We will make sure that any volunteers or school groups or university groups are properly prepared before they go abroad, by experienced people who represent the charity and who have spent many years in-country working with the local NGOs. These people are friendly, communicative and helpful, and they will ensure that every visitor gets the required amount of support prior to going and when they come back. We do have criteria for volunteers, including a DBS security check, and we require all volunteers to be vetted and trained before having any contact with children.
Further training is done on arrival by the local staff who will ensure that you are ready to move into the guesthouses and start on the programme or project that has been chosen. This may take some days, and some training will have to be signed off by you. For example we are particular about personal health and ensuring that you take the anti-malarial tablets since we have experience of people in the past forgetting to take their tablets or not wanting to. Therefore all our staff are asked to follow up on this, and there is a chart on the wall in the guesthouse which you can fill in to make sure that this regime is followed.
You may also be asked to get in touch with the in-country staff online through facebook and skype in the months before going. They will want to get to know you in advance and ask you questions about your life, as much as you will want to chat to them.
During the pre-trip training we look at the following issues and we have to 'sign you off' as having taken part. Some of this can be done online and in your own time, while some of it really has to be taught and experienced to make it worthwhile.
Project Descriptions - we will go through all the background of the projects and discuss your involvement. We can also skype in to the programme managers so you can chat to them yourselves about what you will be doing.
First Aid - this is not a certified course but we will expect you to know how to handle minor injuries, personal hygiene and health issues specific to travelling such as awareness of the effects of altitude if you are in Nepal, and managing anti-malarials in east Africa. You also have access to a dedicated team of travel health experts at Interhealth, who can also carry out psychological counselling.
Culture and language - this will be dealt with more thoroughly on the ground with the local staff, but we will discuss some issues of etiquette and especially your approach to material poverty and how you will deal with it. We would also expect you to start learning some Swahili and continue while in Kenya.
Personal Management - a good team member is someone who can work to a routine, have some discipline and look after him or herself in the outdoors or on the move. This is an important part of the training to make sure you can concentrate on the projects rather than worrying about yourself. We don't want people who stay in bed all morning or cannot turn up to meetings on time.
Teamwork and Leadership - this is developing the last aspect of personal management, and we will discuss the characteristics needed for being a good team player. This is the sort of education you can't get in school, but will prove invaluable in preparing for everything from job interviews to public speaking.
Blogging and videos - we will be asking that every person keeps a blog throughout their trip. Part of your job will be to teach the local youngsters about social media, and helping them understand that global reach.
Development ideas -this is a really important aspect of your training and involves understanding what international development is all about. We will get some experts along to talk to you about what a gap year can achieve in the world of development and how our approach to aid has changed over the years. You will also be expected to do some homework on this and we'd also like you to try and get a Development Mentor in the industry to work with you personally on your own journey into this very complex and topical subject.
Personal interest - while you are working as team, we will also expect every one of you to have one (or more) personal interests which you can work on during the run-up of the trip, the trip itself and hopefully afterwards. For example you might want to study the environmental impact of tourism, or photography, or wildlife, or any of a long list of possibilities. It's an open field but we would like you to use this trip as a way of achieving something personal to you. If you want, we can help you publish it online.
Fundraising - this is probably going to be the biggest worry for you, since the trip does cost money, but in itself it is a huge subject and there are lots of opportunities out there which you may not know about. We will show you how to search for it, and also help you with answering some of the questions if you are applying for a grant. We will also talk about what you can reasonably fundraise for, and what you should find yourself from working or from family support.
Millennium Development Goals & human rights - nowadays most developed countries have signed up to the 'MDG' aim, and you need to be aware of what they are and how this gap trip fits into the worldwide aim of bringing them to fruition. Adventure Alternative also signs up to all the major declarations concerning human rights, rights of indigenous peoples and responsible tourism; we would like you to understand what they all are, what they mean and your role in upholding them.
Social Impact Questionnaire - we will be asking that during your trip abroad you help carry out a continued social impact questionnaire in every area of the trip that you think relevant. This includes land issues, employment, environment and much more.
Building Techniques - during your trip you will be doing some construction or refurbishment work and we will provide training for you in how to use the tools and equipment. Some of it is quite unusual since in Moving Mountains we specifically promote techniques for unskilled labour. During your trip you will get first hand training, but beforehand we will help you understand what it all means.
Camping - some of the trip will be in tents so we will also look at principles of camping and making things safe. This will also be supplemented by training on the ground with the indigenous tribes who have lived in the rainforests for generations and provide a wealth of knowledge.
Homesickness and home - you may not think it will happen but you would be very unusual if you never got homesick at least once during your trip. We'll talk about this a lot and discuss ways of dealing with it, and also making sure you don't worry your family too much! Being homesick, having bad days, feeling a bit sick, having arguments, getting emotional and getting annoyed with other people on the trip - these are all to be expected, but the better we discuss it first, the better you'll be ready for it.