Grounded Backpackers Fulfill Their Gap Years By Volunteering | Volunteering
reJembe Askins had planned to be a long way from home this summer, traveling through South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Then the pandemic struck. But rather than giving up his gap year-style trip altogether, the 24-year-old decided to transplant him to the UK.
Askins, who quit his job at a bank in London, has spent the past nine months volunteering on farms, mostly in Wales, across Global opportunities on organic farms (Wwoof), a network where people volunteer four to six hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. Although the weather is “a little wetter and not as sunny” than his original destinations, he has found the experience of living in another part of the UK and learning to be “self-sufficient” a revelation. “It reminds me of what else in the UK I’ve never even been to.”
With the outlook for overseas travel still uncertain and the easing of the lockdown postponed, UK-based ‘volunteering’ is on the rise. Experts predict a summer of volunteering, especially among students and young people looking for experience and more gap years.
Wwoof reports renewed interest from its UK-based members this year – which has grown by around 50% – as people seek alternatives to holidays abroad and reassess their lives after the pandemic . Although the ‘double whammy’ of Brexit and coronavirus-related travel restrictions have caused international membership numbers to drop, he expects UK-based membership to increase further as time approaches. summer holidays and that more people be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the Marine Conservation Society has seen an increase in the number of volunteers for its beach clean-up program and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) has seen an increase in the number of young people applying for volunteer roles.
âCompared to most people, I’ve had an absolutely classy year,â said Askins, who spent the first foreclosure on an apartment in London. Since he started volunteering he has “kept busy” but without too much stress and has enjoyed having so much outdoor space available to him.
He learned to build a chicken coop, care for animals and grow vegetables. It also gave him the opportunity to learn more about the UK.
In addition to gap year students, Scarlett Penn, managing director of Wwoof UK, said he tends to appeal to people who find themselves at “some kind of crossroads in their lives” like a career break, divorce, a pensioner or parents whose children have just left home.
But, she warned, it’s not a smart choice for the sedentary traveler. âIt’s really good for people with a lot of energy. People who just couldn’t dream of lying by a pool and reading a book.
Penn believes that people taking stock of their lives during the pandemic and empty supermarket shelves during the lockdown have helped to increase the number of volunteers. She hosts people at her smallholding in Ludlow, Shropshire, and said climate activist Greta Thunberg’s influence is a factor for young people as well.
Pembrokeshire llamas, which has 60 animals and runs llamas treks for the public, said it has been inundated with inquiries about its residential volunteer program, largely from young people and students based in the Kingdom -United. Matt Yorke, the farm manager, said, âWe’ve had a lot of interest. At one point I was getting a request every dayâ¦ we refueled for the year really quickly in April.
But international visitors have encountered problems reaching the farm – one volunteer was turned away at the border. âThere are two main factors that work in tandem: the Brexit side of things which makes it harder to volunteer for people outside the UK and people in the UK who just want to go out and do something different and are limited to where they can go this year. ,” he said.
Lizzie Jolley, 21, who has been on a WWT volunteer internship for nine months at Slimbridge Wetland Center in Gloucestershire as part of her college education, said many of her friends were planning to volunteer this summer instead of working directly. âIt’s such an accessible route and it’s more of a learning on the job scenario to gain that experience that will help you apply for jobs. “