Volunteering for a Cause: Workaway Projects with a Social Impact

In the wise words of Gandhi, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." By volunteering on Workaway projects ,with a social impact, you can do exactly that. Imagine venturing beyond the usual tourist path, and diving headfirst into local communities. Leaving behind not just footprints, but imprints of hope, change and progress.

Whether you’re a teacher, a builder, footballer, musician, artist, chef or anything in between, your expertise and enthusiasm can become a beacon of hope for communities in over 170 countries around the world thanks to Workaway. With social impact projects, you become both a learner and a teacher, which will leave a lasting impact on the lives of others and help contribute to a brighter and more inclusive world. 

So if you fancy a journey that goes beyond sightseeing and selfies, now is your chance to roll your sleeves up and actually make a difference where it matters most. 

two volunteers playing the drums traditional music

What do projects with social impact involve?

Before we can explore the endless Workaway projects with a social impact, let’s cover why these projects are unique and what they actually involve. Generally, they refer to initiatives that hope to create positive and meaningful change in society. Sounds simple, huh?

They can be organised by individuals, NGOs, nonprofit organisations, or local governments and aim to tackle various social, environmental or community-related issues and challenges. Sometimes hosts will refer to them as community development projects as they usually focus on a specific group of people within a community. For example, women’s empowerment or children and youth. Other times, the focus is on the environment or animals

The goal of each project can vary, from promoting education to improving healthcare, encouraging sustainability, to fighting for equality, and more. Regardless of the end goal, if you're compassionate, open-minded, and enthusiastic, then this type of volunteer work should be top of your list! Social Impact projects need people who are team players, ready to embrace communities with empathy, creativity and kindness.

teaching school children geography

Why Choose a Project with Social Impact For Your Next Workaway

So what’s in it for you? Social Impact projects offer unique benefits that go beyond volunteering with a single individual or a host family. While volunteering with individuals or host families can be rewarding in their own right, social impact volunteering provides additional advantages, such as:

  • Collective Effort =Bigger Impact: Each moment you spend painting a school, planting a tree, or offering a comforting smile adds to a collective effort that can literally transform lives. This allows you to tackle bigger issues and create lasting change that benefits multiple individuals and families, rather than focusing on just one person or family. 
  • Sense of Belonging: Life on the road can be lonely at times, so if you crave a sense of belonging, we get it! Projects with a social impact are ideal as you become part of a larger network. This brings a sense of belonging as you work alongside like-minded people towards the same goal or shared vision. Not forgetting, more people = more friendships! 
  • Diverse Learning Opportunities: Another benefit is that you will be exposed to a wider range of experiences, cultures, and perspectives. This means more opportunities for your problem solving, team working and organisational skills to flourish. Not only is this hugely beneficial for you personally, but it can benefit your professional development too. 
workawayers gardening at hostel

Workaway Projects with a Social Impact

Social impact volunteer work is all about creating positive change in communities and empowering those in need. From working with children and youth NGOs to education and women's empowerment projects, there are endless opportunities to give back to the world (although, it is vital we all learn how to give back the right way!)

Do you dream of teaching a language? Love organising fun activities for children? Have an eye for restoring homes? Or a passion to support women on their journey to economic independence? These projects are not only rewarding but also allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture, and make meaningful connections with locals. And thanks to Workaway, these opportunities are all just a click or two away! 

To make your search a little simpler, social impact projects can usually be divided into these main categories. Use these to narrow your search and help you find the perfect project that aligns with your goals and skills. 

solo woman workawayer gardening

Youth Mentoring and Education:

These types of Workaway projects involve mentoring young people in academic subjects or life skills. This can be through schools, clubs or educational workshops. There is a particular demand for volunteers to support young people with language, cultural exchange and the arts. Before you get started, don’t forget to check out our child protection guidelines here. 

For some inspiration, check out these hosts:

solo woman workawayer teaching children english in school

Environmental Projects:

There are entire communities passionate about our planet that need your help with conservation, sustainable education, waste reduction programs and more. These projects focus on environmental issues while simultaneously improving the well-being of us humans. After all, people and the planet go hand in hand! 

If you want to be part of promoting sustainable practices for a healthier planet and future generations, check out social impact projects like these…

group of volunteers picking up litter in forest

Community Gardens and Farming:

While you can experience a farmstay with a family, you can also help cultivate community gardens or farms. These community groups need support with permaculture, off grid living, food distribution and more. These projects allow locals to participate in planting, tending, and harvesting crops, bringing a sense of ownership and empowerment within the community. There can be financial benefits for the community too if the produce is also sold at markets. 

