Frequently asked questions
Why should I choose Saga Volunteer Travel?
There are several aspects which make Saga Volunteer Travel unique. First and foremost, we take the time to understand your capabilities so that we can match you with the most suitable project and channel your resources appropriately.
Unlike some other organisations we don’t spend time teaching you new skills that community members themselves could learn; we prefer to empower local staff and give them the skills and resources to achieve change.
By offering placements of a minimum four weeks we can be certain that your presence is beneficial to everybody. You will be given plenty of support but also a healthy degree of autonomy. This includes giving you a say, wherever possible, in what your project donation should be spent on.
As you’ll see from our volunteer reports, our volunteers often become so involved with the communities they work with that they continue to raise funds and keep contact with new-found friends when they arrive home. Some even return to volunteer for a second or third time.
Finally, as Saga is ATOL and ABTA bonded you have the protection of travelling with a licensed tour operator which will arrange your flights, accommodation and volunteer placement all as one hassle-free package.
Why do I have to pay to volunteer when I am already offering my services for free?
The projects we work with are located in economically poor communities and are extremely short of funds. They do not have the resources required to finance a volunteer programme and all that it involves, such as providing materials and support staff.
Without our volunteers’ generous donation of time and money these projects could not function. But rest assured that your hard-earned money will always reach the community itself and contribute to the well being and development of those who need it most.
I don't have any qualifications – can I still volunteer?
Saga Volunteer Travel is unique in that all our volunteers are able to contribute in a valuable way, whatever their life experience.
Having the right character is most important as you will need to be flexible, adaptable and in many instances be able to ‘go with the flow’. We will be happy to discuss your strengths and how you can help.
How will my money be spent?
The following table indicates how volunteers’ money is used...
|Daily transport, refreshments, regular briefings and local orientation.
|Project management fees
|Supervision of work including the operational cost of staff, plus a named person who you can contact at any time of the day or night in case of an emergency.
|Direct contribution to the needs of the specific project - every volunteer is fully informed before they travel as to how this money is likely to be spent and whenever possible are consulted as to what the money should be used for during the placement.
|Covers the costs involved in the matching process between projects and volunteers.
|The remainder of the package covers the cost of your international flights, all your meals - including a packed lunch on days when you are at the project - and the services of a Saga representative at your accommodation.
*Project managed by Saga
How have the projects been selected?
Our close links with the Saga Charitable Trust and Saga Holidays allows us to identify the most suitable regions to be involved with. We then spend time with the people in those areas to establish sustainable projects and agree on the most rewarding work for volunteers to undertake.
The actual benefits for the local community are always our foremost consideration and through our partnerships we commit to providing long-term, ongoing support to the projects.
How can I make sure I'm properly prepared?
All the information and documentation regarding your volunteer placement will be provided by Saga Volunteer Travel.
You will be sent an outline brief and travel information regarding your project and destination too. We can send you previous volunteer reports or if you wish, we can also arrange for you to speak to previous volunteers.
All arrangements for travel and any additional holiday you may wish to take will be organised by our Bespoke Travel Team and your confirmation of flights and accommodation will come from them too.
Your volunteering placement does not include travel insurance or cancellation cover and it is a condition of your booking that you obtain comprehensive cover for working abroad.
It is important to ensure you have public liability cover. Although Saga are unable to offer volunteering cover, we can suggest that specialist insurers such as VolunteerInsure are able to offer appropriate cover.
Do I have to arrange my own transfers?
All our placements include a chauffeur service in the UK so you will be collected from your front door and taken to the airport. At your arrival airport, there will also be someone to meet you and take you to your hotel. (You may have the vehicle to yourself or you could be sharing the journey with other Saga passengers and there’ll be plenty of space for you to stretch out and store your luggage).
What is a project management team?
The PMTs are local professional organisations who work closely with their communities. It is their knowledge of, and relationship with, the projects that ensures your volunteer placement is worthwhile for both you and the community.
