Volunteering London

Volunteer travel is often associated with poor and developing countries, but sometimes you can lend a hand closer to home. London, for example, offers ample opportunities for local and foreign volunteers, with causes ranging from environment and healthcare to various special events. If you’re planning a trip to the English capital, considering squeezing in some volunteer work and making your visit all the more meaningful.

Environmental groups are perhaps the most visible in the city, as like most metropolitan areas it has leaned towards sustainable living in recent years. Activities range from tree planting and other manual work to planning, organization, and management. Naturally you can expect to spend a lot of time outdoors and get around quite a bit, sometimes visiting neighboring cities to promote the cause.

Closely related are animal-rights groups, which offer opportunities year-round. Some of the tasks here may be specialized and require some training and experience. For instance, if you want to work directly with animals, a background in veterinary science or similar volunteer work may come in handy. Otherwise, you can provide support in other ways such as organizing paperwork, writing up letters and reports, and taking phone calls.

If you’re more of a people person, you may want to consider working in healthcare or education. These groups usually help low-income families or abuse victims, providing them with food, lodging, and treatment for illness and injuries. You may also find book giveaways and tutoring sessions for children, and counseling services for teens and adults.

There are also seasonal events, which cater largely to people of specific interests. In particular, the London Olympics in 2012 is boosting interest among volunteering London residents. While an interest in sports is a plus, some of the jobs are open to all, such as ushering and maintenance. As an added perk, you may also get discount access to some of the games and visit all the different venues.

As with most volunteer travel programs, you may have to pay for your own trip, as well as travel insurance and visas. Coordinating with a larger group can help you deal with the paperwork and arrange for lodging, which is usually provided. On the whole, it should cost about as much as a regular vacation. But even if it sets you back a good amount, there’s no price tag on being able to help others, meeting new people, and gaining valuable professional and personal experiences.

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