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SAFETY & WELLBEING

OUR RESPONSIBLE APPROACH

If you have not travelled much before, it is really hard to know what to expect. When anticipating their time overseas, many international volunteers (and their loved ones) are, understandably, often concerned about safety and security.

 

Naturally, we can never guarantee a volunteer experience to be 100% trouble-free. However, we have taken all necessary precautions to ensure our programs are as safe as possible. Every program that PMGY offers has been personally inspected and selected by the PMGY team. We have stayed in the accommodation, experienced the orientation and worked on the volunteer projects. Through our frequent visits and daily communications, we have built strong, trusting relationships with our local teams around the world.

 

We appreciate that it can be unnerving travelling abroad. However, with our detailed outlines below, we hope to settle many of these worries.

 

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY THE WORD ‘SAFETY’?

When you think about it broadly, the term ‘safety’ can be broken down into a number of contributing factors. When it comes down to travelling with PMGY, there are two major components to this:

 

• The safety we provide to our participants
• The actions of our participants to maintain the safe network we work hard to promote

HOW DOES PMGY PROMOTE VOLUNTEER SAFETY?

Safety is a number one priority on all PMGY volunteer programs. Through the schemes noted below, PMGY works to reduce participant risks and protect their safety during their time overseas:

 

Pre-Departure – ‘Pre-departure’ refers to everything provided by PMGY in advance of a volunteer’s trip abroad with us.

 

Program Information – Our International Team works hard to ensure that all literature is as up-to-date and accurate as possible. This allows prospective participants to have the best understanding of what they are signing up for. For any unanswered or specific questions, PMGY offers a comprehensive support network. This includes online and telephone support staff, available 24 hours each day. Our team welcomes participants to ask as many questions as needed when deciding whether a project is right for them.

 

Through our literature, we aim to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of what you can expect with PMGY. Each of our project web pages provides thorough overviews of what you need to know about each program opportunity. Through this, we hope to provide you with all the information you need to choose your best-suited destination.

 

On a monthly basis, our International Team also hosts an online Introductory Webinar. This presentation offers an interactive opportunity for prospective participants to learn more about PMGY volunteer projects.

 

Medical Declaration – All individuals are required to declare any medical and/or dietary requirements that could impact their time overseas. Participants with declared conditions are asked to review and acknowledge PMGY’s terms on health and safety management. This is to be done prior to confirming their place overseas. These terms aim to ensure that participants can enjoy their experience abroad in a safe and responsible manner.

 

It is important for us to manage expectations whilst ensuring a high level of safety for all our participants. There are several factors that must be considered before heading overseas. This can include cultural differences and project set-ups.

 

If you have any concerns about your ability to complete a PMGY program, you are encouraged to contact us. This will allow us to discuss the different programs that we offer. In turn, this will enable you to assess which of these may be the most suitable for you.

 

Handbooks – Every PMGY participant is provided with a country-specific Volunteer Handbook, outlining every aspect of their program overseas. Alongside visa requirements and packing lists, these guides provide key information about safety and cultural factors. It is important for you to read this thoroughly and keep them in mind during your travels overseas.

 

Pre-Departure Briefings – Each PMGY participant is strongly advised to attend our pre-departure information sessions. Our webinars cover three topics:

 

• Travel Essentials – everything our participants need to know before joining our teams in-country
• Program Preparation – providing participants with a strong foundation to partake in their project
• Safety & Wellbeing – safety advice to ensure participants are best prepared to avoid potential risks during their time overseas

 

These interactive sessions provide participants with invaluable advice for their upcoming trip. It also acts as an additional opportunity for participants to ask questions.

 

Communication Channels – Participants will be provided with PMGY HQ and local contact details prior to arrival onto the program. This includes all in-country and International PMGY emergency numbers. For all enquiries in the build-up to a PMGY trip, you can contact us at any time. Our team love to chat and will be very happy to help discuss even the smallest of concerns or queries!

 

In-Country – ‘In-country’ refers to everything provided by our local PMGY representatives during your time in your chosen destination.

 

Your Home Away From Home – Each program and accommodation has been extensively researched by our International Team. These continue to be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that our locations remain safe and suitable for international volunteering.

 

Visits by the PMGY International Team are performed annually to re-evaluate precautions we take to ensure our participant’s safety. We have lived in the accommodation, experienced the orientation and worked on the volunteer projects. Our accommodations are safe, secure and comfortable to ensure that you always feel at home. Our International Team is also in daily contact with our local teams to assist with in-country management.

