Gap Year - Voluntary Work
Some students although aiming to start their career soon are not ready to start full-time work straight away. With this in mind many students decide to take some time out to do volunteer work.
The term 'voluntary work' refers to work that you undertake but do not get paid for, in view of the fact that you have opted to do it of your own accord. In simple, terms it is 'helping others'.
Voluntary work can involve looking after or helping people, who are sick, disabled or suffering from poverty due to war or a natural disaster. Other aspects include teaching others to, improve themselves, learn a language or giving them the skills they need to find work. The environment also benefits from volunteers who help maintain our natural environments ranging from your local park to tropical rainforests, or helping to care for, protect and nurture animals.
This section explains the reasons that subsequent to completing their course students find voluntary work beneficial and fulfilling.
Benefits of doing voluntary work
- Meeting people
This is the factor that will affect your decision most. Most voluntary work involves group work with a wide range of people from different cultures and backgrounds. This helps volunteers build and develop their team building skills as well as broadening their mind to new ideas.
- New functional skills and experiences
Having spent so much time in a classroom, learning from books, many students find it a refreshing chance to be learning in a new environment. Most of the learning will be done 'on the job' with a variety of tasks.
- Improving yourself
Working with volunteers and being amongst those you are helping will enable you to build your own personal skills. The skills that volunteers can gain after voluntary work are confidence, communication, independence and a great satisfaction that comes from an awareness of those that have less than ourselves.
- Constructive use of spare time
Undertaking voluntary work allows you to take a break from studying whilst being able to feel that you are still adding value both to yourself and others around you.
- Work on your terms
Although with most voluntary work you need to commit to certain time frames and need to adhere to them, on the whole the flexibility is yours. This is because you get to choose the type of work you would like to do, with the knowledge of what you need to commit. Most volunteer organisations, although stating a required minimum commitment, will give you flexibility in tasks, amount of commitment, timings, and location.
- Personal satisfaction
Students who work voluntarily can gain satisfaction from knowing that the work they have put in is benefiting those around them. This is particularly rewarding in the present climate, where many people only have time for themselves.
When the people you are helping, both those who need the help and other volunteers show their appreciation; you will feel a great level of satisfaction. The experiences gained from helping and working with others will last a lifetime.
After completing voluntary work
Finding voluntary work
- Local newspapers
Charitable organisations often place notices asking for voluntary workers in the local area.
- The Internet
There are a number of organisations that look for volunteers for help both nationally and abroad. Many of these have websites show what they are trying to achieve and how a volunteer may be able to help.
If however, you do not manage to find something suitable you can always check the yellow pages which contains details of a number of different charitable organisations many of which require voluntary help.
Who do Volunteer Organisations look for?
Before nominating yourself for any voluntary work, you should consider the following factors, so that you can ensure that you are prepared and able to commit your time and energy. Volunteer organisations will also benefit from understanding your personal qualities and reasons for volunteering so that they can match the right type of work to you.
- Your skills and experiences
What are you good at? What do you enjoy?
- Time commitment
This can range anything between 2 weeks to a few years. How long would you like to do it for? What other plans do you have?
Some organisations pay for items such as room and board, but little else. Is this enough? Do you need any other savings to support you?
Whilst most organisations will pay for travel costs incurred, there are some that can't afford to, if you are planning to work abroad you really need to consider this as you may be paying for the tickets yourself. How much can you afford? What other expenses might you have? If you are committed to volunteer work abroad, you could try contacting your local council and organisations to see if they will loan you the required money or even sponsor you. If this option is not available there is a large amount of nationally based work as well.
With the resources available today, it is possible to get volunteer work anywhere in the world. Where would you like to do the volunteer work?
By answering these questions, you will be able to plan your work so that it is right for you and that you are completely aware of any other factors that may arise.
Remember doing volunteer work will bring you the biggest benefit of preparing you better for your future, whatever that may be. You can also find extra information at