• Volunteer with Children

Why volunteer with children during a gap year?

Article by Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

Posted: May 21, 2021

The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

Why volunteer with children during a gap year? Well, you can roll personal and professional development, adventure, and making a sustainable impact into just one trip. 

With tons of destinations to choose from and childhood development work being a cornerstone of sustainable development programs worldwide, volunteering with children abroad is one of the best ways to get involved. 

And, adding to children’s education, well-being and future prospects is one of the most meaningful ways to contribute towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). 

So, let’s take a closer look at some solid answers to the question, “Why volunteer with children during a gap year?” 


What is a volunteering gap year?

A gap year means taking time off from formal studies. And, a volunteering gap year allows you to keep adding to your personal and professional development during your time off by getting involved as a volunteer. 

Signing up for gap year volunteer programs doesn’t mean you’ll need to have 12 months free to volunteer abroad. But it’s an opportunity to spend as much of the free time that you have making a meaningful impact.

And choosing to participate in a gap year volunteering program abroad means that you’ll not only spend your time adding to global goals, you’ll also be travelling to a different country – or two or three – and experiencing adventure. 

Our volunteer gap year opportunities can be done over a period of anywhere from 1 to 12 weeks. And, you can choose to spend your time on just one program or fill up on an entire year’s worth of project work by getting involved in a number of different programs during the same gap year. 



So, why focus on volunteer work with children? Well, volunteer efforts play a big role in achieving a whole host of UN SDGs, and working with children is one way to make the biggest possible impact. 

In fact, early childhood development has been highlighted as being the “foundation for sustainable development” by the United Nations Children’s Fund. 

And the impact you make while volunteering with children can have a far-reaching effect, since our volunteer opportunities with children span four different continents – Africa, Australasia, Asia and Latin America – and take place in destinations like:

Let’s take a closer look at sustainable development volunteer work with children to see why it’s a great way to make a contribution to global development. 


Why volunteer work with children is an important part of sustainable development?

The International Institute for Sustainable Development defines sustainable development as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainable development work includes all the short- and long-term efforts that are planned and implemented to add to local and global sustainability. 

A volunteering gap year where you’ll work with children offers you the chance to get involved in ongoing projects on the ground that are already adding to global sustainable development. This means that you can add to childrens’ education, personal development, well-being and future success in a sustainable way whether you volunteer for one week or one year.

But how do you know you’ll be involved in the most impactful work aimed at childhood development? 

Well, with the UN SDGs as our guide, GVI has ensured that every project is as relevant and effective as it can be by involving local community members in all of our childhood development projects from start to finish. 

But, what makes children such an important focus of sustainable development work?

Well, after years of trying to understand the complexity of global challenges, the UN came to a landmark conclusion in 2015. In every society, children are agents of change. In fact, the previous UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon stated that, “childhood development can help drive the transformation we hope to see in the next 15 years.” 



But, why is this so?

Well, by focusing on children – one of the most vulnerable groups in communities across the world – we can come up with solutions that are beneficial to society as a whole. 

Children need to be well-nourished, educated, healthy and hold a meaningful status in society for their development to be optimal. To achieve all this, childhood development work needs to focus on the nutritional, educational, health and equality concerns within communities – which are essential in the well-being of all human beings. 

Sustainable development volunteer opportunities with children build on these key areas in two ways – with an immediate and long-term impact. 

For example, while volunteering with children in Nepal, you’ll be involved in facilitating handwashing sessions that add to children’s knowledge on good hygiene practices. The immediate effect of this is that you’ll be contributing to these children’s health during each session. 

But, the main goal of sustainable development work is to establish long-term processes that have a positive impact that continues to benefit communities into the future.

For example, volunteer work with children that adds to their knowledge on preventative healthcare – like lessons on handwashing – will build on children’s capacity to ensure their own health in the future. It can also add to their physical and mental development by preventing them from becoming ill frequently during their childhood. 

Together, these achievements will make it easier for children to gain a quality education – which adds to UN SDG 4: Quality Education. This helps them to go on to secure decent work and add to their country’s economy in a meaningful way in the future – which contributes towards UN SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. 



And, by working to achieve the global well-being of today’s children, we’re not just adding to the development of almost one-third of the global population, we’re also contributing to the success of future generations – because kids who grow up to be healthy parents are better equipped to raise another generation of healthy kids.

This is why contributions to childhood development, like volunteer work with children, can have an ongoing positive effect that feeds into the development of whole societies.

How to get involved in a volunteering gap year working with children

Getting involved in the best volunteer opportunities with children requires some research into the ethics and structure of the programs on offer.

All of GVI’s volunteer opportunities with children follow a strict Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy as well as our five human empowerment principles. This means that you’ll be involved in meaningful work that builds on the empowerment of communities abroad in the most ethical ways possible. 

If you’re on the final day of a 1-week program on your volunteer abroad gap year in Cusco, you may already be able to see how the support you’ve provided the class teacher has made it easier for them to focus on planning and delivering the best lessons they can.



One month into a 6-month internship, you may find that your students are more engaged in the learning process and keener to answer questions than ever before.

And if you’ve chosen to take your gap year literally and spend an entire year volunteering with children you’ll have tons of meaningful moments to choose from. You may even get to see students you’ve assisted graduating to another grade, or be recognised as part of a team responsible for setting up a new lesson-planning system that makes life easier for teachers at local schools. 

In essence, any contribution you make towards sustainability is something that you can celebrate. And making your gap year more productive by taking part in gap year programs that add to childhood development holds tons of potential for you to make an impact while taking time off from your studies to travel abroad. 

Take a look at GVI’s gap year programs that include volunteer work with children. Travel abroad and uncover answers to the question “Why volunteer with children over a gap year” for yourself. 

By Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a travel writer living in South Africa. She has experience in public health nutrition and worked as a dietician before launching her writing career. She loves bringing her passion for public health and sustainable development to every article she writes. Her travels around South Africa as well as to India, Australia, and Saudi Arabia have fueled her passion for exploration.
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