Where to volunteer in Shanghai

Give back to the city you love by working on environmental conservation, education, animal rescue and more

Looking to give back to the city you love? Whether you want to provide shelters to your furry friends, care for Mother Earth or to help combat poverty and improve young people's education, there are loads of organisations and charities in Shanghai looking for volunteers of all ages. Participate in a seminar, adopt a pet or simply spread the word – it all makes a difference.

Environmental groups

Love Mother Earth? Get involved with these organisations around Shanghai

Green Initiatives

What they do: Formerly known as Green Drinks China, non-profit organisation Green Initiatives has been running in Shanghai for years with a mission to ‘promote awareness, facilitate action, implement projects and stimulate change toward sustainable models of growth and consumption’. Originally founded as a casual get-together for environmentally conscious professionals, the group has expanded its operations to include community and student outreach programmes. Its website also features an archive of previous presentations from events, along with a ‘green directory’ detailing eco-friendly organisations and outlets in the city.

How you can help: The easiest way to get involved is to attend one of Green Initiatives’ discussions or film screenings. The group is always looking for sponsors, donors and volunteers for their various programmes as well, and interested parties should contact the organisation via its website at greeninitiatives.cn. For more information on upcoming events, you can also follow 'greeninitiatives' on WeChat.

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328 Hunan Lu

Rendu Ocean Center

What they do: Rendu Ocean Center is a local NGO that works to clean up Shanghai’s beaches. Started in 2007 by three leaders of a grassroots community group and registered as an NGO in 2013, the organisation holds monthly clean-ups at Nanhui beach and other coastal areas near the city, gathering up to 300 volunteers for each outing. Much of the waste found on Shanghai’s oceanfront consists of plastic bags and styrofoam packaging. Believing that educating people to separate waste, as well as collecting it, is crucial in learning how to prevent it in the first place, Rendu carries out a number of educational activities as well.

How you can help: If you’d like to get involved with Rendu, you can join one of the beach clean-ups, either as an individual or in a group. Rendu’s organisers are not fluent in English so it’s best if volunteers are bilingual or can partner with someone who is, but English speakers are still welcome. Gloves and shoes are provided for the 90-minute clean-ups. For more info, visit renduocean.org.

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613 Eshan Lu

Shanghai Roots and Shoots

What they do: Shanghai Roots and Shoots (SRS) is our city’s branch of the global environmental and conservation organisation founded by renowned primatologist Dr Jane Goodall in 1991. The primary focus is on educational programmes, undertaken through partnerships with schools and other local institutions. In addition to initiatives focused on environmental issues, SRS also operates programmes that support the education of migrant children and help with care for cancer patients.

How you can help: In addition to making direct monetary contributions to Roots and Shoots Shanghai or their programmes, individuals can volunteer to do everything from administrative work and translation tasks to fundraising and project management. There are no specific requirements for those who want to get involved. Schools and corporations can also get involved in Roots and Shoots’ initiatives. To find out more, take a look at the SRS China website or follow 'RootsandShoots' on WeChat. 

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666 Fuzhou Lu

Community groups

Make a difference close to home

HandsOn Shanghai

What they do: With a network of volunteer opportunities that touch on issues such as the environment, education and health, Hands On Shanghai coordinates a variety of regular events including volunteering as a nurse’s assistant at a disabled and orphaned children’s centre or serving as an old folks' companion at elderly centres at weekends.

How you can help: Hands On Shanghai is always looking for volunteers at the individual, corporate or student level (depending on the project, Chinese language skills may be required). For more info, visit the Hands On Shanghai website or follow the official Hands On Shanghai WeChat account.

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Charity Dream

What they do: Charity Dream describe themselves as an umbrella organisation overseeing community initiatives. These include assisting local children’s welfare institutes through Shanghai Healing Home (which provides pre- and post-surgical care for orphaned babies), supporting music and language schools, building a volunteer community and overseeing their Learning Beyond Academy educational facility. 

How you can help: Charity Dream is looking for people to serve as teaching assistants, office volunteers, house cleaners and more. There are also weekly sessions, such as therapy groups and language corners to join. For more details, visit the Charity Dreams Shanghai website.

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35 Xujiazhai Lu

Animal adoption and rescue

Whether you’re more into cats, dogs or rabbits, you can be an animal shelter volunteer in Shanghai right now

Best Friends China

What they do: Best Friends China (BFC) was founded in late 2012 to assist the animal rescue community in Shanghai. Staffed by volunteers, the organisation aims to improve coordination for animal adoption across the city, while also helping with educational programmes.

How you can help: Take a look at BFC's website for the current list of adoptable pets – it's dominated by dogs and cats, but rabbits and other animals also appear – or drop by one of their monthly adoption days. You can also follow 'BFC_520' on WeChat. 

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Paw Pals Animal Rescue (PPAR)

What they do: Paw Pals Animal Rescue (PPAR) run a shelter in Minhang district that operates as a halfway house for cats and kittens that have been rescued but have nowhere to go. Founded in 2007 and staffed entirely by volunteers, PPAR looks after the animals until they can be adopted. A non-profit cat shelter set up by a group of Shanghai-based animal rescuers, PPAR has so far rescued over 600 cats and kittens and is currently a temporary home for 70 kitties in need of a new family. There are adoption days every month and the PPAR shelter can open its doors during the weekend upon request.

How you can help: To inquire about adoption or find out about upcoming events or adoption days, check out the PPAR website or follow 'PPAR_sh' on WeChat.

