The best volunteer holidays in Scotland and abroad
It’s often said that a change is as good as a rest, and what better way to recharge your batteries than taking part in a volunteering holiday this summer? Voluntourism is a great way to meet new people, get a holiday and bask in the joy of knowing you’ve made a difference. With the industry booming, Paul Cardwell has selected some of the best opportunities in Scotland and further afield and they are all provided by charities. Whether you are after a conservation experience in the Highlands, would like to support deafblind people in Wales or teach at a school in Africa there is something out there for you. We've even thrown in a few longer term opportunities if you fancy more than just a holiday.
National Trust for Scotland
The National Trust for Scotland offers dozens of volunteering holidays all over Scotland. The charity’s Thistle and Trailblazer Camp working holiday programme provides conservation holidays with everything from archaeology digs to helping out at one of NTS’ houses, cleaning beaches, building paths and the gentler option of surveying wildlife. As well as carrying out conservation work, volunteers on some holidays are given the chance to take part in activities such as kayaking. Holidays include a mixture of group sizes and short breaks over a few days to week-long holidays. Some opportunities are suitable only for adults while others can be enjoyed by the whole family. Prices vary but start from under £100 and include accommodation, which ranges from tents to holiday houses.
Find out more at nts.org.uk
Cost: From £70
Each summer Sense organises around 25 week-long holidays for more than 100 people who are deafblind or have sensory impairment. Holidays include anything from camping to cosy cottages, canal boats or city breaks. Sense also provides holidays for older people with acquired deafblindness who need additional support and a range of short breaks, including day or evening trips and weekends.Volunteers are needed to support people to take part in activities such as swimming, horse-riding, visiting local attractions, having meals out and even nights in the pub. The charity provides training at a preparation event where you get to meet fellow volunteers. Support is offered during all holidays by a holiday leader. Sense does not charge volunteers any money and pays all accommodation, food and activity costs.
Find out more at sense.org.uk
Crossing Countries provides tailored opportunities for disabled and non-disabled people to volunteer abroad together in South Africa. The Edinburgh-based social enterprise forms teams of volunteer travellers, who work together for round six months prior to their trip to raise funds and plan their travel arrangements and placements. If necessary the non-disabled travellers undergo relevant disability training. Still relatively new, having launched in 2014, Crossing Countries has completed two trips to Durban, where its teams volunteered at local charities, schools and hospitals, while also experiencing the local culture. It has another trip scheduled for July this summer.
Find out more at crossingcountries.org
Cost: Fundraise from £1,800 and £3,500
Globalteer is a UK charity that has been offering overseas volunteer placements within its community and conservation projects since 2006. Placements vary widely from an Argentinian monkey project to its Peru community project, which includes a free after school education club and a children’s reading project. Volunteers are asked to pay a placement fee to Globalteer which covers volunteers’ costs such as accommodation and transport. A share of every fee goes directly to Globalteer’s partner projects and since launching it has donated almost £2.2 million. Placements vary in length from as little as one week making it suitable for a volunteer holiday.
Find out more at globalteer.org
Cost: Donation from £490
International Citizens Service
International Citizens Service (ICS) is an overseas volunteering programme for 18 to 25-year-olds. Operated by Voluntary Service Overseas, it is funded by the UK government’s department for international development and volunteers usually only have to fundraise around 10% of the costs to take part. Having a specific set of skills or qualifications to take part isn’t necessary – ICS only requires volunteers to have the ambition to want to make a difference. Placements last 10 to 12 weeks and are across Africa, Asia and Latin America with each one aiming to fight poverty in the country it is situated in. UK volunteers are paired up with local development projects which have actively asked for help. Local volunteers work alongside those from ICS to exchange ideas and collaborate on finding solutions to real-life problems.
Find out more at volunteerics.org
Cost: Varies but you have to fundraise 10% of overall total
Project Trust is a charity offering gap-year volunteering placements in Africa, Asia and Latin America for 17 to 19 year olds. Volunteers must attend a four-day selection course at the charity’s base on the Hebridean Isle of Coll in order to meet fellow volunteers and be matched with a project best suiting their skills before going abroad. Placements are for one year, and include teaching, social care and outward bound placement. All volunteers are provided with extensive training and support before, during and after their time overseas to maximise both the educational value of their experience and the positive impact they have in their projects. Volunteers have to fundraise between £5,500 and £6,200 to cover the cost but that includes flights, training, accommodation, food and an allowance. Project Trust has sent over 7,000 volunteers abroad since 1967.
Find out more at projecttrust.org.uk
Cost: Fundraise between £5,500 and £6,200
Voluntary Service Overseas
Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) is a programme for volunteers with professional experience that want to go on a placement for between six months and two years. It has sent volunteers to work in some of the world’s poorest communities for nearly 60 years. Volunteers have to commit to raising £985 for VSO but it covers return flights and accommodation and offers volunteers a local living allowance while abroad. It will also help with fundraising and provide training beforehand. VSO strongly believes that teaching and passing on skills to people in developing countries rather than just giving money is the best way to help longer term and as such its projects are focused on education, health care and helping people make a decent living. Projects include teaching placements, work with HIV and AIDS programmes and business management opportunities. Last year it worked in 25 countries with 542 local partners placing 2,651 volunteers.
Find out more at vsointernational.org
Cost: Fundraise £985
A programme for people aged 18 to 35 looking to volunteer and live away from home within the UK for six to 12 months. Operating since 1962, Volunteering Matters places volunteers with those who have physical disabilities, learning disabilities or mental health issues, older people, homeless people, families, children or young people. It works with a range of partners including schools, universities, social services departments, homeless hostels and other charities. Volunteers could find themselves in a befriending role, helping with personal care, acting as mentor or assisting with domestic tasks. No experience is necessary but volunteers need to commit for at least six months, be able to be placed anywhere in the UK and willing to volunteer 35-40 hours a week. There is no cost to volunteers and accommodation is provided as is a subsistence allowance, travel expenses and a reference for future employers.
Find out more at volunteeringmatters.org.uk
Trees For Life
Spend a week between March and October restoring the Caledonian forest in one of four beautiful locations in the Highlands. Work includes planting trees, removing non-native species, fencing and surveying. No previous experience of volunteering or conservation work is necessary with groups led by leaders who demonstrate each task and provide all tools and safety equipment where necessary. Volunteer weeks run from Saturday to Saturday with volunteers picked up from Inverness train station and dropped back there. Full accommodation is provided usually in dormitory style rooms as is all food (vegetarian) and volunteers are charged between £90 and £350 to take part. For those that can’t take part in a week long excursion Trees For Life also runs individual conservation days in other areas of the country. It also has long-term volunteer opportunities available.
Find out more at treesforlife.org.uk
Cost: From £90