Gap Year Volunteer Work Abroad

A visitor observing mountain gorillas in their nest, Virunga NP, DR Congo safari, Africa

DR Congo, Africa, sadly not a safe place to volunteer at the moment!

Why volunteer to work for little or nothing during your Gap Year?

Pros:

– it will make you feel worthy and give you a radical new perspective on life in general and yours in particular.
– future employers will mostly be impressed by this on your CV.
– wannabe non-couch potatoes should shape up quite nicely under the hard graft of manual work, limited diet and no TV.

Cons:

– volunteer work means little or no wages, and you will probably have to pay the organisation who places you for the service they provide.
– your daily food and living conditions will be very different from what you’re used to.

Not For Profit?

Like with all things in life, if there is a way of making money from something, then someone will be doing it, and volunteer jobs are no different!

The organisations which arrange volunteer work may be not-for-profit registered charities, or may be profit making companies.

If you are planning to get sponsorship for your trip then clued up potential sponsors will also be keen to know where their money is going.

For profit businesses actually increase the amount of volunteer work being arranged but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this. However, avoid businesses that are in the business for profit but try and conceal the fact. If a business in the UK or USA is not for profit they will be a registered charity and you will be able to check this. Ensure their status is made clear in their communications with you.

See Gap Organisations for company listings.

Jobs/Projects

Voluntary Work Abroad:
Often involves work in areas of Health, Children, Wildlife or the Environment. e. g. Helping people in third world countries by getting food, water or medicines to them, building them houses, or educating them and their children.

Pros:
– looks great on a CV.
– enables you to live in some very exotic places.
– gives you an immediate social circle.

Cons:
– no pay, only living expenses or in some cases YOU pay THEM!
– you could end up in a totally miserable location in miserable living conditions.

Conservation and Expeditions:
No matter where you go in the world conservation tends to have low commercial priority, so volunteers are much in demand, especially those who pay for the pleasure of working.
However, make sure that the project is really achieving something useful and isn’t just commerce in disguise.

Pros:
– helps mother nature who is undoubtedly under attack from all kinds of human and climatic angles.
– will get you fit if you aren’t to start out with.

Cons:
– not for people with more serious health issues or very poor fitness to start with.
– it can cost a surprisingly large amount of money to be really helpful!

Community Projects (School Leavers and Undergraduates mainly):
Generally teaching English and other intellectual skills at a basic level, digging wells, and building accommodation.

Pros:
– helps ‘underprivileged’ communities, predominately in third world countries to get ahead.
– possibly the staying or getting fit thing again.

Cons:
– you may want to help people, but will realise that to do so, have to actually join them temporarily; team spirit essential, reality check guaranteed.
– as always, check that by joining in with the underprivileged to make them less so, you are not making someone else very financially privileged indeed!

Professional Services (Graduate/Retired Gappers):
Medical and teaching professionals, particularly if multi-lingual are useful to third world countries as they are always in short supply.

However many professionals, from builders to IT specialists and lawyers will have skills which are useful to someone somewhere.

Basically Community Projects (see above) for work hardened adults.

Voluntary Work in the UK:
Usually involves work in ‘social care’ or conservation areas. e. g. cleaning up rivers and wetlands, restocking fish, planting trees, repairing fences on reserves, clearing and laying paths. . .

Pros:
– looks great on a CV.
– you get expenses and pocket money.
– gives you an immediate social circle.
– you see another side of UK life.

Cons:
– the work or location could be depressing and will hardly be exotic or a better climate!
– the pay will be poor considering the conditions.