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555 Jinping Lu

Second Chance Animal Aid

What they do: Affiliated with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Second Chance Animal Aid (SCAA) has been helping to improve the conditions for animals in the city through outreach, education, advocacy and medical care, in addition to the promotion of foster care for abandoned pets, since 2005. SCAA lacks a physical shelter and therefore relies on a network of volunteers to provide homes for animals while they await long-term adoption or foster care.

How you can help: SCAA is constantly on the lookout for people who can adopt or foster one of their rescued animals. An adoption donation is requested to cover the costs involved with supporting the pet in the interim period between being rescued and finding a home, and also to contribute to the cost of getting the animals healthy – all of the pets that SCAA put up for adoption have been given appropriate veterinary treatments before they leave. SCAA hosts regular adoption days for prospective pet owners, while sponsorship and donations are also welcome. For more info, visit take a look at the SCAA Shanghai website or follow 'SCAAShanghai' on WeChat.

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Education groups

Help combat poverty and improve young people’s education in Shanghai

Shanghai Sunrise

What they do: Shanghai Sunrise has been working to help disadvantaged children in China enjoy a better quality of education for almost two decades. They do this by matching sponsors with young people in need of support to get through the country’s education system, where families face costs starting from around 500RMB each month after the first nine years of schooling (which are provided free by the government). Sponsors are encouraged to supply funds to enable the students to complete their education in full and there are periodic opportunities for both sides to meet.

How you can help: While sponsors for students are always welcome, this is not the only way to get involved with Shanghai Sunrise’s various programmes. The non-profit is also looking for volunteers to help with a range of tasks, including fundraising and project management, event organisation and marketing, as well as communications. Alternatively, you can also host your own fundraising event to support their work. For more details on how to get started and on specific positions currently available at Shanghai Sunrise, visit their website or follow WeChat ID 'ShanghaiSunriseSHSR'.

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1602 Zhongshan Xi Lu

Shanghai Young Bakers

What they do: Run by Shanghai Charity Foundation and Chi Heng Foundation, Shanghai Young Bakers (SYB) provides disadvantaged children with the opportunity to gain full French and Asian bakery training, enabling them to forge a career and ‘pull themselves out of the poverty cycle’. Graduates from the SYB programme have gone on to enrol at world-class bakery schools, such as the Ecole Française de Boulangerie et Pâtisserie d’Aurillac in France.

How you can help: SYB is looking for volunteers who can commit to a few hours a week for at least three months. Rather than offering set opportunities, the organisation will match your skills to their needs; roles can include IT support, fundraising and event supervision. To learn more, email communication@shanghaiyoungbakers.com, check shanghaiyoungbakers.com or follow 'shanghaiyoungbakers' on WeChat.

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Stepping Stones China

What they do: Recognising the difficulty faced by migrant children and rural schools in effectively delivering English language teaching, Stepping Stones’ operations are focused on providing these institutions with volunteer English teachers. Much of their work deals with Shanghai-based schools, with classroom teaching, after-school and summer camp programmes, but they also organise regular trips to provide services in provinces such as Anhui. Stepping Stones says that since beginning operations in 2006, their programmes have ‘been proven to increase students exam results, increase their confidence and interest in English, better prepare students for their key examinations, and expose youth to the virtues of volunteerism.’ Since 2008, they have also operated the I Care Project to help improve the vision of disadvantaged children in China.

How you can help: There are two key volunteering opportunities with Stepping Stones: main teachers and assistant teachers. Both of these roles require applicants to have a strong grasp of English and commit to a minimum placement of three to four months. The organisation also holds frequent orientation and training sessions for volunteers. For more info, check steppingstoneschina.net or follow 'steppingstoneschina' on WeChat.

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75 Leshan Lu

Health and wellness

Provide emotional support for those who need it, and financial support for medical procedures

Lifeline Shanghai

Lifeline Shanghai

Lifeline is an English-speaking helpline, which provides free, confidential and anonymous emotional support for anything from the little stresses of daily life to more acute issues. After someone calls in, hotline assistants
help by suggesting additional services in Shanghai or simply by listening. Along with the telephone hotline, Lifeline also has a series of in-person workshops and events around town. Call between 10am and 10pm, 365 days a year.

Call 6279 8990 or visit lifeline-shanghai.com for more information.

Heart to Heart Shanghai

Heart to Heart Shanghai

What they do For almost two decades, Heart to Heart has been providing support and financial assistance to children from disadvantaged areas in need of surgery for congenital heart defects. While their heart surgery sponsorship programme remains the main focus of their work, Heart to Heart has also expanded operations to include related projects such as a school library initiative and now operates near-daily hospital play sessions with affected children.

How you can help In addition to donating unwanted goods (such as clothing, food and hotel or airplane vanity kits) and money, you can help support Heart to Heart through a number of volunteering opportunities. For more info, visit www.h2hsh.com.

Baobei Foundation

Baobei Foundation

What they do Working closely with Shanghai-based medical professionals and orphanages in the region, the Baobei Foundation helps provide urgently needed medical care for babies with gastrointestinal or neurological birth defects. Through donations and fundraising events, it provides transport to advanced medical facilities in Shanghai and covers the costs of surgeries as well as aftercare services.

How you can help Volunteers can assist with fundraising and administrative tasks as well as with hospital visitations and post-surgery care at healing homes. For More info, visit www.baobeifoundation.org

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