Frequently asked questions

Your go-to-place for all the questions we have been asked over the years. If your question isn't answered here please use the Speak to an advisor button in the bottom right of our website and we will be happy to help.

GENERAL

Do you have offices across the globe?

Kaya’s main office is located in Manchester, in the UK but we also have an office in the United States and in Asia. You can contact the offices on our main UK number +44 (0)161 860 6212 or +1 413 517 0266.  We can arrange for our placements advisors to call you back at any convenient time and have an online form dedicated to just this. Just pop in your name, email, contact number and local time zone, and we’ll do our very best to get hold of you for the time that you have specified.

How flexible are you with travel dates?

All of our projects have certain start dates depending on the country and in some cases the project that you are interested in. To find this out click on the project of your choice and look at Start Date information at the top of the screen. You can apply up to one year in advance and we do recommend applying 3 – 6 months in advance of when you want to volunteer to give both us and the project on the ground sufficient time to arrange all of the details associated with your placement. Arrivals and departures outside set dates may sometimes be possible, but may incur some additional charges.

PLACEMENT

Do you provide any training before I arrive?

Yes. After you register, we will provide you with a welcome pack that covers lots of important information about preparing for your trip. If you’re registered for a teaching placement, we have a comprehensive Teaching Tips Manual. For our internships, we have a Learning Reflection Document and we have several aids for those of you that are participating in a healthcare volunteering or internship placement. If you’re heading to a destination where they speak a different language, we’ll assess your language level skills and suggest tips about how to prepare for your placement. Our knowledgeable staff are also readily available to answer your questions, either over the phone or by email, to help prepare you for your trip.

Do you accommodate special dietary requirements?

Yes, normally we can accommodate special dietary requirements but it can be difficult in some locations to make arrangements for this. If you tell us upfront if you have any dietary needs then we can discuss this with the project team when making recommendations about your placement. Vegetarian diets are usually not a problem in most locations, but we do ask for your understanding about the particulars that our in-country teams will be able to provide. We may ask you to bring along some supplements where local options are not always available (for example gluten free varieties of the foods you love)

Will you help me with my visas?

One you have signed up for a Kaya project, we will send you an informative Welcome Pack that has information and guidelines about the specific visa that UK and U.S volunteers will need to apply for. If we know the requirements for other nationalities, we also include those but as there are different visas for different nationalities, we ask that you check with your consulate for other country’s requirements. You can use the information in the Welcome Pack to help you and ensure that you obtain the right visa for your placement. In some destinations the visa rules frequently change but we do keep track of travel updates to ensure that these are up to date. The onus is on the individual volunteer to check the visa requirements with the relevant embassy to clarify their visa application process applicable to them.

I don't have much time available. Can I volunteer for just 1 week?

Most of our projects do require a 2 week minimum but there are a few that can receive volunteers for one week so if you really are constrained for time then just contact our advisors for details. Spring Break is an example of a one week placement. Wherever possible though, we do always encourage our volunteers to stay for at least 2 weeks, and more if possible – because after orientation and settling in, one week is never enough! Please remember that just as much work goes into a 1 week placement as a two week placement, so normally this is not a cost effective way to travel. Also, particularly with community work, relationships are an important part of the work you will do, and building those relationships takes a little time, which reduces what you can achieve in a short period. For this reason our 1-week options are often more manual or environment-based.

Can I have my own room?

We offer a range of accommodation options across our projects and sharing dorms or rooms is often popular with volunteers. However, we do recognise that this is not for everyone, and in some of our locations we are able to offer you the option to have your own room. In some instances, this will come with an additional fee, as this is different from the standard options offered to our volunteers. If you do wish to have your own room, please discuss this with a Kaya placement advisor and they will be happy to go through the options available to you in your country or area of interest.

I have a specific skill that I want to put to use. Do you have a placement for me?

