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Facing Ethical Issues

At Kaya we want to know that the projects, partnerships and actions of our participants are in line with international development, education and travel best practice.

We know that this is also important to you as a participant.  We therefore monitor and research issues and as a social enterprise we aim to work only with ethical placements and operating in line with international standards.  We explore many sources before deciding our stance and take into account news events, intellectual thinking, the views of leading national and international bodies linked to specific topics as well as evidence from our own experiences.

We recognise that there are different perspectives on many of the ethical issues that we have identified as a priority for us.  However, we have taken into account the different viewpoints and set out our current position.  We are happy to discuss these issues should you wish to do so.  If you want to know more, please email

Canned hunting

At Kaya we are active opponents of canned hunting and we work with projects and activists in the field and leaders in the global campaigns against this activity.  We are often asked why we work with lions and the simple answer is that we believe the projects that we work with are sustainable and have the best interests of the future of Africa’s lion population at heart.

Lion breeding programs are a very important scientific necessity for the survival of lions in Africa as the gene pool has depleted and inbreeding in lion populations is reducing life-span.  The consequence of this and the advent of feline HIV is so prevalent that a significant proportion of wild lions in Africa are now affected. The projects are aiming to address this.

Our lion programs work alongside ‘ALERT’ who are working with the African governments and leading environmental scientists.  Their aim is to find a way to breed back healthy prides with rich genetics and work towards release into areas where lion populations are depleted or already extinct. Using a staged process the aim is to release animals into the wild that have never been exposed to human contact.

The programs we work with are vital to the survival of the species and all those involved are passionate about lions. The work being done costs millions of dollars every year and funding for these projects is always difficult. For this reason the project relies on volunteers paying fees for the opportunity to work alongside these magnificent animals as a source of income, as well as paid tourist lion walks with the cubs who are already exposed to humans. Many of these cubs will eventually become a part of a pride that will be released into semi-wild environments.  They will produce offspring that will eventually be released into the wild.

It is true that not all lions will not demonstrate the capacity to become self-sufficient, and the program continues to house these individuals and occasionally will transfer them to zoos or pre-vetted programs.  As major forces in the anti-canned hunting lobby, they go to great lengths to ensure these are properly tracked.

We know that the work of these programs can be controversial as, to date, no release program has proved successful. However, as conservationists, it is imperative that the drive to secure the future of the lion is not abandoned.

In development and conservation we have a duty avoid making sweeping generalisations that unfairly remove support from the responsible programs that are making a real difference.   We support our project partners in their efforts as leading conservationists but if you have evidence contrary to our position please get in touch.

Carbon Footprint

Understanding the impact of your travels has become more and more important in recent years and at Kaya we recognise the importance of reducing your Carbon Footprint.  We partner with a reforestation programme that is working in communities in South Africa and Zambia to address the impact of deforestation which is having such a huge impact on our world.

If you are Kaya volunteer, student or intern we offer you the opportunity to offset some of your Carbon Footprint by purchasing a tree.  Not only will you buy a tree your donation will also purchase compost, organic fertiliser and mulch to support its growth.  To do this you simply tell your Kaya placement advisor that you wish to donate a tree and they will you add just £8 / $14 to your final invoice.  So why not take responsibility for the impact of your travels and help with global reforestation efforts by offsetting your Carbon Footprint.

Child Protection

Child Protection is a serious global issue and as adults we have a responsibility to ensure that we are familiar with guidelines for interacting with children at home, in schools and on projects.  At Kaya we take the topic of Child Protection very seriously and have produced our own Child Protection Policy.

To read Kaya’s Child Protection Document please click this link: Child Protection Policy by Kaya Responsible Travel 

The International Convention on The Rights of The Child 1989 sets out our responsibilities towards all children, both at home and abroad, and recognizes that children deserve respect as individuals.  Organisations, schools and projects (actors) globally have interpreted the 54 articles into Child Protection Policies that offer guidelines and rules on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children.  In many cases the articles that are most relevant and within the influence of the actors work and setting have been interpreted.  This is the approach that we have taken at Kaya.

