Responsible Travel

Our volunteers join programmes that are focused on meeting a need;
they must firstly be beneficial to the area, the people and the wildlife and secondly to the volunteer.

The projects our volunteers are involved with existed prior to the advent of voluntourism and were not set up solely to entertain travellers. As the projects have developed, volunteer input helps them to progress more quickly and become more effective.

Conservation Travel Africa is committed to supporting local communities throughout Southern Africa by enabling volunteers to make a positive contribution to the environment, wildlife and people. We have a true passion for Africa and its preservation and we recognise that positive volunteer contributions are an essential part of this goal.

Our volunteers join programmes that are focused on meeting a need; they must firstly be beneficial to the area, the people and the wildlife and secondly to the volunteer. We focus on the meaningful contribution which volunteers bring and each of the projects we support can proudly demonstrate their positive impact on the environment.

To have a positive impact projects must be run long term, so we work hard to build programmes which are sustainable.

How are we responsible?

 

  • By creating and supporting local projects, the economy of the area is improved through employment, training, investment and local purchasing
  • We try and focus on entire communities rather than individuals and promote an ethic of working together rather than relying on hand-outs
  • We try and use local suppliers, local partners and local people at all our programmes - the best information and support comes from on-site, local staff
  • When looking at new project locations we take into account local economic, cultural and environmental issues and ensure that any partners share our vision and meet our project standards

 

How are our volunteer programmes responsible?

 

  • We aim to achieve zero litter policies and minimise the effects of water and atmospheric pollution
  • We ensure that our volunteer programmes are appropriate to local conditions and do not overload local infrastructure
  • Our projects have been set up with clear aims and objectives - what the project is designed to achieve, the ultimate goals and how volunteers can help to contribute towards these goals - financial contributions are a only small part of what volunteers bring
  • We have measurement, feedback and monitoring systems in place to keep the projects on track and keep them flexible to ensure they continue to achieve their goals to benefit the wildlife and communities
  • Projects are run with the support and agreement of local communities and authorities
  • Our wildlife programmes have realistic and achievable aims and objectives which benefit the animals, the environment they live in and the communities which surround them
  • Our programmes are based on long term relationships with partners to ensure their longevity and ongoing economic benefit
  • We facilitate community and school conservation education through workshops, school lessons and field work
  • Our volunteer experiences encourage positive cultural exchange with adults and children

 

How can volunteers be responsible?

 

  • Find out where your money goes: volunteering is about your input but your project fee must also benefit the community or the project as well. Many fees do not go back to where they should. Bear in mind that some costs are for project administration, salaries, marketing etc but a large part of the fee should benefit the community or environment
  • Is the work sustainable: you need to be sure that your efforts are part of a long term plan to improve or enhance the community or wildlife and not just activities put on to entertain to while you are in Africa
  • Make sure it is safe - you should be met at the airport (or other pre-arranged point) and transported to your project site. You should feel safe at all times while you are on your projects
  • Research your trip - ask questions; what are the aims and objectives, are they close to being achieved and what will you be doing to help
  • Learn a few key courtesy phrases in the local language such as “hello”, “please” and “thank you” - this goes a long way to promoting goodwill
  • Remember the realities of your trip - there are times when you will want to buy souvenirs or gifts and you may be charged “foreigner” prices opposed to local prices. It is likely you have access to a lot more money than your patrons, so don’t be offended about overspending a couple of dollars here and there
  • Don’t buy unethical animal products such as tortoise shell, ivory or woods from non-sustainable forests
  • Be aware of where you are - you are an ambassador, so wearing a mini skirt, crop top or no shirt isn’t a good advertisement for your country when working with children or walking in town

 

Health and Safety guidelines for volunteers

 

When traveling abroad, whether on your own or with other people, there are risks associated with opportunistic crime and you should take precautions to minimise the chance of becoming a victim. The vast majority of people experience no problems but you are coming to a poor third world country so be mindful of that before and during your visit.

