Travel and volunteer in Vietnam -- my reviews and recommendations

Travel & Volunteer in Vietnam: My Reviews and Recommendations

There are not a lot of legitimate volunteer opportunities in Vietnam, but the ones we’ve participated in have been profound — these organizations deal with serious issues like child slavery, human trafficking, illicit trade in endangered species, and anti-littering campaigns.

If you are looking to travel and volunteer in Vietnam, we recommend any of the following organizations. Their volunteer programs are mostly unpaid, but they have very real and rewarding challenges that require serious attention from capable volunteers.

Consider volunteering with one of these four organizations:

We also highlight a few resources where you can find other opportunities to volunteer in Vietnam.

1) Blue Dragon Foundation – Human-Trafficking Prevention, Rescue, and Advocacy

Children learn about child-labour
In a remote village near the Chinese border, children learn about the dangers of forced child labour and the importance of staying in school. Source:

Slavery is alive and well in Asia, especially in China — we have personally met Vietnamese families in remote villages on the Chinese border who sold their daughters to a “rich Chinese family”, hoping for a better life. But it is a lie: the daughters are slaves in China, and rarely heard from again. This happens a lot, even in urban areas like the bustling port city of Hai Phong (which has a lot of Chinese merchants).

Enter the Blue Dragon Foundation — a worthy organization to donate to and/or volunteer for. Blue Dragon has worked with over 10,000 youth in Vietnam — from street kids, former slaves, and victims of human trafficking. The organization is primarily focused on rescuing people from slavery in Vietnam and neighboring countries, to help them reunite with their families and prepare them for a new life.

The organization takes a 360-degree approach to trafficking and slavery: prevention, rescuing, providing aftercare, drop-in centres, education and training, working on legal reforms, and strengthening high-risk communities from being exploited.

A Slave’s Story: Hai grew up in a Khmu community in northwest Vietnam. He spoke little Vietnamese and knew almost nothing about the world outside his tiny village, so when some kind strangers came by offering training and education in the big city, he had no concept of what that meant [READ MORE]

After rescuing people from slavery, the organization provides long-term care and support, which involves a lot of volunteers, for example, doing training and skill-building sessions.

Volunteer visits survivor of human trafficking in Vietnam
Blue Dragon worker pays a home-visit to a survivor of human tafficking as part of a post-rescue support and care. Source:

Blue Dragon is looking for international volunteers with expertise and experience in education, IT, and fundraising. They say: “If you are living in or visiting Vietnam and have expertise and experience in a particular area, let us know. We need great teachers to work with the Blue Dragon kids and we need professional skills to train our staff, help with IT, and support our fundraising.”

Volunteers must be willing to commit to a minimum of six months in Vietnam. All volunteer and intern positions are unpaid, and volunteers are responsible for their own housing and food arrangements. There is no fee to participate.

Go to to fill-out a volunteer application form.

2) Save Vietnam’s Wildlife – Pangolin Centre

Release of rehabilitated animals in Vietnam
Release day at SVN: Rescued animals have been rehabilitated and released back to their proper environment. Source:

Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW) is a national non-profit organization founded in 2014. The organization focuses on wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, site protection, education outreach, conservation breeding, species conservation, and advocacy. In particular, SVW focuses on rehabilitation programs for rescued pangolins, binturongs, civets, otters, and other illegally trafficked animals.

Pangolins are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. There are two pangolin species in Vietnam — both species are listed as critically endangered. Their populations are being over-exploitation to supply “scales” for traditional Chinese medicine.

Rescued pangolin in vietnam
Rescued pangolin, one of the most endangered species in the world, receives needed health-care post rescue. Source:

SVW offers two types of volunteer programs: paying and professional volunteers. By participating in the volunteer program, individuals can learn basic husbandry skills and gain insight into conservation issues faced in Vietnam.

  • Professional volunteers (i.e. veterinarians) must have relevant experience and can work on longer-term projects.
  • Paying volunteers can get hands-on experience in conservation work and work with rare species. Daily tasks include: collecting and preparing animals diets; monitoring animal behaviour and success of enrichment; making environmental enrichment; enclosure maintenance and cleaning; general husbandry activities such as raking, maintaining gardens; and other opportunities as the guest activities and animal duties dictate.

