1. What were your initial concerns when your daughter suggested volunteering abroad?
Mum: My main concern was for my daughter’s safety whilst travelling alone. Although Bryony had travelled before, she hadn’t been travelling outside Europe by herself.
Dad: My concerns were for her safety and whether she was going to be with a nice family. I also wanted to make sure that it was reasonable value for money and that there wouldn't be any hidden extra costs.
2. How did Projects Abroad handle your concerns?
Mum: Projects Abroad had insurance and provided accommodation during the stay. They also provided a meeting and greeting service at the airport, as well as a day of orientation on her arrival to the country.
Dad: Projects Abroad reassured me by a conversation with someone who was working in their main office. I found that speaking to somebody who was very friendly and knowledgeable about what Bryony would experience was a real help. Our other daughter Harriet had also been away with Projects Abroad to South Africa before, so we knew the procedures.
3. Did you have enough phone or email contact with the office staff prior to applying for the project?
Mum and Dad: Yes, I found before the event that I could email or ring people and get any of my questions answered.
4. Before applying did you attend one of our Projects Abroad events whether that be a webinar or organised event?
Mum: I didn’t attend any organised events but I did hear about them through a presentation at my daughter’s school.
5. Did you feel reassured that your daughter could reach support from our staff throughout their time overseas?
Mum and Dad: Yes, I felt that Bryony could always reach support. She knew where the office was, had numbers to call, and I felt reassured that if there was ever a problem Projects Abroad had somebody in their local office who could help resolve it. There seemed to be a lot of contact with the family that she was staying with and also places she was working at.
6. Did you find that your daughter had enough opportunity to contact home whilst away?
Mum and Dad: Yes I did feel that she had enough opportunity to contact us as often as she wished to. There were lots of Internet cafes around which enabled us to Skype weekly.
7. Whilst away did your daughters have any issues which you needed to get involved in and if so how was this resolved?
Mum: My eldest daughter wanted to extend her stay whilst out there, and Projects Abroad facilitated an interesting second project, enabling her to continue staying in her host family’s house.
8. How did the trip affect your daughters? For example has their experience helped secure a job or university place?
Mum: I do think it’s a strong selling point on CVs, and certainly gave them confidence before going to university. It’s also given them some great stories and experiences to talk about, which are still entertaining us!
Dad: I found the trip gave both daughters a lot more self-confidence, vision, perspective on life and acceptance of people who were very different from them. Bryony also had the chance to learn a language, in this case, Spanish.
9. Knowing the process of application, volunteer and on the return to the UK is there anything else that Projects Abroad could do to improve the service?
Mum: I’d suggest providing a specific phone number for the area volunteers are staying in to the parents, as I was not totally clear who I could ring in case of emergencies.
(Note from Projects Abroad – all volunteers get given in-country emergency numbers in the Emergency Section of their personal webpage which we recommend passing on to parents.)
10. Would you recommend Projects Abroad to a friend?
Mum and Dad: Yes absolutely, and I have already done so; the independence and confidence that my daughters’ gained from their many varied experiences means that I would recommend a gap year through Projects Abroad every time. The company also lives by its values and employs people from the communities among which it works – for example, a member of the office staff in South Africa came from a township which the company had made contact with. Actions like this are what make a lasting impact to the community and genuinely change lives.