Volunteering abroad on your gap year is a great way to make the most of your year out. Many gappers, including the ones in this here office, cite the time they spent volunteering on their gap year as the best and most rewarding part of their travels. It’s a chance to settle into a local community, make friends, save money and above all help those in need of your skills and brawn.
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities out there. You could do anything from offering to volunteer with animals abroad to teaching English as a foreign language pretty much anywhere, including Cambodia, Ghana or even Bangalore. If you’re still at university or in between education you can also check out the many student volunteer programs abroad there are for you to get stuck into on gapyear.com too.
Volunteer on your gap year and you can offer your time to help communities around the world that need your help right now. Some are desperately in need of water, of food, of education and of medical and social care. If you have experience or an interest in any of these areas your skills and enthusiasm will be well placed on one of our volunteer abroad projects. Or if you can' decide then check out our combo placements to get the best of both worlds.
You can pretty much volunteer anywhere you like – choose your top destination and you’re bound to find a volunteering project to suit. Just take a look at our adventure volunteer opportunities for starters. You can really make a difference in countries like Cambodia, India or Morocco, or head to anywhere in Europe to see what community project ideas they have there.
There are also volunteer opportunities available in sports projects, expeditions, electives and humanitarian work too. Take the time to have a look at the projects on offer, and think about your goals and aims for the summer, before you commit.
Choosing a Volunteering Project
It can be overwhelming to see just how many projects are out there. Start by taking a look through all the projects listed on the site and make a short list of ones that catch your interest. Have a look at our gappers’ first hand experiences too. Then check out our country pages to understand a bit more about your chosen destinations and what you'll be able to do there when you're not volunteering. Check it suits what you imagine for your gap year.
You should have a shorter list now to work from so go back and read the listing again. Then just click the orange button to enquire and let the company know you’re interested. Someone will be back to you straight away with more information.
Before deciding on a volunteer project
Make sure you do your research before you commit, and know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. Always check out the website and do a Google search for the company name to see what others are saying about the company. If you’re in any doubts just don’t do it. Check out our listings to see what some of the top companies in the world have to offer.
If it’s your first time abroad, or your first time to a country like this you need to really question yourself as to whether you’ll be able to deal with the conditions when you’re feeling homesick and tired and you still have to carry on with the work. Volunteering on a tough project abroad is one of the best ways to test yourself and who you really are, but if its’ really out of your reach don’t do it.
Questions to ask yourself
- Where do you want to go?
- What do you want to do?
- How long for?
- Would you prefer a group or to go it solo?
- How much money do you have?
Questions to ask the volunteer project
- Why do you need a volunteer?
- What will I be doing day to day?
- What skills are needed?
- How will my work help a local community?
- If there’s a recent volunteer who did the same work to talk to?
- What are the conditions like I’ll be living in?
- What kind of support is available?
- Will there be other volunteers there?
For some gappers the volunteer opportunities out there are one of the most exciting things about going on a gap year, others maybe asking themselves 'why should I volunteer?' The answers are plentiful and proven. Here are just 5 of the many that will hopefully get you off the tourist trail and into the volunteer projects that need your assistance.
1. To help
Most gappers volunteer in order to help out those less fortunate. How much money, opportunity and health you have varies greatly depending on where you're born and many individuals want to help those deficient in any of the above. Choose the right volunteering project and you can really make a difference to people who need it.
2. For your CV
Volunteer abroad and you can gain invaluable experience in your chosen field, which you can bring back to your CV. You’ll get a unique experience that will push you to the top of the pile when it comes to getting a job, and a community in need will get the benefits of your skills, passion and expertise. Going abroad for volunteer work is sure to impress any recruiter in the future, and open your mind to your talents and skills you never knew you had. Generally you’ll also be entrusted to do a lot more in your chosen field than you would in the UK, as resources are sacred.
3. To live as a local
Volunteering abroad is a great way to get to live as locals do in a destination, rather than hostel hopping around the tourist areas. On some volunteering projects you’ll get the chance to actually live with the locals, giving you an incredibly rich cultural experience as well as the opportunity to make new friends from very different backgrounds.
4. To try something new
There are volunteering opportunities for any idea you could imagine. In general a gap year is your chance to try something new every day, so it's natural that you apply this to finding a volunteering placement. You can help people like you never have before, or work with pandas, leopards, or volunteer in constuction. The opportunities are endless.
5. For an incredible experience
You've just spent the last 15 or so years in a classroom - it's time to get out there and see the world. Volunteering abroad will be incredible, I guarantee. Whether you love it at first task, you grow into it, or you only realise how awesome the experience was when you return we can guarantee it will be one of the best things you ever do.
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Ben first volunteered in Swaziland after finishing his degree, helping to care for vulnerable children. He has now volunteered a number of times in Southern Africa and promotes ethical volunteering. If you have any questions about volunteering then ping them to Ben.