On January the 3rd 2016 I caught my first overseas plane to Phnom Penh in Cambodia to volunteer at an orphanage for two months to teach English. I went through a program called planmygapyear which offer affordable volunteering opportunities in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. The program can go from 2 weeks up to 6 months and you choose the length of your stay. They work together with local communities in developing countries achieve long-term sustainable goals.
Why choose volunteering?
Volunteering offers the opportunity to travel while also being able to help and change the lives of people in need. By living and volunteering, you are able to experience the culture and everyday life in a foreign place while having the safety and security of an organisation behind you. Volunteering also gives you the chance to meet other like-minded people who are also volunteering and gives you the chance to make long-lasting friendships.
There is a range of different types of volunteering available through planmygapyear such as childcare programs, teaching English, medical placements, wildlife projects, under 18 programs or PMGP experiences. They all offer a range of activities and opportunities which can be beneficial to both you and others.
Do I have to pay to volunteer?
Unfortunately yes you do have to pay to volunteer. However the cost you pay to go volunteer will cover your accommodation, food and some of the money will go towards the program which is helping underprivileged people better their lives. For the program that I done through planmygapyear, I payed AUD $1,829 and that covered my meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), my accommodation, travel insurance, travel pack, support, local transport among with contributing to running the program which is beneficial to developing countries who need this sort of assistance in improving their country. Although you are responsible for booking and paying for your own flights, visa, passport and any additional fees. This in total is still a reasonable price to pay compared to other organisations.
Do I need any qualifications?
A majority of the programs do not require a specific skill or qualification as they are just happy to have people helping out however some of the medical programs will need certain educational qualifications but that will be listed on the website. You can also apply no matter what country you are from as they are based in the UK. I taught English and I didn’t need any qualifications just a good level of English and English doesn’t even need to be your first language just as long as you have a reasonable standard of it to be able to teach to others. You also don’t need to speak the language of the country you are going to as you will be given a basic language guide in your handbook and in some cases on arrival and during your orientation. I learnt a few words and phrases during my time volunteering as one of the older kids gave me a couple of lessons.
Will I have any free time to explore and travel?
Depending on the type of program you choose will depend on the amount of free time you will have however all of the programs are designed to allow time for travel on weekends. They encourage volunteers to make the most of their time by exploring the country and area they are in especially on the weekend. At the orphanage I only taught from Monday-Thursday so I always had a three-day weekend to travel and explore.
Will I be alone?
No you won’t be alone as there will be fellow volunteers which you can make friends with and even go travelling with. You will be staying with other volunteers and mostly be working with them so you will get to know them quickly. If you didn’t want to go alone and make new friends you are able to go with someone else you know or even a group of people who can always make a good bonding trip with your friends or family. Most of the accommodations will have either a phone or free wifi so you are able to stay connected with your friends and family back home and not feel so lonely if you do decide to go by yourself. I think I spent two days overall when there was no other volunteers otherwise there were other people who I became good friends with.
Overall volunteering is a great idea, it combines travel with the opportunities to help others in need and can be very rewarding. If you want to know any more or have more questions that need answering have a look at the FAQ on the actual website of PlanmyGapYear.
Let me know what you guys think of volunteering or if you’ve had any experiences! 🙂
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