Archive for the 'good and bad practice' Category

to campaign or not to campaign …

Friday, September 30th, 2016




by volunteer programme advisor Dianne Ashman

As you will know, there are two connecting strands to the work

people and places does.  We send volunteers on placements where their skills and experience have been carefully matched to local needs, and we campaign for responsible practice in volunteer tourism – and both these categories have been reflected in awards people and places have won, for Best Volunteer Organisation and

Best for Responsible Tourism Campaigning.

Up until now I have preferred to focus my time and energy on the volunteering side of things, helping our local partners identify needs and helping to prepare volunteers to do their bit to meet these needs.  I have not wanted to get involved in the campaigning side of our work as I am personally uncomfortable with the rather negative and critical connotations of some forms of campaigning (not necessarily ours) and I prefer to focus on the positives of trying to make our volunteer placements as successful as possible for all concerned.  However I have always taken an interest in the issues raised through our campaigning, particularly those involving children and child protection.  I have therefore followed with interest all the publicity around the negative impact of volunteers working in, and foreigners supporting, children in orphanages.  One of the articles published as part of a recent ‘blogging blitz’ on the dangers of orphanage tourism really made me think.  The writer of the article was talking specifically about student volunteers going to orphanages as part of a gap year experience, and he made the point that we are wrong to criticise these young people for taking part in a misguided form of volunteering because we have never taught them that it’s an inappropriate thing to do.  As a teacher that really struck a chord, and fits in exactly with my views – I don’t want to criticise bad practice but I do want to raise awareness about what some of the issues are and how to make good choices when volunteering or supporting people in developing countries.

 In fact, having once thought this, I now feel it would be irresponsible of me to know something about the issues and not to spread the word.

“The challenge is certainly not to stop supporting children in developing countries – the need has not decreased – but to make sure we are doing this in ways that genuinely help and are not designed simply to make us feel good – and that requires real thought.”


thoughts of Aleppo and volunteer travel

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

I just posted the on FaceBook and it made me proud – why? because the first question from the  vast majority of our volunteers is :

“Where can I be of most help”?


“my reaction to the news from Aleppo – I want to go there now and help – but you know what I would be a hinderance not a help – I have no medical skills – I have no counselling skills – i am not an engineeer -I am certainly no peacemaker – I do not speak the language(s) – indeed I have no skills that they need at the moment – BUT I know I have skills that could help somewhere

– these are the rules we should apply when we plan our volunteer travel

the cruel scams of ‘orphanage volunteering’

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Kate Stefanko interviewed by BBC1’s “Fake Britain” – about 35 minutes into the programme

The programme was first aired in May 2014 and repeated again this morning … sadly, so much of the content is still relevant … and not only in Cambodia.

The cruel scams of ‘orphanage volunteering’ are exposed – cruel to children & scamming naive & well-meaning volunteers !

at people and places we support organisations and projects which focus on keeping children in families

check out childsafe  and Better Care Network

'orphanage volunteering' - please don't do it !

‘orphanage volunteering’ – please don’t do it !

–  please do your research and don’t allow yourselves to be scammed by fake orphanages !

children belong in families – not in institutions

orphanage volunteering – there is a better way

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

In November Sallie paid a flying visit to Bangkok to participate in an important child protection workshop.

Sallie far right( and Paul back row far left) attend child protection workshop

Sallie (far right) and Paul (back row far left) attend child protection workshop

(and our local partner Paul from Calabash Tours in Port Elizabeth was there – so an additional treat!)

Volunteering in orphanages is a hugely popular way for many to “give back” but child protection experts have been telling us for some years that there are many dangers in this well meaning practice. A whole “industry” – that would horrify well-meaning volunteers – has grown from this desire to work with orphans.

To learn more take a look at the links at the end of this post

We at people and places are passionate about child protection and we have listened and learnt a huge amount from child protection and child rights experts – so we have been advocating against volunteering in orphanages for a number of years.

We are therefore very pleased and proud to be involved with an initiative that seeks to highlight these issues and help a greater understanding of the issues involved.

The Better Volunteering Better Care Network is an initiative supported by Oak Foundation and the Human Dignity Foundation, and led by actors in the child protection sector, to better understand the issues associated with international volunteering in residential care centres –  aiming to  discourage international volunteering in residential care centres whilst promoting ethical volunteering alternatives supporting children and families.

 people and places were invited to participate in the network due to our internationally recognised role in campaigning for and managing responsible volunteer travel  – and our contribution to the debate on volunteering in residential care centres. Sallie is a member of the steering group



Much has been written on the potential harm caused by orphanage tourism

The Better Volunteering Better Care Network 

Orphanage tourism: Who are foreign volunteers actually helping?
‘Making mistakes with people’s lives’: the ethics of orphanages and voluntourism

Better Child Protection

for an example of volunteer programmes that work to keep children in families – a better alternative to orphanage volunteering in our opinion –  take a look here

If you would like to talk with us about this issue or learn about how you can volunteer to help keep children in families please do email

continuity – education development & support in rural South Africa

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Today’s post is the perfect follow-on to our previous post about volunteers Robin and Jane … whose work in A V Bukani School is being built on and continued by Larry and Eileen …

You can read their blog here.

pass the baton

This shows real project continuity … which we tend to refer to as “passing the baton”.

