Archive for the 'volunteering in the news' Category

BUT what are we doing to make volunteer travel better?

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Here at people and places we love this travel writing site. Sallie has just made this sallie headshotSMALLcontribution

BUT what are we doing to make volunteer travel better? 

You know when you have an idea – and you realise it wasn’t such a great idea….and you still don’t let go?

My idea – to write about the positive developments in volunteer travel (call it voluntourism if you must but in my book they are two very different experiences).

Normally I write about bad practice - I thought it would be good to write a good news piece for a change – little did I realise how hard it would be. The only way I have been able to write this piece is with a number of big fat BUTs.

So here we go – and let me start by saying that I firmly believe that a well prepared, screened, skilled volunteer can make a positive impact.

I have spent nearly 10 years campaigning for better experiences for volunteers and the communities they seek to serve. I am not a natural campaigner but I found myself involved in an industry bedevilled by bad practice (that’s a whole other story), so “if not me then who?”

Those ten years have been a real roller-coaster – I have seen the best of people and, boy, have I seen the worst of people. So time to take stock. I have no idea whether any of my campaigning has been effective, but I do know that the campaign has been effective, somewhat…

So I want to celebrate the steps forward (some impressive, some tiny) that I have seen in the past 10 years.

I hate lists but everyone tells me people read lists and I would quite like you to learn more about the steps forward we have taken so …a list it shall be.

Read the whole article here

“orphanages … part of the well-trodden tourist trail” says BBC’s Fake Britain

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

well-meaning holiday-makers [and volunteers] are being conned and are fuelling a dark industry of fake orphanages and orphans”

watch the report, from about 35 minutes into the programme click here to watch 

people and places‘ Kate Stefanko speaks out during the Fake Britain expose about volunteers naively contributing to the abuse of it here


“a need for more orphans … so where are they coming from?”


“visiting orphanages and making a donation has become part of the well-trodden tourist trail … ”


“well-meaning holiday-makers are being conned and are fuelling a dark industry of fake orphanages and orphans”


“Expensive voluntourism trips the ‘least responsible’” – Telegraph

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Our first ever campaign for better and more responsible volunteering was through encouraging all volunteers to ask lots of questions. Gradually, more and more volunteers are doing their research well, and using our “questions to ask .

It’s good to see our questions quoted in The Telegraph yesterday – along with excellent research from Vicky Smith of Leeds Met and comment by Justin Francis of

children are not tourist attractions

children are not tourist attractions



Have a read – it’s an interesting article!

volunteering is really effective when it’s done well – we are cheesed off with the “bad” news!

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Kate writes:

You’ve probably noticed a lot of media coverage about volunteering (or ‘voluntourism’) in recent months … and the vast majority of such coverage takes a decidedly negative or sensationalist slant and concentrates on everything that’s wrong with volunteering …

Well – here at people and places, we’re getting a bit cheesed off  with all the ‘bad news’ coverage and want to reaffirm that when volunteering is done well, it can actually be GOOD NEWS … for volunteers and for local people.

sharing marketing ideas

sharing marketing ideas

(Years ago, when my children were young, there was a marvellous show on children’s television called “Gran’s Good News” where the eponymous elderly newsreader told interesting stories with a positive slant and the feel-good factor was strong … we hope our newsletter achieves much the same!)

We are genuinely proud of our straight-forward and honest approach, and our ethical and responsible way of working … and we know from experience that well-prepared and well-matched volunteers CAN and DO make for effective skills-share.



we are so proud to be part of this….

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Please, please click on the link!

volunteering in orphanages – what do I need to know?

Monday, July 29th, 2013

This was a question I was asked right at the end of last year by a friend and colleague in responsible travel

Given the recent announcement by responsible that they are to suspend offering orphanage volunteer trips   I thought Id publish my reply -

what do you think what have I missed?


These are my immediate questions…and the fisrt questions I ask when doing due diligence on our childcare projects

1. Is the orphanage properly registered and operating under local law

2. How are the chidren “selected” in the orphanage/home? They need to come thru credible government or NGO agancies.

3.What working relationship do the homes have with outside experts and ngos – ie child abuse counselling – occupational therapy etc – if these are available.

3.What efforts are made to get the children back to thier own families if atall possible

4. What happens to the children once they are no longer children???

4.I note that the organization you mention offers two different “volunteer “opportunities – short missions and longer term placements.It is not clear what is done during either of these placements. I would be very concerned if the volunteers on the short missions have  close engagement with the children? The copy certainly suggests that there is a guarentee that the volunteers will be able to “hold ” the children.