Absolutely! We value skills and experience and really focus on matching people to projects where their skills are useful and of benefit to the local community. If you’ve got any particular skills that you’d like to share, we will look into where these will be of most use. Sometimes there are projects that would benefit from receiving advice and support from skilled volunteers that are not necessarily advertised on our website, so if you have a particular skill in mind that you would like to utilize, be sure to let us know as we may just have a project tucked away up our sleeve!

I can’t choose between 2 or 3 projects. Is there someone I can talk to?

Of course!  We have recruitment offices in the UK, the USA and in Asia so are available on the phones most hours of the day to give you advice on which project would be best for you and to help you in your decision. You are also welcome to email us with any questions that you might have and for advice on what project is the right fit for you. Every member of Kaya staff has worked, travelled, studied or volunteered abroad, and most have visited and volunteered on our own projects, so have first-hand experience of the countries and nature of the programme placements. Their knowledge of international travel and volunteering is invaluable, and they can give you good advice and tips to make the most of your placement.

I’m really interested in diving and already have my Open Water Certificate. Can you suggest something for me where I can get more qualifications?

Depending on your level of qualification and what you are hoping to gain from your project we can suggest a number of alternatives for you. We have marine conservation initiatives which provide first time divers with a PADI Open Water Certification, after this we can provide you with an Advanced PADI Qualification. If you are looking to further your credentials in underwater conservation we also offer a SSI Ecological and a SSI Environmental Monitoring Program in Thailand for participants staying up to 8 weeks.

How many volunteers will be on my placement?

The number of volunteers on each project varies throughout the year. US/European summers tend to be a popular time for travel (May- August), and typically some projects attract more volunteers than others. We spend quality time getting to know our volunteers to ensure they are matched to the best possible project for their profile. So if you have a preference for living and working with other volunteers, we can give you an idea of projects where these options are generally available. Alternatively if you are looking for a more remote placement without a crowd, we can also direct you on the best option.

I know what project I want to work on. What happens now?

Great! It is a simple procedure. If you are happy with the project that you have chosen and feel ready to secure your space on the project then we ask you to fill in our short application form on our website by clicking the Book Now button for the corresponding project. We then ask for a £180 or USD $315 deposit which will reserve your space on that program. If for any reason you are not accepted this will be fully refunded to you. If you are accepted then this deposit becomes non-refundable and will secure your spot on the project.  You will then just be required to submit the remainder of your project fee 6 weeks before the start date of your program. If you are signing up within the 6 week marker, we ask for you to submit your payment in full when you apply.

I’m really interested in studying medicine at University and would like to get more experience within the health setting. Is there anything you can suggest?

Yes! We have a number of projects which are open for those with a keen interest in health awareness and education, nutrition and community health outreaches as well as those interested in gaining a greater insight into the world of a third world clinic and medicine distribution. These projects do not require prior medical knowledge or training, however we will still ask for a CV to check your compatibility for the project. If you would like more help finding the right project, get in touch with one of our advisors and they can point you in the right direction.

I haven’t got enough avI’ve had to drop out for a number of personal reasons. Can I reschedule for another time?ailable funds to pay Kaya for my trip. Can you offer me any support?

Yes, of course! So long as you give us adequate notice (6 weeks or more) we can hold your deposit for 1 year from the date that you initially signed up for a project of your choice. If at that point you are still unable to complete your placement, then we will examine every case individually to assess whether we are able to extend this further.

ELIGIBILITY

Are there set times when I can volunteer?

At Kaya most of our projects run year round as we believe this is more sustainable than running placements for only set periods. Some projects may occasionally be closed during public and school holiday, but you find that even during Christmas, we still have some options available to you! For some projects that are weather dependant or relay on animal migrations, there may also be some dates where a project is unavailable. Most projects have specific start dates, such as the first or third Saturday of every month, or bi-monthly and there are set times for arrivals and departures. We always recommend that you check with one of our Placement Advisors before booking flights, especially for placements during July and August as the places can fill up very quickly.

Are there any medical or physical requirements?