If you have a passion for teaching others about sustainable agriculture and the importance of local, nutritious food then check out these hosts…

woman sitting on the floor next to cocoa farmstay experience workaway

Health and Wellness Initiative

Fitness fanatics or wellness gurus, communities all over the world need your help! There is a huge demand for volunteers to support programs and activities that promote the physical, mental, and social well-being of locals. These social impact projects are incredibly diverse and may include physical activities such as yoga or surfing, nutritional education, spirituality groups and mental health support. 

For a little more inspiration, have a look at these hosts: 

group of school children playing football in the desert

Animal Welfare Projects:

Prefer animals to people? You can still take part in projects with a social impact! Afterall, animals need help with health and wellbeing too - not just humans! If you have an interest in animal rescue, protection and conservation, these types of projects with a social impact will be right up your street. These projects help to  improve the lives of animals in communities, raising awareness about their needs, and encouraging a compassionate and responsible attitude towards animal welfare. 

Find your next furry friend thanks to these inspiring hosts and posts:

man feeding and posing next to shelter dogs workaway project

Arts and Culture Programs:

If you love exploring how communities, culture and creativity can collaborate then these are the type of projects for you. Arts and culture projects are packed with social impact as they help locals to confront and solve inequalities and injustices within the community. This can be through workshops, performances, art and more. A handful of examples include: 

two women posing next to art project outdoors

Renovation and Repair Initiatives:

Renovation and repair skills are some of the best skills you can learn before your next Workaway as there is always a demand for volunteers within these areas. In order for communities to flourish, they need help building schools, community centres, camping grounds, community gardens and more. From fence painting to furniture upcycling, plumbing to plastering - there are so many ways you can lend a hand. For example:

funny picture of man sticking head out of built toilet

Community Engagement and Advocacy:

Showcase your skills in marketing, childcare, teamwork and more by getting involved in a local advocacy group to address community issues. Volunteering with these types of projects are a great way to boost your CV as well as meet like-minded, passionate people all over the globe.

These can be some of the most rewarding projects with a social impact as they usually involve empowering people in situations of vulnerability, enhancing their abilities and skills for a better quality of life, for example:

volunteers washing dishes and smiling at an outdoor camp

What type of people are hosts looking for?

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking you’re the type of person suited to social impact projects. If you want to double check, you can even take our quiz to find the type of volunteering for you here! 

One of the many wonderful things about this type of volunteering is that, as you are working with people from all kinds of backgrounds, skills and interests, they also attract volunteers with various backgrounds, skills and interests! We should add however, there are a few stand out traits worth mentioning in your Workaway profile if you want to get involved, such as: 

  • Compassionate and Empathetic: If you genuinely care about the well-being of others and are empathetic towards those facing challenges in their communities, then projects with a social impact are your calling!
  • Team Players: Do you enjoy working collaboratively with others? Are you willing to share your skills and knowledge for the greater good? Then these projects need you! 
  • Good Communication: To make a lasting impact, volunteers need to effectively engage and interact with large groups of people, organisations, and other volunteers. This means communication is key. 
  • Problem Solving: If you are resourceful, creative, and enjoy finding solutions to community issues and challenges, projects with a social impact will be your kind of gig.
  • Patient and Understanding: If you can be patient and understanding when working with diverse groups of people (including those with different backgrounds and abilities) then you’re exactly the type of volunteer we need!

Before you head straight for the host list, remember this: projects with a social impact are not about donning a cape and saving the world (although that would be pretty cool, wouldn't it?) It's about being that missing puzzle piece that completes the masterpiece. 

Your time, energy, and passion are the secret ingredients that turn a simple project into a successful project. Whether you're building houses, planting trees, or teaching kids to dream big, your efforts ripple through time, leaving behind a legacy of positive change. Are you ready to unleash your inner do-gooder? Let's paint this world with colours of kindness and compassion. Trust me, it's one adventure you won't want to miss!

group of volunteers and locals having a meal outside against mountain and sea backdrop

giving backvolunteer

About Lauren

Growing up in a small coastal village in Scotland inspired Lauren to seek adventure and challenge the norm. Armed with just her backpack and trusty travel companion Darren, she quit her day job to liv... show more...

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