The cost for Paying Volunteers is $300-400/week, depending on length of commitment. The fee covers all meals and private accommodations at Cuc Phuong National Park. Left over money is used for animal food, upgrades, and other vital program materials.

While we generally do not condone programs where volunteers pay to participate, in this case, the costs are roughly equivalent to foreigners’ cost-of-living in a large city, making it economically neutral in comparison to just living & busying yourself in Hanoi.

To apply as a volunteer, go to

3) Keep Hanoi Clean / Keep Vietnam Clean – Environmental Stewardship

Keep Vietnam Clean (KVC) is an environmental NGO with a mission to reduce littering and foster environmental awareness. The organization was previously called Keep Hanoi Clean, but is now trying to expand to other cities outside of Hanoi.

KVC has a variety of campaigns dedicated to beautification (anti-litter campaigns, trash pick-up), green climate initiatives, and children education.

The organization’s main campaign is to stop people from throwing trash in rivers. You will often see people walk-up shamelessly to a river and through their bags of trash right in, in full view of everyone else — such is the low environmental awareness of many Vietnamese people.

Another great anti-trash campaign is for the “Kitchen God Day”, where Vietnamese people celebrate the beginning of the Lunar New Year by releasing fish into the water — but often throwing the plastic bag in the water as well!

KVC needs volunteers for a wide variety of tasks, including: web development, program coordination, event planning, photography and videography, social media and marketing, and help running a sustainable gift-shop. If you have technical web skills, like improving and maintaining the website, they could really use your help.

All volunteer and intern positions are unpaid, and volunteers are responsible for their own housing and food arrangements. There is no fee to participate.

4) Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV)

  • Website:
  • Compensation: none
  • Fee: none
  • Duties: various (event coordination, report writing, fundraising, general program assistant)
  • Focus: illicit trade in wildlife
  • Where: Hanoi
  • How to inquiry: send email with your skill-set and see if they have need of someone with your skills.

Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) is a non-governmental organization focused on wildlife conservation. It was founded in 2000 and has been leading the fight against illegal consumption and trade of wildlife for over 20 years. ENV employs creative, strategic, and decisive methods to end Vietnam’s illegal wildlife trade. ENV conducts massive awareness campaigns to reduce wildlife consumption and mobilize public action.

ENV’s campaigns focus on four species: bears, pangolins, rhinos, and tigers. For example, bears are illegally held captive in Vietnam to harvest their bile which is believed to hold medicinal value. For 15 years, ENV has been working with NGO partners, the Vietnamese government, and law enforcement to free captive bears and end the bear bile industry in Vietnam.

Ilegal pair bile
Illegal captive bear, kept alive in a cage while its bile is drained for traditional “medicine”. Source:

ENV occasionally accepts international volunteers to help with tasks like report writing, web-development, communications, event coordination, and collecting live crime data on wildlife crimes (e.g. logging incidents of illegal sale of protected wildlife in local markets, or online monitoring of illicit wildlife trade forums). Volunteers may also get involved in ENV’s programs and use their skills in areas like publicity and marketing. Whatever useful skill you have, there may be a need.

All volunteer and intern positions are unpaid, and volunteers are responsible for their own housing and food arrangements. There is no fee to participate.

To apply, see available opportunities here. Better yet, you should send your resume and skill-set and see if there is a need for your assistance. People with legitimate experience and good skills are likely needed, even if unadvertised.

Other Resources to Find Volunteer Opportunities in Vietnam

We found the above opportunities (and others) through the following non-exhaustive resources:

  • – This is a legitimate and well-used job and volunteer posting website for individuals working in the NGO and non-profit sector in Vietnam.
  • HelpX – Especially good for English-teaching volunteer opportunities, globally as well as for Vietnam.
  • – we love the Vietnamese community at They have incisive insights and tons of experience in Vietnam. However, their volunteer postings are sparse (none at the time of writing). Nonetheless, check this occasionally for opportunities, or browse the forums to listen to other expats’ experience in Vietnam.

Do you know of other good resources for volunteer opportunities in Vietnam? Please let us know in the comments.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply