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Volunteer in South East Asia

Volunteer in South East Asia and discover this unique and diverse spot on the world map...

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Volunteer Projects and Internships in South East Asia

Have you been dying to pay South-Eastern Asia a visit and are you fascinated by Asian culture? If you love Asian food while going on an adventure abroad and contributing to a meaningful cause, you’ve come to the right place. Volunteer and support local communities to improve their English skills or if you’re more about nature, help protect endangered animals like elephants, orangutans, or join a marine conservation program. There are plenty of opportunities in this budget-friendly part of the world!

If this is the first time you’re even thinking about becoming a volunteer, we are here to help you. In what follows, we will introduce you to our top volunteer countries r in Southeast Asia. Find out what each of these destinations has to offer and choose your perfect place to volunteer abroad!

We will also tell you about the kind of charity work that you can expect to be doing in Asia. Whether you are interested in working with children or saving the wild orangutan population, the possibilities are almost endless. Find out which volunteer projects are taking center stage in which country.

Once you are confident that you have found your country for volunteering abroad, we encourage you to check out the respective country guide as well. This is where we provide you with even more useful information. For now, let's learn a little more about our top 6 countries in Southeast Asia.

🤔 Why Volunteer in Southeast Asia?

Mass-population, outdated social systems, and animal mistreatment as a source of income are only some of the causes of the continent’s issues. According to the Asia Foundation, these are some of the biggest issues:

  • poverty and rising income inequality
  • lack of transparency and accountability in government
  • gender inequality in political and economic life
  • ethnic and religious conflicts
  • unequally distributed access to education
  • sustainable usage of natural resources

There are many ways for volunteers to help with some of these problems, and the most hands-on and active way is to volunteer in Southeast Asia for one of the many projects on site.

Whether you are passionate about teaching and providing quality education in Vietnam or Cambodia, supporting rural communities as a volunteer in Malaysia, or whether you want to protect local wildlife in Indonesia and Thailand, one of the many volunteer programs will give you the chance to do exactly that.

Continue reading to find out more about Southeast Asia volunteer programs and how you can contribute.

🐘 How to Volunteer for Wildlife Conservation in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia’s animals and wildlife are as diverse as the continent itself. From orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia and elephants in Thailand, life on land consists of a variety of amazing animals. But not only does this destination excite animal lovers with its diversity on land - its oceans are filled with just as much wonderful marine life such as sea turtles, sharks, and coral reefs that can be found around the islands of Indonesia when you volunteer in Southeast Asia.

One of the main problems this destination is facing when it comes to its animals and wildlife is the exploitation of the local fauna for economic purposes. This includes, for example, elephant riding in Thailand, or buying jewelry made from turtle shells in Bali, one of the main islands of Indonesia. Additional threats are

  • illegal poaching
  • wildlife trade
  • shrinking habitats
  • environmental pollution

The combination of these threats has led to declining numbers of many animal populations to the point of near extinction. As a wildlife conservation volunteer, you can support efforts to prevent this decline and rehabilitate native species.

👩🏾‍🤝‍👩🏼 How to Support Community Services in Southeast Asia

If you want to immerse yourself in the culture and get in touch with the locals during your volunteer work in Southeast Asia, a community program is a perfect opportunity. Community work calls for open, outgoing, and empathetic volunteers that aren’t afraid of getting involved and can face hard realities.

Depending on what your skills and qualifications are, there are many different ways to help in a community development program, Some of the volunteer opportunities are:

  • taking care of young children
  • supporting women empowerment and human rights efforts
  • helping out at an orphanage
  • working with street children
  • renovating and building community facilities, houses, and schools

Before you decide to volunteer at an orphanage, a women shelter, or as a counselor, make sure you are prepared for your task and know what to expect. While working with orphans might sound noble at first, it is important to realize that more than 80% of children living in orphanages are not orphans. They are separated from their families because they are poor, disabled, from an ethnic minority, or because they are suffering from other exclusion factors.

Many children and women you will be working with have experienced violence or abuse and are traumatized. For this reason, it is essential that volunteers MUST have appropriate skills. If not, you could be putting yourself and the people you work with at risk. Therefore, if you wish to volunteer at an orphanage or women shelter, you should meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • experience in working with traumatized clients
  • training as a child caretaker
  • training as a psychologist
  • training as a social worker

If you are especially interested in women empowerment and want to support women's rights with your volunteering efforts, there are volunteering projects available in the Philippines.

