An increasing number of students are choosing to take a gap year and gain valuable experience volunteering as a way to stand out from their peers – but volunteering overseas is usually an option available only to more affluent youngsters.
Platform2 is a free global volunteering scheme funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and run by Christian Aid, BUNAC and Islamic Relief. Open to 18-25 year olds who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to volunteer abroad, it offers the chance to spend 10 weeks living and working in a poor community in countries like Ghana, South Africa, Peru or India.
The scheme gives volunteers the chance to learn about development issues as part of a diverse team, experience new cultures and improve their practical, communication and organisational skills.
Duncan Bannatyne, entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den tycoon, said: ‘When I employ someone I look for initiative and drive; someone who is a self starter and can work well as part of a team. Volunteering for a programme like Platform2 demonstrates these young people have the desire to do something extra with their lives and help others in the process. These are qualities employers are looking for on a CV and show more about a person than their qualifications alone.’
On their return to the UK, participants attend a three-day workshop where they devise interesting
and exciting ways of communicating what they have learnt about global issues with friends, family and their local community. They will continue to build on their life and employment skills by making videos, writing blogs and songs, organising talks, putting on exhibitions and getting local press coverage.
Zina Lewis, a Platform2 volunteer from London who has just returned from Ghana, said: ‘It’s a life-changing experience…..It will be very helpful when it comes to getting jobs because it was quite character-building and shows a lot about you: that you’ve donated your time and gone to live with a group of people that you don’t know, Big Brother-style; that you’re a team player who can work with others and that you have social skills.’
Mark Vyner, Platform2 Head of Programme, said: ‘Employers have told us that volunteering on a CV looks good – it shows someone has initiative, drive and will have a level of maturity above those coming straight from education. Platform2 offers all participants a great experience and will help them stand out from the crowd in the job market.’
For more information on how to apply for Platform2 visit www.myplatform2.com
For more information, or to interview a Platform2 volunteer, contact Amanda Burney at Christian Aid on 020 7523 2318 or Ginny Reid at DFID press office on 020 7023 1792.