 

Orientation – Upon arrival, our participants are given a comprehensive orientation session by our local coordinators. Our team goes through everything from project introductions, to emergency procedures, how to use local transport and cultural differences. During this period, our team also provides participants with a full list of the important contact numbers. You will be given the chance to explore the local area, helping you to feel settled as soon as possible.

 

Transport Links – A participant’s daily journey to their project within the local community can vary between our PMGY destinations. In some destinations, transport will be arranged for you. In others, you may have the unique experience to experience the local commute. Regardless, our local teams will always accompany you on your first day to show you how it works. If it takes you a little longer to learn the ropes, our teams will accompany you until you are comfortable.

 

In-Country Staff & 24-Hour Support – All our local teams have years of experience hosting international volunteers. They are PMGY’s representatives on the ground and are on-hand to assist our participants 24/7 throughout their stay. Additionally, our 24-hour International Emergency Line is always accessible in addition to this.

 

Rest assured that you will have a strong support system throughout your entire PMGY journey!

 

Completion of the Program – PMGY actively encourages participant feedback to ensure that improvements can be made accordingly. Feedback is reviewed frequently with PMGY local teams to ensure that any necessary changes are implemented as appropriate. In turn, this helps to maintain participant experience and safety as its highest level.

HOW DO YOU STAY SAFE AS A PARTICIPANT WITH PMGY?

Whilst we have done everything we can to ensure your safety, there are always inherent risks associated with travel. This means that it is important to be vigilant at all times. Whilst most individuals will have a trouble-free experience overseas, it is easy to get too comfortable and sometimes careless.

 

When it comes down to managing your safety abroad, you can break it down into being sensible, wise and aware. Together, this means that you are thinking before every action, acting in line with the most appropriate safety measures.

 

By joining our volunteer organisation, there is a high chance that you will be in a developing country. Naturally, this means that there will be differences in culture, ways of thinking and ways of life. Consequently, it is vital that our international volunteers adjust and act appropriately during their time abroad.

 

Ultimately, you can ensure your safety in three main ways during your time abroad with PMGY:

 

• Always seek and follow the advice of local PMGY staff
• Avoid putting yourself in compromising positions
• Read your Volunteer Handbook in detail, in advance of your arrival

There are many aspects to give thought to when acting safely overseas. Below are some factors which you are encouraged to strongly consider:

 

There is a large social element associated with volunteering abroad. By joining one of our volunteering opportunities, you have a fantastic opportunity to meet people from across the globe! Naturally, the act of socialising is frequently associated with the consumption of alcohol.

 

Whilst on a PMGY program, participants should only consume alcohol if they meet the legal drinking age within their destination. This age can vary from 18 to 21.

 

It must also be accepted that many of our volunteer accommodations are dry establishments. This has been introduced by many of our teams and means that no alcohol is allowed on the premises. This is out of respect for our host families, fellow volunteers, your project commitments, the local community and sometimes for religious reasons. We ask that participants respect this. With this being said, a couple of drinks outside of the project network certainly will not be a problem. This applies if the participant meets the minimum drinking age locally.

 

For any alcohol consumption abroad, it is vital that you drink responsibly. Other countries may not have the same regulations for alcohol content as we may be used to at home. Additionally, by travelling overseas, your environment will be unfamiliar. This means that it is always safer to stick with a small group, so you can look out for each other.

 

On top of this, it is important to monitor your consumption. Whilst we promote the social aspects of our programs, by joining PMGY, you have an automatic commitment to the programs. Our projects rely on the hard work of international volunteers to continue to make positive impacts in our local communities.

It is important that you consult your doctor or travel clinic in the months leading up to your program. This will allow you to find out which vaccinations are needed for entry into your host country. Unfortunately, as we are not medical experts we cannot give you advice about what vaccinations you should have or not have. All PMGY participants should be up to date on their routine vaccinations. Additionally, they should also receive immunisations specific to the country they will be visiting. This can only be verified by a medical professional.

 

For participants joining a wildlife volunteering abroad program, it’s sometimes recommended that you get the rabies vaccination. For locations that legally require a Yellow Fever vaccination, it is very important that you bring your certificate with you. This is since you will be required to provide evidence of this on arrival.

At some point across your PMGY volunteer trip, you will encounter the local transport system in your chosen destination. Perhaps it will be your return trip to your volunteer project, or maybe during independent travel across your weekends. In any case, there are several crucial points to keep in mind when travelling responsibly:

 

Using PMGY Associate Transport – Our local community teams often have trusted taxis. These can be used for travels that are not too far from the volunteer project, within the local community. If travelling further afield, you should ask PMGY staff what they would recommend.

