Skip to navigation Skip to content
Saga Volunteer Travel
Give something back with Saga Volunteer Travel...

Volunteering is many things to many people, but it is definitely not a holiday.

It can be satisfying and frustrating, rewarding and challenging, life affirming and exhausting in equal quantities, so your decision to participate requires careful consideration and commitment. Teamwork is essential and the ability to share your skills, while also learning from others, requires mutual respect.

To register your interest in becoming a volunteer, email us at volunteer@saga.co.uk

How it all began

It was the feedback we received from Saga holidaymakers that inspired us to set up our own volunteering programme in 2007. Rather than simply relax and sightsee whilst abroad, our customers wanted to spend time within local communities and to learn of their customs whilst at the same time sharing their own life skills, knowledge and experience.

We worked closely with the Saga Charitable Trust to develop a programme that offered help to underprivileged communities in developing countries in places where we felt we could make a positive impact

What sets us apart?

We are unique in that our volunteers are all aged 50 or over. This means they have a wide variety of experiences and qualifications and that their help is of genuine lasting benefit. We spend time matching each project’s needs with the skills of our volunteers, and aim to place volunteers so that each is able to pick up where others have left off.

Our overriding principle is that the local projects must have the final say in whether a volunteer is suitable, and what the placement will consist of. We are driven by the needs of the projects and communities as well as the demands and skills of our volunteers.

We also have a minimum placement of 28 nights, as it takes time for each volunteer to familiarise themselves with the project and the local culture, and to understand the project and community’s needs. Likewise the staff and children at these projects also need time to understand the volunteers role and get to know them properly.

How can you help?

There are many ways in which you can help – perhaps you’ve been a sports coach or have a flair for art or music? Alternatively you might have vocational qualifications in teaching or counselling. Whatever your skills or knowledge, and whether you’re travelling with your partner, a friend or on your own, we will be able to match you with a project that can really make use of your time.

Once you’ve read more about the projects we support, we hope you'll be inspired to take the next step in making a real difference to the lives of those much less fortunate than ourselves.

Saga Volunteer Travel

Schools Support Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Based in the townships of Port Elizabeth, we are currently working with seven primary schools in an area of considerable poverty.

South Africa is still struggling to come to terms with making quality education available for all children, and those in very poor townships are most at risk. 

Find out more
Saga Volunteer Travel

Emmanuel Advice Care Centre, South Africa

This grass roots organisation provides advice, care and education to HIV/AIDS suffers and vulnerable children.

The team includes many unpaid volunteers, and continues to build an effective, caring, learning organisation which now directly supports over 500 adults and children.

Find out more
Saga Volunteer Travel

Dunnottar School, St Lucia

Dunnottar School provides education and training to children and young adults with moderate to severe development disabilities.

Beginning originally with 20 students, the school has steadily grown and now has 85 students between the ages of five and 25 years. 

Find out more
Saga Volunteer Travel

Morne Doudon Combined School, St Lucia

Based in an impoverished area, this school helps accommodate pupils from overcrowded town schools.

It is a haven for over 300 students aged between four and 13 years, for whom it lays the foundation for a more stable life and greater opportunities.

Find out more
Saga Volunteer Travel

Moragalla Junior School, Sri Lanka

A government-run school serving the parents and children of the local fishing community in Beruwala, Sri Lanka.

The school's children range from five to sixteen years. Netball, volleyball, cricket, badminton and table tennis are played and the school is most proud of its own marching band.

Find out more
Saga Volunteer Travel

Thalwila Wella School, Sri Lanka

Volunteers are desperately required to help students, aged between five and sixteen years old, develop their english language skills.

Children are encouraged to practice their pronunciation and speak regularly in English and often make rapid progress with the right encouragement and just a little extra tuition.

Find out more

Volunteering is many things to many people but it is definitely not a holiday – it can be satisfying and frustrating, rewarding and challenging, life affirming and exhausting in equal quantities, so your decision to participate requires careful consideration and commitment. Teamwork is essential and the ability to share your skills while also learning from others requires mutual respect.

We will provide plenty of information about the projects and put you in touch with previous volunteers and those who will be travelling with you, but you might want to talk to family, friends and colleagues too, as their opinions and support will be invaluable.

Be certain to ask lots of questions: you need to be honest with yourself, not just about why you want to volunteer but also what you hope to give and gain. For example, how will you cope with the different culture, being in an economically poor environment where people have very different priorities, skills, experiences, motivations and needs?

The most effective volunteers work with and learn from the community they are in, showing respect, offering advice and encouragement, and increasing their capacity to develop their own futures.

 

Achievements and rewards

Volunteers have achieved many positive results, both for the projects and for themselves. Specific skills have been shared between volunteers and local people in education, health, social care, practical skills and more.

The feedback received from the projects and from volunteers frequently acknowledges how the local people have felt supported, recognised and motivated by the volunteers’ input and attention.

