Lifeline Volunteering

Shanghai is a city of vast wealth compared with much of China, but there are still plenty of people in the city and the surrounding area who need help. Many people come to Shanghai and want to dedicate some of their spare time to charity work, but it can be difficult to find the city's charity and volunteer organisations. There are in fact a wealth of options for those who wish to help the less fortunate in Shanghai, but they aren't particularly well advertised.

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of Shanghai's many volunteer organisations. Credit to expat magazine City Weekend, as many of these links were found in the "Helping Hands" feature included in the May 16-29 2013 issue.


One of the most welcoming charity organisations in the city, BEAN's main aim is to encourage volunteer work among young professionals in Shanghai, and tries to help many different needy groups, from physically and mentally disabled children to the elderly. Their Think Global Act Local initiative rallies BEAN members from around the world to focus on a single cause.
Hands On Shanghai
More than 10,000 volunteers registered with Hands On Shanghai help out with a wide range of causes, like teaching mentally challenged individuals or visiting bed-bound children in hospitals. They have over 90 different service activities every month, and are more than happy to hear from any volunteers, whatever your schedule, interests, or level of commitment.
Lifeline Shanghai
This free, anonymous and confidential support hotline for English-speaking expats is completely staffed by volunteers, and has been in operation since 2004. Whenever someone feels troubled, overwhelmed or just in the mood to talk to someone, we're always a phone call away. Get in touch via the website, or reach out to user /u/Crackspawn.


Shanghai Roots and Shoots
Founded in 1991, SR&S now has a global network of 8,000 groups in 100 countries. They are best-known for their Million Trees Project, a reforestation initiative. Volunteer hours are flexible, and focuses on green and environmental issues - mentoring local school groups on environmental issues, helping groups plant gardens or managing eco-projects.
Green Drinks China
Founded in only 2009, Green Drinks has carried out many successful workshops and forums in more than 8 cities in China. Primarily interested in green-related topics and sustainable solutions for China.


Habitat For Humanity
HFH focuses on helping poverty-stricken families, providing them with somewhere to live. Since the year 2000 they have built or repaired some 1,700 homes, and have helped more than 7,000 Chinese people in Shanghai and its environs. Their biggest project at the moment is the Shanghai Age-Friendly Housing Project, which aims to renovate homes for Shanghai's elderly citizens.
Home Sweet Home
HSH started as a shelter but has expanded into a whole range of programs that help the poor, homeless, and disabled. This includes training (both vocational as well as basic living skills), money management, English tuition, and plenty more besides.
Starfish Foster Home
SFH invites interns and medical volunteers to help provide medical assistance for orphans, especially those who need medical care. Volunteer duties start out with feeding, changing nappies, and generally looking after infants. Medical volunteers can sign up for a long-term commitment if they desire.
Morning Tears
An alliance of non-profit organisations, Morning Tears helps look after those children whose parents have been incarcerated. They have childcare centres that give kids a temporary place to stay, as well as emotional and financial support. Volunteers' duties mainly comprise fundraising, advocacy, and spreading awareness rather than hands-on childcare.
River of hearts logo
River of Hearts
Established in 2003, River of Hearts provides expatriates living and working in Shanghai the opportunity to graciously give new and used items they no longer need to those who are in need. For more details about drop-off locations and how to participate, please follow this link.

Animal Rights & Welfare

Second Chance Animal Aid
With no shelters of their own, SCAA relies on volunteers to care for rescued cats, dogs, and other animals. China is not a country known for its sympathetic attitudes towards stray animals, so the best way you can get involved yourself is to adopt a pet and give it a safe, loving home. Volunteers who aren't in a position to adopt can also help out with monthly projects like cleaning facilities, grooming, and generally just looking after animals that need some love.

Children's Health

Baobei Foundation
宝贝 (bǎobèi) means 'baby' and is a common Chinese term of endearment. This charity aims to raise funds to deliver life-saving medical care to babies, and then care for them until they can be adopted into a loving home. Volunteers are generally involved in fundraising, childcare, and donating baby supplies.
Heart to Heart Shanghai
Heart2Heart are primarily involved with raising money to help needy children who need heart surgery. Volunteers can help in a variety of ways: volunteering in hospital playrooms, donating or crafting clothes, sorting through donations, fundraising, and more.
Shanghai Healing Home
This charity works with the Chinese Children's Welfare Institute to provide pre- and post-surgical care to orphaned babies suffering from conditions that can be corrected with surgery. Volunteers can help look after these children, as well as get involved in sessions such as music classes, baby development, and language classes.
United Foundation for China's Health (UFCH)
Based in Beijing, UFCH has helped underprivileged and orphaned children for over a decade in receiving healthcare that otherwise would not have been available. By partnering with both private and government welfare homes, the foundation makes healthcare accessible to more and more children in need throughout China by providing help for routine medical care, life-saving surgeries and treatment for local children. UFCH provides medical outreach programs such as caregiver training and medical visits, and participates in fundraising events. Mail for more details.


Stepping Stones
Stepping Stones is a provider of free English language classes, helping over 4,000 students each year in 20 migrant schools and community centres in Shanghai. Teachers must commit to a minimum of 3-4 months, 4 to 6 hours a week, delivering 35-40 minute lessons to students aged 6-15. Assistant teachers support them by keeping order, assisting in exercises and providing translation in class, but must be able to commit to 3-4 months and 3-4 hours per week. However, Stepping Stones need more than just teachers, so you can also get involved if you want to help out with fundraising, curriculum development, training, etc.
Shanghai Sunrise
This organisation currently sponsors around 500 students a year in all 18 of Shanghai's districts. For every 3000 RMB raised, a deserving student will receive a year of tuition and a lifetim of benefits. Shanghai Sunrise rely primarily on their volunteers to provide fundraising, as well as financial and event management, translation, sales, and general adminstration.