👩🏽‍🏫 How to Teach in Southeast Asia

Shortage in staff and geographical difficulties make it challenging for students, especially in rural areas, to receive the education they deserve. As a teaching volunteer, in South East Asia you can support the staff in local schools and support the progress of the children in the classroom by providing extra help and attention. Depending on the volunteer program you choose, these are some of the tasks you’ll do:

  • helping out at a daycare center for children with special needs
  • assisting disabled children
  • supporting local teachers and staff
  • providing shelter and education for orphanages
  • educating women
  • teaching at an NGO High School

💬 How to Teach English in Southeast Asia

The main focus, however, is teaching English. As English is the world language, and as Southeast Asia is a dream travel destination for so many people, the tourism industry is one of the major income sources, especially in rural areas and temples. How cool would it be to teach English to Monks?

🌴 How to Volunteer for Nature Conservation in Southeast Asia

As a volunteer in Southeast Asia, you can join environmental programs to help protect the unique flora and fauna, temples, and coral reefs. Environmental programs are focused on agriculture, conservation work and marine conservation. All of these conservation programs are spread across Southeast Asia. Depending on the volunteer work you will join, typical tasks might include:

  • Working as a coral farming assistant
  • Cleaning reefs
  • Surveying seahorses
  • Building and maintaining coral nurseries
  • Cleaning beaches, village areas, temples
  • Working on the temple’s main conservation and preservation sites
  • Repairing and fixing mangroves
  • Contributing towards sustainable development of the local community
  • Snorkeling tours and in-water cleaning
  • Running a plastic recycling plant

As a volunteer in Southeast Asia, your work can make a significant contribution to the social project's goals and will provide you with a unique experience.

🩺 How to Volunteer for Healthcare in Southeast Asia

A country is only as healthy as its people. If you want to make sure that sick people are receiving the care that they need, then volunteering for healthcare is for you. You will likely not just be a healthcare volunteer in South East Asia, but take on the role of a volunteer social worker as well.

From large hospitals that have to meet the needs of hundreds of patients every day to small healthcare centers, pick where you will do your medical mission trip. If you are studying medicine or training to be a nurse, healthcare volunteering in Southeast Asia is a great opportunity. Choose from the following healthcare projects:

  • nutrition and healthcare education
  • rural health assistance
  • medical hospital assistant
  • assisting in hospitals
  • supporting local clinics
  • joining a medical internship

Most of the volunteering programs require a certain set of skills but can vary based on your level of expertise and years of experience. If you are not a trained nurse or doctor you can still support local communities by informing locals about infectious diseases and hygiene measurements.

🌍 Best Places to Volunteer in Southeast Asia

Volunteering in Southeast Asia will take you to the following destinations:

Each destination has its charm and will speak to different volunteers. Volunteers looking for an English teaching experience will find plenty of opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

If you’re passionate about marine conservation, the Philippines and Indonesia are an excellent choice.

Wildlife conservation volunteers will find once in a lifetime opportunities in Borneo, Indonesia, and Thailand.

Whether you’re looking for bustling tourist hotspots or an experience that is more off the beaten track, you’ll definitely find this in Southeast Asia.

💲 How Much Does it Cost to Volunteer in Southeast Asia?

The suggested daily budget for living as a volunteer in Southeast Asia is between US$ 20 and US$ 40. This is an estimate made considering the average price of some of the goods and services you might need. It gives you a general overview of how much things cost in this country, so you can be prepared and save the money you will need for one of the volunteering programs.

Additional costs you should consider as a volunteer in Southeast Asia:

🤑 Can I Volunteer in Southeast Asia for Free?

Most volunteer abroad programs require a fee to be paid by the volunteer. This is mainly used to cover the expenses of your accommodation. Southeast Asia is a very affordable destination and a great choice for volunteers who are on a budget. You can use our budget filter to look for volunteer opportunities within your travel budget. Our live chat team is also always happy to assist you in finding the perfect volunteer program.

💡 Good to Know Before Volunteering in Southeast Asia

Before starting your volunteer work abroad, it’s important to think about the cultural norms you’ll need to adjust to. In addition, learn about the precautions you might need to take when volunteering abroad. The following list might help you with that:

Cultural Tips

  • Always dress modestly in religious institutions of any kind. Make sure you cover your knees and shoulders.
  • Avoid public displays of affection.
  • In Buddhism, the head is the most sacred part of the body and the feet are considered unclean. Refrain from touching anyone on the head or pointing your feet forward or toward anyone.
  • It’s custom to take off your shoes when you enter someone’s home.
  • A calm approach works best in Southeast Asia. Avoid losing your temper in difficult situations.

