My Peace Corps friend Bonnie Orton compiled the following list of international organizations that welcome volunteers of all ages. I'm sure there are many more. (Feel free to add website links in the “Comments” section.) Commitments range from one week to two years. The descriptions of the groups come directly from their websites.
The Peace Corps
“Older Americans contribute tremendously to Peace Corps programs all over the globe. No single group has more to offer in terms of experience, maturity, and demonstrated ability. Many older Volunteers find their age to be an asset while serving overseas. You will have the opportunity to share a lifetime of work and wisdom with people of developing nations who respect and appreciate age. And because there's no upper age limit to serve, it's never too late. Volunteers who are well into their eighties have served and continue to serve.” (The photo above was taken by a Peace Corps volunteer in Tlokeng, Botswana.)
Commitment: 2 years.
Note: If you’re a former Peace Corps volunteer, you might consider Peace Corps Encore! which sends “former Peace Corps Volunteers and staff members back into the field on short-term assignments (typically 3 weeks to 3 months) that match their professional expertise with specific social needs.”
Cross Cultural Solutions
“Work side by side with local people and experience another culture like never before. . . . [Cross Cultural Solutions] proudly represents a diverse spectrum of volunteers from all walks of life. We have families and groups from Australia volunteering alongside teens from Canada, working adults from the UK and American retirees.”
Commitment: Anywhere from 1 week with the “Insight Abroad” program to two years.
Habitat for Humanity International Volunteer Program (IVP)
“Have you ever dreamed of traveling to another country, eating strange, new foods and connecting with people all around the globe? Do you want to wake up in the morning knowing that by the end of the day you will have lent a hand to eradicating poverty housing? Have you thought about dedicating three or more months of your life to making a difference in the world? Welcome to Habitat for Humanity International’s International Volunteer Program! From its very beginning, Habitat for Humanity has relied on the expertise, commitment and spirit of volunteers. And now your dreams of going global can become reality. This new program is designed to:
• Engage people in the international movement for simple, decent housing
• Enhance Habitat for Humanity organizations around the world
• Empower volunteers to have a meaningful experience while living abroad"
Commitment: Anywhere from 3 months to 2 years.
American Red Cross International
“The American Red Cross helps vulnerable people around the world to prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters, complex humanitarian emergencies, and life-threatening health conditions. The American Red Cross accomplishes this goal by working with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. International Services initiatives focus on primary health care, emergency response and preparedness, restoring family links, and the dissemination of international humanitarian law. For each of these priority areas, we promote cost-effective, community-based programs, which target large numbers of people with humanitarian aid that is rapid, effective, and large-scale.”