Of course volunteers are also given the opportunity to learn about the people and their way of life in country much different from their own. They give a lot, but often comment that they gained far more from the experience.

 

…and challenges too

Although volunteers and projects are prepared for each placement as thoroughly as possible, the projects and priorities are constantly changing. This means that no matter how much information is provided, the reality of the first few days will surprise you as the magnitude of local need is immense.

Even with detailed planning and preparation there will be surprises, which is why an attitude of compromise is crucial. Cultural differences may appear as barriers to begin with, but proactive and sensitive volunteers can overcome these. Occasionally problems or challenges may seem insurmountable rather than simply frustrating – that’s why we work with local teams who will be on hand when they’re needed. Each local team meets regularly with volunteers and provides a local mobile phone or SIM card to ensure contact.

If an issue cannot be resolved directly with the project (there may be times when it seems inappropriate to discuss things with local people) volunteers must inform the project management team immediately. They expect to be told of real problems otherwise the issues can't be addressed. With their experience they will be able to deal with things appropriately in the local context and in a timely fashion.

Remember that each and every volunteer is part of a team. We have a long-term commitment to our projects and will do all we can to ensure that each volunteer becomes a valued part of the bigger picture. No one can make huge changes in isolation but, as a team, can play an important role in an ongoing programme of change.

 

When you return...

After returning from their placements, we ask for feedback from every volunteer. This information is highly valued – with it, we can better serve the projects and future volunteers. We also rely on volunteers to advise and help brief future volunteers who will be going on to work in the same project – your experiences will be invaluable to them.

Other than this, we have no expectations of you when you return. We’ve therefore been surprised and humbled by volunteers’ commitment to ‘their’ projects. Many people want to raise further funds and we’re able to offer a structure for additional contributions through the Saga Charitable Trust, which ensures that these generous donations are well managed and fully accountable. For further details, email contact@sagacharitabletrust.org

Saga Volunteer Travel is designed to offer our customers the opportunity to work with local people in destinations visited by Saga customers, and transfer their skills to economically poor and developing communities.

Matching the right people to the right projects

  • We are unique in that our volunteers are all aged 50 or over. This means they have a wide variety of experiences and qualifications and that their help is of genuine lasting benefit.
  • We spend time matching each project’s needs with the skills of our volunteers, and aim to place volunteers so that each is able to pick up where others have left off.
  • Our overriding principle is that the local projects must have final say in whether a volunteer is suitable, and what the placement will consist of. We are driven by the needs of the projects and communities as well as the demands and skills of our volunteers.
Support for volunteers
  • We use accommodation that matches Saga’s quality standards. Our packages include flights, transfers, accommodation and meals, and are backed by Saga’s ABTA membership and ATOL bonding. This means that your money and trip are protected in the event of the financial failure of the airline, and you will be brought home to the UK even if Saga itself was to cease trading.
  • At most of our hotels and resorts, we have either a Saga Representative or a point of contact for our volunteers who can look after volunteer's needs in terms of accommodation, meals, excursions and local information.
  • At most of our projects, there will either be a Project Management Team or a Volunteer Co-ordinator who is always a member of the local community and they will be responsible for working with the project staff to support the delivery of the placement, manage volunteer contributions and liaise with the project on the volunteer's behalf.
  • We provide a 24-hour emergency contact.
  • The Saga Charitable Trust can facilitate responsible fundraising and charitable support both before and after the placement.
  • We are transparent about where volunteers’ money is spent, and how much goes to the local community. We also use locally-owned transport providers in order to further support the local economy.
  • Volunteers are asked to adhere to a Code of Conduct, which serves as a guideline for understanding and overcoming the minefield of cross-cultural challenges.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to write full reports on their experiences, which are shared with the Volunteer Coordinators and with future volunteers to ensure unbiased and complete information is available to all.
Support for local communities
  • We endeavour not to replace local labour or employment, but to work alongside local organisations and have a tangible positive impact.
  • We encourage our volunteers to buy equipment and supplies locally rather than bring them from the UK, to provide an additional boost to the local economy and support local businesses.
  • Every volunteer is screened through the Disclosure & Barring Service.
  • It takes time for each volunteer to familiarise themselves with the project and the local culture, and to understand the project and community's needs, it also takes time for projects to understand and familiarise themselves with each volunteer. For this reason we set a minimum placement duration of 28 nights.
  • All Saga brochures are printed on paper made from pulp sourced from sustainably managed forests. The paper is produced by mills with full Chain of Custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council. Sustainable forests are managed in an environmentally friendly way that is economically viable for present and future generations
  • Skills transfer and empowerment, not dependence
  • We set goals and objectives for each project so that each year we can evaluate the impact our volunteers have had; we then re-assess and refine the objectives for the following year.
  • We believe that if a volunteering project is successful, the placements and the nature of the volunteer support should change significantly over time, reflecting the growth and development of the project itself.

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 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.

Insurance

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 South Africa 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 volunteer@saga.co.uk.