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Dianne’s travels in southern Africa continued . . . on to Port Elizabeth

My recent trip to South Africa culminated in two thoroughly enjoyable weeks spent in Port Elizabeth, working with Calabash, our wonderful local partners.  As always, they could not have been more friendly and welcoming – I immediately felt part of the team and we had a really great time working together.  Port Elizabeth is a fantastic place to volunteer – really worthwhile projects where you will spend your working day, a very supportive team to take an interest in what you are doing, look after you and make sure you have a good time, and lots to do in your free time.

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“passing the baton” – volunteers and projects working together

When any new volunteer placement is accepted and agreed, we send previous volunteers’ reports and encourage our new volunteers to get in touch with those who have been to the same project before. This is a vital in enabling continuity of project support and placement roles – and also avoids volunteers “re-inventing the wheel”.
Individual placement roles differ according to volunteers’ individual skills and experience – whether in education, training, practical skills, social care, nutrition, health care, social work – but the fundamental skills-share approach applies with each and every placement.

The following extracts, from several volunteers as well as from the projects in Cambodia, demonstrate the interconnected nature of placements and “passing the baton” … 


so, Cambodia projects … teaching, training & education, practical skills, horticulture, health & social care (click on the link to find out more)  Read the rest of this entry »

we need your teaching skills – and not only in schools

Definition of teach: “cause (someone) to learn or understand something by example or experience.”

Definition of skill: “The ability to do something well; expertise.”

That’s what we are all about in all our volunteer projects

{As an aside we are proud that our programme is a skills-share programme. However, we need to use the term “volunteer” because in this Google search age the vast majority of people use the word “volunteer” when they do their searches – not “skills-share”.}

Many of our “education” volunteer programmes are not based in schools – many are.

All of our programmes need volunteers to share their skills – e.g. teach.

Here are some examples of where we need teaching skills – not only in schools but in community, health and vocational programmes too.

Please read on to learn more about the projects we work with that need and would warmly welcome your teaching skills .

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caring for vulnerable children – Dianne & local partner Sarah share inspiring developments

This article is written jointly by Dianne Ashman, voluntary programme advisor for people and places and Sarah Corley, director of volunteer and student travel at AOA.  AOA is people and places’ local partner in Swaziland.

This is the story of six Neighbourhood Care Points (NCPs) in the Ezulwini Valley in Swaziland. NCPs were first started by UNICEF to provide support and care for children whose families were struggling with poverty and the effects of the HIV/AIDs epidemic. Their over-riding aim is to provide vulnerable children and orphans with the care and support they and their families need to enable them to continue to live within their community rather than being placed in an orphanage.

In 2012, when our story starts, these six NCPs, supported by AOA, were providing two meals a day for the children and very basic childcare.  They were staffed by women from the local community who tried to give the children some basic education but struggled because they had no resources and lacked any form of teacher training – some of them had not completed their own schooling.  AOA maintained the NCP buildings and volunteer groups painted the walls with educational materials such as the alphabet and numbers, but any teaching that did happen simply involved rote learning, with few opportunities for children to learn through play.  Although free primary education for all had recently been introduced in Swaziland the country lacked teachers and schools, so children were (and still are) interviewed at the age of 6 before being given a school place.  Many children from the NCPs were failing to pass this interview, so were being excluded from the education system from the very start . . . and so the cycle of poverty continued.

Now, in 2017, all children who are about to graduate from these six NCPs (102 children) have been awarded school places.  The schools report that they can no longer distinguish between children from the NCPs and those from more advantaged backgrounds.  What is more, the NCP teachers have received training so that they understand various teaching strategies they can employ to help their children learn, and have the confidence to try out various teaching methods through a structured programme of activities which covers the key learning areas of language, maths, art, science and discovery, and physical development.  The focus on holistic child development means feeding and health programmes now form a structured part of the development of these children, and parents are becoming engaged in their children’s learning.

2016 – how many children ? active maths 

2011 – no structured activities








What has brought about this transformation, and what has our role been in this?

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Cambodia – a volunteer stresses the importance of flexibility

people and places’ volunteers have so many skills and experiences to share with local communities – the following from Stephanie, an American social worker with a particular interest in nutrition.

I had an incredibly wonderful experience with Treak Community Centre . I enjoyed my time immensely and was able to quickly integrate into their work in the community! The staff members at  Treak Community Centre were very supportive, kind and welcoming.