The primary goal of Child Protection is to protect the rights of the child.  Children are not toys or the property of any individual and they have rights to education, healthcare, food, safety and freedom from abuse. At Kaya our Child Protection Policy focuses on contact, responsibility and behaviour towards children at the projects, in homestay accommodation and it the communities.

Distressing stories in the news report the abuse that children have suffered at the hands of those in more powerful or well off position, and unfortunately some of these people have been western travellers or expats.  However, the use of children to extort money from the more wealthy also takes place and children can be used to entrap internationally travellers being coerced into paying financial compensation. A comprehensive Child Protection Policy not only protects the child it also protects well-meaning volunteers, students and interns.

We recognise that there are local interpretations of children’s rights, that poverty challenges some of the assumptions and that long-standing cultural norms can be difficult to change.  We have taken what we believe to be best practice and implemented this into our Child Protection Policy. This document is shared with each of our volunteers, interns and students as well as our partner projects.  Many of our community partners have their own version of this document and discuss Child Protection in the in-country orientation.

As a project participant you have a responsibility to ensure that you have read and understood its contents and its impact on your conduct during your placement with Kaya.  As an organisation we have a duty to follow up if you express any concerns about a particular child, individual or project which we work with.  We can all help to protect our children so please ensure that you play an active and responsible role on your project with Kaya.

Orphanage Volunteering

One of the hottest ethical issues in the international development sector is orphanage volunteering.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term it refers to volunteers travelling overseas to spend time “helping”  “orphans”.

Due to growing international interest and support for orphans and orphanages, a number of problems have arisen.  International Organisations such as UNICEF, Oxfam and Save The Children are now applying pressure to clamp down on orphanage volunteering.  Kaya wholeheartedly supports the stance that has been taken against poorly run, fake orphanages and the goal of encouraging governments to protect children’s rights by providing shelter, food, education and healthcare.  Let’s look more closely at the issues.

Millions of pounds are donated each year to support children overseas in so called orphanages.   While many orphanages are genuine and give access to many of the basic Children’s Rights there are also many that are failing to meet certain standards.  An industry of orphanage volunteering has developed, whereby orphanages are set up to make money.  These orphanages are often associated with problems such as:

  • Homes that are not real, where children are borrowed from local families to pull on the heartstrings of tourists, with the purpose of eliciting money
  • Inadequate provision of care for the children
  • Children being kept to generate money rather than placing them in a family setting
  • Children being taken to orphanages as they are perceived to offer better care and shelter, meaning that they are estranged from their families
  • Governments delegate their duty of care and responsibility for children to private or community funded orphanages

At Kaya we have asked the following questions:

  • What care do you offer the children?
  • Why is this an orphanage?  What is the need for an orphanage?
  • What is the involvement with the local authorities?
  • What attempts are made to reunite or keep children in contact with their extended families?
  • What child protection policies are in place?


Placements at Kaya are at a small number of childcare centres, day care centres and orphanages where there is a need for care and good procedures are in place.   We recognise that there is a need in some countries for orphanages e.g. where there is high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate.  We do not work with orphanages in countries like Cambodia.

If you are someone who has appropriate skills or experience and are looking to volunteer at an orphanage please ensure that you do some research before you book or hand over any money.  If you book through Kaya you will need to complete a police record check, we will want to know what you think you have to offer and why the placement appeals to you.  We also have a code of conduct that asks that you respect the child’s right to privacy and rules regarding photography.  If you would like to talk about any of our specific placements please call our placement team on 0161 8706212.


We are often asked at Kaya about donations – can we give them and what should we donate?  The answer is  always check before you donate to ensure that what you are giving is needed, appropriate and that you are clear about its use.

