Volunteering with children, the elderly and others in need on your gap year is one of the most meaningful and rewarding things you do. There is a range of options and huge number of people who need your help. You could assist with developing a better life for underprivileged children, maximising their potential and equipping them with the skills which could lead to a better future. Or you could care for the elderly, enabling them to live their autumn years with an added sense of dignity and enjoyment. There are hundreds of opportunities all over the world for you to spend a caring gap year.
Tips for Volunteering with Children
Who should I volunteer with?
There are children all over the world who would benefit greatly from your help on your gap year. Some of these children are victims of political strife, some are homeless, living on the street, others are suffering from disabilities in countries where healthcare cannot meet their needs. Some children are orphans and are in dire need of some love and attention, and better living standards. Alternatively, you could consider volunteering with elderly people who have fallen on bad times.
Where should I volunteer with children?
Developing nations especially are always in need of volunteer workers for children. In many of these places there is substantial poverty, poor healthcare and a lack of education, and the difference you can bring as a volunteer on your gap year is invaluable. If you would like to work in or help build an orphanage, opportunities abound through the Indian subcontinent, South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
What time of year should I volunteer with children?
It goes without saying that children are in need across the world throughout the year, but you should always research the general weather trends of the destination you’d like to work in before buying your ticket. If you are not good with heat, for example, you’ll want to avoid most tropical countries at the height of summer; similarly, if you don’t like the rain, keep in mind a country’s wet season.
Which project should I choose?
It is always important to thoroughly research a particular project before committing to it, but it becomes absolutely paramount to do this if you’re planning on working with vulnerable people. Although most volunteering projects are genuine, there has been a lot of negative press recently particularly with regard to orphanages, with reports that volunteers are being exploited, along with the money they pay to join in such experiences.
What about visas?
UK nationals can enter some countries without a visa, or can apply for a visa on arrival, but to actually work in a country you’ll almost universally need a special working visa, wherever it is in the world. The best thing to do is to check with your embassy and the embassy of the country you are planning to visit what exactly the visa requirements will be. Some people forget to arrange working visas and end up not being able to do the thing they set out to do.
How can I stay healthy?
It is very important to check with your doctor exactly what vaccinations and or immunisations you should have done for a particular country, especially if it’s a developing nation. For your doctor to fully understand your requirements you will usually have to know which part of a specific country you’ll be visiting. For example, some areas of Cambodia are safe from malaria, while other areas are not.