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Gap year volunteering

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Voluntary work offers a very broad and varied array of opportunities for those planning a gap year and with so many gap year organisations offering very similar placements it can be a daunting prospect trying to decide which is best for you.  When you have read this page look at the more detailed planning advice to help you decide on a programme and organization.

Below are the most common voluntary activity categories but there are more and the choice in each category is broader still. You should be able find something that sounds right for you. You can both offer and build your volunteer skills-just match your interests to one of our gap year programs.

Remember to ask organisation about responsible volunteering. You want to know that your help is really needed, that you aren't doing the work that local people could do or harming the environment or its inhabitants in any way. It's also useful to ask how your fee is spent. For those of you interested in working with children in residential settings such as care homes or what might be described as orphanages, we have a blog that discusses some of the issues associated with this type of volunteering.

For another perspective, watch this nicely presented and informative video about responsible volunteering.


Teaching is a very popular gap year activity and is possibly the best way to integrate with a local community and a great way to see if a teaching career is for you.  Teaching covers a wide range of placements.  It is not necessary to have a qualification but a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification helps, the more comprehensive the better.  Without a qualification there are hundreds of placements on offer as teaching assistants or helping with students outside the classroom especially if you have a skill such as music, art, drama or sport.  Some organisations specialise in placements for sports coaches.  These projects normally see volunteers placed inpairs or small groups but they may work independently.  Projects can last from a few weeks to a whole year, indeed the longer you stay the greater the benefit both for you and your students.

Care and health work

Those considering a career in the caring professions are encouraged by university admission tutors to gain some experience in the field and this is a great way to meet this requirement.  The projects range from work with children, hospitals and medical centres to running HIV/AIDS awareness courses with those graduates with qualifications and experience being in particular demand.  The nature of these projects is similar to teaching projects from a working, accommodation and length of placement perspective.

Conservation Projects

Most people are concerned about the state of our planet and would like to do something to help rectify the situation.  Around the world there are thousands of charities and Non Government Organizations (NGOs) that run game and nature reserves or are conducting important research all of which rely on volunteers to support the team of scientists running the projects.  All these projects enable volunteers to pick up research skills and techniques while marine projects provide an opportunity to obtain a sub-aqua qualification.  These projects are normally run as groups and may last from a few weeks to a few months.

Community Projects

These projects are usually done in groups with volunteers working alongside local people to build schools, dams and wells, install fresh water systems, repair tracks and many other similar activities.  They mostly last for a few weeks and some volunteer projects might include an adventure phase or a safari.