Many voluntary organisations provide overseas aid in the form of health, education, agriculture and construction projects...
Although a major objective of these organisations is to devolve as much management and project development to local people as possible, there are still opportunities for volunteers and paid workers with relevant skills such as teaching, healthcare, or crafts and trades. Experienced people might become involved in setting up these projects and acting as links with the head offices of aid organisations.
Most permanent staff employed by voluntary organisations have administrative and overseas experience prior to recruitment. Those working as international aid/development workers may bring a range of skills to the role, as the remit varies hugely according to the charity, location and project aims.
Staffing is often limited and you must be prepared to be flexible and take on diverse responsibilities. Even if you work as an engineering or health professional, for example, you may need to take on basic administrative tasks or pitch in with cleaning and maintenance.
Young people without significant experience are also welcomed onto volunteer programmes in many countries, with numerous opportunities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Organisations such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) have established projects where you would have local support from the outset. Short assignments of three to six months are often available, making volunteering a viable option for a gap year, although you may be expected to pay travel costs.
Overseas projects provide ample opportunity to apply your language skills and even if you don't speak the local indigenous languages, there are still many parts of the world where French and Spanish, as well as English, are widely spoken.
Within the UK, there is a range of charities and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) where the knowledge of other languages is helpful, especially those dealing with refugees and asylum seekers whose English language skills may not be strong.
If you want a hands-on role which involves you in delivering a service to the target community, jobs such as advice worker, community development worker and youth worker might appeal. Postgraduate or vocational qualifications may sometimes be required, but experience and commitment are also valued, which makes volunteering a worthwhile step towards paid employment in the sector.
Office-based support roles would be less likely to utilise language skills, but this may be possible in some organisations or for particular projects.
Working as a charity fundraiser might involve contacting a wide range of potential donors or organising events in a variety of locations, though budget restrictions would keep travel to a minimum. The scope of responsibilities differs with the size of the charity. If you join a small organisation you may be involved in all aspects of the work, whereas larger charities may have more specialised teams.
As a charity officer, you may be concerned with duties such as lobbying, recruiting volunteers or completing bids for grants and funding.
For further information, see the charities and voluntary work sector.
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