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Parents & Advisors: The Benefits of a Gap Year

As young people excitedly plan gap year adventures, the enthusiasm is not always matched by their parents but, according to charity, Lattitude Global Volunteering, an organised gap year can provide the balance of fun, adventure, structure and support to please everybody.

More young people are choosing volunteering gap year projects, as they recognise the positive, long term benefits and the rewarding nature of the work.† An organised gap year placement can help to spark a passion for travel, and is a great way to get off the beaten track and explore a country and its culture in depth.

"Organising a gap year through a reputable provider gives young people the best of both worlds.† They have all the excitement of living and working abroad but also know that we are there to offer them support if they need it.† This doesn't make their experience any less character building or take away independence" explains a spokesperson for Lattitude Global Volunteering.† "A volunteering gap year helps young people to make a difference to a community which wants and needs their help, and means that support is available to the volunteer when needed".

Not for profit educational development charity Lattitude Global Volunteering provides structured volunteering programmes overseas, offering support throughout the application process and during the placement itself.† Volunteers are given a comprehensive orientation on arrival and in-country representatives visit all volunteers at their placements and are always available to provide additional support.

Rosie Hinge, parent of Lattitude Global Volunteer, Mike, was so inspired by her son's volunteer efforts that she helped to fundraise to buy books for the school he volunteered at and flew out to present them to the headteacherMany parents are embracing this constructive and structured approach to gap year travel, with some even getting involved from a charitable perspective.

A young Lattitude Global Volunteer from Hampshire was also shocked by the lack of resources at a school he volunteered at in the Usambara Mountains, North Tanzania.

Mike, 19, explained the school's situation to his parents, Rosie and Doug, and between them they succeeded in organising a fundraising quiz night, which raised £1,300 and paid for 321 brand new textbooks for the school.

Rosie and Doug were so inspired by Mike's experience in Tanzania and proud of the fundraising efforts by their own community in Hampshire that they flew out to join Mike at the end of his placement to see first-hand the difference they helped make to the school.

Rosie admits that she may have been initially anxious about Mike's gapMr. Mwanga, head teacher at Malibwe School in Tanzania, with his family and the Hinge family, following Mike's Lattitude Global Volunteering placement.  L-R: Neheme, Rosie Hinge, Lattitude Global Volunteer Mike Hinge, Mr. Mwanga, Doug Hinge, Mrs. Mwanga, Dan Hinge (Mikeís brother) year.† "My main concern was the possible lack of healthcare due to the remoteness of the placement.† However, Lattitude Global Volunteering gave us excellent advice and provided Mike with a really comprehensive back-up advisory service.† Also knowing that he had the support of local representatives and vetted hosts in Tanzania did help to reassure us."

Volunteering in a community overseas helps to develop valuable life skills, which can set young people apart when applying for universities and jobs.

"A volunteering gap year provides the kind of life experience that students won't get just from living away from home at university" Joanne Smithson, CEO of Lattitude Global Volunteering, comments.† "We provide meaningful and structured volunteering placements, which enable young people to develop their soft skills, broaden their education and develop a wider perspective on life."

Lattitude Global Volunteering provides teaching, caring, environmental, outdoor education, medical and community placements in 20 countries, and offers a bursary scheme to those who may struggle to finance their placement, as well as fundraising support and advice.

For further information visit www.lattitude.org.uk.