Volunteer in Sri Lanka

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  • Overview

    Spend your time as a group gaining experience in environmental sustainability, animal conservation, and elephant-human conflict issues. You’ll help improve lives of elephants while contributing to locals’ livelihoods. Work toward resolving human-elephant conflicts in Wasgamuwa National Park, a vast and diverse wilderness area in North Central Sri Lanka. Established in Sri Lanka with the sole purpose to conserve the dwindling biodiversity of Sri Lanka, you will work alongside the scientists and conservationists to save Sri Lanka’s unique ecosystems.

    Learn about the human elephant conflict and how your volunteer work will help!


    What are past participants saying about the program?

    “Volunteering in Sri Lanka was in every way an amazing experience. The location is beautiful and you really have the opportunity to be immersed in the culture. The staff on the project was incredible. They were friendly, caring and they had a great sense of humor. There’s not a single bad thing I have to say about my time in Sri Lanka. It was a total life changing experience and a lot of what I learned I will always carry with me. All I can say is how grateful I am that I could have this experience.” — Shannon Elder, Greenheart Travel Sri Lanka alum

  • Eligibility

    This program is open to groups of people who meet the following requirements:

    • All group members are a minimum of 15 years old
    • Be in good physical shape for manual labor
    • Be open minded and curious about the environment and culture of Sri Lanka

    *We are also able to accommodate corporate volunteer groups, individual adults, and families. Please inquire with a program manager. 

  • Project Details

    During the volunteer program, you will make a direct impact in the lives of people and wildlife by performing such duties as:

    • Participate in daily ecological research on elephants
    • Observe and assess human-elephant interactions and conflicts
    • Conduct local biodiversity surveys
    • Work with local communities to teach environmental awareness & sustainability
    • Help to monitor and evaluate innovative landscape management systems
    • Identify rural livelihoods that impact the environment

    Here’s an example of what your schedule might look like while volunteering in Sri Lanka:

  • Program Dates

    Group Start Dates:

    We can accommodate groups starting any given Monday throughout the year. Please apply at least 6 weeks prior to your desired start date!

    Arrival and Departure Information:

    • Arrive at the Colombo Airport the Sunday before their Monday start date before 5:00pm
      • Groups are picked up from the airport and spend one night in Colombo before being transferred to the project site the following day
    • Depart from the Colombo Airport on the Monday at the end of their program after 5:00pm
  • Costs and Inclusions

    Please inquire directly with a program manager regarding total cost of the program; fees depend on the size of your group.

    Packed into the Price:

    • Accommodation in volunteer bunkhouses
    • 3 meals per day and filtered water during program
    • Airport pickup and drop off to/from Colombo Airport
    • Daily onsite transportation in Land Rover 4WD vehicles
    • Medical/accident insurance
    • 24-hour long distance and local emergency support
    • On-site arrival orientation and training

    Our Support and Services:

    • Extensive pre-departure advice and support from your program manager
    • Comprehensive program handbook
    • Online pre-departure cultural and logistical orientation with Greenheart Travel
    • Culture & etiquette guidebook
    • The Greenheart Travel Atlas, an interactive guide to your cross-cultural experience


    • Donation to support the Greenheart Odyssey, an award-winning youth leadership development program
    • Certificate of Completion upon request for successful completion of the program

    Additional Expenses to Budget for:

    • Flights to and from Sri Lanka*
    • Visas to Sri Lanka
    • Spending money for personal purchases or activities

    *Greenheart Travel can arrange flights for your group and package them into your program fee upon request.

  • Excursion

    To help you immerse in the culture and history of Sri Lanka, your program fee will include a day-long excursion. Your group will participate in educational visits to the nearby cultural sites of Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the Dambulla Caves. You will depart the field house early morning via private vehicle, stopping at both sites for a few hours to learn about their significance and history. Lunch and snacks will also be included. After the visit, you will return to the volunteer accommodations.