We make sure previous and future volunteers, for the same project, are always put in touch with each other … a standard part of our matching, preparation and briefing process.


Great changes don’t happen overnight, but there are definite developments over the years, and this school is just one example of the projects where our volunteers are effectively working as part of a team, even when months and miles away from each other in their volunteer placement and home lives !

Keep up the good work, everyone!

“orphanage volunteering” – NO !!!

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

astonishing … just as we clicked ‘publish’ on our previous post about “orphanage volunteering … we received the following enquiry about a placement:

“Citizenship: United States
Category: Volunteer Abroad
Term: Winter
Age: 34
Desired Program: Orphanages
Duration: 2 weeks max this winter”

heavy sigh

We responded politely and fully, explaining why this is a BAD IDEA … Here are some of the links we sent:

orphanage volunteering – the issues

Cambodia campaign site

Better Volunteering on FaceBook

Better Child Protection on FaceBook


but some organisation will no doubt be pleased to take this volunteer’s money and place them somewhere inappropriate … 🙁

volunteering & ‘voluntourism’ – there’s a difference!

Friday, July 17th, 2015

It’s taken a while, but gradually the media is beginning to recognise and write about the POSITIVE results of volunteering, and how to achieve such results. At ‘people and places‘, we’ve always differentiated between volunteering and ‘voluntourism’ … this understanding is beginning to be expressed in the media … gradually !

people and places‘ was featured in an article in The Guardian in May … with the usual sort of headline, unfortunately … but with a far more positive sub-heading: 


If volunteers are truly to help communities overseas, charities and NGOs must take the time to match their skills with the right projects”

No surprise there for us! Putting the right people in the right places is exactly what we do for each individual volunteer placement … matching is the key for volunteers and projects to benefit from their time together.




Nepal – volunteer work permits and visas – and tourism

Friday, July 17th, 2015

As you will appreciate we are desperate to enable our volunteers to return to Nepal as soon as they wish to. However, it is Nepalstill illegal to volunteer in Nepal without a work permit and it is still a lengthy, costly and problematic process – which realistically precludes our volunteers from travelling there. Sallie is working closely with various people in Nepal to try to resolve this problem – but it’s taking time!

But please do not let this stop you visiting Nepal – Nepal needs tourism much more than aid now – and the vast majority of Nepal is safe to visit.

If you are on Facebook and interested in how important tourism is to Nepal – (created by our partner Raj) – you need to be logged in to see it!

We are optimistic we will resolve the work permit issue soon – so if you are keen to get back – or visit for the first time – please do let us know.


The Guardian – positives and negatives of ‘voluntourism’

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Seems to be a ‘media day’ …  this article in The Guardian today asks, yet again, whether ‘voluntourism’ does more harm than good …

“If volunteers are truly to help communities overseas, charities and NGOs must take the time to match their skills with the right projects,” says Matthew Jenkin, editor of Guardian Careers

mutual learning, sharing, hugging!

mutual learning, sharing, hugging!

Key word: “MATCH” …

Our own approach here at ‘people and places is – and always has been – to begin with an understanding of local need in order to match each volunteer’s skills and experience to local need. This matching process – vital in facilitating mutually rewarding and beneficial placements – takes time and is paramount!

Sallie gives a brief synopsis of our approach:

“There are a number of cultural issues – will the local community be comfortable with strangers in their midst? How will they make sure that their culture is protected and respected? They need to make sure that the recruitment organisation has devised a code of conduct and, if there are children present, a child protection policy. A needs assessment must be done.”

Read about our matching process here

volunteering in projects abroad: how to do it well

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Really useful tips, advice and pointers in this article to guide your research when you’re beginning to think about volunteering in projects abroad … how to find the right project for you …

tips & advice



“short-term volunteering – how to do it well”

Begin by asking lots of questions … and expect full answers !

Sallie is quoted, as is Michael, our local partner in Cambodia, where our volunteers work in this community project in Siem Reap.

Michael’s question 1: “Does the project where you’ll be working meet a real need, and is it the appropriate response to that need?”
and from Sallie: “Would I be allowed to do this work in my own country?”