A guide to volunteering
Doing some volunteer work abroad is a great way to do something a bit more constructive with your time on a gap year. There are many different kinds of volunteer work abroad available that offer the opportunity to give something back to some of the places and communities you visit.
Why choose volunteer travel as a gap year option?
Volunteer because your time, energy and skills can be of huge benefit to people who don't have even half the advantages you do.
Travel because it's a great opportunity to see new places, learn about new cultures and make new friends.
Volunteer travel because it combines two great experiences. You can travel as you volunteer or volunteer then travel afterwards!
Put your skills to good use
Your gap year is a chance to develop what you already do in more exciting surroundings. Using your initiative is a big part of volunteering - so working out how you can utilise your existing skills is excellent practice. Make a list of your qualifications, interests and experiences, browse our programmes and start matchmaking!
Was babysitting a source of income?
Looking after the horrors down the road or your siblings might actually stand you in good stead during your gap year. Our volunteers report that most children are overwhelmingly grateful for any time you give them - unlike your charges back here.
You don't have to have football star skills to inspire children to play a sport, or to arrange competitions for them. Did you enjoy gym class at school? Great. Bear in mind that some kids have to make do with scrunched up carrier bags as balls - you'll be appreciated just for bringing a real ball with you. A little experience, mixed with lots of creativity and enthusiasm, has brightened up many a life.
Were you part of a mentoring scheme at school?
Some schools ask older pupils to listen to the younger ones read or be a big brother or sister. If that was you, think about whether you enjoyed mentoring and how you were able to help.
Band member, regular karaoke participant or choir member?
Again, talent is not a priority. If you can hold a tune, think about songs you might be able to teach the children - simple ones for the younger ones, more complex ones for teenagers. Accompaniment on simple instruments or backing from a cheap tape recorder would make for memorable sessions. Just remember, most schools won't have such facilities - this is where your pre-trip fundraising comes in.
How to choose a volunteer experience
Have you done any first aid certificates?
If you've done a first aid course or are interested in nursing, you could work in a bushman clinic, hospital or clinic facility.
A lot of our medical programmes don't require any qualifications or experience, so any you do have will be an added bonus.
Dog walker or pet lover?
If you enjoyed looking after Hammy the Hamster or got paid for walking next door's dog, you might fancy taking care of more unusual wildlife. A lot of our programmes allow for hands-on contact, so you'll get to know them as well as you did dear old Hammy. You'll have to keep your distance from some animals, but you'll still be making a difference, and getting closer to them than most people ever will.
Are you a linguistic? ¿Hablas español?
Language skills and the ability to communicate non-verbally (that's pointing and signing, in case you were wondering!) will be very useful if you volunteer in a non-English speaking country. GCSE/A Level/High School Diploma standard languages will stand you in good stead on a lot of Real Gap projects. You might even find yourself playing interpreter for other volunteers. Don't let not speaking a language stop you, though - there are plenty of language school programmes that will give you the vocabulary to put your ideas across.
For more help with choosing your volunteer experience take a look at our gap year planner section where you can print off pages to help you make those first steps to choosing and planning your gap year. Or give one of our advisers a call!