarships to candidates meeting certain criteria. To see if we currently have scholarships available, see our scholarships page or ask your enrolment manager when applying for a GVI program

Fundraising

Many of our volunteers, especially teen volunteers, use their GVI volunteering program as an opportunity to gain experience in fundraising. While booking your GVI program, let your enrolment manager know that you’re looking to fundraise to volunteer abroad. They’ll set up a personal fundraising page for you on GVI’s own fundraising platform. Then, browse our article for fundraising ideas and share your own GVI page to start your fundraising campaign.

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Download our parent pack

Parent info pack

GVI is a parent-run organization – family is at the heart of what we do. We’re incredibly serious about child protection, health and safety, and we care deeply about making learning more engaging. After over two decades of experience, we have discovered that if you give young people age-appropriate challenges and support, they quickly start to forge a path that is uniquely their own, personally fulfilling, and aligned to the well-being of our global community.