12 REASONS TO CHOOSE A STRUCTURED AND SUPPORTED GAP YEAR OR CAREER BREAK PROGRAMME ABROAD
We sometimes get asked, "Why should I pay to volunteer?" or "Why shouldn't I go directly to a project overseas instead of going through an organisation like yours?" Here we've tried to answer this question as comprehensively as we can. Hopefully this will put your mind at rest and help you to understand the pitfalls and dangers you face by 'doing it yourself', but if not, please do contact us either by email or telephone: +44 (0)1903 502595. We're happy to help!
WHY SUPPORTED AND STRUCTURED PROGRAMMES ARE A GOOD IDEA:
Volunteering overseas is such a great way to spend some time. You’ll become a part of a local community. Your CV will look much more interesting and you’ll probably experience a life changing attachment to the people, animals or community you help.
Why should you pay to volunteer, though? This is a good question. You’re giving your time and energy, surely that's enough? It must be possible to go somewhere and help in exchange for accommodation – the old fashioned way? Well, yes, this probably is possible if you have the time and genuine contacts. With us, you know the project really exists! At Travellers we receive emails from people asking for our help because they have paid overseas projects direct, but when they arrive, they find that those projects don’t exist – it’s a scam. So there you stand, alone in a strange country, with nowhere to go and not enough money left to pay for a genuine project.
Going on a programme with a reputable organization means you won’t get into a situation like that.
There are many very big benefits in choosing to pay for a structured program. It all comes down to safety and support. A structured organisation like Travellers that has been going since 1994 will have a global network of staff around the world. With us you are in very safe hands should a problem arise.
Different organizations offer different levels of support, some good and some bad, so make sure you ask about exactly what you get for your money.
12 REASONS TO VOLUNTEER THROUGH A STRUCTURED PROGRAM!
- You will have a point of contact in the UK office from the beginning of your researching to your suntanned return and debriefing. Often this contact will be an ex-volunteer who understands exactly what you are going through and is full of useful advice. They will also stay in touch with you throughout your placement experience.
- You can choose where you go, when you go, how long you go for and exactly what you will do – enabling you to make the most of whatever you’re able to give. If you don't know what you want to do, we help you to choose the programme that suits you best. We have 17 years' experience and expertise and most of our staff are ex-volunteers.
- There will be an English speaking supervisor appointed enabling you to help without having to first learn the local language.
- The organization will help you prepare everything you need to do, including such things as visas, medical inoculations, flights, travel insurance, what to pack…
- The project you’re doing has been assessed by staff following certain guidelines. This means risk assessments have been carried out on all aspects, such as project safety, accommodation, transport, political and civil environment, and much more.
- If a sudden problem were to arise in the area you have travelled to, such as a medical pandemic (remember SARS?), war or a natural disaster (like the Tsunami that hit many countries), you would be in the hands of a team of professionals with local and international contacts trained to get you out of danger quickly and as safely as possible.
- Other problems can arise when travelling, such as illness or homesickness, or difficulty adjusting to a new culture, or you could get robbed or mugged or have your passport stolen … in cases like this, you’ll have a support network around you to assist and take care of you.
- An organisation enables the long-term running and sustainability of a project, which is how valuable community development is achieved. By volunteering for a few weeks or months, you are contributing to the long-term running of a project that benefits from many volunteers over the years and is sustained by the organisation during any periods when there are no volunteers. True development is a long-term process.
- If you volunteer through an organization, you can benefit from combining other projects such as language or cultural courses, work experience placements or mixing and matching some teaching or care with some conservation work - all organised smoothly for you to make your trip a once in a lifetime experience which is hassle free.
- You’ll meet other volunteers and like-minded people and you might well become friends for life! Structured programmes are more sociable than finding your own experience and with all that stress and worry taken out of it; the whole experience will be much more FUN!
- If it’s your first time in a new culture, you will benefit from being met at the airport by a friendly country manager or staff member, being settled into your accommodation and introduced to other volunteers and staff. You’ll receive a thorough induction into the area, including how to get about, change money, what’s fun to do, what not to do, where it’s safe to go and not to go. You arrive with a massive head start in becoming a welcomed part of the local community. Once you know the ropes, it’s a great idea to then do some independent travel around the country or continent after your placement. A structured project is the best way to find your feet firmly on new ground, make friends and maybe even learn the lingo!
- Some organisations, like Travellers, make frequent and ongoing donations to their projects out of the fees you pay. These organisations are effectively acting like a charity, even though they're not subsidised by the government. They therefore require a fee from volunteers to continue their good work. Travellers, apart from donations it makes directly, also uses it's charitable arm, The Bridge The Gap Foundation, to make donations and support the very needy projects we work with.
EXAMPLE 1, a major situation: When the Tsunami hit Sri Lanka on Boxing Day 2004, some of our volunteers were on the beach. They got swept up by the wave and thrown inshore. Our ground staff managed to ensure that they were taken in hand and kept safe in a monastery on higher ground. Within less than two hours after hearing about the Tsunami, we were able to reassure all our volunteers' parents that their children were safe.
EXAMPLE 2, a minor situation: A volunteer didn't arrive in Cape Town on her scheduled flight and our Organisers couldn't get in touch with her. They were very worried and spent several hours trying to track her down and were eventually successful. Later it was found that her cell phone had run out of battery and her connecting flights had been re-arranged due to one arriving later than scheduled. On hearing the good news that she'd been tracked down, her mum said ...
This is the reason we booked through Travellers and it is so good to know that an incident like this is dealt with so smoothly and professionally...Thank you!
WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE TO DO, WE WISH YOU A SAFE JOURNEY AND AN EXCELLENT TRAVEL ADVENTURE!
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