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Plan My Gap Year

About

Plan My Gap Year is an award-winning volunteer travel organisation, offering life-changing experiences across 15 countries in Africa, Asia & South America. PMGY provide a safe, structured and social platform with volunteer, travel and immersion opportunities available from 1-40 weeks. With over 10 years of experience and expertise, PMGY is widely regarded as the global leader in affordable and trustworthy international volunteering experiences.

Our international headquarters are based in the UK & USA and we have local teams based in every host destination to ensure you have a positive impact whilst overseas. Whether you’re looking to take a gap year, give back to a local community or simply travelling overseas we are here to help organise every aspect of your trip. Are you ready for it?

Founded
2011

Reviews

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Madison
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

PMGY Sri Lanka

One of the best decisions I have ever made was to volunteer in Sri Lanka through Plan My Gap Year. As an inexperienced traveler, I wasn't quite sure what to expect and I was hoping (at the very least) for a safe and happy trip. I can confidently say that PMGY FAR exceeded my expectations.

Prior to the trip even starting, Philip was a huge help in making sure everything was in order before I took off. Anytime I had a question, he got back to me immediately and we were able to talk on zoom about what I needed help with. I would not have felt comfortable going halfway across the world without being consistently supported and assured, which is exactly what I received.

The PMGY Sri Lanka staff are absolutely incredible. I have never felt so safe and comfortable in an unknown place, and I can confidently say I am beyond pleased with the service we were provided. Our program coordinator, Ash, made sure to be there for us 110% of the time. His communication with us was consistent- which provided opportunity for us to speak up about adventures or excursions we wanted to explore and allowed us to understand the culture we were immersed in so much better. He arranged tuk tuk rides to the supermarket and ATM if we needed and was present at every project so he could help translate if we didn't understand something. All the drivers and support staff in the house went above and beyond to create an enjoyable environment for us everyday. For those wondering about the house itself, it certainly did not disappoint. The rooms have AC and lockers (if you want to keep something extra safe) and the house is securely protected with security cameras and locked doors. The dining room is on the rooftop where we could eat while watching the sun go down. The food, oh the food! We ate so many delicious dishes served from the heart of Sri Lanka. Tamari (the cook) was so good about adhering to food restrictions as well, no problem.

I did half my time on the turtle project, and half on the mental health project. Both projects were such an amazing experience for me, but the mental health project proved to be my favorite and I will definitely be back to learn and volunteer more through it! Some of what we did through the mental health experience was visit temples and learn more about Buddhism and its approach to mental health (meditation and mindfulness), learn about Ayurvedic medicine and the mind-body connection, and even visit mental health institutions to talk with therapists and psychiatrists. I have so many fond memories from this project!

I was worried we weren't going to get a full experience because of Covid, but I actually think we received an even better one in so many ways. With safety as his top priority, Ash made it so we could visit so many breathtaking places with virtually no one there but us. He made sure we stayed in our own little bubble while still getting to experience what the island has to offer!

There's so much more I want to say about my trip with PMGY but I think I've covered the majority of what made it so worthwhile. I will forever remember everyone I met and bonded with, and Sri Lanka will always have a special place in my heart. If I have any words of advice, it would be to TAKE THE TRIP! It will be the best decision of your life.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice would be to embrace everything that comes your way, even if it is unfamiliar! You never know until you try, and for me this mentality ended up giving me experiences that I will cherish forever.
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Marilyn
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible experience with PMGY in Ghana

Had an absolutely lovely time with PMGY in Ghana. Everything pre-departure wise was very well planned and one felt comfortable and save at all times once there. The placement programs are incredibly enriching and rewarding. But keep on open mind when traveling. If you are vegetarian, maybe take some vitamin supplements with you, because the food served is very basic and mostly carbs (if you skip the meat).
But overall I am looking forward to travel and volunteer with PMGY again in the future! :)

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Seeing elephants literally right outside your hotel room is just an unbelievably cool experience!
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Lucy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Sri Lanka PMGY Childcare Project

