Abta issued travel advice to prospective gap year travellers as students received their A-Level results today.
Tens of thousands are expected to take some time out for travelling or a gap year before starting university or work.
Volunteering abroad is a popular choice for many ‘gappers’, from sports coaching or assisting in a local school, to conservation and construction.
Abta destinations and sustainability director Nikki White said: “Thousands of young people will head off on their gap year over the next 12 months and many of them will be looking to put this time to good use by volunteering.
“It is very important that students use the services of a reputable company, which will ensure that they have the appropriate training and supervision whilst overseas.
“Volunteering can provide unforgettable experiences and make a very real difference for local communities but it can also lead to intense disappointment or in some cases do actual harm if it is not managed properly, so it is incredibly important that you take your time and do thorough research before committing to a project.”
Abta published five tips for planning a volunteering trip:
1. Do your research. It is important you thoroughly research the activities and projects you want to take part in, and the companies you are looking to book with, before committing. Ensure that whatever company you choose, volunteering projects provide a genuine benefit to the local host communities and activities are tailored to your skill set as well as providing a memorable life experience for you.
2. Use your skills. Consider how your own skill set can add value. Appropriate placement training will not only provide gappers with enhanced skills for the rest of their life but will ensure that they make a real and valuable contribution to the volunteering project, which will also vastly enrich their experience on their gap year.
3. Expect a background check. Companies should carry out background checks on people who want to work with children or vulnerable adults, and provide necessary support when you are abroad.
4. Be aware of orphanages. There is growing evidence orphanages can negatively affect the children who are in this environment and by working in orphanages, volunteers can inadvertently cause harm to children. Abta has been taking an active role in supporting child safeguarding for many years and advises its members to move away from volunteering in orphanages.
5. Look into animal sanctuaries. If you are considering volunteering in an animal sanctuary, be aware that a genuine sanctuary should have a no breeding policy and that physical contact should only take place for essential management or veterinary purposes.
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