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Your Guide to Volunteering in Shanghai

Looking to make a difference? You've got plenty of options around town.


Looking for a way to get more involved with the local community? These Shanghai-based charities are always looking for volunteers and have flexible programs, from a few hours a week helping elderly folks to breaking a sweat planting trees. Get involved with these communities in Shanghai and make a difference.




River of Hearts



River of Hearts, established in 2003, is an outreach program of the Community Center Shanghai. ROH provides expatriates living and working in Shanghai the opportunity to donate new and used items. The donations are delivered to communities in need across China. 



The Fiber Project



Founded by Nick Lim, The Fiber Project’s concept is simple and non-intrusive—to alleviate pollution caused by China's textile industry. It doesn’t require too much commitment to help make a positive change. Boxes are placed around the city to collect clothing donations, which are then dealt with in three different ways. Reuse: clothes in good condition are redistributed to impoverished schools. Upcycle: materials that are a little worn-down are sent to aspiring designers who create new clothes from old fabrics. Recycle: what is no longer re-usable is sent to be recycled. Garments are broken into fiber, spun into new yarns, then used to fashion new clothing. 





Lifeline Shanghai operates an English-speaking helpline service for the international community. The volunteer-led helpline provides free, confidential and anonymous emotional support and information to those struggling with their mental health and wellbeing while living in Shanghai. In order to attend the short training course and become a volunteer, you need to be 21 years or older and have lived in Shanghai for at least six months.


Hands On Shanghai



If you want to volunteer but aren’t sure where your skills are needed, Hands On Shanghai can help match you to a local charity, school or healthcare center and find a program that suits your schedule. These range from mentoring and tutoring students to playing mahjong and chatting with the elderly. Volunteers usually commit a few hours per week.


Shanghai Sunrise



This educational charity gives scholarships to disadvantaged students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to continue with school due to financial and health burdens within their family. Volunteers are needed across all areas including marketing, IT, fundraising and sponsorships.


Habitat for Humanity



Since 2000, Habitat for Humanity has built and renovated over 1,700 homes and assisted 7,000 poverty-stricken people in Shanghai and surrounding areas. Volunteers can take part in hands-on construction of houses through their international program Global Village. These volunteer trips last 5 days to 2 weeks and there are multiple volunteering opportunities across China.


Home Sweet Home



This Shanghai homeless shelter has expanded into a network of reintegration programs that equip those in need with life skills including vocational training, finance`al literacy and basic English. Volunteers are invited to help out at weekly spoken English lessons on Thursdays or Care Days on Saturdays.


Shanghai Young Bakers



Shanghai Young Bakers provides free French bakery training to Chinese youths who are unable to continue their education due to family circumstances. SYB puts them through a one-year training course designed to prepare them for employment. Volunteer opportunities are available in IT, translation, web writing, fundraising and event planning.




Shanghai Healing Home



Shanghai Healing Home helps care for orphaned babies with surgically correctable medical conditions. Their trained caregivers provide pre and post-surgical care in a home-like environment. You can help by volunteering regularly at the home during their music and art classes and spending time with toddlers.


Heart to Heart



Heart to Heart provides support and financial assistance to children with congenital heart defects through sales of their trademark Heart Bear toys. Every Heart Bear is outfitted in special cardigans knitted by volunteers. As well as knitting, volunteers can help out by participating in play sessions with kids in hospitals around Shanghai.



Stepping Stones



Stepping Stones’ mission is to improve the education and welfare of students in migrant schools around Shanghai. As well as helping teach English to migrant kids, volunteers can help run charitable projects such as summer programs and vision care programs. Volunteers are encouraged to commit between three to six hours per week.


Baobei Foundation



The name “baobei” is a Chinese term of endearment that literally means “a precious bundle”. This charity collaborates with medical professionals and orphanages to give care and rehabilitation support to babies with neurological or gastrointestinal defects. Volunteers can assist with short or long-term childcare and helping at fundraising bazaars and events.







Upbeing is a social innovation platform aimed at young children and teenagers. Upbeing's mission is to create a playground where students are empowered to participate in diverse social innovation projects and activities or initiate their own. Using techniques such as communitized and project based learning, the aim is to help students to discover and exploit their talents all the while doing meaningful things to instigate positive change. 


Roots & Shoots



Founded by the Jane Goodall Institute, Roots & Shoots was among the first international NGOs registered in China. Their Shanghai branch runs many long-term projects that individual volunteers can help out with, including community recycling, teaching nutrition and health in migrant schools, and the Million Tree Project, a reforestation project in Inner Mongolia.


Green Initiatives Shanghai



Green Initiatives’ mission is to minimize environmental damage in China through creating awareness and sustainable change. Current projects include helping local communities recycle electronics and unwanted clothing. They are looking for dedicated, passionate volunteers who are willing to devote more than just a few hours per week, in areas including campaign planning, translation, copywriting and project management.


Animal Rescue


Jaiya’s Animal Rescue



Since Jaiya’s Animal Rescue was founded in 2009, they’ve rescued more than 1,200 animals and held regular monthly adoption days. Volunteers are always needed for help with transportation to adoption days and vet visits, fundraising, donating goods and fostering animals while they wait for their forever home.


Second Chance Animal Aid



This Shanghai animal shelter relies on the power of volunteers to care for rescued cats, dogs and other pets. Other than adopting or fostering an animal, volunteers can help out on adoption days or with cleaning facilities, grooming, handing out brochures, fundraising or giving much-needed TLC to the animals.


People for Pets



People for Pets works with existing charities to rescue dogs deemed “unadoptable” due to untreated medical conditions, giving them proper vet care and helping them find a home. As well as becoming a fosterer, volunteers can help out with a range of tasks including pet transport, web admin, writing and translation, designing flyers for events and assisting at events.


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Fantastic article. This really needed writing and is a great service to charities and individuals interested in volunteering but unsure where to start.
thewooster's picture


@eddie10 Futian is a comprehensive recycler. Give them a call. http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/listings/community/charities/has/futian-environmental-protection-educator/


Well, heck, how did you know? ;) One of 'em does hum, spin-n-vibrate (blender/juicer), the other is a heating panel that's hot (and Ooohh so useful in Shanghai winter).


Nobody wants your old sex toys, eddie.


A related question, I have a couple of - old but perfectly working - home appliances to give away as I am upgrading. Instead of leaving it by the road side, I am thinking to channel those appliances (box+manual+all) to some worthy family. Any organisations that does that?
thewooster's picture


@52weekhigh Absolutely! We welcome additional suggestions and would love to hear about your personal experiences. This list is by no means--and far from being--comprehensive.


What about Lifeline Shanghai??! This non-profit is always in need of volunteers.
thewooster's picture


@emmaguo, Click on the links of the group names, and get in touch with them through their websites. All of the organizations should be actively seeking volunteers.


Oh great I'm always looking to try and volunteer and give back to the community!
emmaguo's picture


I wanna know how to join these volunteer groups
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