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Graduates should be wary of volunteer schemes

14 Aug 2007

Graduates should be wary of volunteer schemes A leading charity has warned students to think twice be for signing up for a volunteer scheme as part of their gap year plan.

The international development charity Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) said that a number of such schemes end up having a negative impact on young people and the communities they work with.

Pre-packaged schemes in which students pay thousands of pounds to embark on activities such as teaching English abroad can end up doing more harm than good, VSO said.

"Voluntourism", it said, is too often poorly planned and involves projects of dubious worth in Africa, Asia and Latin America that only meet the consumer demands of the students rather than real locals' needs.

Judith Brodie, the director of VSO UK, said: "While there are many good gap-year providers, we are increasingly concerned about the number of badly planned and supported schemes that are spurious - ultimately benefiting no one apart from the travel companies that organise them."

"Young people want to make a difference, but they would be better off travelling and experiencing different cultures, rather than wasting time on projects that have no impact and can leave a big hole in their wallet," she added.

Now VSO is creating a code of practice to help gap year students find work which is actually of use to its beneficiaries.

Princes William and Harry are among Britain's most high profile gap year takers.

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