A gap year can help shape your future, so do something that matters

13th August 2018

With many students considering their gap year options ahead of this year’s A-level results, sustainable development charity Raleigh International is encouraging young people and their parents to ditch the usual ‘backpacker’ trips in favour of an adventure that matters.

A good gap year is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for young people to develop personally, experience career paths they never thought possible, and to gain a greater understanding of the world. However, many young people worry that they could waste both time and money on a year spent travelling when they could be gaining academic qualifications or professional experience.

Unlike an ordinary gap year, volunteering overseas with a reputable, experienced development organisation offers young people the opportunity to not only travel the world while making a difference, but to build skills for future careers or study that will help them stand out from the crowd.

Ben Robinson, 24, who volunteered with Raleigh during his own gap year in 2013 and has since completed a master’s degree, started a PhD in International Development, created his own business and become a youth Trustee at Raleigh, advises: “What you do on your gap year can change the direction of your life, it certainly did for me. It can really help you stand out from the crowd. I’d encourage young people thinking about taking a gap year to go on an adventure but to do something that matters as well. International volunteering through an organisation like Raleigh benefits everyone: you can gain valuable career and life skills on your gap year while also making a real difference to disadvantaged communities.”

A Raleigh Expedition is a life-changing programme for 17-24 year olds that combines sustainable travel and volunteering in Costa Rica, Nepal and Tanzania. Young people live and engage with remote communities not visited by tourists, and work on meaningful projects that create lasting change and protect natural resources.

Ben said: “Young people and their parents should look closely at the organisations offering overseas gap year opportunities. Raleigh sets itself apart from other gap year travel companies as it is a respected development charity with over 30 years’ experience of working with young volunteers. Raleigh focus is on ensuring programmes are safe, that young people develop personally, and that the work they do will be making a sustainable difference.”

Raleigh believe that organisations who work through young volunteers to make an impact should also be committed to helping their volunteers develop personally. Skills such as team work, communication, adaptability and the passion to become active citizens back home, will benefit young people greatly throughout their personal and working lives.

Ben commented: “When volunteering with Raleigh you get an experience which benefits your academic or working life in the long term, while also traveling to some of the world’s most inspiring places and making a real contribution towards changing our world for the better. There is something that happens on a Raleigh Expedition which cannot be measured or explained. The feeling of being part of something bigger, part of something life changing and sharing all that with people you have only known for a few weeks but feel like you’ve known for a lifetime. What more could you ask for in a gap year?”



Raleigh International alumni and Youth Trustee, Ben Richardson



• Case studies of gap year volunteers are attached with this press release. High resolution photos are also available with all case studies – please contact Sean O’Brien on s.obrien@raleighinternational.org.

About Raleigh International:

We’re a sustainable development charity working through, for and with young people to create meaningful and long-lasting development impact. Our programmes focus on youth in civil society, livelihoods, natural resource management, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). We work in partnership with communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governments. Our way of working to achieve impact in all of these areas is by engaging young volunteers. We develop national youth led programmes and run two delivery projects for international volunteers: Raleigh Expedition and Raleigh International Citizen Service (ICS) – funded by the UK government.

Since our foundation as a charity in 1984, more than 45,000 people from over 90 countries have volunteered with Raleigh and have become part of a global community committed to building a sustainable future. For more information visit: www.raleighinternational.org

About Raleigh Expedition (incl. countries, ages, fundraising and our bursary programme):

We run Expeditions to Costa Rica, Nicaragua [currently we are not operating in this country due to political unrest], Nepal, and Tanzania throughout the year for either 4, 5, 7 or 10 weeks. Our most popular 10-week Expedition is designed so you can “do it all” and take part in three projects in one programme but of course you can go for less time to accommodate your needs. Young people between the ages of 17-24 can apply. Those over 25 can apply to lead groups and projects as a volunteer manager.

