If you're in the process of planning your gap year, becoming an international volunteer is something well worth considering. Among your options is the extremely rewarding opportunity to build homes for local communities - and you can discover the top places to do so with our guide.
Of course, it is likely you already have a good idea of a few places you would like to visit, but you need not worry that volunteering will take a huge chunk out of your itinerary. First of all, there is a wealth of beautiful, exciting destinations to volunteer in.
Secondly, most projects have a minimum of just one or two weeks spent with them and different maximums - many lasting several months - so you can choose just how long you want to stay for. This means that, if you are planning to travel for a few months rather than a full year, you can adjust the time you spend volunteering accordingly.
Thirdly, it is a wonderful chance to both really get under the skin of wherever you are visiting, and to see exciting new places that many other travellers miss. So, just where are the top places to volunteer to build homes?
Head to Kenya and you can work alongside the local Nakura community to help build homes they are very much in need of. Indeed, there is no social housing scheme here, which forces those who cannot afford their own domicile to live on the streets, or in slums or caves.
Constructing these homes, you can get to know the locals and learn a lot about the various difficulties that face the community - and the developing world as a whole. It is important to remember the work will be very hands-on, and you should be ready to pitch in with whatever needs doing.
Another reason to choose Nakura as your base is that it is a truly beautiful area. Work on the project for one to 12 weeks and spend your free time exploring your stunning surroundings. There are several national parks nearby, including Lake Nakuru National Park, which is famous for its flamingos.
As well as building residences for individual families, you can help construct children's homes for orphaned or abandoned youngsters. Just outside of the rural town of Sangkhlaburi (around 500 km from Bangkok), this project aims to provide a safe haven for kids who need it most.
There are lots of different tasks to tackle, and what you do will be determined by the needs of the project at the time, as well as things like how many other volunteers are available. So, you should be flexible and be ready to help however you can. Among the things you might assist with is digging foundations, building walls and painting.
When you're not working on the project, you can explore the nearby town of Sangkhlaburi, or head out on hiking or kayaking trips.
Awash with stunning scenery, Swaziland is a beautiful but troubled country. Blighted by HIV/AIDS, it is home to many families who have been left parentless thanks to the disease. When this happens, the oldest child usually takes responsibility for the rest of the children - and often they simply will not be able to find an adequate home.
Get involved in this project and you can assist in building homes specially for such children, as well as giving them some attention they are very much in need of. Help out with tasks such as making mud bricks, building walls and constructing fencing, and immerse yourself in the local community.