I have recently spent 6 weeks in Sri Lanka on the Childcare/Teaching project at the SUNFO girl's home. The whole trip was amazing and I cannot thank everyone at PMGY enough for giving me this opportunity at a time when I didn't think it would be possible to travel and volunteer abroad.
From the beginning Phillip, at the UK office, was so helpful. He supported me through applying for a visa and answering any questions I had including what PCR tests I would need and when, the quarantine process in Sri Lanka and travel insurance queries. He also kept me informed of any Covid-19 travel updates that may affect my trip to Sri Lanka in the weeks leading up to my departure.
In-country, Ashika (the PMGY coordinator) stayed in contact with me throughout my quarantine stay to make sure I was comfortable. The hotel was really nice and right on the beach with a pool and friendly staff. On arrival at London House, Ashika welcomed us into his home and went above and beyond for our entire stay. Everyone there treated us like family and couldn't do enough for us. I am going to really miss the Sri Lankan food that Ashika's mother makes and all of the jokes with Manoj!
I was honoured to be part of the first group of volunteers to go to the SUNFO girl's home since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Ashika gave us all the support we needed throughout to enable us to carry out the project safely and adhere to Covid-19 guidelines. The project was extremely rewarding and by the time we left we saw a huge difference in the girls' confidence and ability to speak English. Every afternoon at the project we spent around an hour doing more formal teaching and then played games to include a more fun element too. I was extremely sad and emotional to leave the project as over the 6 weeks we got to know the girls' personalities so well! I would highly recommend this project to anyone looking to really make a tangible difference.
Whilst I was in-country there were changes to the Sri Lankan Covid-19 restrictions, which Ashika always kept us up-to-date with. Despite the changes to restrictions Ashika made every effort to make sure we could still go on trips to all parts of the country on our days off, which I am so thankful for! There are no lengths that he will not go to in order to make your experience the best it can be.
I feel so grateful for all the PMGY team that helped me to travel to Sri Lanka during the pandemic. I cannot recommend PMGY Sri Lanka enough, it is an experience that I will never forget where I met some amazing people. I will definitely be returning to see even more of this beautiful country.
Thank you for everything Ashika and all the PMGY team! ❤️❤️

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Ellen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Medaase PMGY Ghana

Thank you so much to everyone at PMGY for the best month of my life! I went to Ghana and it was the best, most enriching and memorable month of my life. Everyone was so welcoming and had an answer to every question, especially in the booking process. It is a very straight forward process to join the program and you are provided with all the necessary information to be fully prepared. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone involved with PMGY Ghana, you will always hold a special place in my heart.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Fufu! We went on a village day and a lovely farmer showed us the plantain and pawpaw he had. We learnt how fufu is made and tried some ourselves! It was very different, so unfamiliar to me and nothing like i have tasted before but so glad I had the experience!
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Lucy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best experience of my life

I just want to first say a massive thank you to everyone at PMGY for making my experience in Ghana so amazing! The team went above and beyond to ensure we were supported through every step of the process. The multiple to opportunities PMGY gave me during my 4 weeks allowed me to fully submerge myself in the culture and have learnt so much because of that. I was given the chance to try all the projects and maximise my time and I will treasure my experience for the rest of my life. Thank you PMGY for making it possible!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
stop procrastinating and book that ticket! You won’t regret:)

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

Plan My Gap Year just caught my eye from it's amazing reviews and it's response to all my questions (plenty of this there was). I was encouraged to join their Facebook Group for Sri Lanka where I got to talk to past, present and future volunteers about their experience - this really cemented my choice for me!

I wanted to do something where I could make an impact and I wanted to go some where both developing and needing of the help, and slightly more untouched than the other Asian countries - Sri Lanka was the perfect location!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

They assisted with everything!!

The Handbook was my holy grail. PMGY have created this handbook for your specific country which answered every question I had. We had to get Visa's and CRB checks ourselves, but they helped me and advised me with all this during the process. They even had their own insurance if you wanted it and they offered flight quotes. I took them up on this and they did everything - found a flight, booked it and sent me all the details, it was very hassle free!

Everything before I left was guided and the 'service' didn't really feel like a service at all - it felt very personal.