As a charity we talk about fundraising rather than costs for volunteers. Fundraising targets for most volunteers range from £3,450 for a 10-week Expedition, £3,050 for a 7-week Expedition, £2,350 for a 5-week Expedition, and £2,050 for a 4-week Expedition.

With Raleigh there are no hidden or extra costs. We include much more than other providers because over the last 30 years we have learnt that a high-quality programme, including safety, in-country support, and working with communities as real partners has better outcomes for all of us. We appreciate fundraising can be overwhelming but we are here to help you every step of the way. Don’t be daunted! We’ve supported thousands of young people to reach their target.

We are also committed to ensuring that our Expedition programme is accessible to young people from a range of backgrounds. We have established a Bursary Fund to help support young people who might otherwise find it difficult to fundraise the full cost of a 10-week Expedition. Find out if you’re eligible for our Bursary Fund.

Why should you choose Raleigh for your gap year?

Impact. Work at the heart of sustainable development projects in rural communities and national parks. You could be working to bring clean water to a rural village in Costa Rica, constructing school toilets in Tanzania, or building handwashing stations in Nepal.

Teamwork. Join an international team, make lifelong friendships and become part of a global community making a difference in the world.

Adventure. Develop your resilience and leadership skills on an exhilarating trek through unique and stunning landscapes. Live in a homestay with a local family. Eat traditional home cooked meals and form remarkable relationships with incredible people.

Fun. Let’s face it, as well as making a difference you want to have a good time on your gap year. Your Expedition will be an amazing adventure full of new experiences, friends and memories.

Safety. Ensuring the safety of our young volunteers, the communities we work with, and our staff, is at the heart of everything we do. We have robust, transparent systems in place, we’re fully accredited and have over 30 years’ experience delivering international expeditions.

Raleigh International’s ‘Top 5 Tips’ for making the most of volunteering on your gap year:

1. Do something you’re passionate about. Think about your reason for doing this on a personal level. If you see the true purpose – and there will likely be more than one reason – behind wanting to volunteer, you can narrow down your search a lot. Do you want to make a real difference to people’s lives in developing countries? Do you want to challenge yourself or get out of your comfort zone? Do you want to gain employability skills? Do I want a physical challenge? Do I want to learn a new language? Do I want to develop leadership skills? You will get the most out of a volunteering placement which you’re passionate about and are excited to do. It will also help you to narrow down the organisations you might volunteer with. Research why the organisation exists in the first place. What are its aims and values? Do you share the same ethos?

2. What will your role be and how will you develop? Ask why the organisation needs youth volunteers. Does it feel you can make a lasting difference? Are local young people involved? Will you be actively involved in projects or simply a bystander? How have others found the experience? Speak to people who have been away with the organisation before and are enthusiastic ambassadors for the programme.

3. Have realistic expectations before committing to travelling. What will you be doing? Where will you be living? Do you want to immerse yourself in one community or volunteer in a variety of environments – a community, a rainforest, a national park, or trekking across diverse landscapes? How long will you be away for? Will you be on your own or in a group? What’s the age range of volunteers? Do you want to volunteer with a team of people from all over the world? Would you like to travel independently before or after your project? Do you want to lead a team? However, it’s important to remain adaptable. If you want to make a genuine difference then you need to be committed and adaptable. Yes, you will also benefit from volunteering but the main reason you are doing it is to make a difference to others.

4. Ensure you’ll be working on a project that matters. Projects should be designed in collaboration with local partners, who understand the needs of local communities. How does this project fit into a longer-term programme of work that helps meet local and national development plans? Will your volunteering really make a difference to people? Find out where your money goes. Is the organisation a charity providing public benefit or a private company making profit?

5. Know your safety, support and training options. Will you receive full training and support both before the programme and when you are there? Your safety should be a priority. Make sure the volunteering programme has been audited to conform to the British Safety Standard BS8848, the standard for organising and managing visits, fieldwork, expeditions, and adventurous activities outside the UK. If it isn’t accredited, then what is the organisation’s safety management system?