LOVE receiving volunteers’ questions … and answering them!

By Kate Stefanko. Filed in good and bad practice, people and places history and info, people and places in the news, people and places partners  |  
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At people and places, we always encourage volunteers to ask questions

Some people find asking questions easier than others … but asking the questions and assessing the answers is VITAL when starting to think about options to volunteer abroad, and helps volunteers to make informed decisions.

Q&A may be in person, by phone or in writing …

So, to show what I mean, I’m going to share some recent email questions with you – AND – my answers !

ask the questions - get the answers

ask the questions – get the answers

 I am interested in volunteering with people and places and wanted to ask a few questions before registering.

Q1) Support & security- What kind of on-the-ground support does a volunteer have, ie. 24/7 contact or number, medical emergency? How are the local organizations/ accommodations selected and how is safety ensured? Are there staff who work there locally and check-up on the volunteers? How would I contact family members at home?

A1 We take the matter of safety & security extremely seriously – both for volunteers and the local community.
Because of the way we work through local partners, our volunteers are ensured of 24/7 contacts with our local partners.
As well as the 24/7 emergency contact, our local partners meet with the project and volunteers at least once a week during a volunteer placement.
We have performed due diligence on our partner projects, and have full risks assessments for the project, accommodation, transport etc.
Contact with home varies according to project and destination – there may WiFi in your accommodation, and our local partners can help if necessary.

Q2) Sustainability & effectiveness- How does people and places ensure that the programs being offered are sustainable, with volunteers coming in and out of each program? How is the impact of a project evaluated? What kind of training is provided? 

A 2 – This is also an area of our work where our local partnerships are vital. Here is a link to a pdf onsite which gives more information about our way of working with local partners. Our local partners liaise with and work with the project year round – whether there are volunteers there or not. They know and understand the local project and community far better than we ever could – their importance to maintaining sustainability is crucial !
At ‘people and places’, we also provide continuity through sharing previous volunteers’ reports on their own placements, as well as putting new volunteers in touch with previous and co-volunteers.
We concentrate on thorough preparation rather than on ‘training’ per se – we provide plenty of information about context and background to the project as well as sharing volunteers’ reports and contact details.
On arrival there is a full local orientation, which in the case of Cambodia, for example, also includes a full day child protection workshop.

Q3) Costs- What is the breakdown of the program cost? On the website page, it has a breakdown of the cost in both british pounds and dollars, which makes it somewhat confusing.

A 3 – The vast majority of the costs are paid direct to our local partners – for example, the Cambodia costs are shown in USD for all local costs – the only cost payable in the UK to ‘people and places’ is our own matching and placement fee which is 250GBP.
Here is a link to a pdf onsite explaining more about our costs and invoicing process.

Q 4) do all volunteer organizations need to be registered with the government and how I can check such? 

There is no requirement at all for any volunteer organisation to be registered with the relevant government or government department … there are frequent discussions among ethical organisations about establishing some kind of framework and guidelines, but even this presents enormous challenges.

e.g. how would such guidelines be policed, and who would do the policing?

My partner at ‘people and places’ , Sallie Grayson, has been involved in many of these discussions and debates … and her suggestions & advice often appear in some other organisational guidelines (!)

As a limited company, and social enterprise, ‘people and places’ can obviously be investigated through the UK’s Companies House, and we’ve also submitted to an independent audit which can be found here

There are also various links on the “our responsibility page in our “about” pages

But to cut a very long story short, the best that any potential volunteer can do to check out organisations and companies is to ask LOTS of questions and require full answers … as well as talking with previous volunteers of course … which is something you will certainly be encouraged to do as we work through our own preparation and matching process .

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my email and provide me with all the info, I really appreciate it. The website is fantastic and covers basically everything I could wish to know, you have done an excellent job to enable volunteers to have a worthwhile, fulfilling experience.

catch my drift

I could go on … but I think you’ll catch my drift!

just keep your questions coming … to any volunteer placement organisation!

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