Kaya encourages donations so long as they fit in with the ethos of the local project or partner. Since it can understandably be difficult to know exactly what to bring to a foreign country as a donation, we ask  you to check with a Kaya team member.  In many cases we have a list of the most needed items at your project and this can help you narrow down what is appropriate to bring. By checking in beforehand, it is more likely that you will bring items with you that maximize the benefits they create for the people receiving them

To help you with this process, we have put together the following tips about best practices for giving donations. This information has been based on the previous experiences of our volunteers, as well as some of our own:

  • Please do not give donations to the project beneficiaries without checking with a local project staff member first. It is better for the local team to distribute the gifts where they are most needed. This also helps to avoid the expectation that every volunteer will bring gifts with them, which is not helpful
  • Whatever you intend to donate, it’s a good idea to research whether the items are culturally appropriate, and appropriate for weather in the region you are visiting. For example, a large winter jacket would be excessive in a country with a hot and humid climate
  • Reusable, age appropriate books and crafting materials are preferable to toys, which are easily broken or outgrown
  • Really think about the donation you are providing—are you happy with it? Only provide donations you think will be useful or helpful
  • Consider whether you need to bring things with you, or can you raise some funds and purchase items locally to support the local economy
  • If you have raised funds, keep in mind that the projects will use it where they agree there is the greatest need. This might not be what you expected—for example you may prefer to build a playground whereas the project prefers to purchase food—so please be open to this.
  • Gifts that can be shared are preferable. It is very important not to play ‘favourites’ by providing gifts to some while excluding others, especially at child-care placements
  • Electronics, such as laptops or old cell phones, are very welcomed. However, to make sure they can actually be used, you should provide any complementary materials, such as power cords that match the voltage of the country you are visiting, or spare battery packs, as these are not always readily available and they are typically too expensive to be purchased locally
  • Remember that developing countries have limited waste management systems, so try not to bring anything that is on the brink of being broken, as these are difficult to dispose of properly if at all. Donations should not create any extra burdens or tasks for the person accepting them, or on the environment.

By following these recommendations, it can help to ensure that you can provide donations that are relevant to the needs of your host organization, and bypass the chance of bringing wasteful materials with you. A general rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t use the donation yourself, it’s unlikely that someone else can or will either.

If you have any questions about donations and whether it might be appropriate to make one in the particular context you will find yourself, one of our placement advisors will be happy to guide you on the subject. In addition, we can check with our local partners who may have a particular request about items most needed at the time you will travel abroad.

Ethical Healthcare Volunteering

At Kaya, we are delighted to be able to offer a range of quality healthcare volunteer and internship placements in Africa, Asia and Latin America that fall in line with best practice and ethical standards in international healthcare volunteering.  We want to adhere to these standards and know that you, as someone who is either thinking about a career in healthcare, who organises placements for those who are planning to join the sector or as a qualified professional in the field, will want to do so too.

In order to deliver this pledge, a research project was conducted by the projects team at Kaya that resulted in a set of guidelines, that we follow in the implementation of all Kaya healthcare placement.  We consulted many resources to identify the common themes in ethical thinking and best practice within the international healthcare sector, with a specific focus on volunteering.  We undertook online research, joined global health seminars, attended university lectures, read articles by leading thinkers in international development, consulted resources from leading education and healthcare providers, spoke to respected healthcare professionals and had in-depth discussions with our in-country partners.

