18 August 2013

The world is wide open for young people setting out on a gap year, but choosing the right organisation to work with is essential.  So ....

Ten questions to ask when picking 
your gap-year project

1   How do you select your participants?  
You will have done plenty of research to find the right programme for you but it is also important that the organisation you have chosen takes the time to establish if you are right for them.  This may be in the form of an application form, interview, or an extensive chat on the phone.

2   How much of what I pay covers overheads, and how much goes directly to the project?  
Responsible organisations will be very transparent with their costs.  Your time and energy are extremely valuable, but to be successful any project needs financial support.  Make sure your money is reaching the host project, where it can benefit local communities and recompense your hosts.

3   What level of support will be have if something goes wrong?
Many people choose to travel with an organisation for the support it can provide in emergencies, so make sure that you are comfortable with the amount of help you will receive.

4    Exactly what work will I be doing?
Well-run projects with clear goals and long-term plans will be able to explain in detail what work you will be doing, and how your role fits into the wider project as a whole.

5  What proportion of my money is going to the project and how exactly is it managed?
While some organisations provide full funding for project costs, others will just pay for your food and board.  Some organisations

6  How will I be useful at the project and what happens after I leave?
While you are sure to arrive full of enthusiasm, if the project requires a doctor or an engineer and you don't have those skills then you may feel frustrated.  Also, if you're going for a short period of time, you want to be sure your work is continued after you leave. Asking these questions helps to ensure that the project is realistically sustainable.

7   Can I speak to some former participants?
Many companies have Facebook groups which you could ask to join and speak to people who have already been away with them.

8  Can I talk to the local contact on the ground before I leave?
This will help you understand the project in more detail, get first-hand feedback on the organisation, and get a clearer idea of the local impacts that the project is having.

9  What do you do for local people and the environment?
Responsible organisation work hard to make sure all their activities are benefiting local people and local environments and will be able to show you how they do this.

10  How is my payment protected?
If you're paying for a programme well in advance, find out what financial protection you have and what exactly it covers.  Atol protection, for example, covers only the cost of flights, not any local trip costs.  It's possible that your only guarantee will be the length of time an organisation has been running, but any additional protection is worth asking about.

Some of the gap year companies specialising in volunteering include:

CSV (csv.org.uk) offers volunteering opportunities to more than 150,000 people each year, mostly within Britain.  Includes free accommodation and day-to-day expenses.

VSO (vso.org.uk) is a development charity that sends volunteers

Frontier (frontier.ac.uk) offers breaks for those who want to get involved in community development projects.  A four-week village project in Papua New Guinea costs £1,195, excluding flights.

BUNAC (bunac.org)
Camps International (campsinternational.com)
Changing Worlds (changingwlrlds.co.uk)
CREES (crees-manu.org)
Coral Cay Conservation (coralcay.org)
Global Volunteer Projects (globalvolanteerprojects.org)
1-to-1 (1-to-i.com)
Inter-cultural Youth Exchange (icye.org.uk)
International Citizen Service (volunteerics.org)
Lattitude (lattitude.org.uk)
Outreach International (outreachinterstional.co.uk)
Oyster (oysterworldwide.com)
Projects Abroad (projects-abroad.co.uk)
Quest (questoverseas.com)
Raleigh International (raleighinternational.org)
Real Gap (realgap.co.uk)
The Leap (theleap.co.uk)

... and here's a link to more information on ideas for your gap year - from learning a skill or language, voluntering - to adventure and advice: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/adventure/77133/Gap-Year-100-company-directory-learning-a-skilllanguage.html

(From The Telegraph)

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