November 13, 2017
Taking a gap year is not just for young people leaving college. Increasing numbers of mature people are taking a year out to see the world and experience new ways of working. Middle-aged people and seniors have a wealth of experience and expertise to offer a project. Voluntourism is popular as a mature gap year option and requires some preparation to make the most of the opportunity. Here’s how a little preparation can make the most of a mature gap year voluntourism mission.
Research the Companies Well
One of the most important things to do when planning a placement with a voluntourism charity or company is to research the organization. It is vital to match existing skill sets such as languages or teaching with the opportunities available. That way, both the volunteer and the organization will get the most from the gap year. Checking how structured the placement is and how much a volunteer can contribute to activities in a proactive way is vital too. Some placements operate with younger and more unskilled volunteers while others are looking for specific skills and experience. Checking these issues out beforehand will help ensure the placement is right for the volunteer and will be a positive experience.
Mature people usually have commitments such as bills, mortgages and more. Planning for a year without income or a reduced one is vital. The minute a person decides they want to go on a mature gap year, they need to start budgeting and putting money aside to cover bills and expenses. In particular, there need to be funds set aside for any unexpected emergency. Having sufficient funds to last a year will ensure that the voluntourism mission is a positive one. Volunteers may want to rent their home for a year, and/or sell unwanted items. All these things need to be factored into the planning stage.
Get Fit and Stay Healthy
Working overseas and in a new environment most likely requires fitness and resilience. There may be no transportation, conditions will be very different to a Western environment, and they may not have modern facilities. When traveling to these places for a mature gap year, it is vital to be in good health and not to go there to get fit. Planning an exercise regime, losing excess weight and getting a medical check before departure are essential for the mature gap year traveler and will help them benefit from the experience. It is also essential to carry sufficient medical supplies — including prescriptions — get vaccinations and make sure health insurance covers the voluntourism experience.
Collect the Essentials
Working out what essential items are needed on a mature gap year can be difficult. Most companies provide a list of supplies such as sleeping bags, mosquito nets and more, but space will be limited. Gap year travelers will need to minimize some items and learn to live without luxuries for a year; however, this is all part of the experience. Reputable companies also have orientation weekends and workshops where volunteers can find out more about the experience and decide if it really is for them.
A voluntourism mission is an excellent way of spending a mature gap year doing something completely different. By preparing well and doing the research, this experience will be all the more positive, giving back to society.