Gap Year Programmes

There are many specific voluntary gap year programmes set up by charities and organisations designed to help you use the time to really make a difference to the world we live in. Those who decide to do a gap year programme are rarely disappointed – returning home with a new sense of self, awareness of the world and sense of responsibility towards it and others. It is an opportunity to do something you would probably never get to do otherwise. Some of these companies offer great opportunities like building orphanages in Calcutta, or conserving endangered species in South America. They will, of course, charge for providing these opportunities.

The range of organisations and the projects undertaken are as diverse as the world itself, but it is well worth doing as much research into the options available to see which might suit you best. The diversity of projects undertaken ranges from encouraging wildlife protection, developing eco-tourism, gathering essential marine information for scientists to carry out further research, improving the lives of threatened communities and helping with AIDS sufferers in remote locations all over the world.

The gap year projects are all worthwhile and seek to really make a difference to the lives of the poor and disadvantaged as well as to the world we live in and the protection of our natural environments. The work that you will carry out may be tiring and difficult at times but more than anything it will be a challenge that satisfies rewards and never fails to provide adventure.

There are also organisations such as the European Voluntary Service (EVS), which helps young people volunteer in European countries. EVS is funded by the EU and offers opportunities in a range of areas including tackling racism, environmental and disability issues, as well as working in artistic and heritage roles. Go to www. leargas. ie and find out more about the EVS programme. Careful research should ensure that your year out is a successful one. You should have a clear understanding of what you are going to do and your responsibilities before you agree to do it. Once you do – you won’t look back: gap years can be the most challenging yet rewarding years of people’s lives. You will acquire the ability to achieve in a challenging environment and work well in a team made up of people from all over the world and from many different backgrounds. You will develop skills in resourcefulness, sharing, problem-solving and planning and come back with a greater sense of responsibility and personal development. What more could you want?

It is vital for you to choose an organisation, project and place carefully and make sure that it is suitable to your intentions, interests and concerns. Ask yourself which issues are you concerned about and how would you really like to make a difference in the world?Two broad areas of project types are conservation and community development, which covers everything from going on safari to building homes in Costa Rica and working with orphans in India. The choice is yours.

If you would prefer to stay closer to home, you can find volunteering opportunities on www. volunteeringireland. com, an umbrella organisation that promotes and facilitates voluntary work in Ireland. There are a huge number of volunteering positions available, from one or two hours per week to full-time residential positions in many areas; charity work, publishing, sports and recreation, animal welfare and fundraising to name just a few. For more information about the kind of gap year projects available and some of the charities and organisations operating gap year programmes check out the following sites:www. greenforce. orgwww. usit. iewww. outreach-international. orgwww. conservationafrica. netwww. travellersworldwide. comwww. worldlandtrust. orgwww. volunteeringireland. comwww. bunac. org

Questions To Ask Yourself When Deciding Which Programme To Undertake

1 What will you gain from this experience?

2 What will you be doing and what responsibilities will you have?

3 What is the age range of the volunteers?

4 How many volunteers are accepted onto the programme?

5 How long does the programme last? (You must be able to commit to the duration of the project)

6 What does the organisation do? Is it a registered charity?

7 What is the cost and what does it cover?

8 Will you get paid?

9 Are your lodgings and meals included?

10 Will you share your living arrangements with others or will you be on your own?

11 Does the organisation pay for your travel expenses or are you required to do this?

12) Are you expected to sort out your own travel arrangements or does the organisation do this? (This includes passports, working visas and permits, visas, flights, insurance etc. )

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