Volunteering overseas can be a very beneficial experience, both for you and the community you work with.
You will have the opportunity to experience living in a different culture and community, to learn new practical and interpersonal skills, gain confidence, meet new people and learn useful techniques that can be applied to your own community when you come home.
It is important that you undertake a volunteering placement for the right reasons.
Volunteering responsibly cannot and should not replace the traditional holiday. Although you may be in an exotic location, you are there to bring whatever benefits you can to the community you are living with.
Many young people choose to volunteer overseas through an official organisation such as VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) or Raleigh International. These organisations have the experience and local knowledge to make sure your volunteering placement is as successful as possible.
Many overseas volunteering organisations will expect you to raise a certain amount of funding in order to join the project. This will help pay for a range of items including your flights, visa, accommodation, training and medical expenses.
There are, however, several funding schemes to help you volunteer abroad. For example, the Department for International Development’s Platform2 scheme has donated £10 million to assist young people who would not ordinarily be able to afford to volunteer overseas.
This scheme will see groups of young volunteers visiting various countries around the world, including Ghana, South Africa, India, Malawi and Peru. This initial run of the scheme is due to finish in 2011, by which time an estimated 2,500 young people will have taken part.
Which project is for me?
There are lots of different types of volunteer projects you can get involved with through these organisations. Environmental projects often involve a lot of manual labour and take place in the countryside, whereas a teaching placement, for example, would be more targeted to a school or a community.
There are also social care projects, such as working in orphanages or people with disabilities. To find out more about what projects are available, contact the organisations directly.
How long you spend volunteering overseas is up to you and will depend on which organisation you arrange it with.
Some organisations such as Raleigh International will offer short-term programmes from four to ten weeks, which combine a volunteer project with organised treks or adventuring trips.
Other organisations such as VSO specialise in long-term placements such as their six-month global exchange programmes, or their Youth for Development programmes. These last a year and are found in more than thirty-four different countries.
Much focus is now put on how a volunteering programme overseas can help you to benefit your own community when you return home.
Many organisations will expect you to show an existing enthusiasm for volunteering and evidence of how you use the skills you learnt abroad to benefit your local community.
Volunteering for your CV
As well as being a great opportunity to give something back and contribute to the community, volunteering looks fantastic on your CV and is an excellent way of improving your employability for any job you apply for in the future.
In addition to showing your generous side, volunteering can demonstrate that you have a wide range of interests, are self-motivated and are a sociable person – all impressive points to highlight on a CV!
As well as this, it’s great work experience and could help you decide what you want to do in the future; giving you a kick-start into your eventual career.
Who can help?
To find out about sustainable and ethical volunteering overseas, visit: www.travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk/.
If volunteering abroad appeals to you visit the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) website at: www.vso.org.uk.
For volunteering opportunities in Nepal, and more information on ‘volun-tourism’ see: www.socialtreks.com/.
The Project Trust is for young people aged 17-19 and is a gap year organisation which can help school leavers to go abroad for a year’s voluntary work: www.projecttrust.org.uk.
For more information about Youth Funding have a look at: www.direct.gov.uk/en/YoungPeople/Youthfunds/DG_067060.
If you are aged over 17, an overseas expedition with Raleigh International can provide you with hands-on experience of working on community and environmental projects, plus an adventure challenge that will push you to the limit. For more information, visit: www.raleighinternational.org.
Trek-force Expeditions offers inspirational and challenging conservation expeditions, language courses and teaching placements in Central and South America and South East Asia. http://www.trekforce.org.uk/.