find your perfect postgrad program
Search our Database of 30,000 Courses

Gap Year Volunteering

If you’re a student or a recent graduate it’s a near certainty that every second person you come across has partaken in the popular pastime of gap year volunteering after university. In between rolling your eyes at how every innocuous situation somehow reminds them of ‘that time in Vietnam when...’ you may find yourself wanting to experience it for yourself.

Here we have some essential information on taking a gap year, with a focus on various aspects of gap year volunteering.


There are thousand and one different ways to go with gap year volunteering, from charity work to teaching English in a rural school, either at home or abroad. You can also sign up with a gap year company or charity that runs volunteering projects, or if you have a specific idea in mind there is a lot of scope for those who want to organise their own adventure. With the broad spread of options available to you, the chances are you will find a project that catches your eye and complements your particular interests.

Gap Year Volunteering Abroad

Lucky gap yearers who have saved up enough money or are in possession of a travel grant or two may want to make the most of it and seek out a gap year volunteering project abroad.  As with home projects potential volunteers can take their pick of gap year companies, expeditions and countries on offer. The extent of the options available can be baffling and overwhelming... where do you even start? What are the relative merits of building a school in Tanzania over building a school in Bolivia?  And the most important question, will the project make a long-term difference to the community or is it just designed to capitalise on the popularity of gap year volunteering?

It’s best to have this last question in mind when you start sifting through pages and pages of Google results. To find a project that will be truly worth your time and money look for organisations in the UK that partner charities in the country you’re interested in because it’s more likely that there will be a deeper understanding of the needs of the local community and that project will have been set up in view of these needs. By extension your contribution will be more effective and worthwhile because you will be put to work where you are most needed.

Gap Year Volunteering

Another factor to keep an eye on when researching gap year volunteering abroad is where you’re money is going. The most genuine organisations will be those that give you a clear breakdown of how the money you pay will be spent. Normally your money will go towards materials for the project you will be participating in or a long-term strategy to stimulate sustainable development. Either way it’s good to know you will be funding projects themselves rather than someone’s salary!

Finding out about the sustainability of the project itself is also helpful when assessing a potential volunteering experience. What stage is the project in currently? What will happen after you leave? Knowing that you are contributing to a continuous effort for improvement rather than a scheme that will end with your departure is a key consideration in your hunt for a meaningful volunteering programme.

You might also favour organisations that carry out interviews before selecting volunteers and provide training prior to joining the project, as these extra steps indicate a concern to ensure volunteers are the right fit and will be prepared.

Gap Year Volunteering at Home

The cost of gap year volunteering abroad can be off-putting given the money you have to spend on flights and/or the expedition, but look closer to home and you will find a wealth of worthy causes in numerous sectors crying out for keen helpers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of big-name and small-scale charities alike, whether you work in the affiliated shops, on the admin side or on the frontline with particular projects.

You don’t have to restrict your imagination when it comes to home grown gap year volunteering opportunities; think big, like an established scheme run by well-known national charities or zoom in and find a local initiative, helping out at a youth group or getting involved in a fundraising event in your hometown.

David, a master’s student in Comparative Government, says “ I couldn’t afford to go abroad on my year out but that was no reason not to do something worthwhile. I volunteered with a local children’s charity and would definitely recommend to anyone interested in volunteering to consider the UK first... there are plenty of people and places in need.”  

Aside from regular charities there are a diverse spectrum of organisations that would be only too happy to hear from you; heritage trusts, nursing homes, children’s clubs, music societies, various political groups, organisations devoted to specific causes... the list goes on. Whether you want to stand up for a cause you believe in, or give up some time for the benefit of another gap year volunteering opportunity – gap year volunteering at home could easily give you the rewarding experience you’re looking for.

If you use these essential tips as your screening process you will be left with the options most worthy of your consideration. Regardless of whether you pursue volunteering at home or overseas you’ll be glad you did it!

Read our article on Gap Year Ideas .


Related articles

Taking A Gap Year

5 Ideas For What To Do After University 

Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries