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Taking time to volunteer; whether it be for a few weeks, a summer or an entire year, is fast becoming a popular option for school leavers. There’s no doubt that it will prove to be a rewarding and memorable experience; one which will allow you to experience a country’s culture as a participant rather than as an observer while also contributing to the wellbeing of a nation. There are an intimidating number of organisations on offer (see our Gap Year Programmes section for some examples) so as usual we at Daycourses. com are here make your decision making process as painless as possible; here’s a few things to keep in mind while browsing what’s on offer…

• Research all of your options and talk to people who have already completed the trip that you think you’re interested in. Getting advice and an opinion from a former volunteer will prove invaluable to you; they’ll be able to tell you what isn’t in the pamphlet or on the website. The organisation you choose should be willing to put you in touch with a past ‘survivor’ so make sure to take five minutes to write a quick email or make a speedy phone call; it could make all the difference.

• Decide what it is you want out of your trip. The time available to you and the level of skills you have are just two factors that will determine what association will suit you best. Some organisations are more experienced with young age groups for shorter lengths of time (up to three months) while others boast a more diverse team in terms of age with periods spent as long and upwards of a year. Ask yourself what causes are important to you and affiliate yourself with an organisation of similar values; if it is an important cause to you it will make it all the more worthwhile.

• Read the documentation you receive very carefully. Ignore the temptation to skim over the fine print; it is absolutely imperative that you are certain about the purpose of the organisation and that you have similar expectations. It would be a disappointment to say the least if you are hoping for a hands-on approach only to arrive in your far-off destination to find there is little contact with the locals and your role is more administrative than community involved. Don’t be afraid of calling and asking questions. • Make sure your project has a mentor and supervisor. All hosting organisations must have this support available but it is important that you clarify this before the project starts; this will save great confusion and trouble in the long run; so don’t assume that there will be someone there, find out the contact details.

• Most non-profit organisations are eager to find volunteer help yet they have to be careful when accepting the services you offer. Bear in mind you may be asked to come in for an interview, fill out a volunteer application, or describe your qualifications and your background just as you would at an interview for a paying job. It is in the organisation’s interest and more beneficial to the people it serves to make certain you have the skills needed, that you are truly committed to doing the work, and that your interests match those of the organisation. Furthermore, in volunteer work involving children there are legal ramifications to consider, so be patient.

• Take your safety seriously. Make sure you have received any necessary shots/injections in time and have the recommended medical supplies with you. It’s likely that you will be going to a destination with very different surroundings and it’s important to be prepared.

• Invest in a good guidebook and let it be your Bible in the approach to your trip; this will give you a fair idea of what to expect upon arrival.

• Accept that there are sure to be challenges. Volunteering is hugely rewarding; but this fulfilling nature stems from the many obstacles and difficulties that may face you. It is obviously impossible to guess what these may be but in recognising that there are sure to be hard days will somewhat prepare you. The good times will far outweigh any bad!

• Keep in touch with the organisation that sends you; a constant level of communication will ensure that you are in a better position should any conflict arise.

• Interact with the natives. Volunteering benefits both parties and the best way to get a high level of personal achievement and fulfilment from it is to create and maintain relationships with those who live there. Language may be an initial barrier but you will be amazed by the basic levels of communication that will emerge with a little effort. And remember; a big smile never hurt anyone!


Whichcollege.ie is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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