'Volunteering can be very valuable experience for young people and students,' says Aurelia Picard of espacebenevolat.org. 'It allows them to learn to get along with adults other than their parents and teachers as well as to enrich a cv and pick up practical experience.'
Before rising into volunteering, however, you need to be sure you are serious, stresses Picard. Once you have committed yourself, there will be others counting on you. Ask yourself how much time you want to devote – a full month, in which case you could end up travelling to another part of France or even another country? A few hours a week, in which case you may want to help out a local association?
Ask yourself, too, what sort of people you want to help? The lonely elderly? Children? The homeless? Disabled? 'You must be honest with yourself here and acknowledge if there are some types of work you really couldn't do,' says Picard. 'You may prefer renovating a medieval monument to reading aloud to sick children. If so, be aware of this.'
If you are volunteering for larger organisations, you may need to send a letter of motivation but generally the whorl of volunteering is more relaxed. 'All volunteers are welcome – you don't need a load of diplomas – it's your human qualities which count.'
Where to look for voluntary work:
http://www.espacebenevolat.org/ for adults and young people
http://www.jeuneetbenevole.org/index.php for young people, including, in some cases, those as young as 14.
Click on this link http://www.jeuneetbenevole.org/ModuleAsso/FrontOffice/rechercher_association.php
to look for a post
www.associations.gouv.fr has information on jobs as well as on your rights as a volunteer here:
and information on getting your voluntary work officially validated here:
http://www.cotravaux.org runs voluntary projects both in France and abroad for periods of 2-3 weeks as well as longer stints of 6 months or more.