Gap Year Volunteering - Best Gap Year Volunteer Programs 2018
Gap year volunteering is the meaningful way to travel during your break - you’ll expand your horizons and see the world, while having a positive and sustainable impact. Thousands of travelers set off every year to experience gap year volunteer programs abroad because it’s a travel experience that equips you with valuable life skills and encourages personal development opportunities unlike any other experience, while also ensuring that you have a positive impact on the places you visit and the people you meet.
Traditionally, a gap year is when you make a conscious decision to take a year off from your formal education between high school and college/university, but a gap year isn’t limited to that! As well as 1 year volunteer programs, there are opportunities for gap semester volunteer programs, so you can make the most of your college break, take a breather before beginning a new job, or just to give yourself some time out from your day-to-day life.
Whether you’re thinking of taking a gap year after high school or college, 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’re trying to establish where you fit into the world, or simply what your life goals and priorities are, 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 best gap year volunteer programs and affordable gap year service projects in Bali, Fiji, South Africa, Portugal, Philippines, Zambia and Peru.
Best gap year volunteer programs abroad
International Volunteer HQ offers volunteer gap year programs abroad in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Pacific. You can choose to give back on gap year volunteer programs supporting Wildlife and Animal Care, Environment and Conservation, Teaching, Sports, Medical and Health, Construction and Renovation, NGO Support, Special Needs Care, Elderly Care, Arts and Music, Community Development or Childcare. Choosing a gap year service project that aligns with your skills, motivations and interests is key, and an important step to ensuring your time abroad is fulfilling for both you and the community you are working within. Here are some of our best gap year ideas…
Gap year volunteering in Bali
At some point in life, absolutely everyone needs to experience Bali. It’s rich culture, laid-back lifestyle and focus on health and wellbeing, makes it the perfect destination to experience on your gap year travels. There are two program options in Bali, this article can help you decide where to volunteer in Bali. The Bali - Lovina program is based in a small coastal village on the northern coast of Bali, while the Bali - Ubud program is located in Ubud, Bali’s cultural center. Between 40 and 80 volunteers start in Ubud each month, making it a social and fun atmosphere that’s perfect for first-time and solo travelers taking their gap year abroad!
Gap year programs abroad - Fiji
What’s the thing you’ll love most about your time volunteering in Fiji on your gap year? The people! Fijians are incredibly welcoming people and are quick to embrace you into island life! Regardless of which volunteer project you choose to support, Teaching and Sports Education, Kindergarten, or Construction and Renovation, the focus is firmly on the people and the needs of the community. Between 20 and 70 volunteers start in Fiji each month, making it a vibrant program full with like-minded explorers with a passion for positive travel. During your weekends, you’ll be able to make the most of the pristine coastlines or lush rainforest, and everything in between!
Gap year volunteering in South Africa
Gap year volunteering in Africa is one of our most popular options and if it sounds like you, put volunteering in South Africa at the top of your list! There are two programs based in Cape Town. This article comparing the two programs will help you figure out which one is right for you. Each program is based around 30 to 45 minutes from Cape Town itself, with our South Africa volunteer program being located in the Muizenberg area, to the South of Cape Town; and our South Africa - Table View program located in Table View, to the North of Cape Town. There’s no wonder why Cape Town is growing in popularity as a destination, with no shortage of incredible things to do in and around the city. Pull on your hiking boots and head up Table Mountain, lounge around on one of the stunning beaches, or gather your IVHQ fam together and head out to the winery country.
Gap year volunteering 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 as a volunteer traveler in Europe is an amazing idea. You can give back to the community by participating on Construction and Renovation, Environmental Scuba Diving, Food Rescue, Wolf Conservation or Youth Support projects. If you’re interested in gap year volunteer programs with animals, the Wolf Conservation project is a must! 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.
Gap year volunteering in Peru
It’s legendary for the must-see Machu Picchu, but there’s far more to Peru than this Insta-famous sight. There are two program locations in Peru: Lima, the capital and largest city in Peru which is a juxtaposition of high-rise condos built alongside pre-Columbian temples. And, Cusco, one of the oldest cities in South America, lined with stone streets and a rich history. If you decide to volunteer in Lima, there are 4 project options to choose from, including Teaching English, Special Needs/Childcare, Medical and Construction and Renovation. Or if you center yourself as a volunteer in Cusco, there are 10 project options, including Teaching English, Childcare, Medical, Construction and Renovation, Animal Care, Jungle Conservation, Special Needs, Andean Immersion and a Spanish Service Learning project. Regardless of which location you choose, setting off to Machu Picchu is easy to coordinate with your newfound volunteer friends.
Gap year volunteering in the Philippines
If you’re looking for an authentic off-the-beaten track Asian experience, then you can stop your search. The Philippines volunteer program is based on the safe and beautiful island of Palawan, away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. Here you will come face to face with the captivating culture, cuisine and people as you live like a local. It’s 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’re literally right on the beach? Downtime can be 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.
Gap year volunteering in Zambia
Volunteer life in Livingstone, Zambia, is a mix of traditional charm with all the modern amenities, friendly locals, easy access to a myriad of incredible tourist sights and a local team that is on hand 24/7. Volunteers have the opportunity to give back on Teaching, Kindergarten, Medical, Elderly Care and Construction and Renovation projects. During your free time, you 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.
Why should I volunteer on my gap year?
You’ll be giving back on meaningful projects There are hundreds of gap year ideas out there but none that will have the profound impact that volunteering abroad will. With IVHQ you can find the gap year volunteer program that’s the right fit for you, with more than 35 destinations 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’ll make friends for life from around the world 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. You’ll go to change the world, but it will change you When we asked our volunteers how the experience of volunteering abroad impacted them, 83 percent said their sense of perspective had changed, while 94 percent agreed that volunteering abroad had made them more resilient, and 44 percent strongly agreed that their career aspirations had changed for the better. To get out of your comfort zone 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 alongside people from different parts of the world - fostering global understanding, cross-cultural communication and developing how you work in a team. *For your resume** 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, the only requirements are fluency in English, a clean criminal background and a willingness to learn. This means it’s a great way to gain experience that will set you apart from others, and stand out on college and job applications. Keep in mind that for the majority of our Medical and Healthcare projects, volunteers must be qualified or training in a relevant medical field.
How will I be supported on my gap year volunteer program?
Through IVHQ’s online pre-departure training, comprehensive information booklets, in-country orientations, 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’re taking a gap year before college, your parents will also be interested 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’ve already fielded questions around your safety while abroad - you aren’t alone! Having placed more than 80,000 volunteers abroad, we’re always happy to speak with your parents to ensure all their questions are answered and they feel comfortable with your volunteer trip plans.
How long can I volunteer abroad for?
Thousands of volunteers have chosen to join multiple programs with IVHQ as part of their gap year volunteering 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 6 months in Zambia, or add a 2-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
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 today. 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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