Monday, 28 November 2011 5:12 PM
If you are keen to take part in voluntary projects during a gap year, it is worth considering spending some time in hospitals, orphanages and clinics where you will be able to do challenging - yet rewarding - work and deliver positive change to local communities.
Make the decision to become a medical volunteer and you'll have the opportunity to visit countries in Africa and Asia where you will work to improve the lives of ill and disadvantaged people.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, spending a volunteer gap year in this manner is a great way for those with medical qualifications or experience in the industry to make the most of their skills and apply what they have learnt to helping medical professionals to care for the needy. Depending on what credentials you have, you could even assist in surgical procedures.
However, don't worry if you are not suitably qualified to work in medicine. As long as you have the right attitude, an open mind and display a willingness to do your best, you can still take part in engaging work where you can help to make a positive contribution to the lives of others.
This may take the form of volunteering at orphanages or assisting with administration and data entry duties at a hospital. In addition, there may be the opportunity to shadow local doctors in order to gain a deeper understanding of the work that they do.
You will get the chance to visit some of the most beautiful - albeit deprived - countries in the world and with such a wide variety of projects to be a part of, you are bound to find something that appeals to you.
This could be anything from working in the slums of the Kenyan capital Nairobi to providing care for people affected by HIV and AIDS to helping out in a dressing clinic in Malawi, where you will clean and bandage wounds.
Choose to visit South Africa and you will be able to make a contribution towards improving the lives of young people staying at a children's hospital. Although some of the patients are likely to be seriously ill, you can help to bring excitement and fun to their lives by playing games and reading stories to them.
India not only offers you the chance to work in day care centres with children, but to also volunteer in special schools for people with mental health issues, among other projects. With so much variety in what you can get involved in, you are sure to find volunteer work abroad challenging, yet also extremely enjoyable and rewarding.
While the main focus of such gap year activities is to do voluntary work, no matter where you go, there will be plenty of free time for you to explore more of the country you are staying in and have some fun.
Of course, what you get up to will depend on the destination you are in; although by doing voluntary work in India you may be able to visit tribal villages, take courses in yoga and meditation and see exotic wildlife.
In Kenya, meanwhile, you could have the opportunity to go on safari and learn Swahili while away from volunteering in nursery schools or medical clinics.
No matter where you go, spending time as a medical volunteer is sure to be an extremely rewarding experience that you will cherish for many years to come.