Planning a gap year is incredibly exciting, with so many amazing destinations just waiting to be discovered. If you want to have a really unique, rewarding experience during your travels, you should volunteer abroad in Swaziland.
A beautiful country, Swaziland is the smallest in southern Africa - and one of the worst affected by HIV/AIDs. The nation has the lowest life expectancy in the world - just 31.3 years - and is home to countless children in need. So, it's not hard to see just how much your help is needed.
Volunteering here is an excellent way of giving something back during your travels, as well as really getting under the skin of the destination. By donating some of your time to helping locals, you can get off the beaten tourist track and learn so much more about life here than you would if you were just passing through. What's more, you'll find it immensely rewarding - and something you will remember for a lifetime.
Volunteer schemes here primarily deal with caring for children, since so many young people are left without parents due to HIV/AIDs. Projects you can help with include caring for orphans and teaching underprivileged children, but what else can you do?
Many youngsters are left without adequate housing - particularly among siblings who have lost their parents, when finding shelter and other provisions becomes the responsibility of the eldest child. By taking part in a project like this, you can help build homes for young people who need them most.
Among the tasks you will take care of include constructing basic shelters, helping to implement water systems and garden care - but what exactly you do will depend on the needs of the project at the time. As well as assisting with housing, you will also be able to spend time with the children - something that will be appreciated as much as your building efforts, since many youngsters do not receive the attention they need.
Sports development for vulnerable children
There are more ways to help the local community than building houses and teaching and, if you are keen to have a positive effect on children who are at risk of turning to crime, you should consider sports development. This project aims to provide youngsters with a sense of meaning and purpose through sport - and you can help boost their motivation, improve their skills and give them something to aim for in life.
Typically, you will coach - and assist with the organisation of - swimming, football and cycling. Of course, as well as helping to boost youngsters' self esteem and sense of purpose, you will also be encouraging them to lead healthier lives - another positive effect of volunteering.
Whichever scheme you choose, you can pair your volunteer work during the week with exciting weekend activities. For example, you can browse the local craft markets, go mountain biking or simply take a walk - the landscape is Swaziland is truly beautiful, so there is a lot to discover.
Your time on volunteering projects will typically last between two and four weeks. This means you can incorporate these into your wider travel plans - something that will be particularly convenient if you had already intended to journey through Africa. You could even opt to take part in a number of volunteering schemes during your stay, if you are keen to get involved with different kinds of projects or get under the skin of local life in multiple destinations.