Health Advice

It is annoying to get sick when traveling abroad and although it is a common concern for travelers to get a stomach illness when traveling to Asia, there are some basic precautions you can take to avoid it:

  • Get all proper vaccinations four to eight weeks before any volunteer trips Asia, especially if you will be working with animals such as the elephants in Thailand. Find out which vaccinations you need in which Asian country on the website of the US-based health protection agency CDC.
  • Don't drink tap water! All water should be either boiled or filtered before you drink it.
  • Try to avoid street food, as most stomachs are not used to it.
  • Wash all your fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
  • Plan for how you will get health care during your stay. Get a travel insurance and bring medicine with you, especially if you need special medication.

Packing Essentials

It's nice to know what to pack when you travel! This makes life a lot easier when it comes to preparing for your time as a volunteer in Southeast Asia. It is always a good idea to ask your project coordinator what volunteers should bring.

  • Apart from the essential travel documents, like passport, travel medical insurance information, and visa, you should also keep photocopies or scanned copies of these.
  • Always carry sunscreen with you!
  • Keep enough cash with you! You might want to consider getting a money belt.
  • Carry luggage with you that will aid, not complicate your trip, like daypacks or backpacks; as well as lightweight bags.
  • Pack appropriate clothing and shoes! This means clothes that are suitable for a variety of climates, as temperatures can vary throughout Asia. Especially, when working in the forests, long clothing protects you from bug bites.
  • Don't forget to bring locks for hostel lockers and also for your luggage!

🦺 Is it Safe to Volunteer in Southeast Asia?

Before you leave on your volunteer trip, make sure to read up on the safety advice your government gives tourists traveling to your destination you are planning on visiting. Most Asian countries like Thailand are pretty safe, however, it is important to use common sense at all times and be aware of the current political situation..

Here are some universal tips you might want to follow during your volunteer work in Southeast Asia:

  • Keep your personal belongings and important travel documents with you at all times! It also makes sense to bring attested photocopies of these documents, in case you lose them!
  • If you are going out, do not take a lot of money, jewelry, or other fancy possessions with you. Take only the money you will need and leave everything else back home!
  • In the unfortunate case of you being robbed, do not resist the robbery!
  • Be careful when withdrawing money from a bank or at an ATM!
  • Do not use unregistered taxis! Doing so increases the risk of becoming a victim of a crime.
  • Do NOT ever buy, take or sell any kind of drugs - in some Asian countries this is punished with prison or even the death penalty.

🧐 Who Can Volunteer in Southeast Asia?

Each project expects different skills and abilities from their volunteers. While you can find the specific requirements for each project on their program page, here are some general requirements that apply to most volunteer opportunities in Southeast Asia:

  • You need to be at least 18 years old for most of the volunteer opportunities in Southeast Asia. When in doubt, we advise you to get in contact with the local project manager, as in some projects you can also volunteer when you're 16 years old.
  • You need to have basic English skills to join a volunteer project in Asia. Please note that some teaching projects might ask for more advanced skills though.
  • Depending on the project you're interested in, you might need to provide a criminal background check and a health declaration before volunteering.

☝🏽 How to Volunteer in Southeast Asia

So you’re ready to volunteer in Asia but you’re not quite sure how to get started? Take a look at the following 3 steps that will prepare you for your volunteer work in South East Asia and an unforgettable adventure abroad:

  • Check whether there’s a match between you and the project by looking at their requirements.
  • Take a look at the location of the project and decide whether it’s a place you want to travel to.
  • Get in touch with the organization and see whether your expectations and your schedule match up.

Once this is sorted. Let’s take a look at the practical steps:

Insurance (Health & Travel)

We recommend getting both health and travel insurance to all our volunteers. In fact, this is even a requirement for most programs abroad. Get in touch with your program contact person to find out if an insurance plan is already in place for volunteers.

Visa, Passport, and Documentation

Look into the visa requirements for the country you will volunteer in. Make sure you have a valid passport considering the requirement of the host country and prepare the correct documents to fulfill the visa application.

And that’s it! You’re ready to volunteer in Southeast Asia and fall in love with nature, the people, and the incomparable mix of tradition and modernity.