The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad

Learning Service offers a powerful new approach that invites volunteers to learn from host communities before trying to ‘help’ them. It’s also a thoughtful critique of the sinister side of volunteer travel; a guide for turning good intentions into effective results; and essential advice on how to make the most of your experience.

A must read for anyone considering volunteer tourism.

Elizabeth Becker

Author, Overbooked

A manifesto for doing good well, this is an indispensable book for anyone volunteering overseas.

Noam Chomsky

This is recommended reading for all those considering volunteering in a developing country.

Philip Goodwin

CEO, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)

The pedagogy of Learning Service is foundational to responsible travel.

Reed Harwood

Executive Director, Where There Be Dragons

Order the book now

This year, over ten million people will go abroad, eager to find the perfect blend of adventure and altruism. Volunteer travel can help you find your place in the world–and find out what you’re made of. So why do so many international volunteer programs fail to make an impact? Why do some do more harm than good?


Rest of the World

About Us

International volunteering has grown in popularity, and with so many people going abroad to “serve”, we worry that we are often forgetting a really important step: we have to learn before we can help. If we don’t research our options thoroughly, understand the context and culture of the communities we visit, and ensure that our skills and experience match the needs, volunteering can be wasteful, and at worst, cause a lot of harm.

We are promoting a movement of learning, designed to better prepare young people about to travel abroad for the first time, and travellers of all ages looking to give back through their time, with the skills and mindsets they need to be of “service”, not just for a few weeks on a volunteer trip, but for the rest of their lives.


We’ve produced an excellent video collection to give you more information. Check out some of the videos on responsible tourism here.


Want to learn more about responsible volunteer travel, but don’t know where to start? We created a few guides to help!


The Learning Service Team offer bespoke trainings and consultancy to travel companies, schools and non-profit organizations. Find out more

From Our Blog

The True Meaning of Volunteering

This is a reflection from student Kayley Gould, on how volunteering in her local area has shaped her views on how volunteering can be done right. Last year, I explored in depth what it means to volunteer. I researched and wrote my senior thesis on the dangers of...

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How an Encounter in an Ice-Cream Shop Changed My Gap Year

This is a reflection from guest writer Manju, who is currently on her gap year in Nepal. I’m a Nepali-German kid who grew up in the Bay Area in California. The diverse nature of my environment and international upbringing in my life deeply shaped my outlook on the...

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Reflecting on Volunteering: Learning Service as a Lens

This is a guest post from educator, volunteer coordinator and volunteer Jane Carpenter, on how she found the Learning Service book useful when reflecting on her own experience.   Learning Service is a brilliant, thought-provoking and practical book which gently guides...

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