A volunteer paints a mural on a school wall during her volunteer work abroad

We took a stand against pressing global issues in 2018

Find out how volunteering and interning abroad made a difference in local communities in 2018
By Jen Southern | 15th March, 2019
Updated on 05th September, 2023

We recently spoke about the impressive achievements of our High School Special volunteers. But get ready to be wowed, as that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Every year, our volunteers and interns have a positive impact abroad. 2018 was no different.

Across 30 countries, our dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers and interns paid particular focus to the pressing global issues such as equality, education, and the environment. With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in mind, we took active measures to combat these issues. Together, our volunteers and interns helped:

Reduce plastic pollution and increase environmental awareness

With almost 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans every year, recycling and waste management is something we are committed to. We’re also increasingly conscious of the effect that plastic, specifically single-use, has on our planet. This is why a large part of our Conservation Projects include regular community clean-ups, awareness talks, and recycling initiatives.

In 2018 alone, our volunteers worked together and picked up 15 tonnes of litter abroad! To reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our oceans, our volunteers:

  • Picked up 48,188 cigarette butts in Thailand.
  • Put up signs to discourage littering on beaches and in wildlife reserves.
  • Repurposed 350 glass bottles into drinking glasses, pencil holders, candle holders, and wind chimes in Belize.
  • Made 132 eco-bricks in Thailand.
  • Set up 30 bins on beaches or in towns in Ecuador, Fiji, Madagascar, and Thailand.

Although small, every one of these efforts contributes to a larger goal. For example, after the bin installation in Thailand, volunteers saw an impressive 60% decrease in the amount of litter found on the beaches of Krabi.

Although cleaning up has an effect, education and environmental awareness play a big role in the prevention of pollution. The work our volunteers do to educate communities, encourages local people to uphold a certain level of eco-friendly living. Together, they:

  • Ran waste management and recycling workshops for over 3,500 school students.
  • Convinced 9 restaurants in Belize to stop supplying single-use plastic straws to their customers.
  • Co-hosted a 5-day event on waste management in the Philippines.
Volunteers and staff pose with the new recycle bins at a local school in Cambodia

Work against wildlife poaching and improve species protection

Our volunteers have been working to protect marine species around the world. This volunteer work abroad includes conserving natural habitats, protecting them from poachers, and raising awareness about how to protect species. In 2018, volunteers:

  • Collected eggs from over 1,600 nests and released over 100,000 turtle hatchlings into the ocean in Mexico and Peru.
  • Culled 2,000 invasive lionfish which threaten the reef off the coast of Belize.
  • Surveyed over 2,600 sea lions and treated 52 pups with eye infections in the Galapagos.
  • Removed 50% of the invasive black rat population in a petrel nesting area in the Galapagos. Since the removal, 142 petrel chicks and 32 nests were recorded.

Our efforts also extend to wildlife rehabilitation at the Taricaya Ecological Reserve in Peru. In 2018, our volunteers released the 6th and 7th group of Peruvian spider monkeys back into the Amazon Rainforest. This species was extinct in the area for almost a century due to hunting.

We now have a total of 35 spider monkeys released since 2010. In 2018, we saw the birth of 7 baby spider monkeys in the wild!

“Personally I consider the project a success, as we now have wild spider monkeys back in the area for the first time in over 50 years. However, if the populations do not breed then the project will eventually falter and that is why I am thrilled to report a 7th baby born in the wild. This figure is beyond my original expectations and it reflects that the monkeys feel completely safe and at home in the forest. Generally animals that are stressed will not mate and breed and the fact that we have 7 monkeys born free and wild is a testament to the success of the rehabilitation process.” - Stuart Timson, Conservation Director in Peru
A newly released Peruvian spider monkey with her newborn baby in the Amazon Rainforest

Reduce carbon emissions through reforestation expansion

Climate change is a global issue, and one we’re committed to improve. We actively seek to reduce carbon emissions through reforestation efforts worldwide. Our volunteers do this by planting trees and mangroves, educating communities on the importance of reducing their carbon footprint, as well as actively speaking out against deforestation. In 2018, our volunteers:


  • Planted over 57,700 trees, including over 37,600 mangroves.
  • Installed solar panels at a camp in Botswana. The camp now uses no external power source.
  • Reduced meat consumption at the camp in Botswana by 50% to minimise greenhouse gases produced by large scale animal agriculture.
  • Built 123 energy-saving stoves, which use 40% less firewood, in Kenya and Madagascar.
  • Joined a protest with 15,000 people, and submitted research articles against the construction of a highway through a forest in Argentina.