Being in good health is a requirement as placements are often in warmer climes than many volunteers are used to and international travel can be hard on system. Pollution in some cities is an issue so please take this into account. Having good mental health is also important to be prepared for changes in culture. On conservation projects you will need to be fit as there is typically some physical work involved. On certain projects, we may need a note from your doctor to confirm that you are fit to travel and volunteer. To help clarify this information, you will be asked to fill in a medical form after registering. In the past, we have worked with disabled volunteers, identifying locatiosn that can accomodate for their particular needs,, so if you have any concerns about whether you can be eligible to participate, please inquire with one of our advisors and we will be happy to guide you.

Do I need any vaccinations, and when should I get them?

Yes, for many locations you will need vaccinations. The first essential step in safeguarding yourself before travelling abroad is to research vaccination requirements through the FCO, WHO or CDC. You should then visit a travel clinic or your local GP as they will be able to give you the best advice on vaccinations based on your personal health and where you are traveling. Remember to allow yourself plenty of time to receive your vaccinations before your trip as some come as a course of injections, clinics may have to order in supplies and certain vaccinations are required 6 weeks before departure. If you haven’t got lots of time before you depart, you should still get the necessary and recommended vaccinations.

I am not a native English speaker, can I still volunteer?

We welcome volunteers from all around the world. To qualify for one of our placements, you will need to be able to communicate effectively in English. You do not need to be a native speaker but you will need to be able to understand the correspondence that is sent to you and to be able to communicate with the Kaya and project teams. Spanish will be acceptable for some of our South American placements, and we have Spanish speaking staff who can help you. If you are unsure about your language abilities or have any questions on this subject, one of our team members will be happy to get in touch with you to discuss your options further.

Is there an application deadline?

Applications are accepted throughout the year and are subject to limited space availability. Some projects book up extremely quickly, especially during the European and U.S. summer holidays, so booking early is important! We can accept your deposit up to one year in advance, or 3 months prior to your program start date. Program fees are always due 8 weeks before any placement start date. In some cases, we can accept last minute sign-ups to leave and participate on a project within 2-6 weeks of their initial enquiry. While we do not recommend this as the best practice for volunteering, in some cases we can turn this around for you. However, this is not possible for all projects and it is also dependent on visa rules and vaccination advice, which you will need to check into. Note that you are in the best position to obtain your ideal placement if you plan at least 3 months in advance!

Can I use my volunteering experience towards my studies or for credit?

Any volunteering or internship experience is always a great addition to any CV/Resume! It will put into practice what you learn in the classroom and give you some field experience to support your studies. If you would like to obtain course credit in affiliation with your university, contact a Kaya Advisor and we can assess your requirements against the project’s needs. A small fee of £35/$61 administration fee applies to precess any paperwork yo may require for this. Some projects will request an additional fee if additional supervision needs or materials are neeeded to fulfil those requirements. We can also organise group programs for credit and we are happy to work with univerities to put together a placement that matches your goals. If you don’t initially see a project that matches your needs please get in touch as we are often able to work with our projects and identify a suitable placement for you.

Can I volunteer with my friend or partner?

Yes, we welcome volunteers who want to travel with their partners, friends, or in groups. Single-sex dorms are common so if you are coming with a husband or wife, or a friend of the opposite sex, and wish to share a room you will need to ask us so we can inquire whether this will be culturally appropriate. If you are not married, this is sometimes not acceptable according to local customs. Kaya always respects local customs and we appreciate your understanding to do the same. For our same sex couples and LGBT volunteers,we do recommend that you research the laws of the different destinations as unfortunately homophobia, and sometimes even the law is a big problem in some of our destinations, where others are much more open and accepting. One of our Kaya advisors will be happy to help you to select a location where you will be welcomed.

I would like to help teach children but I have no formal qualifications. Can I still apply?

