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Volunteering During Your Career Break

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 28 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Volunteering Career Break Abroad

Volunteering during a career break or "grown-up gap year" is a mutually beneficial experience. Not only are you helping others but you are also helping yourself. The skills you gain and adventures you experience will not only enrich you as a person, but will also improve you career prospects when you return home. Additionally, becoming a volunteer abroad is a fantastic - and often considerably cheaper - way to see a country off the typical tourist track.

Enriching Your Local Community

Opportunities for volunteering exist worldwide, but if the idea of choosing a far-flung destination doesn't appeal, you can always help out close to home. Teaching refugees English-language skills, helping schoolchildren to read or visiting patients in your local hospital are some of the more obvious routes. Hundreds of non-profits also need volunteers, doing everything from sending letters out asking for donations to fund projects in developing countries to developing HIV-awareness campaigns. Many people volunteer in their chosen fields, giving their skills back to society; others choose to do something they've never done before.

Volunteering Abroad

An endless number of volunteer opportunities exist abroad. The key is narrowing down your interests, including your own skills, your budget and your chosen destination. Once you've made a list, investigate on-line sites and see what is available. Many programmes offer volunteers free or subsidised accommodation, and some even provide airfare and/or expenses. Most volunteer projects are divided into the following three categories:

People Projects

Malaria prevention is Malawi or helping physically disabled children in India are just some of the thousands of challenges you could face as you volunteer in a people project abroad. This is your chance to do something you have always dreamt of doing, and the rewards will be infinite. Volunteering on a career break doesn't have to take place in a developing country - English teachers, for example, are needed all over the world, including Western Europe, Scandinavia and even throughout the UK.

Wonderful Wildlife

Here you are really spoilt for choice. Saving turtles in the Galapagos Islands or working on an African game or nature reserve alongside conservationists are just two of the options available to you. Whether you're on a short-term career break, a long-term sabbatical or are retired, investigate the opportunities that are out there and take advantage of them.

Environmental Concerns

Practice what you preach by helping save the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador or working to restore the eco-system on the African continent. It doesn't matter if you want to do hands-on work or if you fancy something less physical - administrative volunteering posts abound.

Taking up a volunteer challenge on your career break is something you'll never regret. An increasing number of employers are seeing the advantage of offering employees unpaid leave to see the world and make a difference. Some may even help fund your project, especially if by doing so they can help reap the benefits when you return.

Volunteering doesn't have to be long-term. Some programmes last less than a month, while others can go on for years, depending on your whim. Decide on your budget, your areas of interest and the proposed duration of your career break. Then go for it!

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