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13th October in Reading – volunteer social confirmed – will you be there ?

we’re ready to meet you

Our volunteers’ get-together next month is confirmed – we know where we’re going to be and which of our previous and future volunteers are going to be there … though we would certainly be delighted if more of you would like to come along: the more, the merrier!

So, if you’d like to join us and other volunteers on the afternoon of 13th October in central Reading, please email kate@travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk as soon as possible so that we can add you to our list of attendees.

We’ll soon be emailing everyone who’s already accepted our invitation with full details of the afternoon’s location, transport links etc.


volunteering – the right people in the right places

I (Kate) just LOVE my job and I thought you’d like to read these snippets from 2 recent volunteers about how ‘people and places’ works closely with volunteers, right from the beginning – doing our utmost to put the right people in the right places:

‘I was very impressed (and grateful!) that when my original allocated project proposed a job role that didn’t quite align with my experience, People & Places organised for me to change to Treak. This was a perfect fit and I’m glad I ended up there!’
‘Kate and the team at People and Places were very helpful, accommodating and efficient in
organising my time volunteering. I got in touch hoping to get away as soon as possible with short notice and they were able to make it work for me whilst managing my expectations. I appreciated Kate advising me on the country that might be best suited to me and she put me in touch with others whilst she was away so that the process could be sped up!’

New partners for the volunteer programme in Saint Lucia

We are thrilled to welcome Nova Alexander and her team from Sacred Sports Foundation Saint Lucia to our team of local partners.

Nova introduces herself and the team.

The Alexander Family

My name is Nova Alexander, a Nottinghamshire born & bred lass of Saint Lucian parentage. Along with my two brothers, I relocated to Saint Lucia in 2009 and have a wealth of experience in the travel, hospitality & tourism industry and will be your primary contact during your stay in Saint Lucia.

The idea of working together as a family in business has been an inspiration almost since birth. Our aim is to be the catalyst for change. We are a well recognised charity and one of the few legally registered independent non-profit organisations in the Caribbean dedicated to improving the lives of regional youth through the use of physical education, sport for development, social transformation and life skills. We have garnered support in recent years from the European Union, UNESCO and the Australian Government, alongside a host of local and regional partners.

At a micro level the Foundation will continue to positively change the lives of those we work with, providing opportunities for people from all around the world.

At a macro level, we hope to influence the sporting family and bring about active debate that leads to real change – empowering participants in the most socially life affirming activity there is: SPORT!

The Caribbean has become a forgotten child. Lost amid the images of a tourism paradise are social challenges every bit as daunting as in less illustrious destinations. The island of St. Lucia has one of the highest levels of rural and urban poverty in the Caribbean; youth unemployment among 16-25 year-olds currently stands just over 54% and is considered to be among the highest in the Caribbean. 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 »

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 »

Special needs skills? want to volunteer in Kenya – NEW project!

We have wanted to work in Kenya for some time – we know many of you want to travel and

Gede special needs school

volunteer there.

Finally we have found the very partners we want in the team at Turtle Bay  –

Our Education Advisor,  Dianne visited them in autumn last year and we know the special needs boarding school Gede that Turtle Bay supports is the perfect volunteer placement for people who want to immerse themselves in the care for special kids in a challenging environment

…..but be very comfy at the end of their working day!

Take a look at the project here

and take a look at you home!!!!!!!!!!!!

The beach a moments walk from your room

Common Mistakes Made Before, During and After Volunteering

Some musings by Sallie as published by Volunteer Forever -( a great site for info and fundraising for your volunteer trip. and how clever is the graphic!)

This is my take on the most common mistakes made BEFOREDURING and AFTER volunteering.

I want to precurse by stating clearly that I believe the vast majority of people who volunteer are doing so with the best of intentions. Our work at people and places brings us into contact with some pretty blooming marvelous people – some of whom may have made some of these mistakes, some of whom made none – oh shut up and get on with it Sallie…


1. (And most important of all) – not asking questions – just about every organization that recruits volunteers now lists questions volunteers should ask…..

2. Believing just because an organization tells you the questions you should ask that they are going to answer them fully. Beware smoke and mirrors! The answer to “where does the money go?” is easily whitewashed by allocating a whole load of costs to “project development” – yea but what does that mean and where does it happen… in the host country or in a cozy office in the UK or USA? Is the well paid chief exec’s whole salary allocated to project development? (if you need a reminder about the questions you should ask, Click Here)

3. Taking “stuff” – let’s face it, luggage allowances are low and if you are going for a month or so you will need the whole of the allowance for yourself . Please do not be tempted to take things with you for your project unless you have been advised to do so by the project or placement organization. In many instances the “stuff” can be purchased locally for at least the same price if not lower – and you are adding to local wealth – BUT most important of all is it sustainable? – will the project be able to repair it or replace it when you are gone ( so often we hear that perhaps a battery driven appliance would be a good idea if the project has no electricity – mmmmm but who’s paying for the batteries?) and indeed do they have the skills to use it? Is it culturally appropriate? – you see it’s a minefield!

4. Making unrealistic plans – our advice to our volunteers ( who are usually highly skilled professionals) is to “take what you think you may achieve and halve it – then halve it again – and then reduce it by 50%”….and remember, your reality is not necessarily the reality of the project you will be working with. You have skills but just about without exception you do not have MORE skills than local people just DIFFERENT skills from local people – and many of your skills just ain’t relevant skills in that environment. Read the rest of this entry »

Volunteering: A (Former) Child’s Perspective of Visitors to the Home

There is much debate about the ethics of  volunteering in orphanages – we at people and places are leading a fair bit of it! Yesterday on twitter @pandpvolunteer  I “met ” Mandy  who for some of her childhood lived in a children’s home –  below is her story – it is a powerful voice for the children and carries invaluable advice for volunteers. Thanks so much Mandy

If you’d like to learn more about the Better Child Protection click here

 and Better Volunteering  take a look here


Mandy Southgate

When I was sixteen and my brother eleven, we were taken out of home by social services and put into a group home. Adoption and fostering were not an option because our mother still played an active role in our lives and so I stayed there until I finished school and my brother until he moved back home at the age of fifteen.

My experiences in the home were overwhelmingly positive. I was finally able to get the nourishment, clothing, material and emotional support to finish school. The same charitable trust paid for me to go to university and everything from fees, books, accommodation and pocket money were paid for. A generous donation from an anonymous benefactor also enabled me to purchase my first car and put down a deposit on my first home.

The cycle of poverty was truly broken but that is not why I am talking to you today. I’d like to talk about visitors to the home and the often negative experiences we had of them. Because my gratitude far exceeds my desire to complain, I will frame this in terms of what we can learn about these experiences.

Let me start off by saying that my home had a lot of visitors. The number of children in the home was understandably large in the post-World War II period and many of those people returned to the home as adults with their children and grandchildren. In addition, the committee was comprised of old residents and members of the community were welcome during religious occasions, festivals and special events.

Be careful what you say to vulnerable children and the labels you apply to them. During one festival, a woman I had never seen before was standing with her very young daughter when a bell went off. The child asked what the bell was for and the mother replied that it was to tell the orphans that it was time to eat. Out of all the children in the home at that time, only one was actually an orphan while the rest of us had living but dysfunctional parents. I cannot begin to tell you how offended I was by being called an orphan, so much so that my indignation still feels fresh over 20 years later. Read the rest of this entry »