Kaya’s Teacher Training Manual does just this – prepares volunteers for all forms of teaching placements. We understand the importance of feeling prepared, especially when faced with a room full of eager faces ready to learn from you and how for some, this may be a daunting prospect at first. Our Manual runs through warm up games, ice breakers, teaching topics and much more to help ease you in to your first few weeks of teaching.  All teaching volunteers receive a copy of this manual as soon as they apply and pay their deposit so that there is ample time to make preparations before you arrive. If you lready have teaching experience or a TEFL qualification, you will find you are given a lead role or more responsibilities than other volunteers (if you’d like them!)

If I am not from the UK or US, can I volunteer?

Approximately 25% of our individual volunteers are from countries outside of the UK and US. Our projects enjoy receiving a range of international volunteers as it enables project and community members to learn more about other cultures and destinations. As long as you are able to communicate in English with our team members and meet the visa requirements for the country you are visiting then you are welcome to volunteer with Kaya!

I have a family. Can I bring my children with me to volunteer?

We offer a fantastic mix of projects that are well-suited for families, and some of these can even accept younger children under 10 years old. All of our placements are a great way for volunteers to learn from each other and from their experiences, as everyone brings something unique to the project!

I don't really have any skills, so can I still volunteer?

Absolutely! If you don’t have any particular skills but are enthusiastic and willing to help where needed we have plenty of volunteering placements for you. Many of our projects don’t require any skills – just the energy and determination to work hard, and to learn from the training they provide! If you’re looking to gain particular experience for your CV/resume or are looking to gain certain skills, this is a perfect opportunity! Let us know what you’re hoping to achieve and we will look into the best options for you. Don’t underestimate what you can bring to a volunteer placement!

How old do I have to be to volunteer?

Most of our projects require you to be over 18 years old but we do have some projects that are able to accept under 18 volunteers so if you would like to find out more about these please just contact one of our advisors.  Also, if you are under 18 but have a friend/member of family who is over 18 and travelling with you, then in most cases they can act as a legal guardian for you allowing you to take part in the project. (we require parental consent in all these instances)

Do you have any age restrictions?

At Kaya we are proud to welcome a wide range of ages to our projects. Most of our projects are open to volunteers aged 18 and over as long as you are fit enough to carry out the activities on your chosen project. There is generally no upper age limit to participate, so long as you are healthy and purchase travel insurance, which is required of all of our volunteers! We also offer over 30 projects for responsible 16 and 17 year olds – specially selected to provide the support stuctures needed. You can search for in our “under 18s” section. We have a couple of placements for teenagers and, for those who travel with a friend or family member over 18, then some placement will allow them to act as legal guardians, with parental consent.

Do you accept last minute volunteers?

Yes we do. In the past we have arranged for volunteers to leave and participate in a project within 2-6 weeks of their initial enquiry. While we do not recommend this as the best pactise for volunteering, in some cases we can turn this around for you. Please note that this is not possible for all of our projects and you will need to be cross checked with Kaya staff and in country coordinators before we can confirm you. Some of our popular project become fully booked months in advance. In such cases that you are accepted, we do ask that you bear with us and the team on the ground when you arrive as everything may not have been arranged as smoothly as it would normally be. There are usually months of planning which go into hosting a volunteer and while everyone will endeavour to arrange your placement as quickly as possible we ask that you land in country with enthusiasm and also patience; after all, it was your decision to leave so soon!  To guarantee your space and give yourself enough time to prepare, try to book at least 3 months in advance.

FINANCES

How do I pay?

If you are applying for a new project, you can fill in an application form and submit your program deposit through Paypal on the secure payment portal found in the ‘Pay Now’ section of our website. Full payments can be submitted through Paypal, bank transfers and cheques. We receive payment in British Pounds (£) or US dolars ($). All of the details you need to make a bank transfer are listed on your invoice. If you have online banking you can use this or you can pop into your local bank and do the transfer there. If paying by cheque, we can provide you with our address.

What happens if I sign up and need to change my placement?

