Gap Year Volunteer Programs
So you are looking into gap year volunteer programs? Awesome! Traditionally, a gap year is when you make a conscious decision to take some time off from your formal education between high school and college/university, but it doesn’t have to be limited to that, it can be a break before beginning a new job, or just to give yourself a breather. Often a gap year includes stepping boldly out into the world on your own terms and experiencing life abroad. It will equip you with skills and encourage personal development unlike any other experience. When you pair that with volunteering, not only do you maximize the experience for yourself, but you ensure you have a positive impact on the places you visit.
Whether you are thinking of taking a gap year after college, or high school it’s important to remember that a gap year is anything but a gap, it’s an extension of your education, an accumulation of experiences, new perspectives - and ultimately the realization of a new you. So if you are trying to establish where you fit into the world, or simply what your life goals and priorities are, then taking a volunteer gap year with International Volunteer HQ - the trusted provider of safe and affordable gap year travel programs - could be the perfect option
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about gap year volunteering, including more on our recommended programs in the Philippines, Zambia, Portugal and Brazil…
- What are the benefits of volunteering on your gap year?
- What are the requirements to volunteer abroad on your gap year?
- Skills you will pick up from volunteering during your gap year
- How will I be supported?
- How long can I volunteer abroad for?
- From A Volunteer: How I spent my gap year abroad volunteering
- Recommended gap year volunteer opportunities
- How can I apply for gap year volunteer work?
What are the benefits of volunteering on your gap year?
There are hundreds of gap year ideas out there but none that will provide you with the support and have the profound impact that volunteering abroad will. There are gap year volunteer programs available with IVHQ in more than 35 countries and over 150 projects to choose from. Regardless of where you choose to volunteer the local team will ensure you are matched to a placement which will allow you to make a valuable contribution to the project and community you are volunteering in. You will quickly forge a bond with the other international volunteers as you roll up your sleeves together and get stuck in working on your project, while traveling in your downtime and sharing plenty of laughs in between.
Thousands of people have volunteered on their gap year with IVHQ and it has been an awesome decision. When we asked our volunteers how the experience impacted them, 83 per cent said their sense of perspective had changed, while 94 per cent agreed that volunteering abroad had made them more resilient and 44 per cent strongly agreed that their career aspirations had changed for the better.
That is because living in a country different to your own means that you will be immersed in a new culture, lifestyle, and way of thinking. Volunteering exposes you to a number of situations and experiences that you will be able to learn and grow from. You will be working side-by-side people from different parts of the world - fostering global understanding, cross-cultural communication and developing how you work in a team.
Volunteering abroad allows you to explore a potential career field and with gap year volunteer opportunities in fields such as: teaching, environmental and conservation, working with animals, community development, medical and health, and NGO support - you will walk away with valuable experience and a unique insight into a possible career path, while making a meaningful contribution to a community abroad.
What are the requirements to volunteer abroad on your gap year?
For many of our volunteer abroad projects, our only requirements are fluency in English, a clean criminal background and a willingness to learn. Meaning it’s a great way to gain experience that will set you apart from others, and stand out on a college applications and resumes. It is important to note that for the majority of our Medical and Health projects, volunteers must be qualified or training in a relevant medical field.
Skills you will pick up from volunteering during your gap year:
- Greater cross-cultural understanding
- Improved mindset
- Develop your aspirations
- Enhance communication skills
- Work as a team
- Get out of your comfort zone, and love doing it!
- Develop your resilience
- Become more confident
- Gain a new point of reference and perspective
- Make life-long friends from around the world
- Collect awesome memories
- Experience something extraordinary
How will I be supported on my gap year volunteer program?
Through IVHQ’s online pre-departure training, comprehensive information booklets, ongoing support from experienced Program Managers, and round-the-clock in-country support from our local teams - volunteers are well supported to make the most of their time abroad.
Chances are if you are taking a gap year before college then your parents will also be keen to learn more about IVHQ, so make sure they read our information for parents as you continue to explore volunteer abroad programs. No doubt you have already fielded questions around your safety while abroad. You aren’t alone! Having placed more than 60,000 volunteers abroad, we’re always happy to speak with parents to ensure all their questions are answered and they feel comfortable with your volunteer trip plans.
How long can I volunteer abroad for?
More than 3000 people have chosen to volunteer on multiple programs with IVHQ as part of their gap year abroad. With program options starting from 1 to 24 weeks and programs in more than 35 destinations, there is something for everyone. You could spend six months in Zambia, or add a two week volunteer program onto your extended travels - it’s all about what works for you. And, because we believe that affordability and meaningful travel should go hand in hand, we have the most affordable program fees starting from US$180 for 1 week.