The were common messages regarding global health and the role of participants in overseas placements identified in the research, with most sources agreeing that there were many important benefits of placements abroad for both the participant and the project.  The main topics that we identified:

  • Placements are an exchange and should not be regarded just as a training course, with a recognition that the local team and resources must always prioritise their responsibility to their patients and their clinic/project over the instruction of or attention to the visiting participants.
  • Preparation of interns and volunteers for placements is essential
  • Do no harm – volunteers and interns should only be allowed to participate in healthcare activities in which they are fully trained or qualified, and work alongside local healthcare professionals who understand the context.
  • Placements should be vetted to ensure they are appropriate for volunteers and interns.
  • “Show and tell” must be avoided – privacy, dignity and empathy for patients should exist at all time.
  • If one participant takes part in a procedure it does not necessarily mean that it is acceptable for others to do so – they may have different training and experience which enables them to do so.
  • Western approaches and solutions do not fit all situations- consideration of the local context is vital.
  • Qualified medical professionals are required to register in many countries and if that is not possible they should only undertake a capacity building and education role.
  • Indemnity insurance should be acquired by qualified medical professionals
  • Volunteers and interns should not be the primary providers of healthcare provision.
  • Agreements should be put in place to set expectations of the local team as well as the volunteer/intern.
  • Evaluation of the impact of a placement should take place both for the volunteer/intern and also the community and local healthcare team.
  • Students have to be made aware that the exposure to experiences that breach ethics and best practise guidelines can have a negative impact on their records – countering the idea that getting maximum involvement beyond their abilities is of benefit (which is if the case for placements within other disciplines) instead leaving students exposed to criticism and judgement over their lack of ethical understanding.


As a result of our findings we have developed a range of documents to help volunteers and interns understand their responsibilities and role, as well as enabling the Kaya team to best match pre-med, medical students and healthcare professionals to project placements.  If you want to know more about our healthcare placements for yourself or your faculty please contact a Kaya Placement advisor on 0161 8706212 or click the contact us button and request a brochure.


Kaya is a genuine volunteering organisation focused on global citizenship that works with sustainable projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America.   The term voluntourism has arisen as people have begun to question the value of volunteering.  We certainly recognise that there are many organisations out there that fall into the voluntourism category as they do not offer sustainable support for projects. Here is our stance on the points raised by those who have raised concerns about volunteering.

The term voluntourism is a popular title that is used to describe the combination of holidaying whilst participating in temporary volunteer or charity work. Voluntourism placements are appealing because they make it possible to enjoy a holiday while giving back to underserved communities, usually for a short period of time.  However they are deemed to have very little lasting impact on the communities they serve.

Some projects are more catered to entertaining volunteers on their holiday than they are to benefitting local communities and people often only travel for short periods of time.  At Kaya, our projects are assessed to ensure that they have genuine goals, and that volunteer resource is used in a productive manner.  We do not allow volunteers to replace local staff and check in regularly with to ascertain the current needs of the projects and communities.  Our placements are not a holiday and we expect our volunteers to commit to the project during their placement.

The shortness of volunteer placements has been criticized under the voluntourism banner.  Kaya recognises that there are projects where placements are for only 2 weeks and volunteer presence can be helpful such as wildlife and conservation projects that rely on data collection to establish their priorities and success of their activities and volunteers help with this labour intensive process.  Some of our other placements do accept shorter term volunteers where they are part of a bigger programme and larger numbers of volunteers enable the work to be completed.

The impact of volunteer support has been questioned.  At Kaya we provide pre-departure materials for our volunteers discussing local customs, dress code, safety, and expectations and challenges associated with living and working in a different country. We also work with projects that are seeking skilled volunteers to help train local staff and build the capacity of the organisation.  Through our matching process, we request CV’s/resumes and match appropriately experienced and skilled volunteers to our projects.  The outcome is that our volunteers and interns leave behind procedures, tools and skills that continue to benefit local teams, organisations and communities.

With so many projects available worldwide, it can be difficult to know which ones are genuine and have a real need for volunteers.  Kaya only works with sustainable projects which are ongoing and not ones that have been specifically designed with tourists in mind.  We have partnerships in place with local projects and organisations to demonstrate our ongoing commitment.  Whether working on a general placement, or one that requires a specific skill-set, rest assured that all of Kaya’s projects have the goal of creating lasting benefits whether they are supporting wildlife, communities or NGOs.