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Volunteer abroad, Gap year in London

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What is a Volunteer Job?

Volunteer service contributes to the well-being of an individual and the community, and is usually coordinated by a non-profit or public sector organization. These positions rarely offer any salary or wage. Volunteering internationally offers a native's perspective into a country, a chance to work with people from around the world, and unparalleled experiences.

Volunteering in England

Voluntary work can be desirable if you are unable to gain legal work in the UK. (You would still need an entry visa if you require one). Although unpaid, board and lodging is usually provided.

Application depends on the organization. Most groups require a formal application, a personal statement, and some kind of deposit. There are periodic deadlines, so check the organization's sites to find out the deadline.

The best websites for finding opportunities in England are or


National Trust
The National Trust was founded in 1895 by 3 volunteers. Today, volunteers still are the backbone to this organization's ability to preserve the UK's heritage sites. Duties include helping in historic houses and gardens, fund raising and providing specialist skills.

British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV)
Organizes working breaks and conservation holidays throughout England for environmentally concerned volunteers.

Community Service Volunteers (CSV)
Largest voluntary placement agency in the United Kingdom. It places volunteers in socially worthwhile projects alongside British volunteers from 4 months to a year. Volunteers receive pocket money of £30 a week. It is Britain's largest training and volunteering organisation. Full-time volunteers work for a minimum of 4 months, and up to 12 months on various projects around the UK, including conservational and environment programmes. Accommodation, food, and a small weekly allowance are included on all projects. North American volunteers must apply via Alberta Overseas.

World Wide Volunteering
This search database with nearly 1000 volunteer organisations, 300,000 placements throughout the UK and in 214 countries worldwide.

Camphill Communities
This community runs volunteer placements with adults with special needs. Volunteers are expected to work for 6 days a week and it is preferred that you stay for at least one year.

The European Voluntary Service (EVS)

The European Voluntary Service is a European Union program that 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 organization and the host organization.
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 organization that will assist you individually along the procedure (you can find contacts through you National Agency, your National Coordinator or international volunteer organizations). Start contacting potential host organizations through your sending organization. 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 organizations and the Youth organizations.

More information also on the website

Insurance Abroad

Many volunteer programs also handle visa arrangements and include insurance coverage in their program fees or as part of their compensation. If the program does not arrange for visas, ask for a letter of introduction to present along with your application for a visa.

If the program you choose does not include insurance, it is highly recommended that you obtain a travel insurance policy that offers coverage for 24 hour emergency care. World Nomads Travel Insurance and Medex Global Solutions (Insurance) are excellent resources for quotes and coverage.

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

Update 10/05/2012


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