Giving Back

Imagine having the opportunity to see some of the world’s most famous landmarks and stunning landscapes and make a difference in someone’s life at the same time? It’s all possible with a far-flung volunteer project.

When things don’t go your way, you get a bad exam result or you’ve just been dumped, it’s all too easy to take your emotions out on the world, claim that you’re really hard done by and wish that you could be adopted by the Beckhams.

However, no matter how tough it gets, as the old saying goes – there is always someone worse off.

All over the world, there are people and projects crying out for help. Orphans in Romania who have no one to care for them, endangered animals being poached by local hunters in Thailand, children with no access to education in Indonesia – and they need your support.

WHAT TO DO?

There are lots of gap year providers and charities which offer volunteering opportunities with projects all over the world. With Lattitude (www.lattitude.org.uk), you could head off to Malawi or Japan to volunteer as a medical assistant, or take on the role of a community worker in Ghana, Ecuador or Fiji. Not only are these all stunning destinations with so much to see, you’ll be making a real difference to the local community.

Project Trust (www.projecttrust.org.uk) is another fantastic organisation which has been sending Scotland’s school leavers overseas to make a difference for over 40 years. You could teach English in Sri Lanka, working on a newspaper in Namibia or working with underprivileged young people in Uganda or Peru.

Animal lovers should check out Real Gap (www.realgap.co.uk) – how about two weeks’ working on a giant panda conservation project in China? If you’re not into cuddly creatures, there’s also the option of working with sea turtles in Costa Rica or whale sharks in Mozambique.

Of course, you don’t have to opt for big name companies like these – you can find charity projects through your own research and organise it all yourself. The main benefit of going through a known company is that they’ll help you with everything from your flights and visas to your placement and accommodation, but it can be costly.

THE BENEFITS

Volunteering lets you discover corners of the world which are often untouched by tourists, and the travel opportunities afterwards are endless – it’s not all work! Not only can you explore the local area and take trips in your time off, but once your placement’s over, you can spread your wings and travel a little further afield. Loads of volunteers come away from programmes like these with new friends who they keep in touch with for years, new ambitions, plenty of new skills and a glistening CV that really appeals to employers.

So what are you waiting for? If you’ve got a desire to reach out and offer your skills to help others, you’d be mad not to take this opportunity to travel and make a difference a the same time. Start doing your research now.

Source magazine, Spring 2013

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