There are a huge number of different volunteering opportunities on offer. They vary widely in content and length. In almost all cases, however, they will not be paid, but expenses, such as travel and lunch, may be covered.
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Volunteering can be roughly divided into three categories:
Flexible, Informal Volunteering: This is where an organisation is looking for somebody to volunteer for few hours a week, working on the ground for a local charity, school, hospital or other organisation. This style of volunteering suits young people because they can often fit is around other commitments.
Formal or Professional Volunteering: This may be a fixed term placement or even a full time role working for a charity or non-profit organisation. Here, volunteers will be higher up in the management structure and may need to have specific experience. This role may be more like an internship and may take place during the summer holidays or on a gap year prior to university.
Volunteering Abroad: Often young people chose to volunteer abroad during a gap year or during university holidays. This will probably involve working for between a few weeks and a few months on a project such as teaching in a school or orphanage or looking after endangered animals. This can be a great way to see the world and help people but volunteers should be mindful that in many cases this kind of volunteering is harmful to the infrastructures and communities of the countries they are working in. It is very important to volunteer with the right company. See how to find an ethical project for more details.
Volunteering a great way to build skills. Continuous voluntary work (e.g. a few hours a week) is evidence of organisational ability, time-management and reliability and any volunteer work in an office environment is evidence of professional skills.
By tailoring their volunteering, young people can also gain experience and skills particular to their chosen educational or career path. For example, someone looking to becoming a nurse or social worker, might volunteer in an old people's home.
Volunteering, therefore, really boosts university and job applications, especially since volunteers will also be given a reference. However, it also makes young people more rounded human beings. Through volunteering, they will make new friends and boost their confidence and, by dedicating their time to a cause they are really passionate about, become more interesting.
Finding a Volunteering Opportunity:
There are plenty of opportunities for volunteering, advertised in local bulletins, schools, universities or on charity websites. For formal, fixed volunteering opportunities, the best place to look is on job search websites that specialise in Charity and third sector work. Depending on the type of position, candidates may have to fill out an application form and/or attend an interview.