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Gap Year Options for Almost-Graduates: AVIVA

So your friend tells you that, with high school graduation behind her, she can't wait for the summer to be over so she can begin her next educational experience in South Africa. No, she says with a laugh, she's not attending University of Cape Town. She's decided to forego her first year of college and take advantage of a gap year. A volunteer opportunity with AVIVA, she says, could change her life.

By Harrison Howe

africa

Making Changes in South Africa

AVIVA was established in 2002 and has since attracted thousands of volunteers from more than 50 countries, with a vast majority being females between the ages of 16 and 30. These volunteers have logged over 600,000 hours during projects in community service, animal conservation, children's activities and natural habitat protection.

Volunteer projects are carefully evaluated before they are launched to ensure their validity, benefits and sustainability. Projects range in duration from one to 12 weeks. They include working with the Great White Shark Conservation, African School Feeding Program, South African Wild Life Project, Vervet Monkey Sanctuary, Masigcine Children's Home, African Penguin Conservation and Home of Hope.

AVIVA's achievements have not gone unrecognized. The organization has been featured on television and radio and in international magazines. It also boasts of having the 'largest volunteer support team' in South Africa.

Call of the Wild

By now you might be getting a bit envious of your friend. A challenging and fulfilling volunteer position that will afford her the opportunity to become involved in a different culture and lead to her possibly make a lasting impact on that environment?

While there is of course nothing wrong with following the traditional path to a college education, it's hard to deny the excitement and self-gratification a gap year experience can deliver. Traveling abroad, expending your time and energy to a good cause and having fun. AVIVA can provide it all.

Wait, you say. Can she bring a friend? You are delighted to hear that yes, she is not only allowed but is encouraged to bring a friend. In fact, AVIVA offers a discount to anyone referring a friend or relative. It likely doesn't take you long to decide: a classroom education can wait. There are hungry children, endangered wildlife and the chance of a lifetime beckoning from half a world away.

If a gap year before starting college isn't possible, you can still volunteer or make a difference in other ways after graduation.

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