Volunteering during your year abroad can be a great way to combine practicing your language skills whilst contributing to fantastic teaching or conservation projects all over the world. There are so many different opportunities out there that, on first inspection, planning this kind of year abroad can seem like quite a daunting task, so we've put together some case studies and organisations to show you how easy it is to work for a good cause on your year abroad.
Lots of students want to spend their year abroad volunteering, but are put off by the costs – how on earth can you live abroad for a year with no money? I felt the same way, until I found out the European Voluntary Service. I’ve just graduated with a degree in French and Russian, and I’m currently doing a year-long voluntary project in Samara, Russia, working for an international youth exchange charity called Lastochki. Other volunteers I know here are working in kindergartens, hospitals and with disabled people. We’re learning lots, having great fun, speaking Russian all day every day at our projects, and none of us has paid a penny!
Karen studied French and European Union Studies at The University of Edinburgh and spent her year abroad in Rennes, France, where she studied political sciences at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques Rennes. After graduation she spent three months in Burkina Faso and is now working as Women's Project Intern at the Moroccan Children's Trust in their London office. We interviewed Karen about her own volunteering experiences, and why the Moroccan Children's Trust is a great charity for year abroaders to get involved with.
Hannah Cameron, 21, studied Pharmacology at Leeds University and decided to set up Volunteer Experience Africa after doing volunteer work in Ghana and Kenya. She says, "it was a wonderful experience for me and I wanted to give other people the chance to sample the same. I first volunteered in Ghana when I was in sixth form, where I spent time in a local hospital gaining invaluable work experience (as I was applying to study medicine at university). While I was there I made friends with many of the locals and hospital staff and have returned on two subsequent occasions."
I’m writing this from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I’ve been working as a volunteer in a favela for the last three months. The organisation I’m volunteering for is Iko Poran and I’m living in a shared house in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood with other volunteers. I study Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at Newcastle University and wanted to share my year abroad experience so far, so here’s a snippet!
In November 2000, Alan and Pamela Skuse left their home on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, to volunteer at an orphanage in Tapachula, southern Mexico, for 12 months. The orphanage closed down after six months however, leaving the Skuses with a life changing decision: to return to Australia, or take on the overwhelming challenge of caring for the seven children full time.
Leaving the children to return to the streets and lives of poverty and abuse was not an option so, despite the lack of resources and support, the couple decided to take on the huge responsibility of establishing their own refuge, ’Albergue, Misión México, Dando Amor, Vida y Esperanza’ (Mission Mexico Refuge, Giving Love, Life and Hope).
Hilary volunteered with APARE, a European youth organisation based in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in the heart of the Mediterranean, in her summer holidays. Here she explains what's involved and the benefits of volunteering in the south of France on your year abroad.