Your ResponsibilitiesThere are some responsibilities that we ask all our participants to commit to. These are in place to help and protect you, the projects, the environments and the communities we work with. Learn more about your responsibilities before, during and after your placement here.
Code of Conduct
In order to keep you safe and to protect the vulnerable communities that we work with, we have created a Kaya Code of Conduct that we expect all of our volunteers to adhere to whilst on their projects. View and download it here.
At Kaya we have identified some key ethical issues. We strongly suggest that you read about the issues so that you are a more informed traveller. Not only may these issues directly affect your placement or location, some explain the reasons why we work as we do at Kaya. By joining us as a volunteer, intern or student you are becoming part of the Kaya family and we hope that you will join our previous participants by becoming more informed about some of these important issues. To learn more visit our facing ethical issues section of our website.
Is Volunteering right for me?
If you are thinking about signing up to volunteer or intern abroad, then you need to ask yourself an important question; is international volunteering or interning for me? This will help to ensure that you, the project, and your friends and family aren’t disappointed. Volunteering abroad can be a life-changing experience, but it can also be quite overwhelming especially if you haven’t travelled off the beaten track much before.
So how can you be sure if international volunteering or interning is for you?
Volunteer projects and internships have many benefits:
- For You – as an individual you can learn about new places, cultures, open yourself up to new ideas, learn new skills and apply your existing skills and knowledge for a greater good. You can make new friends, develop and change your career or give your life a shake up by doing something completely different. You will be presented with many challenges along the way and be immersed in a different culture, family dynamic and approach to social and business situations. All of these will contribute to an amazing personal experience as an international volunteer for you.
- For the project – Projects benefit from the skills, ideas and knowledge that you bring and share with project staff as well as hands-on help to make their projects and activities viable and sustainable. Interest and involvement in the local issues by outsiders can help validate to the local community that the work is important and helps it maintain its momentum in the long-term.
- For the project’s beneficiaries – by working on the projects you are improving the homes, habitats and lives of people and wildlife whose lives would not be the same without the project’s help. As an international volunteer you become a part of that solution.
- But, as well as the benefits, there are many challenges that can test your resilience. The variety of different project types and set ups means that many people find it difficult to identify a project that best fits their strengths and weaknesses. Our experienced Placement Advisor’s can help you with this and we encourage everyone to speak to our advisors to let us help you choose a project as we have all volunteered before and have an in-depth knowledge of our projects and who they best suit! Even with the help of our dedicated team of advisors however, there are some universal truths that everyone considering volunteering must acknowledge and accept when deciding if volunteering abroad is right for you.
To help you consider whether a volunteer project or internship abroad is right for you, we have put together a checklist to test your readiness and commitment to volunteering:
- Are you volunteering for the right reasons? You can see above some great reasons, but some of the wrong reasons for volunteering are:– ‘I am running away from something’. Your problems will only come with you!
– ‘I want to ‘save the world’ – you can play a part in making a difference, but it is the combination of everyone’s small efforts that make a real difference, not any single individual
–‘It’s an easy way to see the country’ – while you will have time to sightsee and travel at weekends and in the evenings, volunteering is hard work and the projects need your full commitment during the working days
- Are you fit / healthy enough – mentally and physically – to take on a volunteering placement where you will be asked to travel, live and work in an environment which is very different from home? You don’t have to be physically strong for many placements (many of our volunteers are retirees) but you will be challenged emotionally and you will need to look after yourself
- Are you willing to leave your family and friends for the period that you have in mind? Home-sickness can be a problem for international volunteers of all ages
- Are you willing to try something new? You will be faced with daily unfamiliar situations, foods, practises and more
- Are you happy to have a CRB/police record check? We have to protect our vulnerable communities. If you have a misdemeanour on your record, check if this affects your placement before signing up
- Are you willing to adapt to local customs in order to fit in with a different culture? As Westerners some people think our approach is ‘ the right way’, ‘better’ or ‘more advanced’, when most often it is just different. You will be expected to adapt to the local approach to fit in
- Can you cope if things don’t go to plan? In development things can and most often do not go to plan. Unplanned holidays, strikes, weather, emergencies and people not turning up are just some of the things that can affect each day – and even the best of plans have got to be adapted. Flexibility is key in volunteering, and you will need to adapt to situations
If you think the answers to the above are yes, they we’d love to welcome you as a volunteer and find you an ideal placement. If not, maybe the timing isn’t right and you can start a little closer to home first, by getting involved in something in your local community before venturing overseas? It is important to realise that as a volunteer you are there to help and work within an existing project that is staffed by local people in a local environment which will be very foreign to you. Personal attributes that are good for a successful international volunteer are:
- Listening skills
- Adaptability and flexibility
- Team working
- Willingness to learn from others
- Proactive nature
- Understanding of others
Volunteering is exhilarating, life changing and rewarding but if you are not ready and haven’t thought it through it can be difficult, not just for you. It will also affect other volunteers, project participants who have been waiting for your help, and people at home who will worry about you. Sometimes it is just that you are not ready to volunteer, not that you shouldn’t volunteer. By deferring for a year or volunteering in your local community you may be ready to become an international volunteer in the future. If you feel that now is the right time for you, we encourage you to contact our advisors to discuss what you’re looking for with them. We’ve all volunteered before so we know what it’s like to plan a trip and any worries that you might be experiencing. We can also help you decide what project is best for you based not only on your skills and experience but also on your past travel experience, your destination preferences, and any other requirements or preferences that you have.
The work that we do wouldn’t be possible without wonderful volunteers like you! We truly value the dedication and commitment that our volunteers work with on their projects. In order to ensure the maximum benefit to our projects and your enjoyment of your project, there’s just a few things that we always like to make clear to our volunteers so that you can better understand our relationship with the communities we work with and your role within that. We pride ourselves on matching the right people to the right projects and the projects that we work with rely on us to make sure that we’re sending people with the required background and skills to help them with their work.
As a volunteer or intern with Kaya, you are not only representing yourself but you are representing us as an organisation, whilst on your project and even within the wider community. This means that negative behaviour from our volunteers can affect our relationship with the projects that we work with, which may then in turn affect placements for future volunteers. We therefore ask that you act with cultural sensitivity at all times, maintain an open mind and flexibility when working on your project, adhere to the standards set in your Kaya Code of Conduct and any standards set by the local team, and be polite and respectful to both the project teams and other volunteers.
It’s a privilege to be welcomed into another culture’s community to live and work alongside them – it should be treated as such! Part of this also involves remembering that as a volunteer or intern, you are making a commitment to your projects. We do expect our volunteers to fulfill all of the time requirements on their placements and to turn up on time. If you are doing a long-term placement and want to take a long weekend, this is sometimes possible but must be discussed with the local team and they need to agree to this.
Finally, it’s also very important to remember that you are volunteering to help a local project achieve its goals. Sometimes this may mean helping out with some tasks that are a little different from what you were expecting to get involved with. If anything like this does occur whilst you’re on your project, please do remember the reason that you signed up – to help your chosen project! Try to work with openness and flexibility at all times as this is the best way to best help your project and also to gain the most fulfilling experience for yourself. If you remember these simple commitments, you’re sure to find that you build a meaningful connection with the community that you are working within and to make the most impact during your stay.