Doing some voluntary work on your career break is an excellent way to be a responsible tourist and ‘give something back' to some of the countries you visit on your year out. When you do some voluntary work you also gain a far greater understanding of the culture of the particular country your project is based in, which makes for a far more satisfying and ‘real' career break travel experience. On a more practical level, if you are taking a career break, voluntary work also looks great on a CV when you get back - and you are almost certain to have picked up some new skills and experiences during the course of your volunteer projects.
If you are considering doing some voluntary work on your gap year you need to decide where you would like to do the voluntary work and what type of project you would like to help out with. When you are planning your potential voluntary work it's worth putting aside an hour or two to read up on all of the various voluntary work programmes that are available on the GYFGU's website. Alternatively, if you would rather discuss your voluntary work ideas with someone in person you can also call one of Real Gap's team of expert travel advisers.
When you are deciding on a voluntary work programme it's important to think carefully as to which causes you are most passionate about helping. Voluntary work, although it's immensely rewarding, can be challenging and hard-going at times so you need to pick a project that most suits your abilities and interests. You can find voluntary work pretty much anywhere in the world and, broadly speaking, the areas you can work in break down in to three main categories…
One of the most popular fields of voluntary work is wildlife conservation. Many gap year travellers decide they would like to do some voluntary work in Africa, and there's an incredibly diverse range of wildlife conservation programmes to choose from there - from black rhino conservation in Zimbabwe to protecting the desert elephants of Namibia. Latin America also has a wide range of voluntary work available if you want to get involved in wildlife conservation. For example you could do some voluntary work helping to protect Giant Tortoises in the Galapagos Islands or dolphins off the coast of Peru. There is also plenty of suitable voluntary work available in Asia - including the opportunity to work towards the conservation of orang-utans in Borneo.
Voluntary Work - People Projects
If you would prefer to do some voluntary work that is more geared towards helping vulnerable or impoverished people on your gap year then, similarly, there are loads of options to choose from. For example one of GYFGU's most challenging (but equally rewarding) programmes is based in Tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka you could do some voluntary work by physically helping to re-build houses destroyed by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Alternatively you could, instead, opt to live in a Sri Lankan community teaching English to children whose lives have been affected. If this type of voluntary work appeals to you there are similar programmes you could get involved with all over the world - from voluntary work with street kids in Latin America to voluntary work with people infected with HIV or AIDS in India and Africa.
Voluntary Work - Caring for the environment
If you are passionate about caring for the environment you can choose to do some gap year voluntary work in this field too. To give just two different examples, you could do some voluntary work helping to raise awareness of environmental issues on the Galapagos Islands or work as a Conservation Volunteer Australia (CVA) when you travel Down Under.
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