In Sri Lanka, the local team assisted with everything I asked for whether it was a weekend trip I wanted to take myself or transport back to the airport. Nothing was ever too much - I think thats what made the organization so special.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would say to go with an open mind!! Especially as you are volunteering in a developing country; things may not be on time or may not be organized in the place you're volunteering like it is in your home country, but just be patient and understanding.

The worse volunteers were the ones who weren't understanding of the culture and the situation. PMGY did everything they could to provide us with a platform to volunteer and help the local communities, but every so often a tukuk would be late or there was a power cut so you couldn't charge your phone - but you're in a developing country... What do you expect?

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

As I did the renovation project - this was a morning project - , it would be around 3-4 hours every morning, depending on how much work you had to do.

An average day would be wake up and have breakfast at the house (pancakes on Thursday was my favourite!!) and then take a tuktuk to project at about 8:30-ish. After project, we would go back to the volunteer house for lunch which was at 12:30ish and then the afternoon's were free.

If you have your afternoons free, you are able to pick up teaching or the orphanage project as a free addition, as they are afternoon projects and the help is wanted and encouraged. This was a two week minimum commitment and I decided against doing it... However, after my first week, I instantly regretted this, as travelling and going to the beach in the afternoon was great, but I should have grabbed the opportunity to make the most of making an impact in my afternoons!!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was fearful about travelling alone. I have travelled before, but never alone, and I was wondering If I would make friends or if it would be dangerous to travel as a solo female to a developing country.

I think PMGY helped with all this a lot. Social wise, there were so many volunteers, all like minded and keen to help like me. I made so many friends and at the start PMGY made it so easy for us to do that. Even before I arrived, I used the Facebook group to meet other people who were arriving the same day as me. The local team in Sri Lanka put on lots of social evenings, like quiz nights and a Sari social, that just helped us all bond.

Not once was I ever really fearful for my safety. The local team were always so careful and aware and looked after us so well. Even before I left, I joined a 'safety webinar' that they do for there volunteers, which made me feel safe before I had even left.

Anything you would have done differently?

Like I mentioned earlier... GET INVOLVED. I had the opportunity to do the childcare program and I decided against it. They gave me the opportunity to make even more of an impact, and I didn't take it?? The childcare is a minimum two weeks commitment, so when it got to my final week, it was too late. I understand why it's a minimum two weeks: for the children, but next time I will take every opportunity they give me.

Also, PMGY always offered opportunities, such as language lessons and to ask Ash (the main coordinator/director in Sri Lanka) questions about the projects, but I really didn't get involved as much as I should have. Make sure you do... You'll only regret it if you don't.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Laine Hodges

Job Title
Volunteer Coordinator
Laine is a free-spirited American from Virginia with a love of curry & Vegetarian cuisine. She has a keen ear for Spanish, will always greet you with a smile and if you ask her about the best places to visit in Cusco, she will offer endless recommendations!
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What is your favorite travel memory?

In Ecuador, I got to hang out in the Amazon Rainforest for a week, which was awesome. I learned all about the various fruits and plants there and how the community uses them for sustenance and nutrition, medicine and healing.

Probably one of my favorite parts of exploring the rainforest was hiking out to the thick of it and spending the night in a hammock. All of the sounds and sights and smells were just so captivating and beautiful.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I have grown a lot in my field professionally, learning how to produce and edit videos and growing in graphic design. But I have also grown personally, just getting to meet and talk with our volunteers and learn their stories, and learning about Peru.

I think anytime you have the chance to learn about another part of the world and gain a new perspective you also have a chance to broaden your horizons and grow as a person.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I feel that we offer a very personal experience from start to finish. The moment you read about the programs on the webpage you are met with a friendly chat, from there after application there are loads of way to communicate and get questions answered.

Upon arrival there is a smiling face and a warm hug to greet you and each day following, it is no doubt an adventure.

We dedicate our time to offering a unique and secure experience to ensure that this trip across the world isn't your last! The world is beautiful and there is so much to explore.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

A good team is a team with trust in each other, and lots of communication. They know and understand each member’s strengths and weaknesses and use the power of the team to balance things out accordingly, lifting and supporting each other.