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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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so proud of our partners -Tiger Mountain, Nepal

We are thrilled to announce that our partners at Tiger Mountain Nepal have just won a prestigious award that recognises their commitment to the environment and the communities they work with and in.

Well done and well deserved all at Tiger Mountain

To learn more about the volunteer programme we work on in partnership with Tiger Mountain – take a look here 

Fatima’s journey to school in Morocco

When you watch this short video about one girl’s journey from school to her village, you will understand why we support this life changing initiative. The boarding houses are so important. (**switch on subtitles**).


no more words … we will let Fatima explain

but if you want to learn more about how you can support girls like Fatima take a look here.

“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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meet three teachers from Swaziland-could you share your skills with them?

this from Dianne, just back from working with the NCPs in Swaziland:

I would like to introduce you to three teachers from the Neighbourhood Care Points we support in Swaziland, working hard to give pre-school children the knowledge and skills they need to give them a good start at school. These teachers receive a small allowance but not a full salary – they work more or less as volunteers because they genuinely care about the children in their care. Read the rest of this entry »

Kenya – a return to familiar territory – this time, as volunteers !

The following extracts are from volunteer Kathy’s report following her 2 month placement at Gede House – a school for children with special needs.

My son, Joe, and I decided to volunteer for different projects in Kenya this year and we were lucky

Precious, Pauline (me) and Peris

enough to come across People and Places through our search for potential placements. Joe worked at Sita Community Snake Farm on a conservation placement and I volunteered at Gede Special School. The whole process and experience was very well supported and organised with friendly, professional and personal one to one guidance. For me, as a teacher, it was important to know that we were being ‘screened’ appropriately and that we were expected to go through a proper application procedure, complete with references and disclosure checks. Not only did this reassure me of the organisation’s ethics but also gave me a genuine sense of trust and confidence that the projects would match up to expectations and would suit our individual skills and vocational interests.

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a really great visit to Chitardai, the school our volunteer programme support in India

DSCN7987I have recently returned from a really satisfying and encouraging trip to India.  I went to visit the school where our volunteers work, Chitardai Upper Primary School, in Rajasthan.  I have volunteered at Chitardai twice myself, in 2010 and 2011, working with the English teacher in his lessons and helping all the teachers to develop their school motto ‘Learn Through Play’ by showing them a number of techniques for active learning – I must confess it’s my favourite of the places where I have volunteered.  Other volunteers have taken a similar approach: bringing books, games and a variety of other resources to show the children (and teachers) that learning English can be fun!  Like all of us who volunteer, I have sometimes questioned whether the resources I took to Chitardai were really relevant and useful to them, and whether the teaching techniques I demonstrated to the teachers would ever be used when I returned to the UK.  So it was fantastic to see on this trip that some of the teaching strategies and resources taken to the school by me and other people and places volunteers are now embedded in the school.  Some examples . . .  Read the rest of this entry »