Scuba diver photographing marine tropical fauna

Great international volunteer projects for your gap year

Whatever your skills and interests, you should be able to find a volunteer project for your gap year to match... and you'll give your career prospects a boost too.
From teaching basketball in Ghana to cricket in Costa Rica, there are opportunities to suit every taste.

Some of the most popular gap year volunteer projects involve sports, construction, teaching and conservation. Graduates with medical training may be particularly keen to offer medical assistance. You could also provide personal care, for example to disabled children. It’s worth considering going through a gap year organisation that will help you arrange a volunteer project.

Gap year sport projects

If you’re an active sort consider a sport-focused placement. Travel to a deprived country where sport-mad youngsters are eager to improve on their basic skills and learn more about their favourite games. From teaching basketball in Ghana to cricket in Costa Rica, there are opportunities to suit every taste. These programmes often also benefit communities by improving facilities and providing better sporting equipment.

Projects arranged with help from the ERASMUS+ programme

You may be able to access volunteering opportunities in Europe set up with help from Erasmus+, the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport. The scheme is intended to fund groups rather than individuals, but you may be able to volunteer with a group supported by this scheme or go about setting up such a group yourself.

Teaching abroad during your time out

Teaching is an important part of many gap year projects. You could be sent to a small school with a single class, or be one of many teachers at a larger school. Some projects require you to teach a variety of subjects to the same class; others involve teaching one subject to several classes. You probably won’t be asked to teach a subject you know nothing about, but you may want to swot up before you go! Many projects involve teaching English as a foreign language to children and adults. A good gap year organisation should provide you with training. This is a great chance to get some experience if you’re considering a teaching career.

Environmental gap year projects

There are conservation projects of every size and shape to suit your skills and interests. Projects may involve physical labour, monitoring of wildlife, and educating local people about problems and their solutions. The large gap year organisations offer a range of environmental placements of many varieties, but there are also specialist groups, so if you are particularly interested in one aspect of conservation, you may be able to find a project dedicated to that. Your experiences could help you to launch a career in the environment sector later on.

Volunteer for a gap year construction project

Most of the large gap year providers run construction projects in various locations. You may be asked to help build a school in an African village, or replace a bridge damaged in torrential rains. Local knowledge is often insufficient, so volunteer organisations provide their expertise and willing labourers. Your involvement could stand you in particularly good stead if you hope to launch a career in engineering or civil engineering after your year out.