Volunteering at Home and Abroad

Friday, 02 December 2016

Giving up your time to help others can be immensely rewarding for people of all ages. In particular, men and women over 50 have a wealth of life experience, skills and qualities that will benefit wide-ranging initiatives. Those already in or approaching retirement age will potentially have even more free time on their hands and may even be able to volunteer abroad if the kids have now left home.

International Volunteer Day

International Volunteer Day (IVD), held on December 5th each year, is an excellent time to work towards turning volunteering aspirations into reality. Initiated and backed by the United Nations1, the day aims to showcase the positive results of many fantastic previous and current voluntary efforts, to encourage additional volunteers to get involved and to give people the chance to celebrate their efforts. London was given the honour of being European Volunteering Capital 20162, and IVD sees the city host the first ever International Volunteer Conference where a host of volunteering topics will be discussed.

How to get involved in volunteering

The NCVO3 is a great place to start when it comes to finding voluntary opportunities to Volunteering at Home and Abroadbecome involved with. The organisation connects projects and people and publishes useful resources to help new volunteers get the best out of the experience. Opportunities can also be found on websites like Do-it, IVO and CharityJOB, or by visiting a local Volunteer Centre. Churches, schools, hospitals, sports clubs and other such groups may also be able to suggest projects.

Volunteering opportunities

There are many varied ways in which to help make a difference in people’s lives here at home in the UK. Examples include:

  • Youth programmes to help teenagers and young adults have a brighter future

  • Caring for the elderly to improve their health and wellbeing

  • Assisting at museums and other independent attractions

  • Organising and helping run countryside walks to promote an interest in nature and healthy living

  • Working in a charity shop to raise money for good causes and research

  • Helping at sports centres, giving people the opportunity to find a sport they enjoy and make friends

  • Using skills such as accountancy and managerial experience to help run charitable organisations

  • Volunteer to clear up litter and maintain parks, woodlands and other natural spaces

  • Donate your time to a food bank or driving a meals-on-wheels delivery service

  • Supporting a charity focussed on helping homeless people

  • Helping out at a local school or hospital where they may be short-staffed

Voluntary work abroad

For those who have the financial resources along with more time to spare than others, the chance to experience a totally different culture by volunteering abroad may appeal. Exciting initiatives to get involved in overseas often include:

  • Community development in places like Fiji, from construction to teaching

  • Partnering novice Buddhist monks in Asia to help further education

  • Researching wildlife in Kenya to assist in conservation

  • Working with dogs in Argentina to provide canine therapy sessions to vulnerable people

  • Teaming up with doctors in China as a Medical Elective

  • Coaching sports teams in Uganda

Volunteering, whether at home here in the UK or abroad in a far-flung location, is a rewarding and constructive way for someone to use their spare time. Voluntary work also provides the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends and learn new skills, which all help enrich a person’s life, especially in retirement.


1. http://www.un.org/en/events/volunteerday/

2. https://www.london.gov.uk/events/2016-12-05/international-volunteering-conference-london-2016

3. https://www.ncvo.org.uk/ncvo-volunteering/i-want-to-volunteer

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