 

Keeping Belongings in Sight Keeping belongings insight – It is important to remain vigilant and mindful of your personal belongings. This is especially important to remember when travelling outside of the volunteer project network. For example, this may be on public transport or using an unknown taxi driver.

 

Remaining Sensible and Calm – Public transport can sometimes be hectic and crowded, making it very easy to become overwhelmed. You may be approached by several people at one time. It is important to stay level headed in these situations. Try not to become frustrated or panicked as this will probably make the situation more difficult.

 

Avoid Night Travel – Where possible, you should avoid travelling at night. If this is unavoidable, it is highly recommended to stay in groups and keep your local team up-to-date.

 

Mopeds/Motorbikes – Please do not use mopeds at any point during your time abroad – they are extremely dangerous. Across all PMGY destinations, the rules of the road are very different from those back home.

 

Typically, insurance companies will not cover any related incident – this includes the PMGY Endsleigh policy.

 

Staying in Touch – If you find yourself stuck or unsure, please reach out to your local team.

At PMGY, we do our utmost to ensure that your experience with us is productive, exciting and safe. Any rules implemented by our local teams are not to put a downer on your experience. Rather, the purpose is to help make the experience as safe as possible, whilst making a positive impact within local communities.

 

During the time spent at your volunteer accommodation, you may be required to adhere to curfews in place by the local teams. Should this be applicable to you, we ask that you kindly respect such rules in place. Not only is this out of respect for the local team and fellow international volunteers, but to help maintain your safety.

 

Similarly, many of our volunteer accommodations are dry establishments. This means that the possession or consumption of alcohol in our Volunteer Houses may be strictly forbidden. We ask you to kindly respect any rules in place in your volunteer accommodation.

Most of our host countries are conservative in nature. As a consequence, it is extremely important that our international volunteers dress respectively during their time with us.

 

Dress code varies from country-to-country and sometimes from project-to-project. Importantly, we ask that our international volunteers adopt a smart and responsible image during their time in the local community. Of course, we will outline the specific dress code requirements in your Volunteer Handbook so you know exactly what to pack. Our local team will also brief you during your in-country orientation on arrival into your PMGY destination.

 

The general rule of thumb for girls is to cover shoulders, chest, stomach and thighs. In a like manner, for men, shorts should not lie above the knee and shirts should cover shoulders. We do not wish to impose strict regulations on our international volunteers. However, similarly, it is important for you to respect the local culture during your travels. Dressing appropriately will also earn you the respect of the people you’ll be working alongside. Our Volunteer Handbooks provide more information regarding preferred dress codes in each of our destinations.

 

It can be a good idea to take some nicer clothes for the weekends and special occasions. Whilst dress codes are more relaxed in the touristy areas, please avoid tight and very short clothing.

 

During your free time, you should look around at the locals and use them as a guide of what to wear. The more conservative you dress, the less likely you will generate any unwanted attention. We also recommend that you limit the jewellery you wear. Once again, this can decrease any unwanted attention and reduce your risk from pickpockets.

PMGY is fully committed to responsible volunteer travel and sustainable tourism. As a result, we have designed a Code of Conduct. The document enables you to achieve the most out of your time abroad in a safe and responsible manner. Furthermore, a Code of Conduct ensures the organisations and people we work with are treated with respect and cultural consideration.

 

All volunteers will review and acknowledge the Code of Conduct in advance of their program start date. For the reason that volunteers will be fully aware of what is expected of them before they arrive in-country. Any breaches of the Code of Conduct may jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of yourself and others around you. Consequently, your placement may also be terminated without a refund.

We do our utmost to provide all the information needed in order to determine the suitability of our projects to you. Each project page can be broken down into four sections, outlining aspects such as expected roles and important factors to consider. It is really important that you read and understand these project outlines, to ensure that the volunteer program meets your expectations.

 

At PMGY, we place particular emphasis on the nature of medical and wildlife volunteering abroad projects. Both of these volunteer projects can be assumed to be observational opportunities only. PMGY does not guarantee, endorse or encourage hands-on opportunities. We also explicitly note that any such engagement by a participant during their time must be performed under suitable supervision. This is also done at the participant’s own risk.

 

Medical Volunteering

 

A participant’s level of involvement on all medical volunteer programs is dictated by a range of factors. First of all an individual’s medical experience, but also the duration of the program and willingness to get involved. The medical staff are accountable for all volunteers whilst under their supervision. Ultimately, it is completely up to them if you are permitted and want to get involved in hands-on procedures.

 

Previous PMGY medical volunteers abroad have sometimes been given the chance to administer IV injections, dress wounds etc. With this being said, please note we can never guarantee or promote hands-on involvement. This remains true, regardless of medical experience or background.