    During your weekend, you will have free time to relax, rest and enjoy the natural surroundings of the field house.

  • Accommodation

    Volunteers stay at a volunteer field house which can accommodate up to 18 volunteers. It is only 15 minutes from the entrance to the program work site. You may share a room with other participants, but you will be separated by gender. At the field house, there are:inside the field house

    • Four modern bathrooms
    • Four basic bedrooms
    • Electric fans
    • Mosquito nets
    • Pillows
    • Clean bed sheets

    There is only cold water and you should bring your own towel. Want to know what the day-to-day life is like while volunteering on this program? Read Shannon Schroeder’s blog about her experience in Sri Lanka.

  • Why Greenheart Travel?

    With so many volunteer options, why volunteer through Greenheart Travel? 

    Greenheart Travel is a non-profit, mission based organization committed to making a positive, long-lasting impact in the communities where we work. We partner with local, grassroots non-profit organizations in Sri Lanka to not only to create the most impactful program, but also to guarantee your volunteer work will make a difference.

    Greenheart Travel has been operating volunteer abroad programs for many years. We are proud of our authentic, hands-on opportunities on 4 different continents, which allow you to provide service hours to communities around the world! There are lots of advantages to traveling with us:

    Personalized and Consistent Support

    • Our staff is in Chicago – we are available to answer questions during US business hours
    • Friendly, responsive, and professional communication from staff who have actually volunteered abroad themselves
    • Hands on support and personal attention every step of the way
    • An experienced program manager will personally review your application to make sure this is the right program for you

    Global Community of Volunteers

    • Access to a community of alumni and current volunteers on the program, before you even leave!
    • Automatic enrollment in the Greenheart Club, an online community for Greenheart alumni to find resources, log volunteer hours, and apply for alumni grants and scholarship
    • Offer an online platform to log your service hours, qualifying you for a  Greenheart Grant
    • Exclusive access to Greenheart Travel Alumni Program

    Top-Notch Materials and Preparation

    • The Greenheart Travel Atlas, an interactive guide to your cross-cultural experience
    • Online pre-departure orientation with focus on cultural training
    • Greenheart Travel T-shirt
    • Sri Lanka Culture Smart! Guide Book

    Don’t just take our word for it! Check out independent reviews from past participants of Greenheart Travel programs here.

  • For Parents

    The decision to send your teenager abroad can be difficult and there are a lot of questions to consider. We understand your concerns and the Greenheart Travel staff is there for you every step of the way! We want to make the process of traveling and volunteering abroad as fun and painless as possible for you and your child. Here are some of the common questions we get from parents as they consider the program:

    What does it mean to be in good mental health in the program eligibility requirements?

    Moving to a new culture and staying in unfamiliar surroundings without your normal support structure can be very stressful, even to a well-adjusted student. Sending a student with pre-existing conditions on an exchange program could exacerbate whatever challenges the student was previously facing. In order to ensure the safety of our participants, we must be rigorous in our pre-screening of all applicants.

    Therefore, we may not be able to accept students who have struggled with any kind of mental illness within the last 2 years and/or are reliant on medication to address their existing mental health condition.

    These include, but are not limited to:

    • Depression
    • Obsessive compulsive disorder
    • Debilitating anxiety
    • Eating disorders

    If the student’s mental health issue has been resolved (post-medication) for over 2 years, we will ask for a note from his/her relevant practitioner (psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, etc) as part of the application process.

    What is Sri Lanka like?

    Lots of people are not familiar with this tiny Southeast Asian country, but don’t worry! We’ve answered a bunch of your frequently asked questions below, as well as a blog post about Sri Lanka to help you learn more about this amazing country. Sri Lanka is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of India. Known as Ceylon until 1972, Sri Lanka has a very rich and interesting history spanning over 3,000 years. Sri Lanka is a diverse country, home to over 20 million people from many religions, ethnicities and languages. Approximately 70% of people are Buddhist, but there are also many Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Sri Lankan culture is very family orientated and people often live in large households. The most popular sport in Sri Lanka is cricket.

