Volunteer trips

Posted by Gareth Hargreaves

Teach English in Costa Rica, rescue penguins in South Africa, build small-scale sand-dams in Kenya, or care for cats and dogs in Koh Phangan, Thailand. Rachael Hannan explains how.

PenguinsGap years or sabbaticals aren’t the preserve of twenty-somethings any longer.  There are hundreds of volunteer holidays out there to suit all interests and abilities, in locations all over the world.  Trips can last anywhere from a week to six months or more, so even a short break can be turned into a more meaningful travel experience - and a unique adventure complete with personal satisfaction.


The Rajasthan Volunteer Programme run by Real Gap Experience enables participants of all ages to live and work in the Rajasthan Desert and help with local childcare or education programmes.  Four and eight week courses are available, prices from £949 pp but exclude flights. 
Contact Real Gap Experience on 01892 516164, www.realgap.co.uk or www.gapyearforgrownups.co.uk.


Madventurer offers a combination of voluntary work on community programmes with adventurous overland expeditions.  Care projects are available in one of Peru’s most famous cities – Cusco – which is sadly home to over 6,000 street children with little or no access to food, healthcare or education.  Madventurer makes a valuable contribution to the lives of some of Cusco's most vulnerable children, giving them the time and attention that they deserve.  Prices from £800 pp for two weeks (£150 pp for every extra week) but exclude flights. 
Contact Madventurer on 0845 121 1996, or www.madventurer.com.


Year Out Group founder member i-to-i provides ethical volunteer travel and TEFL1/TESOL2 training in destinations worldwide.  In Moshi, a busy little town close to Mount Kilimanjaro, in northern Tanzania, a variety of projects is available including teaching English and assisting with other lessons and extra-curricular activities, from nursery school age through to secondary levels.  Prices from £775 pp for two weeks, but exclude flights. 
Contact i-to-i on 0870 333 2332, or www.i-to-i.com.  


Interested in visiting the next superpower?  Project Trust's 12-month placements are education-related and are located in the northwestern province of Gansu and the most westerly region of China, Xinjiang.  Most volunteers are working in state-funded secondary schools teaching spoken English to classes of up to sixty students. Teaching for sixteen hours a week, the role also involves organising conversation clubs and student activities.  Funds of £4,480 pp are required but that includes flights, transfers, accommodation and a pre-trip debriefing.  A small wage is also paid in China. 
Contact Project Trust on 01879 230444, www.projecttrust.org.uk.

South Africa

Spend six weeks with the non-profit adventure company Greenforce in the Cape Province on a Penguin Rescue Course learning how to catch, handle, feed and administer medicine to a variety of seabirds.  Prices from £1,450 pp, excluding flights. 
Contact Greenforce on 020 7470 8888, www.greenforce.org.


If you love sport and adventure, Gap Sports offers a range of projects for rugby, football, ski and watersports enthusiasts.  Train at Ghana’s Football Academy and undertake an intensive six-week football training course, learning alongside professional players.  In 2008, Ghana will also be hosting the Africa Cup.  Prices from £1,695 pp excluding flights (12 July – 23 August). 
Contact Gap Sports on 0870 837 9797, www.gapsports.com.


Join forces with the local Akamba people on Quest Overseas’ Kenya Water Relief Project. Based in the dry, central and rural Machakos district, a team of volunteers works closely with the local community to build small-scale sand-dams and water tanks to aid the collection and supply of water.  Prices from £1,495 pp excluding flights for four weeks including project donation. 
Contact Quest on 01444 474744, www.questoverseas.com.


Personal Overseas Development provides great value two week to six month gaps, summer mini-gaps and career breaks.  In Thailand, work as a volunteer at a nursing clinic and animal care centre on Koh Phangan in Southern Thailand, helping to care for the dogs and cats (and a few other animals!) whilst living on a beautiful tropical island.  Prices from £395 pp, but note accommodation is only available for a month.  Contact Personal Overseas Development on 01242 250 901, www.thepodsite.co.uk.


Changing Worlds offers paid work placements in Queensland, Australia.  Choose from volunteering at a local zoo, helping koalas, dingoes and crocodiles on a local project, or volunteer to be a jackaroo or a jillaroo on a sheep or cattle station.  Paid work placements are also available in schools and the hospitality industry.  A three-month placement in a zoo is priced £3,307 pp and includes flights, transfers and accommodation.  Contact Changing Worlds on 01883 340960, www.changingworlds.co.uk.

Costa Rica

CESA Languages Abroad, a founder member of Year Out Group, offers Spanish language courses in the lively but rural Costa Rican city of San Isidro de Coronado.  Courses can also be combined with volunteering or work experience.  Courses run from 1-34 weeks.  Prices from £297 pp, for one week of tuition and accommodation. 
Contact CESA Languages Abroad on 01209 211800, www.cesalanguages.com.

All of the companies listed here are members of the Year Out Group, a not-for-profit organisation which carefully vets member companies to check they are specialists in their field and comply with a strict Code of Practice and Operating Guidelines. 

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