Kaya was set up in 2008 by our Director, Heilwig Jones, after her own volunteering experiences and many years’ involvement with community projects. The idea behind Kaya is to bring together the quality and impact of grass roots projects with the breadth of choice, quality of structure and organization and level of service that enables everyone the opportunity to contribute to positive action and enjoy traveling the world more responsibly.
Kaya is a word which means a lot in a number of the communities we work with. In the Filipino Waray language, it means “I can do it!”, in Zulu “my spiritual home” and in Buddhism “the enlightened one”.
Responsible travel is about seeing the world in a manner that most respects and benefits local people, culture and the environment – it’s travel in the real world, not tourism.
Kaya’s mission is to promote sustainable social, environmental and economic development, empower communities and cultivate educated, compassionate global citizens through responsible travel.
Every year thousands of people travel the globe looking to explore new environment and experience different cultures, with a spirit of adventure and a desire to learn more about the world.
As global travel becomes more accessible, and we look to visit further and more exotic locations, we often discover that the real world is not always easy to uncover, and often visitors don’t get a chance to see beyond the window that tourism can offer.
As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to become a real part of the environments, lives and communities of the world’s developing nations. And whether you chose to work on projects that benefit the wildlife, the environment or the people, you come away knowing that your being there has positively impacted those you have visited.
Our volunteers tell us that working on genuine, meaningful and sustainable projects and their time spent living with and getting to know an area and its locals is the most exciting, fulfilling and fun traveling they have experienced.
So we think the real question should be - why not volunteer?
At Kaya, we pride ourselves on delivering only what is best for our volunteers and best for the communities which we are working with. You will find many volunteer organizations to choose between today, and many of these are also offering great placements around the world. But we believe that no-one works closer with their volunteers and with the receiving communities on the ground to make sure everyone can achieve the greatest benefits that volunteering has to offer.
Our project model means that we only commit to projects where there is a genuine need for the physical aid of a volunteer, not just financial assistance, so every volunteer is welcomed and is useful. We help to shape these initiatives which in the long run does not encourage dependence on aid, but instead establishes foundations upon which the people of that country can build and develop themselves. And we ensure that the members of those communities are open and eager to learn and discover our culture as we become a part of theirs.
We know that a volunteer is not a tool! In order for the project to benefit from your participation, it needs you to arrive prepared and committed to the work at hand. You can only do this if you know enough about the place you are visiting, the project you are working on and the task you are expected to undertake. Every Kaya volunteer is provided with extensive information about every aspect of the trip before they set off and we ensure that before you go, you speak in person to a member of the project team on the ground. This way you can discuss your concerns, get all the details on the day-to-day or just check on the weather!
We believe that volunteering with Kaya can guarantee you a life-changing experience – and that the key to providing that lays very simply in these 7 golden rules
Feel safe in our hands – with every new adventure comes the excitement of facing the new and unknown, and while in the real world we cannot remove all the risks, we can make sure you are never put in harm's way with us.
Know you will be appreciated – We ensure that all Kaya projects are genuinely in need of help provided by volunteers , not just destinations set up for the purposes of receiving more people. So your participation and hard work will always be welcomed and appreciated.
Do work that is Meaningful – Often the part a volunteer can play in a project , especially on a short stay basis, will be a small part of a much bigger initiative, but we will ensure you are shown the full picture so you can see how the role you play in that is genuine and vital.
Know the work is Achievable – All Kaya projects have set aims and strategic plans with set goals along its way, so we know how we are doing at every stage to keep the projects on track and the work achievable.
Sustainable work - Kaya ensure that all our projects contribute to long-term benefits which enable our host communities to improve their futures, not just benefit whilst volunteers are there.
Everybody learns a little – In every volunteer encounter, the volunteer and the local people should always learn something from each other - and we develop an environment that maximizes those opportunities.
We insist on having fun - Because laughter is a global language
Kaya staff are often asked “why should I pay to volunteer when I am giving up my free time and sharing my skills and experience?” It is a good question and one that is easily explained.
You are right that you are giving up time and it costs money to travel to far away destinations. However, the money you pay not only goes towards finding the best placement for you, it also ensures that money goes to the communities and projects. The communities in which you will be living and working often have very little money, and the projects themselves are seeking volunteers to support them in areas where they do not have the money to get support locally.
All of our placements are supported by services that must be paid for: you will be collected from the airport, receive orientation on arrival regarding health and safety, food (on most placements) and accommodation. You will also have 24/7 support from in-country staff as well as access to 24/7 emergency support in-country and internationally. A portion of your fees also goes to the project itself to pay for staff and project activities.
You can find many organisations and projects by searching directly on the Internet. However, many people unwittingly fall for scams and find their placements aren’t genuine on arrival or that involve hidden costs. At Kaya we work with trusted partners on genuine, sustainable projects that have been vetted. We continually check that the projects are on track and make site visits (but not extensively to avoid incurring huge international travel bills). Ensuring that the quality and safety of placements is what our volunteers are looking for, and it takes time and money but it is worth the investment.
Supporting a volunteer and ensuring that we are working with quality placements that meet international ethical standards takes time and resource. We advertise on a range of websites, visit fairs and provide an online chat service on our website meaning that you have access to a whole range of information and opportunities to find out more about the placements on offer. We also have an experienced volunteering placement support team who have all volunteered internationally themselves, and therefore know the issues and questions that it is important for you to ask. This ensures that you are prepared for the best placements for you, as well as being a great match for our projects.
See a full breakdown of "Where my money goes”.
Kaya volunteers come from all walks of life. Whether you are taking a gap year, a career break if you are retired or just taking a holiday; traveling alone, in a group, with friends, partners or family, there is a Kaya project to suit you.
Most of our projects don’t require you to have qualifications or specific skills, just a positive attitude and the commitment to learn from the local communities and staff to drive the project to success.
For those of you who have skills that can benefit the projects, and even if you are looking to develop your professional skills in a developing country, your help is invaluable and Kaya staff will work with you to ensure your role matches your skill.
Internships, group ventures and specialist projects can be arranged by request.
There are a number of ways you can raise funds to pay for your placement fees and flights, and a surprising number of people who want to help you out when they find out what you are getting involved with. We've pulled together a quick guide to the best fundraising tips to help you on your way.