    Is Sri Lanka safe?

    Yes, Sri Lanka is safe. As with many destinations, tourists are magnets for pick pocketers, so be sure to keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Streets are often narrow and filled with people, vehicles, and sometimes animals which can be distracting. Also, know how much money is on you and when buying items at souvenir shops, make sure you get correct change back.

    Will there be a language barrier?

    There are many unique dialects and languages that vary by region in Sri Lanka. Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages of the Sri Lanka, but English is commonly known and will get you by in many situations.

    What is the climate like?

    The island consists mostly of flat to rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south-central part. The climate is tropical and warm, due to the moderating effects of ocean winds. Temperatures range from 60 °F in the central highlands to a maximum of 95 °F in low-altitude areas. Rainfall is common throughout the year in the central highlands.

    Can my child apply with a friend?

    Absolutely! We are happy to accept friends and couples.

    What vaccinations will I need?

    When traveling to any destination, make sure your routine vaccines are up to date. Try to schedule an appointment with your doctor 4-6 weeks before your trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) also highly recommends the Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and up to date polio vaccinations due to potentially contaminated food or water.

    How will I communicate with my child?

    There is WiFi available at the project site, so if your child has a smart phone you can speak to them via Facebook Messanger, WhatsApp, iMessage, etc. You will receive more information upon acceptance onto the program.

    Is the water safe to drink?

    The onsite accommodation will provide you with safe and filtered drinking water. If you leave the site, most of Sri Lanka’s water is not safe to drink, and we recommend that travelers should stick to bottled water. Restaurants may sometimes offer treated drinking water, but it’s safer to stick with bottled.

    What if I have an allergy/specific dietary requirement?

    We can cater to vegetarian or vegan needs quite easily. Any other specific diets should be discussed with us to see if we can arrange to have your needs met. In some cases you may need to provide your own food.

  • Application Process

    Committing to a volunteer abroad program is an exciting time, and we are here every step of the way to make the application process as simple as possible. Below are the 4 steps you’ll need to take to be accepted on a Greenheart Travel program.

    Once you begin your application, you have two weeks to finish.

    1. Start Your Application Here (Approximately 5 Minutes): Greenheart Travel Application.

    2. Sign the Terms & Conditions (Approximately 10 Minutes): After you complete Part 1 of your application, you (and your parent(s) if you’re under 18) will be asked to read through and sign our Terms and Conditions which outline the requirements and policies of the program.

    4. Submit your deposit (Approximately 5 minutes): You will need to submit your $300 deposit at this point in the process. A deposit is required in order to reserve your spot on the program and is subtracted from your total program fee.

    5. Secondary Application Form (Approximately 30 Minutes): This is the most in-depth part of the application process as it helps us get to know you better. You will need to provide detailed information about yourself, why you want to volunteer abroad, and what you hope to gain from your experience.

    6. Acceptance: Once you’ve completed all the steps, Greenheart Travel will thoroughly review your application and will contact you within 2-3 business days about your acceptance the next steps.

    Payment Schedule

    As for the payments, you will be required to pay a $300 deposit when you submit your application, and then a second $300 placement deposit will be due after your acceptance. The final balance of the program is due 35 days before departure. We do not deviate from this schedule and you can pay online via credit card.

    After Applying, Now What?

    Greenheart Travel will thoroughly review your application and will contact you within 2-3 business days to confirm your acceptance. If we find something in your application that we have concerns about, we will let you know immediately. 95% of applicants are accepted on the program they apply for.

    Your program manager will be in touch with you directly about your acceptance. You should expect to receive an orientation packet via email, which talks more about your program, as well as supplemental information about dealing with culture shock and our insurance program. We will also schedule a pre-departure orientation to answer any lingering questions you may have.

  • Schedule a Call

    Have questions or want to talk to us about the program? Set up a time to have a phone call below.

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