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Volunteering holidays: the ins and outs of giving back

Written by Fatima Jahic

Combining a holiday with helping on a voluntary project is a great way to ‘give something back’ while making the most of your spare time. Choose a project that is close to your heart, or involves doing something that you absolutely love to make the experience even more fulfilling. So, with literally thousands of good causes out there, how do you decide what to go for?


Charity challenges

The market has really opened up on these kind of active holidays that offer the chance for some serious fundraising. From walking across sections of the Great Wall of China to cycling in Israel or coping with the high altitudes of a trek to Machu Picchu, there is something to suit pretty much everyone’s tastes and fitness levels. Book with a specialist holiday company, such as Charity Challenge, to ensure professional back-up support, expert guides and a wonderful sense of team spirit.


Countryside care

Charities which care for the UK’s heritage and countryside always welcome volunteer help, either for a single project or on an on-going basis. The National Trust runs regular volunteering holidays, where participants join teams of rangers and outdoor staff to help coppice woodlands, build dry stone walls, clear scrublands and much more. Accommodation and food is provided in return, along with the matchless feeling of having played a very real part in protecting some of the country’s most beautiful stretches of countryside.


Helping abroad

If you like the sound of volunteering overseas to help build hospitals, dig wells, teach foreign children or run holiday camps, there are many organisations that can match you with a suitable project. Again, the advice is to arrange this through a reputable company that specialises in such projects, as this will provide you with the right support and advice, should anything go wrong. Contact VSO for an idea of available options and destinations.


Use your expertise

Trained volunteers are in demand globally. Doctors, architects, teachers etc. can make a massive difference when they lend their knowledge and professional expertise to projects such as manning field hospitals, building orphanages and teaching underprivileged children and adults who might otherwise not receive such valuable education.


Closer to home

If you are not quite ready to jet off to far-flung places to volunteer, look around your local community for opportunities to help. The usual holiday seasons, such as summer or Easter, tend to bring the need for extra volunteers. Helping in local school holiday schemes or playgrounds can be very rewarding, as can working with people with disabilities or other challenges. Hosting children or adults visiting your area from places such as Chernobyl, for example, will give you a greater understanding of the issues facing them, as well as the highlights of your home town and locality.


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About the author

Fatima Jahic