With over 1.6 million international volunteers each year, it will be no surprise that the “doing good travel bug” is affecting all generations, including teenagers. You may have heard about volunteering abroad through the school network, the internet or even from an acquaintance whose child went. Or you may even have heard about it directly from your own child! Whatever the situation might be, the idea of having your own teenager go abroad can be daunting for a parent. Now, you are faced with the issue of whether you should encourage them to go or not.
As a parent, you might find many reasons not to let your child go abroad. At kaya, we try to address the parents’ concerns up front to ease you through the process of letting your child experience the world surrounding them.
From our experience, parents worries tend to gravitate around the following question:
- Will my child be safe? Safety is a natural concern from parents. But the reality is that your child is more likely to be a victim of a crime at home than abroad. As you evaluate volunteer abroad program provider, you should make sure that the provider has checked out the placement and has some safety measures in place. For instance, Kaya’s programs have been assessed prior to being offered, and we have developed a risk assessment on each one of the location. All of our host families have gone through a background check. We also give participants’ information on safety prior to departure in their Welcome Pack, as well as at arrival with a local team who will give them an orientation. The safety of our participants is always in the back of our mind with everything we do. All of our programs have a coordinator who provides support to the volunteers 24/7 during their duration of their stay.
- Will my child be alone while on the project? Or how will I be able to keep in touch? While this cannot be guaranteed, many of our projects accepts more than one volunteer at a time, so isolation is very unlikely. Also, communicating in the third world countries can be a challenge but it’s easier than it ever was. All of our projects provides time for participants to access wifi either on the spot, or in an internet cafe. You may also consider turning on an international option on their cell phone or have them buy an international calling card or even an international SIM card (which will work as long as their phone is unlocked). There are also many free apps they can access to talk when they have access to wifi like skype, whatsapp, facebook and its messenger.
- What about their health? We recommend you visit a health clinic prior departure to make sure that all the vaccines and/or medications needed are taken care of. We also ask that you have a health insurance coverage in case of an emergency. But don’t worry, our local team on the ground will take care of everything to get them to a doctor or hospital if need be.
- My child has never traveled alone – if you are concern about your teenager traveling alone to the project, many airlines have unaccompanied minor services who will make sure that they get where they are supposed to be. Every airline has different requirements so you might want to check prior to booking your ticket. At the arrival airport, our local team will meet your teenager and take them to the accommodation. From there, your teenager will learn his/her way around the town thanks to a thorough orientation from our local partner.
- How can we afford to pay their trip out of our family budget? Many parents don’t always know of the resources available out there to fund that kind of travel. But we have already done the work for you! So if you wonder how you will finance their trip, check out some of our fundraising ideas, as well as grants and scholarship they might be eligible for.
The benefits of of your teen volunteering abroad are endless. For a start, it prepares them for the future while doing come good. They’ll come back feeling accomplished and will have made new friends in the process. They will have learn about another country and the world they live in, and in some case, will have learn a new language. They will also have developed new interests, which could help them with their career decisions. The experience of going abroad can help them boost their college application, as well as job prospects.
Overall, they will come back more grown up as they will have learn about empathy, community service, relationship building and compassion for others. Because our programs operate in communities in need, it will increase awareness of the needs of others. In many cases, it will teach them teamwork, they will gain leadership experience and it will strengthen their self-drive.
There is no question that going abroad is a life changing experience. It will help them grow and teach them that some things they have in life are gifts that should not be taken for granted.