We frequently receive calls from parents (often asking us not to let their children know that they have contacted us for fear of embarrassing them!) who, understandably, want to ensure that their child is going to come home to them safely after a volunteering trip abroad.
This blog is for you, (in an attempt) to put your mind at ease!
You’ve managed to successfully raise an adventurer, and that is a fantastic achievement, so you deserve some serious praise for this. You have raised a human being that realises the faults of the rest of man; somebody who is willing to dedicate their own time and money to travel across the globe to come to the aid of endangered animals.
It means you have encouraged your child to be brave, and have provided a strong example that it is good to try new things, see new places, meet new people, to be bold, to seize opportunities, and to live life to its full potential!
The fact that they are now wanting to go and do so means that they must have listened to you and taken your advice on board – that’s a win to be celebrated, even if other everyday instructions such asking them to tidy their room may still go ‘unheard’…
But, now you face the next step (the tougher one)…because they’re old enough to wander out into the world and explore exotic lands on their own, and you’ve got to actually let them do it to avoid contradicting yourself and appearing like a hypocrite after all this time. EEK!
You’re uneasy about your child attempting to travel without you, because at home you know full-well that they’d leave the house without their head if it wasn’t already attached, and you’ve now realised that you may not be able keep track of them every day whilst they’re out of your reach, so the reality of this situation is sinking in, and you are stricken with fear for their well-being.
After all, your job as the parent/guardian is to keep them safe, right? You’re meant to make sure they are always ok, and how can you do so if they’re off in the jungle/desert/African bush and have no access to internet/phone signal…what if something happens?!
(To the offspring reading this blog, please note that these feelings/thoughts are normal – or so my own mother would certainly claim, since she was a wreck for the few months of my travels!)
(If you had not already considered that these destinations would not have internet access/phone signal, then I suspect full blown panic has now set in - apologies!)
Unfortunately, many of the projects are located in remote areas, or within developing countries, so a lack of communication is often unavoidable.
However, we are in constant contact with our in-country teams, who will notify us of any problems, in the unlikely event that any should arise.
If a volunteer does not meet for their transfer following their arrival flight, we are called immediately, and we will call you!
This is why all volunteers have to include emergency contact information on their traveller details form when booking one of our trips – therefore, if you change numbers for any reason, please let us know so we can update our records.
All projects have emergency communication facilities and emergency protocols in place. Also, you can reach us in our UK office between 8.30am - 5pm Monday to Friday, and we do have a 24 -hour emergency telephone line should anyone need it.
All volunteers are given this number on a document within their account, along with the emergency in country contact numbers, and this is accessible as soon as a booking is confirmed.
We strongly recommend that this is printed off to be taken with the person travelling, but you are more than welcome to ask your progeny to print off an extra copy for you in case you urgently need to reach them whilst they’re away! In addition to a printed copy, we would definitely recommend having a screenshot of these numbers on their mobile phones, as well as in the form of an attachment in an email. You can never be too careful, after all.
(However, I must stress that these are for emergency use only, so please do not abuse your use of them.)
Health and safety is treated as a top priority, with safety precautions taken wherever possible and advice, instructions, and training where necessary is given to all participants on every project. However, we cannot 100% promise you that nothing bad will happen whilst your child is travelling. Accidents can happen anywhere! Just know that in this event, there will be plenty of professionals around who know what to do and how to act fast.
My own personal travel injury involved a “slip up” in a waterfall in Malaysia (I had to squeeze a dad joke in here somewhere!) whilst on one of my first volunteer projects, and I landed on my back, on a rock. I was very careful, but it still happened!
As I hobbled back down the jungle track to reach the road in the hopes of flagging a taxi, I really wanted my mum! But since that was not a realistic solution to my predicament, I had to make another plan.
It was time to be a real adult! (I should probably mention I was 21 by this point…better late than never?)
I emptied out the contents of my bag as my mobile phone had conveniently wriggled its way to the bottom, only to find that I had forgotten to charge it – I have since learnt from this experience, and take a charger pack with me as a backup when travelling now.
Luckily, there were a few other people around the waterfall, so I plucked up the courage to ask someone if I could borrow their phone to make a quick call, and one kind soul was happy to help, as they had witnessed my not-so-elegant landing.
I called my in-country emergency contact, who spoke to a taxi driver for me to instruct him on which hospital to take me to, and then he told me not to worry and that he would meet me there, which he did.
I had x-rays done and was given painkillers (though very cheap, I was glad to have budgeted some extra cash for emergencies - I always recommend volunteers take more spending money than less, just in case something unexpected crops up!), and was told to take it easy for a couple of days.
The hospital was well run and clean; the staff were friendly; and I still think the bruising cream I was given in Malaysia was far more effective than any I have used previously in the UK, should anyone be dubious about the standard of medical treatment outside of their country of residence.
This experience taught me a lot, both about myself and for any trips going forward:
As much as I was hoping this story could be a relatable example of how an unfortunate incident turned out ok in the end, I realise it also highlights that I am in no way an expert when it comes to looking after myself. But, it’s an honest account; one that I hope you see the funny side to as much as I do now, and perhaps this might take the edge off your worries? Because, despite my lack of prowess, I’m still alright!
If you still need further reassurance, perhaps I can provide you with some other helpful details.
Each of our projects require adequate insurance cover to take part, and we do offer a tailored policy from Endsleigh specifically for our projects that volunteers can purchase through their accounts with us.
The main reassurance I can offer you, though, is that there are members of staff on hand at all of the project sites, who will ensure your children are taken to receive any medical treatment necessary, or even just be there for them if they are glum and missing home.
Don’t take it personally if they don’t admit to missing you, and I must highlight that the majority of volunteers have such a great time on their adventures that the thought of touching base back home (even when possible) can simply slip their mind.
Now, if we’ve reached this point and I still haven’t convinced you, then I guess your instinct is probably telling you to hide their passport, tear up their plane tickets and then proceed to permanently ban them from ever leaving the house again, but perhaps a few positives to focus on could change your mind enough to let them go after all:
Travel experience will help your child to develop their people skills, to understand other cultures, and to have a greater appreciation for other walks of life. They’ll learn to use their initiative and to break comfort zones, and even if they make a few mistakes along the way, they will be lessons learnt for next time.
The work that volunteers carry out on our projects is beneficial to all manner of endangered animals all over the world, and helping these will help to replenish the world we live in today. As of the 2nd August, the Earth has used more natural resources that could possibly be renewed in the space of a year and this is known as Overshoot Day. Your child, your baby, has grown into someone that wishes to spread awareness of the plight of the Earth and all its inhabitants in an attempt to create a sustainable future for all.
Let them explore and discover themselves. Sometimes a bit of soul searching is all you need, and connecting with beautiful creatures on foreign soil is a great step towards finding out who you are. It’s time to cut the strings, kick the kids out of the nest for a bit, and get them flying!
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