I have just got back from an amazing GAP trip in a rural village in Ghana, West Africa teaching English, coaching sports and working on building projects. Whilst I was in Ghana, I spoke with lots of people who felt they had chosen the wrong GAP company and had been mislead or misinformed during their choice of their GAP trip. After speaking with a number of dissatisfied volunteers, I felt motivated to share their thoughts and my experiences with the next wave of volunteers looking to take a GAP year abroad with a company or charity.
I looked into GAP year opportunities for a while before heading out but had real trouble separating the for-profit and not for profit organisations out there (this was a key factor for my choice)! I was really keen on doing something meaningful with my year out and wanted to volunteer for a charity, but I wanted to be sure that my hard work and donations would be spent directly on cause within the projects I would be working on! As far as I can see most organisations out there don't advertise how much of a volunteers donation actually gets spent on cause and how much goes on UK advertising and shareholders pockets? The charity I volunteered with in Ghana are a non for profit kitchen table charity 'Village by Village' http://villagebyvillage.org.uk/ who actively advertise that as close to 100% as possible of a volunteers donations goes on the projects volunteers work on and to the communities they work with! They make this very clear in their annual report http://issuu.com/nkerfoot/docs/annual_report_2009_10v1.2. I was lucky and I did my research, but a number of volunteers I spoke to felt they had wasted their money and should have gone with a charity similar to the one I volunteered with. So these discussions and thoughts have lead me to some simple tips for those looking to volunteer and actually have an impact on the communities they work with.
My Top TIps:
1. Charity not a company (smaller the better, as more of your donation goes on cause).
2. Do not let the organisation give you some crap about having a charitable arm. "Are you a charity?" Yes or NO?
3. ASK; of the £1,000 I'm giving you how much will be spent on the project I'm working on?
4. If it's less than 80% sack them off and find a better organisation, or better yet a charity.
5. Do not believe all the photos of good looking people, smiling and looking tanned, its a marketing ploy used by larger organisations to entice gullible people to going with them!
6. Do your research and find out how much of your donation goes on cause, ask for their annual report!
6. Make a real difference don't just go for a glorified holiday!