Volunteering is a great way to gain work experience, help out with socially valuable projects, improve your English and learn some new skills. There are hundreds of projects around Scotland to choose from, some of them part of worldwide initiatives, such as World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), others specific to places, such as inner city areas or island community projects. All of them are worthwhile and good fun.
Scotland has a great mixture of cultivated land and wild and wonderful terrain. If you enjoy the quiet pleasures of gardening then you can help out with the Glenurquhart Care Project (www.glenurquhart.net) in the Highlands as a gardening assistant, or you might choose to work with BTCV Scotland (www.btcv.org.uk) and gain a wealth of valuable experience for a career in the environmental sector.
If forests are your thing, you can volunteer with Trees For Life (www.treesforlife.org.uk) and help restore the Caledonian
Forest, which has been razed. They’ll set you to work collecting seeds and berries, planting trees, clearing non-native species, removing redundant fencing and restoring
Wildlife and Animals
Riding for the Disabled (www.riding-for-disabled.org.uk) assists adults and children with a wide variety of abilities and needs, whilst Pets as Therapy (www.petsastherapy.org) encourages you to brighten up someone’s day by introducing them to a friendly cat or dog. Volunteers visit hospitals, hospices, residential homes and nursing homes. For a walk on the wild side, Birds of Prey Rescue has been looking for committed volunteers to look after and handle birds of prey. Full training is provided.
Community Girlguiding Scotland (www.girlguidingscotland.org.uk) is always looking for volunteers to commit as much time as they feel they can spare. Leukaemia Care Society (www.leukaemiacare.org.uk)asks that you be numerate and literate, with a caring, helpful attitude and the ability to listen. Contact the Elderly (www.contact-the-elderly.org)offers opportunities to throw tea-parties, provided you have a large teapot and a downstairs loo. Opportunities at MacMillan Cancer Relief (www.macmillan.org.uk) range from manning the telephones, to helping at an event or organising one of your own.
Arts and Heritage
If you would like some fresh air you can assist The National Trust for Scotland (www.nts.org.uk). They are always looking or conservation workers to help out with practical tasks such as footpath maintenance, drystone walling, dyking or even tackling the rural rhodendron infestation. If you have a gift for acting then Lung Ha's Theatre Company (www.lunghas.co.uk) in Edinburgh provides opportunities for people with learning disabilities to become actively involved in the performing arts. If you have special skills such as woodworking you’ll also find an opportunity with the Ecology Centre (www.theecologycentre.org) in Fife who help disabled people develop woodwork skills. If you have a face for radio, as the saying goes, why not try the Hospital Broadcasting Service (www.hbs.org.uk)?
What to expect:
Accommodation: If you don’t already have accommodation arranged you might consider residential volunteering.This means that you’ll be given accommodation, although you might still have to contribute towards other costs.Other costs: You may be expected to provide money for your transport and food.Volunteers from overseas may also have to pay a registration/admin fee of around £25. However, if you’re a bit strapped for cash certain organisations will pay pocket money.
Qualifications: Most projects will expect you to be over 18 and have a decent command of the English language. Most will not expect you to have specific qualifications in their field.
The Requirements: You may need to attend an interview, provide references and undergo a criminal record bureau check (CRB).This can be a legal requirement if you will be working with children or vulnerable people.Your employer should provide details but for more information go to www.crb.gov.uk. CRB checks are free for volunteers.
Visas: The general rule is that non-EEA nationals need a work permit to take up both paid and unpaid employment, which includes volunteering. Youth Mobility Workers (Tier 5) and their spouses can volunteer, as can foreign students, although only for up to 20 hours a week. However, under the new visa and immigration shake-up this may all change. Please see the visa information above for more information. EEA and Swiss volunteers should have no red tape problems.