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Why Volunteer on a Gap Year?

A gap year is taking a year out in between school or college and university or work.

We’re going to cover the "four W's" of gap years to give you a brief overview to volunteering in the UK and abroad and to try and dispel the myths that surround gap years.

Why - There are many benefits to taking a gap year.
• It will give you relevant work experience
• It may give you some ideas on what you may like to do as a job
• It will give you a break from studying
• It will give you new skills and increase your confidence
• It will benefit the community
• Your CV will stand out from the crowd

Skills you’ll gain include employability skills such as leadership and problem solving, adapting to change and taking risks and key skills such as increased confidence and independence. You’ll also gain an increased understanding of the issues facing communities and how your contribution can make an impact.

What - There is now a wealth of opportunities both in the UK and abroad if you want to volunteer. You can often help in competitive career areas that you would find it hard to get paid work in. Volunteering can be broadly divided into community development or conservation activities. Examples include marine conservation in Thailand, clearing reedbeds in the UK, working on a health project in Brazil or tracking elephants in Namibia. Where Within reason, you can volunteer anywhere in the world. Popular areas include Thailand, South Africa, Ghana, India and Costa Rica, where voluntary skills are needed more. There are still lots of opportunities too both in Europe or the UK, USA or Australia, developed countries so it is up to you where you want to go.

When - The first time you can think about whether taking a year out would be for you or not is at 17 or 18. If you don’t feel ready then, there are still plenty of opportunities later on in your life. And if you don’t want to take a gap year, don’t! It’s your choice. There are many things you can do in a summer break or shorter period of time, including short term volunteering placements.

Who - A gap year can seem like an expensive option, only for those with lots of money. In fact, there is growing participation amongst young people educated in state schools, black and ethnic minority groups. Volunteering abroad can be expensive but there is the option of fundraising to raise money for a project, again something which would build key budgeting and organisational skills, or there is the option to volunteer in the UK or nearer to home which could be less expensive.

A gap year has been officially defined as “any period of time between 3 and 24 months which an individual takes ‘out’ of formal education, training or the workplace, and where the time out sits in the context of a longer career trajectory.’’ (Review of Gap Year Provision Andrew Jones DfES)  

In layman’s terms this means that a gap year needs to be constructive to be of benefit to you. There are hundreds of opportunities to volunteer in the UK or abroad to help expand your skills and also to contribute to a worthwhile project at the same time. Plus you get to enjoy your surroundings, possibly travel and meet new friends. Can’t be bad!