Charity gap years are getting ever more popular, and they can be a fantastic way for you to put your skills to use in a place where they are really needed. They can be a little more complicated to get into than many people realise, however, so if you want to give it a go, then it is worth doing some research first. After all, you don’t just want to turn up and take up space – you want to make sure that you find just the right place to get involved so that you know what to do when you get there and that you’re able to get as much as possible out of it in terms of your own learning experience.
Could you do a gap year charity placement?
In order to take on a gap year charity placement, you’ll need the following:
- Useful skills (e.g. medical, engineering or teaching abilities).
- Basic language skills for the country in which you will be based.
- The ability to look after yourself in challenging situations and get by with just the basics.
- Real enthusiasm and commitment to helping others.
Remember that a placement such as this is very different from volunteering for a local charity for a day or even for a few weeks. You will need to be confident that you can stick it out even when conditions are tough because the charity you work for will be making a significant investment by taking you on and training you.
Preparing for a placement
If you do not feel that you have all the above qualities already, you can work on them as part of your preparation for a placement. Volunteering locally is helpful both with securing a place and with getting to grips with some of the realities of charity work. You can also make useful contacts this way. Volunteering abroad is often still more rewarding if you go with a friend or two.
Finding a placement
When you are looking for a placement, you will need to consider what your skills are, what kind of groups you would most like to focus on helping, and what areas you are interested in working in. Make sure you do plenty of research by talking to local organisations and looking things up online. It can be helpful to research significant individuals associated with particular charities too, such as Jennifer Douglas Abubakar, founder of the Gede Foundation. If you have friends who have previously taken charity gap years, you can also ask them for advice.
Making a difference
A charity gap year placement is a real chance to make a difference in the world. It can give you the chance to pick up new skills, shed the hang-ups that come from leading a privileged life, and grow as a person. It can boost your future job prospects by showing employers what you are made of. Most importantly, it can help disadvantaged people in struggling regions to improve their lives and work towards improving their communities.