Is there skills transfer in the longer term placements – do the volunteers work with or instead of local people? What is the long term goal of the volunteer programme

5. What are the screening procedures for volunteers and have risk assessments been done.I can see no requirement for criminal record checks for example

6 What are the rules about staff/volunteer ratios – how often are there groups of volunteers  at the homes? Children should not be paraded .

6. Do they have child protection policies that the volunteers are briefed on and made to commit to in advance

7. What systems are in place to prepare -brief and  support in situ and debrief the  volunteers and the local staff.

I do not know this organisation but as I say any organisation that encourages short term engagement with vulnerable children worries me!

To read people and places child protection policy take a look here 

” Volunteers can and do have a positive impact on the communities they serve.”

Monday, July 1st, 2013

“….The question is not whether you should volunteer, the question is;  who is matching the desire with the need?”

This is a question posed by Martin Stevenson who is publishing a book on line  about back packer travel and how it has developed ( not necessarily for the good) over recent times.

Martin has made the chapter he wrote on volunteer travel in Cambodia available free because he believes there are important issues to be addressed particularly by large sending agencies.


“When I was 17 I called Oxfam to ask how I could volunteer on one of their
projects during the summer holidays.
“What can you do?” asked the woman on the phone. “Are you a doctor? An
“Er, no. I’m doing my A levels.”
“Well we need professionals. People with skills.”
“Well, is there something else I can do, like…dig a well or build something?”
“We can give a local person a wage to do that. Call us back when you’ve finished
your degree.” With which she put the phone down. And rightly so. What use was
I to them? I had no skills, no training. I couldn’t teach anyone to ‘fish’, as it were.”

One of the local organisations Martin consulted was ConCert – our partenrs in Cambodia.

Its a thought provoking read – download his chapter on volunteer travel here


catch up on recent media coverage of volunteer travel

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

There’s been a lot written  about volunteer travel in the last few months.

So here’s a digest of some of the articles we found most interesting or annoying or worrying or even pleasing – some include us  - most do not.

This article certainly caused a stir - the tragic rise of gap year voluntourism

from The Guardian Beware voluntourists doing good

Why we no longer accept unqualified teaching volunteers  travel on why they no longer accept unqualified teaching volunteers 

from the BBC slum tourism 

a post from worried volunteer Mary 

what is voluntourism

And the debate about volunteering with children continues

To keep up to date follow the better child protection page on facebook 

a must watch for anyone thinking of volunteering in an orphanage – not just in cambodia 

This video incensed us  and made Sallie write this blog

This  BBC interview with a volunteer was disappointing in that it sensationalised but didn’t offer advice  and here’s our response 

and finally a video interview with Sallie

Phew! Said there had been a lot going on!

The damage done when volunteers don’t name and shame

Friday, March 1st, 2013

I listened to a short radio article yesterday on the BBC 4 consumer programme ‘You and Yours  - it’s about 40 minutes in.

It was very disappointing. A young medical student called Savannah recounted a disturbing story about “a large sending organisation” that had placed her in poor accommodation and at a challenging project with no support – I think the interview was about 4 minutes. It did nothing but sensationalise – it was prurient in its sensationalisation of what sounded like a horrid and worrying experience for the volunteer (and by inference her co-volunteers).

This was not the fault of the volunteer or the journalist, Phillipa Jacks, who was also being “interviewed”–  the time she had was less than a minute. This was radio journalism at it worst – collect a horror story – report it and do nothing –  nothing to address the issue – Savannah also mentioned a good experience she had had with a local charity– neither organisation was named  - what was achieved? – what can the consumer learn from this? – I’d bet my house on the fact that “big operator” has much more marketing buck than the local charity and knows all the right marketing language to use – so who is the potential volunteer going to find first when left to their own research??

This post however is not about the shortcoming of ‘You and Yours’.

It’s a piece about what’s happening because volunteers are not naming organisations that mislead and mis-sell – and how constructive criticism can be really advantageous to volunteers in helping them to avoid the kind of situation Savannah found herself in. (more…)

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“We know they are the right company” – we’ve been recommended by one of the best!

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Many of you will have heard of Tribes Travel – they are award winners.  A small, personalised tour operator run by husband and wife team Amanda and Guy, Tribes specialise in personal service – for the traveller and for the communities they visit.

… we believe that the very best tailor made holidays are the ones which not only make you feel special and help you engage with the places you visit, but which, at no extra cost to you, also allow the destinations (people, places and wildlife) to benefit from your visit.”

Which is why, year after year, Tribes wins awards for sustainable travel.

Well now people and places  wants to say a big “thank you” to Tribes – look at what they have gone and done!

Support like this from another award-winning responsible tour operator warms our hearts -

….if you are researching a holiday – and not planning to volunteer with us !!! – you couldn’t do better than talking to these guys -

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