We work with PMT’s in Nepal, South Africa, Zambia and Sri Lanka, whereas in St Lucia we work directly with the schools and have the support of Saga staff at our own hotel.
Will I be working on my own?
There will be at least one Saga volunteer working on the same project as you, and sometimes up to three others. Your placement will also require you to work closely with local staff and volunteers.
Will I be safe?
As on any Saga trip your welfare and safety are paramount and all reasonable care will be taken to ensure this. A representative* will be on hand at your hotel and you will be given a named contact and 24-hour emergency number for extra peace of mind.
During your working day you will be in the care of the project management team or co-ordinator who will provide you with all necessary advice regarding your safety on the project. They will also ensure that you have the details of a named contact in the unlikely event that an emergency occurs while you are volunteering.
* Please note although there is no Saga Representative in Port Elizabeth you will have the services of the PMT.
What can I do in my free time?
Some volunteers like to take it easy at the weekends and make use of the hotel’s leisure facilities, while others take advantage of their location to explore further afield. At most accommodation there will be other Saga customers, and your Saga representative or Project Management Team will be able to arrange excursions for you and give advice on what to see and do.
Disclosure and Barring Service
As your placement puts you in contact with children or vulnerable adults you will be asked to undergo a screening process. We will instigate an application with the Disclosure and Barring Service who will then make checks against their own database and those of individual police forces to determine that you have no criminal record that relates to offences against children or vulnerable adults.
The resulting document will be sent to us with a copy sent to you. As this is part of our application process we will be unable to make your booking until we receive your clearance certificate.
What will my baggage allowance be?
You are only permitted the same luggage allowance for a typical flight – these limits are dictated by the airlines and we are unable to negotiate them.
Generally speaking, you will be allowed one piece of main luggage with the maximum weight varying from 20 to 23kg, plus a piece of hand luggage. Anything over the allowance will occur additional charges. You will be sent details of the exact amount with your travel documents.
Volunteers often wish to take items that may benefit the project, but we urge you to discuss this with us first. Please bear in mind that items purchased locally at your destination will help support local economic development and employment.
Can I combine my volunteering with a holiday?
Yes, and we encourage you to explore the country in which you are visiting, so we would be happy to help. You can find inspiration by visiting saga.co.uk/travel or take a look at the Travellers World brochure.
Our Bespoke Travel Team will be happy to advise you on availability, specific costs and to make the necessary arrangements.
Is there an age limit?
We do not enforce any upper age limitations as we welcome all volunteers. You will need to be reasonably fit and able and to cope with the climate in long haul destinations.
Working in very hot weather with the absence of air conditioning can sometimes be a little exhausting and walking is necessary at all of our projects with the need to negotiate a number of steps or stairs. However, if you do have any concerns please contact us so that we can discuss them with you.
Do I need to be fit?
We have a duty of care to both our projects and volunteers and so for your own comfort, please advise us at your initial application if you have any mobility issues or special requirements that may affect your work, travel or accommodation.
What are the working hours?
As most of our projects involve working within a school, your hours will be in accordance with their opening hours and this will vary according to the country you are visiting, but as a guide, you would usually be at the project between 8am and 2pm, so an average of six hours a day.
What do I wear during my working days?
The projects are located within poor communities and as a result the standard of the classrooms will not be as you would find in the UK. Due to the dusty environment, we suggest you wear comfortable, casual working clothes and shoes.
We also suggest you keep jewellery to a minimum so as not to offend your hosts. Please also be equipped to deal with hot and tropical weather conditions which sometimes results in heavy downpours!
Are the volunteer dates flexible?
We operate our programme based on a 4 week duration as we feel this enables both the volunteer and project staff to gain maximum experience and develop a good working relationship.
Our placement dates are determined by the school term times which vary depending on the destination and therefore we are unable to be flexible with these date periods.
Still have questions?
Call us free on 0800 015 6981 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, contact us or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.