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Volunteer Overseas

Volunteer abroad projects for those aged 50+

Grown-up Specials provide older volunteers with the chance to take part in rewarding two-week placements in developing countries.

A Projects Abroad volunteer reads to children at a care placement in Togo

SUSSEX – July 27th – Gap years and volunteer travel are no longer the sole domain of teenagers and young adults. Career-breakers, empty-nesters and retirees are increasingly joining volunteer abroad programmes as a way to experience something entirely new, give back to society and develop both personally and professionally.

Some of our most successful placements have involved working professionals and retirees who are volunteering in a role in which they have many years of experience. The skills they have gained over the years are much needed in developing communities and can make a significant positive impact in the lives of the people they interact with on these placements. Experience caring for children is also highly beneficial on many of the trips offered by Projects Abroad.

Older volunteers also have a wealth of life experience and wisdom to share with others. Their maturity is an asset, in that they can more easily lead group activities, follow instructions and take the initiative. It’s also been found that senior volunteers are better able to meet deadlines, and are more self-motivated and have greater patience. Finally, they may also find it easier to adjust to culture shock than younger volunteers, and cope better with being away from home.

"We really appreciate the contributions made by our older volunteers. They set a great example for the rest of our volunteers, working hard and sharing their knowledge! Many people believe the misconception that these kinds of volunteer trips are only for younger people, but that simply isn't true," says Bethany Evans, Deputy Director of UK Marketing.

Why choose an overseas volunteer placement?

Senior volunteers join for several reasons. Many have reached the point in their life when they want to do something meaningful, and pass on their knowledge and skills to those who can benefit from them. Others are looking to do something out of the ordinary – they’ve seen their children enjoy exciting gap years, and would like to experience something similar. Some working professionals wish to take a career break, and either embark on something completely different to refresh their mindset, or contribute their skills to a project that aligns with their career choice.

Regardless of the reason for electing to travel abroad as an older volunteer, there are numerous benefits to taking this kind of trip. Volunteers have the chance to explore a new destination, participate in valuable cultural exchange, learn a new skill or two, revive their creativity, develop confidence, break out of a comfort zone, and discover a completely new side to themselves.

What are Grown-up Specials?

To meet the needs of a growing community of older volunteers wishing to travel abroad, Projects Abroad have designed a special programme called ‘Grown-up Specials’. These are structured two-week placements for those aged 50 and older. Volunteers work alongside a group of like-minded people their own age and follow a daily schedule arranged by our local staff. Currently, Projects Abroad offers these programmes in Nepal, Jamaica and South Africa. Depending on the placement chosen, activities will include teaching at an underprivileged school, assisting with building work in a township, caring for children and participating in community outreach activities.

Volunteers work alongside friendly, helpful local staff, who have in-depth knowledge of the area. During their placement, volunteers stay with host families, and in their time off, get the opportunity to explore the local tourist attractions.

Travelling and volunteering abroad can seem like an intimidating prospect, but Projects Abroad staff are on hand to support older volunteers every step of the way. Pre-departure volunteer advisors remain in constant contact with volunteers, preparing them for the trip ahead. Destination staff, meanwhile, are available 24/7 for anything volunteers might need while in-country.

Volunteers will be met at the airport by a local staff member, who will take them to their new host family. They will also be accompanied to their project placement on the first day, and receive an induction, to help orient them to their new living and working environment.

Each of the trips is designed for volunteers to have the most impact possible at their placement. Projects Abroad focus on long-term, sustainable placements that are worthwhile for both the volunteer and the community.

Read what our older volunteers had to say:

  • I came back feeling younger, fitter and richer in what really counts - confidence, experience, knowledge and understanding and I cannot wait to volunteer again. (Florbela, Peru)

  • After working in our corporate careers for thirty years, we felt a strong need to do something that was more personally meaningful and rewarding. (John and Sarah, South Africa)

  • We are both richer within ourselves for being able to not only have this wonderful opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Jamaican culture, but also to be able to give our time as a volunteer with Projects Abroad. (Bob and Jenny, Jamaica)

  • I’m able to keep in touch with my host family by email, which is marvellous; I get so excited when I see I’ve received an email from them. They were so kind, so helpful and so welcoming that I never once felt lonely or homesick. (Judith, Togo)

  • Everybody has different reasons for travelling to a foreign country but, in this case, not only did I get to visit a great destination, I also had the opportunity to learn a new skill and stretch my creative muscle. (Jo-Mari, Mexico)

Grown-up Specials are an exciting opportunity to immerse oneself in a new culture while helping to support a disadvantaged community. Volunteers can sign up alone, as a couple or in a group, and choose a project that suits their interests.

For more information on how to get involved on a Grown-Up Special, please visit

About Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad was founded in 1992 by Dr. Peter Slowe, a geography lecturer, as a programme for students to travel and work while taking a break from full-time study. The programme started in Romania, where students were given the chance to teach conversational English. After a few years just sending volunteers to Eastern Europe for teaching, the company expanded to sending volunteers of all ages around the world on a wide range of projects

Projects Abroad is a global leader in short-term international volunteer programmes with projects in 28 countries and recruitment offices in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Holland, Hong Kong, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and the United States

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