Voluntary Work Abroad in Your Gap Year: What to Expect

Volunteering is an increasingly popular choice with those looking to do something meaningful with their gap year. This article looks at some of the options and what to expect if you are considering doing this.

Choosing What to Do

There are many different fields that you can work in abroad in a voluntary capacity. You might enjoy working with animals and decide to choose a conservation or wildlife project, for example, on a game reserve in South Africa or helping out at an animal rescue centre in Ecuador. You could opt for a community based project that looks to rebuild or improve vital facilities in a country such as Thailand or you may be interested in teaching on a floating school in Cambodia or in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal.

You should consider a number of things when deciding what to opt for when volunteering abroad. Whilst your interests will play a part you will also need to think about how adventurous you are when it comes to deciding on location. You should also think about whether you're happy staying in very basic accommodation (i.e. camping or a hut) or would much prefer to live in a hostel with other volunteers or a house in the community in which you are working.

Money will also be a factor in your decision making process. The cost of voluntary opportunities varies depending on the type of project, location and length of your stay. This can range from several hundred pounds to several thousand. You may, therefore, need to factor in time to fundraise or save when planning your trip.

What to Expect

It is important to arrange your voluntary work with a reputable provider of such schemes. You should also check what is included in the arrangements. This may include some or all of the following: airport transfers, accommodation, meals, orientation when you arrive, guidance whilst volunteering and access to 24 hour support if you need it.

Time to relax and explore the local environment and community that you are working in will be incorporated in your time on location. You should, therefore, make sure that you have enough funds for any optional excursions or activities that you want to participate in during your free time as well as enough to cover day to day living expenses.

It is likely that you will be working with other volunteers. The number will depend on the type of project you are working on and the time of year that you opt to go. You may be able to get in contact with others before you go so that you can start to build up a relationship with them.

Doing voluntary work abroad is a great way of seeing another part of the world, experiencing a different culture and helping others who don't have the same advantages that we do. There are many different experiences that you can choose from and by investigating these you will find one that matches your interests and that suits your personality and skills.


Sam Jones writes about gap year options such a volunteering abroad for a number of websites and blogs. He has enjoyed working in communities in a variety of countries including Uganda, Thailand and South Africa.