Volunteering is a fantastic way to be a ‘responsible tourist' by making a positive and valuable contribution to some of the countries you visit on a year out. Volunteering is also a mutually beneficial process with enormous benefits for travellers too. By volunteering you gain a unique and privileged insight in to the people and culture of a country. Volunteering is all about having a more ‘real' career break travel experience by immersing yourself in local culture and getting to know local people on a far more intimate level than most passing tourists ever do. By volunteering you are also almost certain to pick up some useful new skills along the way which, if you are still working, really boosts your CV. More importantly, though, most travellers return home from volunteer trips having acquired some unforgettable ‘once in a lifetime' memories as well as plenty of new-found friendships.
Volunteering - sponsorship
If you are volunteering on your gap year or career break it is well worth considering some career break fundraising through sponsorship. If you are going to be volunteering on a worthwhile project while you are away friends, family and colleagues can be incredibly generous and you will be amazed at how quickly you can raise money when you put your mind to it. You can raise sponsorship for volunteering in any number of ways (the more imaginative idea you have the better is often the case!) - from organising a bring and buy sale at work to running a marathon.
Volunteering - What type of projects can I get involved with?
If you are planning on volunteering on a gap year or career break there is an incredibly diverse range of volunteer programmes to choose from. The type of volunteering you do will obviously depend on where your interests lie and which region or country you fancy volunteering in. It's worth stressing that volunteering is extremely flexible. For example if you are travelling on a round the world trip you could choose to volunteer in just one of the countries you are visiting for a relatively short period. Equally you could spend your entire gap year volunteering just in one place. It's entirely up to you.
If you are going to be volunteering on your gap year it's worth spending some time exploring the GYFGU website and reading up on all of the various volunteer programmes on offer. Another excellent source of advice and information are Real Gap's team of travel advisers - many of who have volunteered and experienced the programmes themselves. Broadly speaking, there are three main categories of volunteering…
Volunteering - Wildlife
Many travellers taking a gap year dream about volunteering to help endangered wildlife. If you want to get involved with wildlife conservation there are loads of extremely rewarding programmes to choose from throughout the world. For example if you would like to care for African wildlife there are suitable volunteering projects in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Volunteering - People
If you would like to ‘give something back' by volunteering to help impoverished or disadvantaged communities there are also plenty of options to choose from. For example you spend some of your time in India assisting at an HIV/Aids shelter.
Volunteering - Environment
If you are passionate about caring for the environment there are a number of volunteering opportunities you could consider. For example if you are heading Down Under then why not spend some time volunteering as a Conservation Volunteer Australia (CVA)? If you work as a CVA you will meet other like-minded travellers who are also volunteering and many of the CVA projects are based in remote areas of Australia you wouldn't normally get to see.
The above list of volunteering ideas certainly isn't comprehensive and if you have some ideas for volunteering which you can't seem to find on the website then speak to one of our travel advisers who all travelled and have useful career break travel advice to give you.