How I spent my gap year abroad volunteering…
I decided to volunteer during my gap year so I could travel and at the same time help the community and the environment. I’m going to study veterinary medicine which is a long degree so I decided to take a break from studying and do a gap year - it was the best decision I could have made. I volunteered on the Bali Kindergarten Project, the Madagascar Forest Conservation and Victoria Falls Wildlife Conservation project.
The time I spent volunteering really made me realize how lucky I am to have the life I have. And made me want to help give equal opportunities to everyone no matter where they were born. If you want to take a gap year really consider volunteering. It is such a rewarding feeling when you can make a difference while traveling the world. - IVHQ volunteer Miguel Lopes van Uden
Recommended Gap Year Volunteer Opportunities:
To give you a sample of the volunteer programs available for those interested in taking a gap year abroad, we’ve listed four programs perfect for our gap year travelers below…
Volunteer in the Philippines
If you are looking for an authentic Asian experience, then you can stop your search. In the Philippines, you will come face-to-face with the captivating culture, cuisine and people as you live like a local. The Philippines is a hidden gem just waiting to be explored and with more than 7,000 islands at your doorstep, it doesn’t get much better than this archipelago! The projects are all about making the most of your time abroad. It doesn’t matter if you choose the Kindergarten, Teaching, Construction and Renovation, or Environmental project, the emphasis is on volunteering while enjoying yourself. How can you not when you are literally right on the beach? Downtime can be spent spent exploring Palawan and weekends island hopping. Volunteering just got a whole lot more exciting and it’s a great program to begin your IVHQ experience.
Volunteer in Zambia
An often forgotten jewel of Africa, life in Livingstone, Zambia, is a mix of traditional charm with all the modern amenities, friendly locals and a local team that is on hand 24/7. Volunteers have the opportunity to work in the local community with children and the elderly, or for the volunteer who wants to try it all, we have the Community Development project. During your free time, volunteers can check out the local markets and shops, have a lazy day in a hammock at the accommodation, pop over to nearby Botswana for a safari, venture to Zimbabwe to check out the amazing Victoria Falls, or take advantage of the amazing array of adventure sports on offer.
Volunteer in Brazil
IVHQ’s Rio-based Brazil program offers volunteers the opportunity to contribute to important community projects while being immersed in the vibrant Brazilian culture. This program is ideal for sociable volunteers with high energy levels, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to learn. As an IVHQer in Brazil, you’ll have the opportunity to contribute to projects including Teaching English, Community Development, Childcare, Sports Development, or our Carnaval project, where you’ll support local Samba schools in the preparations for the world-famous Carnaval festival. Up-skilling in Portuguese won’t be a problem in Rio with affordable language lessons available to work around your volunteer week. And save your weekends for a trip to Christ the Redeemer and Iguazu Falls, or get amongst the bustling city scene at a local football match, or one of Rio’s iconic beaches.
Volunteer in Portugal
With the beautiful coast on your doorstep, a buzzing cafe culture and plenty of weekend adventures to be had, basing yourself in Lisbon, Portugal, as a volunteer traveler is an amazing idea. You can give back to the community by participating on Construction and Renovation, Environmental Scuba Diving, Food Rescue Project, Wolf Conservation and Youth Support projects. There is zero shortage of activities to keep your weekends bursting with adventure, check out the UNESCO World Heritage Site - Sintra, the Moon Hill, stroll the streets of Cascais and enjoy a beverage at one of the many outdoor cafes along the way, get amongst the surf in Ericeira - the first surfing reserve in Europe. If you like the mellow nature of coastal life and being in touch with nature and history, then the Portugal program is perfect for you.
Still can’t decide on a single destination? Many gap year volunteers choose to register for a number of different volunteer programs across a range of destinations. If a gap year in South East Asia is on the agenda, you have the capacity to volunteer in Vietnam, jump the border and become a volunteer in Cambodia, before finishing off as a volunteer in Laos. Or if a gap year in Africa, Central America, South America or Europe sounds more like you, explore your options with IVHQ here. Be aware. Taking a gap year as a volunteer won’t cure your travel bug, it’ll only make it grow. If you want to volunteer abroad on your gap year you can apply now. This will put you in contact with a specialized IVHQ Program Manager who will be able to guide you through the process and ensure you set off on the trip of a lifetime.
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