With its deep rooted cultural history, lush green landscape, and thriving economy, England is certainly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. What you may not know is that it is also home to some very meaningful volunteer opportunities. It is possible to find volunteer placements in England in a variety of fields, whether volunteers are looking to volunteer in the bustling metropolis of the capital city or the peaceful countryside of some of the more rural regions. Volunteering in England is convenient for those who prefer to volunteer their time in an English-speaking country or those who aren’t ready to navigate the challenges of learning a foreign language yet.
Those who want to volunteer abroad in England will have a number of cities and towns at their disposal. Alongside British royalty, international volunteers can choose to volunteer in England’s flagship city, a mid-sized university town, or along the coast, which all host an array of program opportunities.
London. Established by the Romans on the River Thames over 2,000 years ago, this major international city is home to over 8.5 million residents and hosts up to 15 million tourists each year. Due to its size and popularity, most opportunities to volunteer in England are found in London. Volunteers are needed in a variety of sectors in London, including marketing and working with the homeless and elderly. Volunteers should take the higher cost of living into consideration before looking too far into international volunteering in London.
Oxford. With over 150,000 inhabitants, this city is a less crowded, yet equally diverse alternative to London. As home to one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in the world, Oxford enjoys a pleasantly intellectual atmosphere. Publishing, information technology, and science-based business are a few of the major industries, which means volunteers can find volunteer placements in Oxford in more academic and professional fields, such as advertising, education, and research. There are even volunteer programs in Oxford that allow volunteers to contribute to research on climate change or archeology.
Bournemouth. A little larger than Oxford, this city is located on the southern coast of England, where the beaches, cliffs, and impressive Victorian architecture draw thousands of tourists a year. It was originally a place where only fisherman would venture, but now the city supports large financial and service sectors, in addition to its agricultural output. Volunteer placements in Bournemouth are commonly available in hotels and restaurants, charitable organizations, and even on organic farms.
Volunteering in England
Most volunteer work in England involves assisting disenfranchised communities. Since England has a relatively sound infrastructure (access to water, education, government, and the like), most of the need for volunteers involves contributing to social welfare, progressing educational opportunities, or advancing business development.
Community Development. With a large population comes the need to provide for more vulnerable groups of society. Most opportunities to volunteer in England are directed toward community projects, like helping the homeless, elderly, disabled, and especially disadvantaged children. Volunteers can find placements at shelters and soup kitchens, job training centers, retirement homes, and orphanages.
Academic Research. England has always been a leader in the evolution of Western education. It’s no surprise then that volunteers can choose to contribute to studies that profoundly impact our view of the world. You can help scientists learn more about climate change, marine wildlife, or even assist in the excavation of ancient Roman remains. If you’re considering graduate school or a career in research, volunteer experience abroad will definitely beef up your curriculum vitae.
Business. There’s no escaping the world of business. England is home to several of the world’s leading firms, in everything from cars, clothing, and architecture to stock exchange and insurance. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in England in the financial, marketing, and tourism sectors, and having business experience in a fast-paced, international environment like England will definitely look great on a resume.
Costs & Affordability
Europe is generally a more expensive region in terms of living and travel costs, and England is no exception. Basic meals at restaurants will start at around $15 and can go up to hundreds of dollars at high end restaurants. But shopping for groceries and cooking for yourself can definitely cut down on the costs of meals. A one bedroom apartment in the city will run you about $1,000 per month, or $1,700 for a three bedroom. A monthly transportation pass costs around $90, depending on the city. Prices may be slightly cheaper in rural areas, but overall England is a bit of a luxury destination, so volunteers should be sure to save up enough money and stick to a budget.
Accommodation & Visas
Living arrangements in England’s cities will usually be in the form of a flat (apartment) or shared dormitory style housing. If you’re volunteering in England in a smaller town, you might find more options to live with a local host family. Either way, England is highly industrialized, and access to clean water and electricity is generally not too much of a concern wherever you go.
For short-term volunteering in England, lasting less than 30 days, a visa may not be necessary. For longer volunteer programs, England offers a Tier 5, Temporary Worker visa for those looking to obtain unpaid work. Volunteers should plan to apply at least three months before arriving for the TIer 5 visa, costs between $400 and $500 and lasts for up to 12 months (or longer with extenuating circumstances for an extension fee). Note that you must have a certificate of sponsorship from the organization you’ll be volunteering with in order to apply for the visa. It is also possible for volunteers from some nations to volunteer abroad in England for up to six months on a tourist visa. Clearly, visa requirements vary, so be sure to contact a British Embassy in your home country before you book any flights.
Benefits & Challenges
Native English. Volunteering in England will allow for more opportunities to network and build professional relationships, because, for one, there is hardly any language barrier for English-speakers. Be sure to take advantage of these opportunities, especially in your chosen field. Volunteers will still need to pay attention to local slang and dialect when speaking with locals, as accents and vocabulary differs from region to region. This is a great chance to learn more about the history of your native tongue, and the difference between British and American English.
Affordability. The UK is by no means cheap, and many volunteer programs in England charge rather hefty fees to participate. Be sure you are prepared for the true costs of volunteering abroad in England before you get your hopes up. Perhaps start a fundraiser and ask your friends and family to contribute if you have you heart set on it, and then consider making an accurate and researched budget, and remember to stick to it!