Top tips for volunteering overseas for Silver Travellers

There are now plenty of volunteer opportunities advertised as being appropriate for the over 50s.

Beware! This may just disguise the fact that the programme is, and was originally, aimed at ‘gappers’. How can you find out if the volunteer programme you’re looking at really is suitable for grown ups and you won’t be back in a dorm with students?

Here are my top tips

  • Watch out for repeated use of marketing phrases that attract young people – you know the kind of thing: awesome, adventure, try your hand at, broaden your horizons, add to your CV, have the time of your life, etc. 
  • Watch out for dorm style sleeping arrangements and volunteer houses. 
  • Does the project specify the need for skills and/or experience? If not, you’re more likely to encounter young GAP volunteers. 
  • Don’t rely on age group guidelines where you can choose over 50 or retirement categories. It’s probably just a tick box and isn’t necessarily helpful. I know from experience that on many sites where we promote our programmes we could tick GAP, career break and retirement for the same project. 
  • Are you expected to work a full day – GAP opportunities often expect fewer than four hours a day. 
  • Ask straight out – will there be young volunteers there and if so, how many? 
  • Ask if there will be volunteers there from more than one organisation? And if so, will you be told? 
  • Are there set departure dates and minimum volunteer numbers? And if so, how many? 
  • And, importantly, can you talk with some previous over 50s volunteers?

people & places - Responsible Tourism & Volunteering In some cases, a combination of 20 somethings and 50 somethings works really well – a teaching student and experienced teacher for example – where their skills and abilities are complementary BUT you should know who you will be working with in advance – you should be allowed to decide if working with young volunteers is what you want.

By asking clever questions, you will be able to make informed decisions!

A personal warning! On my first volunteer experience when I was in my late 40’s, it didn’t even cross my mind to find out the ages of any other volunteers who may be there working on other projects nearby. I ended up being surrogate parent, agony aunt, arbiter, nurse and counselor – homesickness, sulks, crushes, euphoria, deep depressions, alcoholic dehydration, medical emergency. I got em all – not what I’d signed up for!

So, the bottom line? Make your own preferences clear from the outset. You may be perfectly happy to live and work with a few youngsters – it may be that you absolutely, definitely won’t!  If the organisation you are talking to can’t provide you with the answers – BEWARE!

You’ll be spending your own money to volunteer, so your preferences are important.

110 people found this helpful
16746

Share Article:

Sallie Grayson

Programme director at People and Places

Leave a comment

*

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Ambassador offers unique ways to focus on health and wellness while enjoying the beauty of the sea….
Who can resist an invitation to a birthday party in Paris? Gillian Thornton celebrates 40 years of Riviera Travel, the…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.