Recently someone asked us this, we thought it was such a good question, we should tell everyone the answer!
First, we believe a good defense is a good offense. We have been too all of the Placement Partner locations to inspect, participate, view and judge the transportation, activities, humane care, volunteer care and living conditions. We have met the people you will be staying with, working with and traveling with (the partners). Since all the other volunteers go through applications and interviews we am confident in their abilities to make good judgements and keep themselves, and each others (you) safe.
The volunteers also sign agreements, they all have agreed to follow procedures and rules outlined by AEI and all of the Placement Partners know if any volunteer participate in acts of violence, harassment or in a way that endangers animals or people (including themselves) they will be asked to leave the Experience. The Placement Partner is completely in the right to ask people to leave and will not be penalized financially or through a lack of volunteers in the future- so they can speak out and use their discretion without having to worry about repercussions from AEI. If a volunteer is asked to leave, there is an exit ‘interview’ we have with both the Placement Partner and the volunteer. The Placement Partner is asked to contact us first so we can try to mediate the situation first.
We have a great relationship with all of our Placement Partners. Our volunteer coordinator emails with all of them at least once a week, some of them once a day! They all have had international volunteers in the past and have signed agreements that they will provide medical supportive care and bring you to authorities/hospital/transportation/whatever you need in the event of an emergency or crisis.
Since we pick you up and drop you off from the airport we minimize the risk of you getting into trouble along the way to the Placement Partner.
AEI provides you with up to 500,000 in travel insurance which is from a company called Volunteer Card, it’s insurance especially for voluntourists. It is also has the added bonus of having a 24 hour emergency support line that is manned by people who specialize in travel emergencies.
We also provide you with travel manuals that we have written ourselves after visiting the Placement Partner sites. Everything from parasites in the water to how to deal with culture shock- these manuals are like mini guidebooks specifically designed for you and your exact adventure.
Our volunteer coordinator wrote a book about keeping safe while traveling. Its available as an e-book or we can send it to you. We’re sure all authors think they’re book is important, but we really think there are some important things to say- for physical and mental health, as both are equal parts important.
All of that being said, this is a trip that you do on your own so we encourage all of our volunteers to be smart and trust their gut! Guts always know. If something feels unsafe, it probably is, so say be empowered to say no and trust yourself when you say it.
We can’t guarantee nothing will happen to you, but we try our very best to minimize the bad variables and maximize the protective ones.
If you would like more information or clarification about safety policies and procedures, please never hesitate to ask. That’s why we are here!
Keep safe out there- or we will find you!
Nora and Heather