 

Generally speaking, medical volunteer abroad participants with little or no experience assume a largely observational role. If you are studying a medically related degree, you should have more opportunity to undertake some basic hands-on involvement. However, to reiterate we can never guarantee or endorse hands-on experience should you choose to get hands-on. Such a decision ultimately lies with the medical staff, and any opportunities are taken at your own risk.

 

It should be noted that most travel insurance policies will not cover participants for any incidents related to medical practice abroad.

 

Wildlife Volunteering

 

Working with animals comes with a high level of unpredictability. For this reason, all PMGY wildlife volunteering abroad programs work on a strict hands-off basis. This means that there is no physical interaction with animals. All of our opportunities work to provide a natural experience, rather than an opportunity to pet the animals. Our volunteers work to provide the essential daily and long-term needs of the animals. This includes activities such as feeding, cleaning enclosures and providing stimulation in the form of behavioural and environmental enrichments. There is no requirement to engage in any activities you are uncomfortable in. In addition, any hands-on opportunities should be approached at a participant’s own risk.

 

It should be noted that most travel insurance poilicies will not cover participants for any incidents related to hands-on activity.

 

Many of our wildlife volunteering abroad opportunities abroad can be both physically and emotionally demanding. It is therefore imperative that participants are fit in both physical and mental health in order to complete their volunteer project. Before committing to the program, individuals are encouraged to reach out to a member of PMGY staff should they have concerns.

 

On a volunteer placement with animals, each volunteer will have their own pace, strengths and weaknesses. You are asked to kindly respect that not everyone will have the same abilities – individuals may work at different paces. Everyone on a PMGY volunteer program is there to help and will make their contribution in their own way. There is no benefit of working outside of your abilities since this will only hinder your experience and safety.

Having an appropriate travel insurance policy during your time abroad is essential. It is therefore mandatory for all of our international volunteers to be appropriately covered across all of their trip dates.

 

Although most of our volunteers experience a smooth ride during their time overseas, occasionally things may go wrong. Having a travel insurance policy in place helps you effectively deal with any problems you may encounter during your time away.

 

We recommend you put your travel insurance policy in place as soon as possible after confirming your place with PMGY. This may provide you with some protection for your trip, in the event of an unforeseen cancellation (circumstance dependent).

 

It is your responsibility to ensure you have a suitable insurance policy to cover all aspects of your time overseas. Your policy of choice should include cover for everything relevant for your travel. This includes the following:

 

• All the relevant activities you want to get involved in
• Cover for any medical issues
• Lost luggage/possessions
• Flight & trip cancellations

 

Search comparison websites will have extremely low prices available. However, this will often result in a more basic offering, which may not cover ‘volunteering’ as an activity. Additionally, this may only offer a basic medical cover. We recommend that you carefully assess the level of cover on offer and excess amounts charged. A cheaper price could result in a more limited or independent level of support from your insurance policy. This is something that should not be compromised in the event of an emergency abroad.

 

Plan My Gap Year Ltd is an appointed representative of Endsleigh Insurance Services Ltd, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). We have partnered up with the insurance company Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive optional policy. This has been designed with our international volunteers in mind, to cover our participants for all of their travel essentials. The policy is available to anyone across the globe, up to the age of 65 years. The document will cover you for your time on any PMGY destination and any onward travel (excluding the US and Canada).

Our local teams will provide you with as much information as possible, so you can stay mindful during your time abroad. Of course, there is a range of advice our teams will be able to offer. If you feel like something hasn’t been addressed, please do not hesitate to raise your question.

 

Here are a few handy tips for staying mindful during your time overseas:

 

Crossing the Road – Walk at a slow and steady pace. Do not panic. Maintain your speed as transport will judge the path they take according to this.

 

Street Food and Drinking Water – Be adventurous and enjoy the local cuisine. Similarly, it is important to be wary of where you are purchasing your food. Furthermore, avoid drinking unfiltered water at all times.

 

Local Laws and Customs – Be wary of local laws and customs. Any relevant points of note for your destination will be highlighted in the Volunteer Handbook. We also recommend researching these further, to ensure that you remain conscious and respectful throughout.

 

Keeping in Contact – It is important to keep our teams updated with independent travel made during your time with us. You should also ensure that you notify friends and family of what you get up to during your time. This all starts with contacting home as soon as you arrive in-country and letting them know you are safe. It is very easy to get caught up in the excitement of your travels. However, it is also very easy for your loved ones to worry if they don’t hear from you!

 

If you have any concerns about your safety overseas, please do not hesitate to contact us.