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How To Plan The Perfect Gap Year Volunteering

How To Plan The Perfect Gap Year Volunteering

Many forms of volunteering are hugely rewarding, and there are loads of options if you want to do so on your gap year. Choosing to volunteer is a great way to feel like you're making the most of your time away, and can help you build key life skills to take with you into working or adult life.   

From contributing to conservation efforts, to working in developing communities - you can get involved with something you're passionate about.


Whether you want to spend a whole year in one place, or help out with a range of projects, it's a lot of fun planning where to go. Researching what you want to do will also help you determine which projects are the most beneficial, sustainable and ethical. If you're using an agency to book your volunteering with, you can also find out if they're a not-for-profit organisation. Plus, make sure you compare prices as different companies can charge very different amounts for similar projects.  

Choose A Project

Lots of people sign up for a placement before they leave on their gap year. Another way to decide how to give your time is to go and stay somewhere for a couple of weeks, before committing to a volunteering project. This can help you get a feel for a country or community, and point you in the direction of a truly worthwhile cause. If you plan to volunteer for the majority of your gap year, you could always book your first placement before leaving, then decide on your next one when you're away.  

Use Your Skills 

If you have a certain skill, such as photography or web design, you might be able to contribute a lot more to particular projects. The purpose of your volunteering is to help others. Go for something that's well-suited to your talents.  

Break Up Your Time

There's nothing wrong with keeping some time for yourself on your gap year, or wanting to explore the sights in a new country. Even if you're taking a whole year off, you don't have to spend all of your time volunteering. You can give as much or as little of your time as you want, and plan some adventures around your gap year volunteering.  

Try Something Closer To Home

Most people associate a gap year with going abroad, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. There are plenty of things you could get involved with in the UK if travelling isn't important to you. Racking up a whole host of volunteering hours could be very useful to you if you're interested in working in the charity sector in the future.  


Most organisations that specialise in volunteering placements have a minimum age requirement of 18. Some countries also have age requirements for specific roles, so it's worth checking this out when you have an idea of what you want to do.  

It's a good idea to cover yourself while you're away. This applies to both insurance and letting people back home know your plans and movements.  

Be very careful with volunteering at orphanages. They can promote the institutionalisation of children and family separation in some countries. Instead, look for organisations that aim to reunite children with their parents.  

Avoid volunteering to teach without the right qualifications. If you can't get them, try to find a placement that trains local teachers.


If you'd like to know more about getting involved in volunteering in your community, take a look at our Local Causes page and find opportunities near you.

Last updated: 18/03/2021

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