All deposits are non-refundable. We require this payment to secure your space in the accomodation and ensure that popular projects comitt to holding your space once they are full. If you need to change or cancel your placement, this is often possible, depending on when you change your mind! So long as you give us adequate notice (8 weeks or more) we can look at the option of changing your dates, or hold your deposit for 1 year from the date that you initially signed up for a project of your choice. If at that point you are still unable to complete your placement, then we will examine every case individually to assess whether we are able to extend this further. If you are looking to change your destination, this will be examined on a case-by-case basis. For more information, you can refer to our project terms and conditions.

What do I need to do for a visa?

Depending on your nationality and the country that you are visiting this will need to be checked in advance of you departing for your project. On the whole we work with tourist visas which are generally cheap and easy to secure. You may need to apply for this at your home embassy or will receive an entry stamp on arrival, but you need to make sure you are prepared before you head off and know exactly the requirements for entering the country of your choice. You will always need an up-to-date passport with at least 6 blank pages, as well as passport validity for 6 months after your departure date. Work, business and volunteer visas are expensive, difficult and often take months to procure and 9 times of out 10 these are not necessary for the work that you will be undertaking. If you are unsure of the type of visa you need for your project, feel free to ask one of our advisors. Once you have this information, you can check the requirements of the visa for your nationality at Visa HQ: https://www.visahq.com/citizens/

Where does my money go?

This is one of the most common questions we are asked, and the answer is that it always depends on your placement, your destinaton and how long you stay! We work in 25 different countries, so living costs vary considerably. Providing quality accommodation, airport transfers, meals (in most cases) orientations, and a project donation to support your host organization must all be paid for. Getting the word out about our projects also requires resources, and a portion of your fees will go toward administrative costs such as volunteer and staff recruitment, advertising, and website maintenance.

Project monitoring and evaluation is also vital to ensure that the projects we offer are genuine, safe, and well-run. We have reviewed our project to generate a chart that gives the avarage breakdown across our destinations.

You can fin out more here. We try to keep project costs down while ensuring we are providing sufficient support for our projects and our participants. This approach ensures a sustainable situation for those we want to help, and allows us to offer you a safe, supported placement on a project that we have thoroughly vetted.

Why do I have to pay to volunteer through Kaya?

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, project activities and materials.

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, or that the project is not a good match for them and they provide no benefit. At Kaya we work with trusted partners on genuine, sustainable projects that have been vetted. We continually evaluate our projects ensuring they are on track and visit sites to conduct risk assessments, ensuring that the quality and safety of placements is ensured for our volunteers. This takes time and money but it is worth the investment. Our volunteers and our projects recognise that this approach is the responsible way to really make a difference.

I don’t have my travel insurance yet. Can you recommend someone for me?

We have 2 recommended insurance providers, one that solely covers UK participants and one that covers participants from all over the world (including the UK).  If you book through one of our recommended insurance providers, you can be sure that you are covered for all activities that take place on your project.  If you choose to arrange your insurance through a different company, it’s important to speak to an advisor directly and let them know where you are going and what you will be doing.  That way they can arrange the appropriate level of cover for you and can ensure that you will be fully covered whilst volunteering on your project.

I have my own private health insurance policy, does this cover me to volunteer abroad?

For all programs it is mandatory for volunteers to have travel health insurance cover in case of an accident. With private health policies, this varies greatly from insurer to insurer and also depending on the level of cover that you have.  Many policies only cover you for healthcare within your own country so if you are thinking about just using your exisiting insurance rather than taking out travel insurance you should always contact your provider, explain to them what you will be doing, and check whether you will be covered whilst you’re away.  It’s also always advisable to take out some additional travel insurance as well to cover your belongings such as lost baggage or stolen items while you are away.

I haven’t got enough available funds to pay Kaya for my trip. Can you offer me any support?

Although we do not offer any bursaries for our projects, we do have a guide to fundraising which will give you some great and imaginative ideas about how to raise some extra money to help finance your trip. From marathons to shaving all your hair off, there are so many ways that you can get sponsorship from family and friends to help send you on your incredible adventure.  And often this fundraising process can form an invaluable addition to your CV.

I'm not sure I can afford it. How can you help me?

