Although winter is nearly over, we are all still snuggled in our big, warm coats and the thought of being somewhere hot enters our minds every time we wipe our runny noses. The winter escape to the Maldives or the Seychelles sounds like a dream but let’s be honest, not many people our age can afford this, especially not us – students.
So, what do we do when we want to travel and explore but we can barely afford a train ticket to London? There are a few ways you can travel without spending too much money, but my personal favourite one is volunteering. But before I even start explaining all the pros of it, you should know the cons…
Helping someone in need is a great, amazing even, but (and there’s always a but) it is not for everyone and should never be treated as an easy way of travelling. Volunteering is more serious than you might think, and it can often have as many negative outcomes than positive. To make sure you make the right choices there are a few things you need to consider before you embark on your life changing mission.
So, how do we do it right?
There are many ways to travel and volunteer, and hundreds of agencies exist that you can approach but, as with everything, you need to be careful when you choose an organisation. There are so many things you need to consider before making the choice of who to go with so the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have made it easier by giving some useful tips.
Safety should always come first; no matter how exciting the project sounds and how prepared you feel, you should always make sure that the chosen organisation meets the safety standard criteria. The British Standard BS 8848 is the UK’s National Standards body which works with organisations to minimise the risks of adventure travel. It is important to know whether your chosen company complies with the BS 8848. (What is BS 8848?)
Such organisations will have a responsible, competent individual as your main contact when you need help with things like accommodation,
The most important thing to do is research, research, research. There are so many options out there and some of them aren’t as honest and charitable as you might think. Volunteering is great but make sure you do it right. Once you have researched everything and chosen an organisation, you need to decide what kind of volunteer work you want to do. Whether you want to help build houses, prevent crime among youths or educate children on health issues, your help will be needed. But it is important to know that not everything is for everyone.
Voluntary Services Overseas advises future volunteers not to work in orphanages if they are not qualified and experience. The high demand of people wanting to work at orphanages has caused vulnerable children to be taken away from their families. So, be aware of this before making the wrong choice.
And just before you depart to your adventurous destination, pay a visit to your GP and make sure you get all the right vaccines to keep you safe.
If you feel ready and you checked everything off the list, then you are good to go and make the world a better place.
And have some fun, of course.
By Plamena Manolova