Gap Year Volunteering: Community Projects
Is a Community Development project the right type of Gap year program for me?
Community projects are all about helping to improve the quality of life of impoverished children and adults.
This can be done in many ways, from building homes to providing care and support in orphanages.
Most community development projects do not require you to have any relevant skills and experience, although it helps if you have skills in the building trade.
There are also a few projects that ask for a basic grasp of a particular language, e.g. Spanish, in order to participate.
Ideally you will be a hands-on person, enjoy working outdoors, and possess good people skills.
You are also likely to need a basic level of fitness (construction involves hard, manual labour!), be patient, caring, understanding, and open-minded to different cultures and attitudes.
This type of project is great for learning new skills, and offers the chance for you to give something back by contributing to the welfare of local communities in need.
What will I do during my Gap year project with communities?
This depends to a certain extent on exactly which community project you choose to volunteer for and where it is.
However, most projects will require you to aid with several or more of the following:
- Building and maintenance of basic shelters and general infrastructure
- Gardening and landscaping
- Teaching English, IT, sports and other vocational skills in local schools
- Improving agriculture and irrigation
- Raising awareness of AIDS/HIV
- Helping care for disabled children and orphans
- Organising community activities and workshops
There are likely to be other duties involved that vary between different projects, so check the details on each individual project webpage or contact the gap year company for more specific information on what you’ll be up to.
How long can I volunteer for?
For most projects, you can volunteer for as little as 2 weeks, or up to 12 weeks.
There are even some that allow you to volunteer for 12 months, although be careful, as some projects require you to volunteer for a minimum amount of time (usually 2 weeks or 1 month).
Either way, it’s entirely your decision.
How much does it cost?
This depends on how long you wish to volunteer for, where you go and which gap year agency you choose your project with.
You can expect to pay anything between £500 and £1000 for a 2 week period, and up to £1,800 for a 12 week stay.
It’s a good idea to look at different companies that offer the same or similar project you would like to do, and compare prices in case one happens to fall within your budget.
However, whichever one you decide on, it is important to check what the cost includes.
Beware that fees for most projects will not include flights, visas, travel insurance, food and any extra activities or excursions during the programme.
So work out how much more money this will be on top of the project fee before booking a placement, because if it turns out to be more than you’ve budgeted, then you could lose your deposit if you have to pull out.
Where can I volunteer with communities?
Due to the large number of gap year companies now in operation, there are opportunities for taking part in community development projects all over the world.
However, most are run in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America, where they will be more beneficial to the local people.
Projects range from building homes in Swaziland to working with tribes in India, so whatever you fancy, there’s bound to be something suitable for you.