One of the most memorable achievements in 2018 was the finalisation of the first carbon neutral resort in Fiji. Over the last few years, volunteers planted 15 hectares of mangroves across 10 coastal locations. But our work doesn’t stop there. Although we’ve achieved this major goal, we’ve also partnered with a sunglasses company and a dive centre to help offset their carbon emissions moving forward.

A Projects Abroad Conservation volunteer plants mangroves during her volunteer work abroad in Fiji

Improve literacy and the learning environment

We believe that by providing basic education to vulnerable communities, we’ll be able to give them brighter futures. In 2018, our volunteers supported the education and development of over 14,000 children. This included:

  • A weekly English club for 38 young people in Madagascar. Of those attending the club, 8 have already found jobs.
  • Conversational English classes for 1,500 students at 10 primary schools in the more rural areas of China.
  • Literacy programmes for more than 100 students in Belize, Jamaica, and South Africa.
  • Holiday camps for more than 400 children in countries like Belize, Ghana,
  • Kenya, and Sri Lanka.

Providing educational opportunities isn’t all we do. We also provide safe learning environments to improve the learning and engagement of students. This is why our volunteers built, renovated and improved educational buildings for over 7,400 students. This included:

  • Building two schools and five classrooms
  • Painting and renovating 20 schools and 10 childcare centres
  • Painting and renovating a playground
  • Renovating two libraries

“The most important message that Projects Abroad volunteers give to our community is the power of example and involvement towards a better society” - Ms Binh, Mr. Mircea Sorin Mircea, Prejmer Elementary School principal in Romania.
A Building volunteers adds a coat of paint to a newly built classroom in Tanzania

Provide free health screenings and raise awareness in vulnerable communities

Every intern that joins a Medicine & Healthcare Project gets taught basic skills like blood pressure monitoring and blood sugar checks from professional medical staff. These skills allow our interns to assist with basic health screenings during community outreaches. In 2018 alone, they screened over 24,250 community members!

If tests show any abnormal results, interns flag them and healthcare professionals refer patients for further treatment. As part of their medical work, they:

  • Conducted over 800 malaria tests
  • Administered over 1,800 rapid HIV tests
  • Ran vaccination programmes in remote villages of Madagascar
  • Completed regular health checks for homeless communities in Mongolia
  • Provided wound care and treatment for the street children (talibés) in Senegal

Community awareness about different diseases is key in its prevention. This is why our interns spend time creating health and awareness campaigns on disease prevention, symptoms and treatment for local communities. They ran campaigns on:

  • Malaria for over 6,100 community members
  • HIV for over 4,700 community members
  • Non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, for more than 5,900 people
  • General hygiene for 9,000 community members
A volunteer teaches her students the most effective way to wash their hands in Belize

Empower women and encourage economic growth

Financial independence is the best means by which locals can become self-reliant. Our volunteers have encouraged this by teaching locals necessary skills to get better jobs or providing them with loans to build a business of their own. In 2018, our volunteers:

  • Gave loans to 210 people receiving loans for their businesses in 2018.
  • Ran a six-week computer course to teach basic IT skills in South Africa.
  • Provided 600 disadvantaged youth with vocational training, including basic English lessons.

We also offered loans to mothers and talibés (street children) in Senegal. Thanks to these loans, 25 new businesses were started and 35 new jobs created. The majority of beneficiaries saw an average increase of 60% in their household income.

“The project’s impact was very obvious, which made it very rewarding to be a part of. Visiting women and talibés who had already received loans helped demonstrate the positive impact the project was making.” - Harry B, Micro-finance volunteer in Senegal

Our volunteers and interns have also been empowering women through an understanding of rights. Together, they:

  • Ran educational campaigns and seminars on women’s rights in Tanzania.
  • Taught women in Tanzania how to write a will.
  • Taught vocational skills to 10 teenage girls who couldn’t afford to continue formal schooling in Madagascar
  • Took part in various peaceful protests for the rights and protection of women and the legalisation of abortion in Argentina
Volunteers run a training session for women who’d like to start their own businesses in Cambodia

These are only a few of the highlights. If you’d like to read more, we have put together our annual Global Impact Report which will give you a comprehensive overview of their achievements in 2018!

At first glance, it’s sometimes hard to measure the positive impact one volunteer or intern can make in a few weeks abroad. But when thousands of people spend a short amount of time working towards the same long-term goals, the impact can be tremendous. Are you ready to find out what you are capable of in 2019?

Share this article:

Don't forget to spread the word and let us know what you think on Facebook and Twitter!

Our accreditations