In order to gain the most from taking part in overseas volunteering and in turn to leave a positive mark on the destination country, we ask that participants agree to certain aspects of preparation and conduct.
1. Inform themselves about all relevant issues relating to their venture.
By informing themselves fully volunteers will ensure that they are well prepared for their trip. It is recommended that volunteers familiarise themselves with their host country, its peoples and cultures, as much as possible before they go. Suggestions are to find books and other resources on it, monitor the news on that country, and meet people who have lived there or come from there if possible. Sending organisations should facilitate this process by providing volunteers with possible sources for their research, some basic facts and putting them in contact with exvolunteers who have been there or, better still, have worked on that placement.
2. Familiarise themselves thoroughly with their role description before departure.
Written role descriptions go some way to dispel uncertainties volunteers have about what they will be expected to do on their placement. By familiarising themselves with their role description this can prompt them to ask further questions about it and about the reasons why such a job is necessary. Once again, contact with ex-volunteers who have worked on that placement will help volunteers prepare so that they can utilise their time overseas well.
3. Respect local customs and adopt the role of learners and guests.
A major motivation for volunteering, expressed by volunteers, is to ‘give something back’, to ‘help out’ people less fortunate than themselves. This motivation, however, can sometimes lead to volunteers being overzealous as they work to maximise their impact. Often they can come with a sense that they know best, showing little respect for local customs and knowledge. However, it is often the volunteer who learns more from the hosts, than the hosts from them. The principle in the charter aims to encourage the volunteer to be aware of their role as learner rather than just ‘giver’.
4. Act always in a professional manner and be flexible and adaptable while in their placement.
In cases volunteers may be tempted to get in too much of a 'holiday' frame of mind and take a less than professional attitude to their placement. They may turn up late, leave early, or behave in a manner innappropriate to providing a service to the local community. Furthermore, while volunteers may receive role descriptions, as often as not volunteers are expected to be flexible and adaptable in what they do while on placement, and in their attitudes to the local community and their colleagues. This principle aims to underline these points to volunteers.
5. Take due care with their personal safety and physical and mental health.
Health and safety issues are vital for volunteers. While the sending organisation can provide
volunteers with guidance, it is the responsibility of the volunteer to abide by that advice and to use their common sense. Volunteers should find out about the local health and security situation as part of their general research on their host country. Some sending organisations may provide health insurance for volunteers but most will not. It is the responsibility of volunteers to check this out and take appropriate steps.
6. Channel the experiences and knowledge gained while overseas into their home community.
As pointed out in principle 3 above, volunteers on overseas placements are in the privileged
position of being able to learn about their host country and the experience of working in a developing country. This principle aims to encourage volunteers, on their return, to use the knowledge they gain to raise awareness at home on issues affecting the developing world. Mostimmediately, this can include being available for other volunteers. It can also include giving talks in their local areas, becoming part of support and/or campaign networks, and/or receiving training and participating in development education. Engagement with local media through writing articles or giving interviews is a further option.
7. Accept and sign a Code of Conduct embodying these principles.
Many sending organisations give volunteers a Code of Conduct to sign before going on their placement in an attempt to ensure that they are aware of what the organisation expects of them in terms of appropriate behaviour. This principle aims to encourage sending organisations to include the principles of the Charter within their Codes of Conduct and so encourage volunteers to follow them.
Volunteer guidelines - responsibilities and legalities
The following information is to clearly describe the responsibilities that we have to you from both the company and the charity, and where the legal liability for your trip lies. This is for people carrying out work for Moving Mountains in a voluntary capacity, such as building a school.
Who you are booking with
By offering to assist on a Moving Mountains project or volunteering programme you accept that the logistics of your trip will be managed by Adventure Alternative (both in the UK and in Kenya or Nepal). Any payment you make for trip logistics (transport, accommodation or activities) goes to Adventure Alternative and your contract is with Adventure Alternative, not Moving Mountains; this means you come under the terms and conditions laid down by the company, and not the charity.
Adventure Alternative is based in the UK as a tour operator, but we also have our local providers in Nepal and Kenya which are locally registered tour companies that receive investment and training from the UK head office. Therefore you will receive an invoice from the UK Company for the agreed logistics, but it will be local company that physically manages your trip.
Donations to the charity
Any donation for the charity must be made to Moving Mountains, which exists both as a registered charity in the UK and as registered NGOs in both Nepal and Kenya. We do not allow people to fundraise for the charity and use those funds for their trip costs.
All charitable projects or programmes are agreed jointly by the Trustees of both the UK and the in-country organisations. Sometimes the projects will be driven by specific fundraising events, and sometimes they will be part of a long-term ongoing commitment to an area. While we are happy to include the donor in this process, we must make it clear that it is the job of the charity and not the donor to decide the nature of the project.
It is the responsibility of the Trustees to ensure the proper and relevant expenditure of donated funds, and any collaboration we have with donors does not mean joint responsibility for project implementation or programme completion.
Who is responsible for you? Who has liability for you?
Even though you are volunteering for Moving Mountains, your trip logistics are covered by Adventure Alternative and therefore it is the company that has responsibility for you. It has a tour operator insurance policy to cover its activities.
Moving Mountains has a public liability insurance policy but it does not cover the work of volunteers in a foreign country engaged in building projects or the like, where health and safety regulations are lower than in the West. The charity is covered for 'green light' activities which include what we offer in the programme but we cannot allow activities which are dangerous such as going on scaffolding.
Please note that liability insurance is completely different from the usual travel insurance you will need for medical expenses and repatriation incurred during a trip abroad.
Your trip will often be in basic surroundings, possibly doing building or renovation projects which are inherently more dangerous than their equivalent in the West. Building standards are lower, techniques often are different and basic, and regulations are simply not there. We ask that you consider carefully your role in all of this. It will require three commitments, one on our part and two on yours.
Our commitment to you:
- We will endeavour to give you as much information as possible so you are not ignorant of standards and facilities and likely issues that may develop.
- We will provide good, experienced staff to advise you accordingly of the best way to handle situations and projects.
- We will use all our resources and experience and staff to protect your welfare and safety, on the understanding that accidents sometimes do happen, and situations are dealt with very differently and it is very difficult to offer 'western' responses.
- We will inform you of our risk assessment and contingency plans in case of accidents or issues, plus details of our network of staff, both Kenyan and western.
Your commitment to us:
- You should take the advice of our staff, and not engage in potentially dangerous activities which could be injurious to your health or welfare. This will require an increased level of common sense, self-preservation and integrity. We do not, for example, recommend climbing on scaffolding, but laying bricks and putting in floors would probably be fine. We are not demanding anything from you that may be dangerous and we ask that if you ever feel unsure then please just walk away.
- You must have your own comprehensive personal holiday insurance to cover you for all the usual medical, repatriation, loss of baggage and cancellation issues. Do talk with us if you want to make sure that your policy covers you for the various activities you will be doing. There is nothing you will be doing that would be regarded as a hazardous activity in legal terms.
We do not want your trip to become an issue of insurance but unfortunately we live in a world of litigation and arguments over liabilities. We are open in saying that doing voluntary work in a remote place carries with it a degree of uncertainty and possible accidents, which can of course happen any time in any place. We do ask that you consider the whole environment in which you will be living and working. This is not a disclaimer for our duty of care to you, simply an appeal for moderation and reasonable attitudes on all sides. Communication is key to this so please do contact us at any time to ask questions.