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why was April 23rd an important day?

CIMG1233April 23rd 2016 . . . St George’s Day, Earth Day, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death . . . and, most importantly of course, the day we held our latest volunteer social!  This time we met at volunteer Val’s home near Hemel Hempstead, the weather was kind to us, and we all enjoyed a lovely sociable afternoon catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.  There was a good mix of previous volunteers who could tell us about their placements in a variety of different countries and potential volunteers who wanted to find out all about how people and places works and were keen to learn more about the places where they might volunteer soon.  We try to find venues for our socials in different parts of the country to give everyone the chance now and then to come to a social not too far from home, but some volunteers had made the effort to travel quite a long way to this one, and we must make special mention of the new volunteer who flew in all the way from Donegal!

It is interesting that at some socials the focus seems to be, quite by chance, on the projects in just one or two of the countries where we volunteer.  At last November’s social there happened to be a lot of volunteers who had either just returned from or were just about to go to South Africa, and our different projects there dominated the conversation.  This time the flavour of the month was definitely Cambodia, with new volunteers in particular wanting to know all about the volunteering opportunities there.  They will of course need to go through the matching process to make sure their skills and experience match the needs of the projects there, but it certainly looks as though Cambodia can expect several new people and places volunteers later this year!  You can read more about our volunteering opportunities in Cambodia by clicking here and here.

Thank you once again to Val for hosting this social in her lovely home – we hope your family enjoyed eating up the left-over food!  Our socials are always such an enjoyable way to catch up with each other’s news, and we hope to see many of you again at our next social later in the year.

Watch the latest volunteer interview videos taken at this social here

Watch volunteer Robert talk about why and how he has chosen to volunteer with people and places and how important the volunteer social was in this decision.


12th November – our next volunteers’ social in Faversham

Yes, I know – November’s a long way off, and you’ve only just read Dianne’s report about this month’s social meeting near Hemel Hempstead …

But we also know that everyone’s diaries seem to get busier all the time, so we wanted to give you early notification in the hope that many of you will be able to come along to our volunteers’ social meeting here at ‘head office’ (aka Kate’s home!) in November.

The usual 1-5 p.m format – plenty of time to chat and share news of the projects and volunteers’ experiences, as well as meeting new friends and making plans for the future!

We’ll send out further details later in the year …

Meanwhile please email Kate if you’d like to put your name on the guest list !

local groups: putting you in touch with other volunteers who live near you

If you have told us that you would like to be put in touch with other people and places volunteers who live not too far away from you, you should by now have received a contact list of email addresses for volunteers in your area.

We have always encouraged a new volunteer on a particular project to make contact with others who have volunteered there before as a good way of getting to know about that project.  However, meeting with other volunteers who live near you should enable you to find out about people’s experiences at a variety of projects in many different countries.

people and places network

people and places network

Hopefully some of you have already taken the opportunity to meet up with each other.

If you would like us to publicise group meetings in our newsletter or to share any photos or news, please do let us know.

how did that happen ?! people and places-responsible volunteering is 10 years old –

It’s 10 years since we placed our first volunteer!     10

There’s a “curse” that many erroneously believe is Chinese –

“May you live in interesting times.”

There is a wonderful Xhosa word – “Ubuntu” – which has no direct translation into English but portrays the qualities of humanity and compassion – ‘I am because you are’.

Well, boy-oh-boy, have the last 10 years been interesting times for people and places – successes to celebrate  and challenges to overcome – boy, have we been blessed by Ubuntu!

We were going to write some clever 10 point lists (apparently people are more likely to read lists!) – but Read the rest of this entry »

volunteers are busy in The Gambia – and introducing Lamin

Written by Dianne, people and places volunteer programme advisor

“I am writing this report sitting by the pool at Safari Garden Hotel on a sunny Sunday morning.  The sky is blue and the temperature will rise to about 30 degrees later on today, so I hope those of you in cold rainy England are feeling jealous!

Dianne & fellow volunteers at Safari Garden






Read the rest of this entry »

volunteers – your project needs YOU !

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the value – or not – of review sites. Some are fantastic and the reviews are genuine – with lots of useful information about the realities of volunteer travel – and these are the sites we encourage our volunteers to write reviews for.

These are our favourite sites … so far … you may know of others where reviews are genuine and trustworthy. Please let us know of any you like and think worthwhile!

Volunteer Forever – and Go Overseas

But – and there is always a ‘but’ – the more reviews an organisation has, the more visible that organisation is on the website. Hence our earnest plea for volunteers to PLEASE write something about your trip.

Read the latest review here – about a volunteer’s experience in Amar Jyoti School in Nepal.

the nursery class at Amar Jyoti







Huge thanks to those of you who’ve written reviews so far, but we really will welcome more! – and we fully appreciate that not everyone wants to or has the time.

But – yes, another ‘but’! – the more reviews there are, the higher your project will appear in the listings, the more people will read about it – and the more may want to go, thus building upon your own work!

you can fund raise for your volunteer trip

Great news – our colleagues at Volunteer Forever have launched an easy and secure way for you to raise funds on-line for your next volunteer experience!

Many volunteers have raised funds, and continue to do so, when they return home after their placements – which is hugely appreciated, of course.

But future volunteers can now invite friends, family and colleagues to help support their work by donating to the costs of the trip! How good is that?

One of our volunteers, about to travel to The Gambia for her placement with ASSET, is proof of how helpful people want to be … This is what Barbara wrote:

Fundraising to help people in the Gambia to earn a living

I need to raise funds to ensure my time in Gambia is a success. I have carried out local fundraising events and saved through work but do not have quite enough. I will be working hard as a chef in a community run restaurant where they are beginning to use their own produce to make dishes to sell to tourists, avoiding having to buy in from outside. I would be incredibly grateful for any help you can give and would do the same if you are inspired to do the same. I will send recipes of wonderful Gambian dishes and sauces to anyone who would like to try Gambian cuisine!

Sheik Faal, ready to welcome Barbara to his kitchen!








.. and at the time of writing this newsletter, Barbara has successfully raised hundreds of pounds towards her trip.

So – when you have a placement agreed, why not have a go at fundraising yourself?

The damage done when volunteers don’t name and shame

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. Read the rest of this entry »

“Enjoy yourself in poor countries? Become a voluntourist”

Sallie Grayson

A few hours ago I was notified that someone had posted a topic with the above title on the people and places group on linked in

At first I thought the video was a spoof – to my horror it wasn’t – take a look at the video here  if you don’t the rest of this post will be pretty meaningless.

My first reaction was to “out” the profoundly disturbing video on all the social networks I’m on – as an example of how bad “poverty tourism” marketing can be.

What I should have done was wait until I had written this post. Less than two weeks ago I wrote a piece about the need to stop bitching about poor practise and promote good practise .

….and what did I do? I bitched.

So now I am trying to put that right. Read the rest of this entry »

Volunteer Travel – less bitching more balance needed!

There has been much criticism of volunteer travel – and  “voluntourism” recently. (Where and how the two differ and the confusion caused by the subjective use of the two terms is fodder for a whole other post –  I must do that one day soon!)

We at people and places are leading much of that criticism – I like to think that we campaign by demonstrating good practise and highlighting  bad practise…. but I am concerned that we may be getting the balance wrong.

thanks to Action for Happiness for this image

Read the rest of this entry »