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Volunteer abroad, Gap year in Brussels


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If you are looking for a summer job or a gap year, voluntary work abroad may be the perfect way to gain valuable experience abroad. With a volunteer project you will get professional and personal experience, and improve your career prospects. An experience abroad will also allow you also to learn about another culture and encourage personal development, co-operation, tolerance and open-mindedness.

Nearly 20% of Belgium people have a voluntary activity in sport, social organisations, arts... within ABSL (Association Sans But Lucratif - Belgium association - law of 27th June 1921 modified on the 2nd May 2002). There are many organisations who will help place you in the perfect work experience job. We will give a list of different organisations throughout this article, focusing on volunteer organisations.

You will find more information on summer jobs, holiday jobs or internship abroad in our other articles on the left column of this page. You will find also details on visa and health insurance in those sections.

What is a volunteer job

Voluntary services are offered by choice - it is not mandatory or coerced. It contributes to the well-being of an individual or the community, and is usually coordinated by a non-profit or public sector organization, and does not pay any salary or wage (although you may have your expenses covered).

Voluntary work is often equated with unpaid work, and people who contribute their time and energy freely to build a better community don't necessarily get the support systems and recognition they deserve. However regarding people working as volunteers during their summer holiday, they will get accommodation and often a small amount of money for their personal care.

The European Voluntary Service (EVS)

The European Voluntary Service (EVS) is a European Union programme, set up by the European Commission in early 1996. It offers young people (between 18 and 25) the opportunity to work as a volunteer for six to twelve months in a non-profit project abroad. Three partners are the key partners of an EVS project: the volunteer, the sending organisation and the host organisation.
The European Commission take in charge the travel costs for the young, the insurance (health, accident, public liability) and provides a monthly allowance from 140 to 220 euros.

How to proceed: Find a sending organisation that will assist you individually along the procedure (you can find contacts through you National Agency, your National Coordinator or international volunteer organisations). Start contacting potential host organisations through your sending organisation. Keep your fingers crossed and persevere in your search as the difficulty is not to find a suitable project, but to find a project ready to host you within the time limit you have planned.

You can have a look at the European database on accredited host organisations and the Youth organisations.

More information also on the website http://www.britishcouncil.org

Volunteering in Belgium

Below is a list of some websites and organisations specialised in voluntary work, cooperation and development:

  • http://www.volontariat.be : offers a directory of volunteer search and other services related to voluntareers (training, information,...).
  • http://www.guidesocial.be : You will find a list of associations looking for volunteers for their activities.
  • http://www.lebij.be : the Bureau International Jeunesse manages, in the French speaking community, a Prince Philippe fund program that allows the youths between 15 and 25 to benefits from a volunteer project in an other Belgian community.
  • http://www.solidarcite.be : Solidarcite offers youths between 17 and 25 to join a team during 1 year in a voluntary project.
  • http://www.yaqua.org : this website links people who are willing to give time and organisations who are looking for volunteers, working for the community.
  • http://www.arianet.irisnet.be : job offers in the social sector (French speaking in Belgium).
  • http://www.acodev.be : for a job in cooperation and development.
  • http://www.dgcg.be : department of cooperation and development. Gives information to jobs in those sectors.

World Wide Voluntering (http://www.worldwidevolunteering.org.uk) is a search database with nearly 1000 voluntary organisations, in 214 countries worldwide.

See also the list on the Europa website.

NGO

The webiste of the Free University of Belgium gives the list of Non-Governemental Organisations based in Belgium.

Community, activity camps

A number of organisations arrange social work projects, such as Concordia (http://www.concordia-association.org) which encourages international youth exchange as a mean of promoting personal development, greater cultural awareness and international understanding and enable young people to participate in volunteer projects throughout the world. Projects last for several weeks, in the summer months.

Eastlinks (http://www.volunt.net/) is a network of independent non-governemental organisations with activities in voluntary work of youths in central Europe.

Insurance

Wherever you go, it is recommended to subscribe travel insurance. It should cover any event that might occur when you are abroad. Morever this is mandatory for a lot of work in "exotic" countries.

We have selected below a series of companies to help you in your choice. Of course you might find others on the Internet.

Make sure also that you have a current passport and valid visa as necessary: http://www.diplomatie.be

You might also look at our other articles on Summer Jobs and Internship abroad on the left column of this page.

Update 1/11/2005


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