Although we do not offer any bursaries or grants for our projects, we do have a guide to fundraising which will give you some great and imaginative ideas about how to raise some extra money to help finance your trip. From marathons to shaving all your hair off, there are so many ways that you can get sponsorship from family and friends to help send you on your incredible adventure! This fundraising process can form an invaluable addition to your CV/resume, too! We can provide you with this information after you sign up and pay your program deposit.

I'm not sure whether to take currency in cash, what is the best way to organise my money whilst abroad?

There is no one right way to organise access to money whilst abroad, but there several different options, that can be confusing. In most cases, it depends on where you are; for instance a project in a remote location will have less chance to access ATM’s. Kaya have produced a guide that outlines the different options, to help you to decide how best to manage your money, which can be found by accessing this link.

SAFETY

Who do I contact if there is an emergency?

Your first point of contact in any emergency is the in-country coordinator or team member. They are in the best position to quickly assess and respond to an emergency situation. The next step is to contact the Kaya team through our 24/7 emergency response number (we may have been contacted by the in-country coordinator and know about this already. We always ask that you contact our in-country teams before contacting your family, as they are more able to assist immidiately and avoids unecessarily worrying those at home.

I’m worried about the safety of volunteering abroad. Do you have any procedures in place to help reassure me?

The safety of our volunteers is always our key priority. We have sets of emergency procedures in place to cover every eventuality; our volunteer coordinators carry an emergency phone 24/7 in case of incidents and are well trained in how to deal with any situations.  There is always a certain level of risk involved in travel within developing countries that we have less control over – the road safety is rarely as good as it is for us at home, there are tropical illnesses that exist and we do experience incidents of pick pocketing on occasions. However, we provide a thorough orientation on site that helps you minimise those risks, and pre-departure packs to help you prepare.

How is Kaya insured?

Kaya has public liability insurance that covers our placements across all our destinations. We are protected from insolvency through our consortium company – US based Gloabal Educators – that ensures that all participant payments are protected and will be returned in the event of insolvency. We require all our participants to take out their personal travel insurance to cover their time on our placemetns and this ensures our ground staff can attend to emergencies, safe in the knowledge that you are covered. For US group programs we offer an additional US based liability insurance. We recommend indemnity insurance for health professionals.

How do I know I will be safe on my placement?

At Kaya, your safety is always our key priority. We offer full support before and during placements, and have sets of emergency procedures in place to cover every eventuality. We only work with vetted projects and partners, which we review and conduct risk assessments with regularly, as we believe this is essential in keeping people safe. We keep updated on safety by monitoring the FCO (British Foreign Office), US Department of State and other national safety advisory organisations as well as global news broadcasts. In terms of the safety of the project staff and community members we request police checks for our participants.

You’ll receive pre-departure training and a thorough orientation on site that helps you minimize risks associated with traveling abroad. Our local staff are knowledgeable about local customs and will help you to be culturally aware during your stay. They carry an emergency phone 24/7 and they are well trained in how to deal with any situations. Through Kaya, you can travel with some peace of mind knowing we have your safety in mind!

I have my own private health insurance policy, does this cover me to volunteer abroad?

For all programs it is mandatory for volunteers to have travel health insurance cover in case of an accident. Regular domestic medical insurance is not the same as travel insurance and in many cases it will not cover you overseas. Most importantly, you need medical coverage that enables you to see a doctor or visit a hospital if you become unwell or suffer an accident while abroad – including repatriation for worse-case scenarios. You may also want special insurance that covers your luggage and possessions, flight cancellations or evacuation. We recommend purchasing a plan that offers comprehensive coverage and tends to cover the types of activities you will be getting involved with as a volunteer. For our qualified healthcare professionals, indemnity insurance is also required and we can give you details of insurers if you need help. Travel insurance is required on all of our projects, so if you are thinking about just using your existing insurance rather you should always contact your provider, explain to them what you will be doing, and check whether you will be fully covered whilst you’re away.

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