Stephanie with local staff, Dara & Pechey

During my time there, I assisted the head teacher with English classes, completed interviews regarding housing and education in the local community, and developed the framework for a nutrition program. I felt I could openly express my thoughts to local project staff members.

I believe the nutrition education program could continue to be developed and implemented within the school. The work I completed merely provided a beginning framework.

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new projects in Cambodia

New projects in Cambodia are on our website.  Take a look and see which project interests you in volunteering here.

Siem Reap, with its close proximity to the World Heritage temples at Angkor Wat, is a popular destination for volunteers.  The projects we currently support there are two community centres, both doing fantastic work at providing education, training and community support for some of the poorest villages around Siem Reap.  They provide worthwhile and enjoyable placements for volunteers who have the expertise to support teachers and childcare workers.  However not all volunteers want to work with children or have the required skills and experience to do so!  So we have now added projects focused on business and on health and social care to our portfolio in Cambodia. Read the rest of this entry »

school sixth forms or colleges – do you have links ?

I am hoping some of you can help me.  I have started going into schools to give talks to sixth form students about how to choose good volunteering projects for their gap year or student travels.  There are many calling-all-teachersgood and worthwhile projects to choose from (including those offered by people and places of course!) but there are also many pitfalls to avoid, and most students are unaware that volunteering opportunities that sound great may be very different in reality.  My talk involves getting students to think critically about different types of volunteering experiences, looking for possible pitfalls and working out what questions they should ask to avoid them.  I want to encourage them to volunteer, not put them off, so we also consider what good and worthwhile volunteering experiences might look like.  The aim is to give students questions to ask so that any volunteering they do is of value not only to themselves but also to the projects where they work.

The schools I have gone into so far have all been very appreciative of the talks I have given – some of their feedback comments are given below.  However I am finding that I can only easily get into schools where I have a personal connection . . . and I’ve now run out of schools to go to!  I believe these are important issues that all students should be aware of and I would like to get into more schools to spread the message.  So I am wondering whether any of you would be able to introduce me to schools or colleges where you have connections.  I am willing to travel to schools and colleges in the UK to give the talk for free – it lasts an hour and fits most easily into a school’s general studies or critical thinking programme.  If you are able to help please email me – dianne@travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk.  Thank you for your help. Here’s a flyer for my presentation  schools-presentation-title-slide-people-and-places

‘Dianne’s talk was fascinating.  It offered a very complete picture of the highs (and lows!) of volunteering abroad, with a sting in the tale which was revelatory for the Sixth Form audience.  Dianne was very frank about the pitfalls that are all too easy to fall into – dodgy orphanages and unscrupulous charity packages that rob both volunteers and the communities – and she also outlined how to recognise good volunteering experiences that are beneficial to both sides.  The talk encouraged students to be critical and reflective.  Recommended.’  (Head of Sixth Form)

‘The talk was helpful.  The talk alerted me to things I didn’t know before.  I had no idea that some situations can be fabricated for the ‘benefit’ of volunteers.  It was shocking but incredibly useful.’  (Eliza, year 13 student)

‘The talk was very interesting.  It really helped me see how good gap year volunteering could be for me and for the country I went to IF I prepared and thought about what the country needed and what I could do best.’ (Simon, year 13 student)

‘Although I’m not interested in volunteering at this stage, I now realise how careful you have to be.  It’s too easy to be tricked into thinking that what you’re seeing is the real thing.  A gap year like this is expensive.  I’d want to make sure my money is going into something useful.’  (Bethan, year 13 student)



Morocco – high achievers in the High Atlas !

In the fantastically beautiful High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, EfA (education for all)  is a local  NGO working tirelessly to help educate girls … as EfA say themselves: ‘educate a girl and you educate the next generation’, and the next, etc. ! This is the project where our volunteers work – in the girls-only, homes-away-from home where Berber village girls have access to education, beyond what is available in their villages  …

And just look at the results for this last academic year …

“CONGRATULATIONS to the 12 girls who have passed their baccalaureate (A’Level equivalent)! 8 are university-bound and 4 will go onto vocational college. Everyone of you who has supported EFA is part of this amazing success which is changing lives for generations to come. THANK YOU!”

2016 achievers !

2016 achievers !

These girls are bound for a new stage in their lives, and you could support future graduates, as well as their house mothers, in continuing EfA’s great work …

How’s your  French ? Want to  volunteer ?