Written by Luke Berte, Editor, Graduate Prospects, October 2011
Agricultural volunteering offers plenty of life skills and a period spent farming, building or picking strawberries for a month or two can be even more fruitful to your CV in the long run.
Ben Clarke graduated from the University of East Anglia with a degree in English literature. He decided to boost his employability skills by gaining valuable work experience while immersing himself in the rich and rural culture of Kenya.
‘After talking to Mohammed, who I met coincidentally outside my allotment in Manchester, I discovered he was a burgeoning Kenyan farmer, having just bought 100 acres of land in the Rift Valley. With a longstanding passion in all things organic and outdoors, I organised a trip to work on his farm for six months.
‘I’ve been helping in whichever way I can on the farm; some tasks have even been research-based, including investigating how to use the land successfully in economical, ecological and sociological ways.
‘The professional implications of the trip will only reveal themselves in time, but I hope that the experience of farming in Africa will lead me partly towards agricultural education - perhaps consultancy, or towards agricultural NGO work in developing countries.
‘Some people believe that food and farming-based issues are at the very heart of the current global climate and I believe this could create a divergent ecological food and farming industry, with lots of job opportunities in this sector.’
If you fancy volunteering like Ben, organic farming, conservation, and building and maintaining work are all viable volunteering options. Especially if hands-on, gap year trips are your hearts desire.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is run by three Londoners who spent a weekend volunteering on an organic farm in exchange for food and accommodation. Today, after repeat trips and much success, this global reaching organisation has over 6,000 hosts in 100 countries.
It is the most authoritative site for organic farming opportunities and, for a small sign up fee, you will have access to an entire list of organic farms, gardens and smallholdings, all of which will exchange accommodation and food for an agreed amount of voluntary hours per day. Each farm or garden will differ in their rules and practices concerning working with volunteers, but you can expect to work five to six-hour days, five days per week.
As well as sharing a memorable ecological experience, at your disposal will be knowledgeable individuals dedicated to teaching you growing techniques and alternative ways of living.
Workaway.info offers an eclectic mix of work exchange, travel and language opportunities. With a very similar premise to WWOOF, Workaway will put you in touch with host families, who in exchange for volunteer work will offer you food and a bed for your stay. The great thing about Workaway is the diversity of volunteer positions on offer. If you are planning a gap year and want to gain plenty of skills, experience and adventure, there is scope for you to volunteer in a variety of settings throughout the world. Some of the voluntary work includes:
There are literally thousands of hosts for you to make contact with and plan a very diverse trip. You will be required to arrange flights and travel in order to arrange many of these positions. The broad scope of experience that can be gained from such of opportunity should more than compensate.
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