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Having a full-time career means that your priorities are often solely work-focused, and everything else is dusted under the rug until another day. Maybe you’ve always wanted to travel, learn a new language, or even take up photography. If this sounds like you, a career break could be perfect for you. 

Now it’s time to carry out these ideas and goals you’ve always pushed to the side! And you can grab the opportunity to learn new skills while making a positive impact through volunteering.

With GVI, you can contribute to volunteer projects focusing on:

What is a career break?

A career break is a period of time when someone chooses to pause or leave their career to pursue something new. Career breakers are usually either unfulfilled at work, or still enjoy their job but would rather be doing something different for a while. A career break is a chance to get out there and see the world without a time restriction.

With a career break, you have the freedom to do the things you’ve been meaning to do, but haven’t yet found the right time or opportunity.

Some people who still enjoy their jobs but want to take time off to pursue other passions may take a sabbatical instead of a career break.

What’s a sabbatical? Sometimes sabbatical and career break are used to mean the same thing. But generally. a sabbatical is taken when your employer has agreed to let you return to your job after an agreed-upon amount of time. Sabbaticals are mostly unpaid.

What can you do in your career break?

While some career breakers use this free time to start new business adventures, try their hand at freelancing, or further their studies, many decide to remove themselves completely from what they already know, and go travelling instead.

By volunteering abroad during your career break, you get to travel, see more of the world, and make an impact at the same time. You could immerse yourself in a different culture, discover an unknown passion, or even learn a new skill and embark on a new career path once your career break is over. 

The prospect of leaving everything you’re used to behind, and taking a career break to volunteer and travel, can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. But the impact you make, and skills you learn as a volunteer will make it all worth it.

Career breaks: how to choose a volunteer program

With so many options available to you when it comes to volunteering, it can be pretty overwhelming to decide which areas you want to make an impact in. 

First, it’s important to think about things you’re passionate about and go from there. Are you passionate about working with children? You could volunteer in South Africa and work with children in Cape Town. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to work in marine conservation. Then why not jet off to Seychelles to assist in the conservation of the sicklefin lemon shark and sea turtles

Whatever you decide to do, if you’ve stayed true to yourself and your passions, you can be sure that you’ll play a significant role in making an impact in areas that really matter.

And second, before you embark on your career break adventure, it’s important to do your research to ensure the organisation you volunteer with is ethical. 

GVI is an organisation that is committed to upholding ethical best practices on all of our programs and focus areas. This is illustrated by our badge of ethics. We offer sustainable volunteer programs in 13 countries around the world, all run in partnership with local stakeholders to ensure sustainability. So whether you’re 18 or 85, you can contribute towards making a sustainable impact with GVI on your career break.


GVI operates in countries all around the world. So whether you’re looking for a tropical island experience or a mountainous countryside to spend your career break abroad, GVI has got you covered. We work in these five continents:



Before deciding to take a career break trip to volunteer with GVI, there are a few questions you probably want the answers to.   

Q: How old do I have to be to take a career break?

A: Career breaks aren’t just for those people who have been working for over 20 years. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the working world for, whether you’re 20 or over 50, you can take a gap year or career break at any point in your professional life.

Q: How do I know if the volunteering I am doing during my career break is ethical? 

A: GVI is an organisation that is committed to delivering a high level of ethical best practice, in every area we cover. We have developed and are committed to ten ethical principles and five human empowerment principles to give you peace of mind during your career break. Our badge of ethics demonstrates our dedication to always uphold and improve our policies in the best interest of both our volunteers and the communities we volunteer in. Improvements to our policies are made in collaboration with our trained ethics officers as well as other outside experts. 

Q: How long can I volunteer for during my career break?

A: You can choose to volunteer from anywhere between 1 week to 6 months during your career break.

Q: Will I get paid to volunteer during my career break?

A:  No. Volunteers on a career break will still have to pay the usual volunteering program fees with GVI. 

So why pay to volunteer? By contributing to a project as a paying volunteer during your career break, you are helping to support communities, and ensuring that programs are efficient and beneficial in the long run. You are also investing in your own training and development, so you can continue making an impact in the world long after you’ve finished your program.