Be Informed:

  • Do your research before you leave and don't believe everything the media portrays - reports are very often over-exaggerated.
  • Read through recent, up-to-date travel guides and publications - we recommend The Bradt Guides as the best, most objective and detailed guides.
  • Look through travel websites for blogs and forums of others who may have travelled to the same destinations that you plan to visit.

Be Prepared:

  • Make copies of all your important documents and carry them separately to the originals. If you don’t want to copy them, scan them and then send them by email to yourself so you can access the details online.
  • Tell your friends and family how they can reach you and how often you think you will be able to get in touch. If they know you won’t have ready access to the internet, they won’t panic about a few days lapse between emails.
  • Bring sturdy, lockable and nondescript luggage and don’t bring your favourite expensive watch or jewelry. We would recommend you don’t bring expensive phones or laptops as they are a target for pick-pockets and petty thieves.

Health and Vaccinations:

Make sure you have the correct vaccinations before you depart or that your current vaccinations are still up-to-date. Visit your local travel clinic for up-to-date advice on what injections or tablets they recommend.

 

Information for parents

We know that there are often worried parents and partners who have been left behind when you take your trip, so we have tried to cover a few of the questions we sometimes get asked.

Will my child / partner be met at the airport?

Absolutely. A Conservation Travel Africa staff member or representative will always meet volunteers at the airport or other point of arrival.

What if they become ill?

Although this is by no means a regular occurrence, volunteers do sometimes get ill whilst on placement. The project coordinator will ensure they receive immediate medical assistance. In the event of a serious illness or accident each volunteer will be covered by their insurance policy, which is why we require all volunteers to have adequate insurance. We will keep in contact with you to advise you of their progress.

What if my child is homesick?

Many of our volunteers are traveling away from home for the first time. It is not unusual for volunteers to feel homesick from time to time. We make every effort to help them integrate with the other volunteers and encourage them to fully engage with the project that they are on. We find the homesickness goes away pretty quickly!

How do I know where my child will be?

Every volunteer is given full details of their destination before departure. This includes the address and contact telephone numbers of their accommodation and project location, if different. We also provide the contact details of the volunteer coordinator who is with volunteers all the time, plus contact details for the local office.

How can I keep in contact with my child?

Communication to, or within Zimbabwe is not always as it is in the Western world – it can sometimes be slow and difficult. A telephone will always be available for you to call your family member/partner. We encourage all volunteers to send a message home to let you know they have arrived safely, and to regularly phone or email to tell you about all the fun they are having! At some of our locations there is no, or very intermittent internet connection so don't worry if you don't get an instant reply to your messages. If you do need to contact your family member/partner via email then you can email info@conservationtravelafrica.org and the message will be passed onto the relevant co-ordinator.

Is the project that they are on safe?

We make every effort to ensure all volunteers are safe during their placement. All volunteers receive an orientation about the programme and a safety briefing on each activity. When volunteers are working with animals, staff will ensure that they are trained and supervised at all times to ensure their safety.

What emergency procedures are in place?

Each volunteer has the support of experienced co-ordinators and project staff. In addition the Conservation Travel Africa office team can provide support and assistance. In the event of an emergency, professional medical and rescue services are available.

Are there any hidden costs?

All programme costs include transport to and from the pick-up point, as well as all accommodation and meals. Volunteers should bring money to pay for telephone calls and internet use and for items of a personal nature such as toiletries or gifts. In addition, volunteers may have the option of enjoying extra excursions to local places of interest which will be an additional cost payable in cash. Volunteers must ensure they have sufficient cash funds on arrival to pay their visa fees.

Carbon Off-setting
As part of our intiaitive of offering responsible travel we encourage all volunteers to use our carbon offsetting facility for flights. It doesn’t matter who you book your flights through, your carbon emissions generated can be calcluated and an informed decision can be made to offset. These payments are made online using a credit card through WorldPay’s secure payment service. Travellers then receive a certificate from ClimateCare noting the CO2 emissions which have been offset.

For more details visit www.climatecare.org


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