Some countries have long-term charity volunteer work opportunities, but these require a major commitment to volunteer.
These opportunities are often linked in some way to a national government. The best known is probably the Peace Corps, a US-based agency devoted to peace and democracy, American-style. They offer long-term placements and pay all expenses.
The Peace Corps tends to prepare young Americans for public or international service.
Throughout the UN or humanitarian and development agencies, scratch an American and you'll often find someone who's gone through the Corps.
Did you know Paul Theroux, travel writer extraordinaire, author the Great Railway Bazaar and The Mosquito Coast got his start as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi in the mid-sixties?
You don't have to go the government route for an all expenses paid tour of duty abroad, though. A range of long-term international charity volunteer work programs provides different benefits for volunteers but the criteria can be stringent, interviews and all. If you want to volunteer for a year or two, these are worth exploring.
The EVS, or European Voluntary Service, helps place young Europeans for up to a year in various European countries.
In Canada, try Uniterra for long-term opportunities and a small stipend, especially if you have a skill or expertise.
In Australia, Australian Volunteers International places permanent residents of Australia and New Zealand.
If you have a medical specialty, you could try IMVA, which places health care practitioners around the world for a year and more. If you're not a medical expert but want to contribute to public health in developing countries, they have openings for logistics, fundraising, communications and similar specialists.
The VSO, or Voluntary Services Overseas, is a UK-based development agency where you don't have to be just out of school. In fact they'll take you into your seventies as long as you live in Europe, Canada or the US, whatever your nationality.
I have fond memories of VSO volunteers - they saved my life once. Two VSO forest rangers in central Nigeria were giving me a ride when we got too close to an elephant cow and her calves. She was anxious and charged us - our VSO colleagues pulled off a stellar piece of driving, backing across a chasm bridged by two rickety wood planks. Amazing!
My all-time favorite is the United Nations Volunteers - if you have a university degree or higher, this may be the outfit for you. It's also great for seniors because they have no maximum age. They also get you there and back and provide a modest stipend to cover living expenses during your service.