“Volunteering placements abroad are a popular choice for gap years, but projects need to be chosen wisely or there is a danger participants may end up doing more harm than good.
Kristina is a friendly 19-year-old from the UK, who recently went on a volunteer placement in Cambodia.
“We were told it would involve a mixture of teaching and building water pumps for rural families,” she says. “However, during the placement, only two out of the 14 of us taught English. The rest of us literally dug a road. We moved piles of dirt for six weeks – and right at the end, a digger turned up and finished it in about half an hour, which was fairly infuriating.” The voluntary placement cost £3,500.
“Voluntourism” is big business these days, with well-meaning travellers like Kristina paying thousands of pounds to spend a short time working towards a cause in another country. But how can you be sure your money (and you) will be doing any good? And, more importantly, you won’t be doing any harm?