Volunteer schemes are a fulfilling way to spend a gap year

Thursday, 27 October 2011 1:50 PM

Building homes is a great gap year activity

Building homes is a great gap year activity

If you're looking to take part in exciting - yet rewarding - activities during a gap year, why not consider volunteering abroad? By getting involved in construction projects, not only will you be doing fulfilling community work, but you may even be able to develop new skills.

Volunteer building programmes are situated all over the globe and as these include schemes in countries such as Guatemala, Costa Rica and Thailand - among others - incorporating this into some, or even all, of your gap year will enable you the opportunity to get out there and see the world, experiencing cultures and ways of life that are different to your own.

You will typically work to build homes for people from poor communities, who often have flimsy and very poorly made accommodation. Poor-quality housing is often associated with health problems, poverty and social exclusion, so the voluntary work abroad that you do can go some way towards eradicating these problems and help put individuals and communities on the path to a better life.

From digging the footings to cladding the roof, you can work on most aspects of constructing a new property and in the space of a few days you'll be able to hand over the keys to a clean, safe and structurally-sound home to a grateful family.

However, it is also possible to lend a hand in the construction and renovation of school buildings. By doing so, you can boost local education facilities and help to establish a brighter future for children.

Getting involved in volunteer construction projects can prove a particularly great way to make use of any skills you may have picked up while working in the construction trade back in the UK. Similarly, if you are a plumber or electrician, then you will be able to apply your experience and knowledge towards helping to build new homes for disadvantaged people.

However, if you have never worked in a manual trade before there's no need to be concerned that this won't be a suitable way for you to volunteer. As long as you have the right attitude and are willing to work hard, you will still be able to make a significant contribution to local communities - and this could even be the chance for you to develop some new skills.

There's no need to worry that you'll spend your entire time away on a construction site.

While you will normally work Mondays to Fridays, the weekends and evenings are free to spend as you like. Whether you want to use your spare time to take part in exciting adventure activities, check out nearby towns and cities or explore the place you are staying at in greater depth, there will be plenty of opportunity to have fun and relax at a pace that suits you.

The amount of time that you decide to devote to volunteer construction projects is also entirely up to you. While some prefer to make this the entire focus of their gap year travels and will build homes and schools for a couple of months, if you only want to work for a week or two there is the option of doing this.

Over the course of working on a construction project, you'll get to stay with a host family who live nearby. This could offer you a great insight into a particular country or region's culture, as well as get an idea of how locals live. You may even get to work on your foreign language skills!

No matter where you go or what kind of project you choose to work on, by getting involved in voluntary construction programmes during a gap year you can have an enjoyable time helping to deliver positive change to people living in difficult conditions.