Q: Who will I be volunteering with during my career break?

A: Volunteers with GVI come from all around the world, and therefore have a range of different backgrounds and cultural beliefs. You will more likely than not find yourself leaving your career break volunteer experience with new life-long friendships.



Volunteering abroad with children is the perfect opportunity for career breakers who are passionate about making a positive impact on children's futures. Volunteers don’t need to be skilled or have previous experience in working with children when joining one of these volunteering abroad programs. 

At GVI we have projects to choose from in a wide variety of locations such as Fiji, Costa Rica, and Laos, to name a few! We also have specific education and teaching projects where you can make an impact through teaching, while gaining experience.

If you want to pursue a career in child education after your career break, you can always join our international community development internships to further develop your skills. As an intern on this program, you will be involved in supporting children through initiatives like educational enrichment. You’ll also be working in public health awareness, women’s empowerment, as well as sustainable environmental practices.

It is important to note GVI does not support orphanage volunteering in any of our program locations. For more information see our stance on orphanage volunteering. We also support ChildSafe, a global child protection initiative, and regularly review our comprehensive Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection policy

All staff and participants are required to complete a police background check before arrival on their chosen program, and on-site child protection training is provided once they arrive to volunteer. We also protect children from cyber and real-world threats by ensuring that our marketing material follows child protection best practices.


Join staff and other GVI participants from around the world to learn about, and contribute to, women’s empowerment initiatives in your chosen region. Each of these programs have goals aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 5: Gender Equality

Volunteering on women's empowerment initiatives is a great way to see the world, experience different cultures and contribute to a sustainable project that has positive long-term results. Career breakers can choose from one of our many locations based in some of the world's most beautiful countries, such as Nepal, India, Loas, Cape Town, Ghana, and Cambodia.

If you are passionate about contributing to women’s empowerment through education, public health education, and entrepreneurial initiatives, then this is definitely the project focus for you. You’ll gain real-world skills while making an impact, and immersing yourself in the local language of whichever country you choose for your career break.

Some of the activities you can expect to be involved in during these women’s empowerment programs include educational workshops for girls at their schools, as well as professional skills development workshops or language classes for community members.


Are you planning a career break and passionate about all things ocean-related? If the answer’s yes, then a marine conservation program with GVI is calling your name! 

Join one of our marine conservation volunteer programs in the islands of Fiji, Mexico, Thailand or Seychelles. Here, you can contribute your energy to collect data on sea turtles, conduct surveys on the country's coral and fish species, or even work towards getting a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) qualification!

GVI's marine conservation internships offer professional dive training for an experience that can contribute to your professional development. This training can also positively impact your future employability should you decide to pursue a career in conservation. 

If you are more interested in land animals, then try out a wildlife conservation program with GVI instead!


Contribute towards advancing UN SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being when you choose to take a career break abroad focusing on public health projects. 

Here, you can contribute towards helping communities gain access to clean water, sanitation and vital information on health topics such as maternal health, HIV and AIDS awareness and proper nutrition practices. Another area of involvement is creating awareness of preventative health practices through health education initiatives in communities.  

You can also contribute to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) workshops. These are workshops that promote and support regular hand-washing and other hygiene practices that have the ability to improve the long-term health of youth and adults. 

GVI’s public health programs often attract career breakers that are skilled in the health industry, but it’s not a prerequisite. While previous experience is advantageous, it’s by no means necessary. Our public health programs are open to all career breakers from any background.



Recharge and refocus

It’s easy to get stuck into a daily routine or the standard 9 to 5, but there’s no reason why it has to stay like that. Taking a break from the grind and doing something like volunteering can lift you out of your comfort zone and into new and exciting experiences. You might even feel better for it! All you need to do is take that step.


Discover a new career path

You might even discover that your 9 to 5 wasn’t even meant for you in the first place! You won’t be the first, and you certainly won’t be the last to potentially discover a new career path. From teaching, to a career in field conservation, to becoming a PADI Divemaster; check out a varied list of projects below.