Sometimes the hardest decision to make when it comes to volunteering is choosing what exactly to do. There are literally hundreds of different programmes or issues you could volunteer with and you may be aware of some more than others. Mention the idea of volunteering on a gap year to any student and the images of building a school in a developing country instantly springs to mind. However, there is much more you can get involved with and you don’t have to spend a ridiculous amount of money jetting off abroad and paying a commercial organisation who will make profit from your experience.
Volunteering doesn’t have to take up all of your time either. You could easily help out one day a week when you don’t have any lectures or seminars. Plus, volunteering carries a feel good factor which could be great after a week of stressing out over coursework and dissertations.
Homeless Shelters & Food Banks
Any big city is likely to have at least one homeless shelter. You could help prepare meals or even work behind the scenes in the office managing inventories if you want to get some valuable work experience as well as helping the local community.
Tutoring & Mentoring
With inner city schools being crowded, some children could fall behind in their learning. Sometimes all they need is a few hours of extra teaching time a week to make sure they perform as well as possible. If you’re thinking about a career in teaching, volunteering to help pupils with their studies will provide you with great experience.
Similarly, why not help out with boy scouts or girl guides? It’s a great way to develop the skills of young people and you could also pick up some useful skills yourself.
Environmental & Political Organisations
From doing your bit in recycling to organising lobbies on environmental issues such as fracking, there’s loads of things you can get involved with concerning the environment.
Similarly, if you’re wanting to make a change to the political system you could join a local party and volunteer to run discussion groups or go canvassing. Not crazy about any of the parties in Westminster but still want to contribute to democracy? In election years, thousands of volunteers are needed to count papers and work at ballot stations.
Hospitals & Blood Banks
Great if you’re wanting to try your hand at medicine in the future. Volunteering at a hospital will put you on the frontline and provide you with real experience in a medical environment.
Similarly, you could volunteer with the NHS to promote blood donation. You’d gain a lot of skills and experience from co-ordinating a blood donation push on your university campus.
Libraries & Museums
Libraries and museums are great places to volunteer as it’s both educational for you and visitors. Even if you’re helping out on the information desk at a local museum, it all counts as experience and will look a lot better on your CV than “lounged around in my underwear every Saturday.”
Volunteering doesn’t have to be big and marvellous and occur overseas. It can happen right on your doorstep and not eat into your full-time job or studies.