For many young people, the pre or post university overseas gap year has become a rite of passage. Instead of spending your time backpacking through Europe or on some other holiday adventure, why not volunteer?
Volunteering, especially in a developing or emerging country during your gap year, can turn out to be a valuable, life-changing experience. You’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in a different culture, gain a new perspective on the challenges that face people and even learn or develop new skills. You will get an opportunity to not only assist people, but also forge lifelong friendships. Who knows, perhaps the trip will help to shape your future career.
Things to consider before volunteering
Once you have made your decision to volunteer, you need to begin making the necessary preparations. First you need to figure out your motivations for volunteering. What are you hoping to achieve? Are you expecting to gain experience in a certain area, and are you interested in travelling to a particular country? These questions will help you narrow your focus and assist you to find the perfect opportunity.
The next step is to find an organization that has a lot of charitable work available for volunteers. Lately there has been an increasing range of gap year programs available, all offered by different organizations. There are a vast number of charities offering volunteer placements, and they all champion different causes. There are those that are working in environmental or animal conservation, those that deal with teaching or tutoring students abroad and even those that are involved in transforming healthcare systems. The one you choose will largely be determined by your interests.
It is important to remember that charities differ from one another, so it is up to you to do your research to find one that suits your preferences. You can get information from universities, government bodies and websites as well as from others who have volunteered. Comparing similar programs offered by different charities will ensure that you settle for the best.
You also have to consider what you will do for money once you are overseas. Some charities might charge a placement fee that will cover your food, transport, accommodation, insurance and support while you are volunteering. Others will require you to help fundraise for them to cover some of your placement fee. As stated before, you need to do through research to make certain that the money will go towards supporting the local organizations or communities where you will be volunteering. Also check what sort of insurance cover they offer as well as their security and emergency policies in case something goes wrong when you are in a foreign country.
Volunteering can help you reap several rewards, and chances are that the whole experience will be very enjoyable and fulfilling. If you have spent all your life in a classroom, you should grab the chance to go out and see the world while adding value to someone else’s life. So go out there, enjoy your volunteering and make the most of your gap year.