Far from planning holidays at sunkissed resorts, sipping cocktails on the beach, there is a growing trend for women over 50 to participate in ‘voluntourism’ , combining travel with volunteering. But how do you go about volunteering, and how do you know what project is right for you?
Is volunteering for you?
I spoke to Kate Stefanko co-founder of www.travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk about what to expect from a volunteer placement.
“If you arrange your volunteer placement through a reputable company, who work with you to define your specific requirements – and limitations – you can specify the level of accommodation acceptable to you, the environment and the type of voluntary work suited to your own particular skills.”
What are the types of skills which would lead to a successful volunteer placement?
“A reputable voluntary placement organisation will look to place a volunteer in a project where they can add value and enable a skills transfer, leaving the project better skilled than on their arrival. There is a perception that volunteer placements are available for only nursing and teaching professionals. This is not the case at all. Many other skills are required. By the time a woman reaches her 50s, she will have gained skills in managing a home, budgeting and catering for family events. In areas looking to develop facilities for tourism, these are skills which need to be taught to local residents, so they can offer tourist accommodation and facilities of a suitable standard. We had one volunteer who had a passion for cycling- we just happened to have an opportunity with a town looking to set up a bicycle project – it was a win win situation.
This can vary enormously, but you should be looking to pay approximately $1500 a month plus travel to the volunteer assignment.
How long is a typical volunteer assignment?
Typical assignments are 4-8 weeks. But you can opt for 3, 6 or 9 months.
What questions should you ask?
- How did the particular project come about? Who instigated it?
- Ask how the money you are paying is being spent. How much is staying in the local project?
- What is their philosophy re skills transfer?
- What kind of support will I have?
- Who can you talk to who has already volunteered on the project?
- Is there adequate insurance cover?
Do most volunteers travel alone or with friends?
Most volunteers go alone, but some volunteer as couples. Some of the most rewarding are when mothers and daughters volunteer together/mothers and sons volunteer together. It adds an extra dimension and families get to see each other in another light.
What tips would you give somebody going on a volunteer placement?
- Always take pictures of your home and family- family applies to everyone and this can be a real ice breaker.
- Take language sheets with you with basic phrases
- Make sure you are aware of the local code of conduct.
- Make sure you research thoroughly beforehand.
What do the volunteers gain from the experience?
Most volunteers come away with an understanding of how life works for other people. Living within a community you learn a lot about lives. They find the experience very meaningful and learn a lot about themselves too.
You can find more information about volunteer placements at www.travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk