DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES IN THE GAMBIA

In the Gambia, we offer voluntary work in a local kindergarten and lower basic school for children from unprivileged families, aged from three to six years and from seven to 12 years old. If you love working with children then join us! We would also want to include volunteers that could educate the teachers in addition to the children.

Through volunteering, we learn. Basic training offered by various non-governmental organizations is only the beginning of what a volunteer can learn in practice. Actual experiences bring us much more than just theoretical knowledge. In contact with others, we learn how to communicate, be tolerant, life lives through the eyes of others. You can get various practical skills that will help you in your life and your career.

“Travel and help” is not a new trend in tourism, but it is a different way of combining travel and volunteering, connecting work and entertainment. This program does not expect you to devote all of your time doing voluntary work, but it is a part of your journey. Due to the situation in the world, this way of travelling is becoming increasingly popular because it rewards with a sense that we have done something good. This feeling is invigorating and opens your eyes to the fact that a lot of people in the world live in poor conditions, and that a single kind word or action has the power to completely change the lives of these people.

There are many ways you can help children in Africa. Volunteering is just one them. Choosing an appropriate volunteer work is very important for the volunteer’s satisfaction, but also for charities and people who help them. Many people dream of volunteering abroad. The program “Travel as a Volunteer” combines volunteering and traveling, experiencing new cultures and adventures. With timely and careful planning, you can make your dreams come true.

VOLUNTEERS’ WORK

Volunteering is a free implementation of tasks or provision of services to individuals or local organizations. The selfless act is motivated by the pursuit of doing good deeds and improving the quality of life of children and people in general. It means giving to the society and it is not rewarded with money but with new experiences, knowledge and a feeling that we are appreciated and respected by others. Volunteering helps us to develop new skills, to socialize, to learn new languages, and to have fun. It is becoming an increasingly popular way of establishing contacts with potential employers.

There are several forms of volunteer work. Many volunteers are qualified in areas, which help others, such as medicine, education and emergency services. Other volunteers get work where they are most needed; for example providing aid following natural disasters, cleaning beaches, taking care of animals, teaching children, etc.

Volunteering inspires us, enriches with new experiences, gives us the opportunity to learn from others, contributes to our personal growth, helps in getting to know our own interests, and allows us to test our abilities and ourselves.

Volunteering is learning.Various non-profit organizations offer basic training, which is just the beginning of what the volunteer can learn. We gain much more through direct experience than through theoretical knowledge. Through working with people, we learn to be more tolerant, patient and we can improve our communication skills. We can obtain a variety of practical skills, depending on the organizations that we have chosen to collaborate with.

VOLUNTEERS’ AGE IS NOT IMPORTANT

We accept volunteers of all ages (the only condition is the age of majority). Due to the specificity of the work and activities, we are primarily searching for people that love working with school-age children as well as those who attend kindergarten; people that have experience in working with children with disabilities, and people who have experience working with children but are not professionally qualified. Volunteers must enjoy the work and have a knack for working with susceptible children. Fluency in English is not required.

We are flexible when it comes to carrying out new projects, developing your ideas, for innovating the field in which we work ourselves and in which you work as well.

Our sole aim is to educate the children and thereby increase their employment opportunities, to teach them that the quality of life depends on education, and to teach them to opt for parenthood in a more mature age. Beside all this, our presence shows them that there are still people in this world that care about them.

PRACTICAL WORK

In practice, volunteers work in a small group of children, in which they remain throughout the entire time of their volunteer work. Each volunteer has a mentor/local teacher which helps with daily tasks, can recognize the knowledge level of children and is able to assist with translations. It is important that volunteer get to know the children in the group as soon as possible, to know their characteristics. If any of the teachers is absent, the volunteers can teach the classes on their own. Before departure, we will send you some details of how you can get ready to work in classes. The most important for your work is that you are flexible, resourceful and are able to organize the work in the classroom, to animate kids so that they will listen to you and participate and to help to a local teacher with her daily plans of lessons.

In kindergarten, we will be very happy if you would teach the children something new, and work with them using a variety of materials such as collage, a paint box, crayons, glue, scissors, clay, crayons…

The local school faces difficulties such as the lack of teachers and school supplies, parents that do not pay tuition fees; there is no access to running water and electrical installations, and lack of equipment in playgrounds and classrooms. With the help of volunteers, we can help improve the conditions in local schools.

REQUIREMENTS THAT VOLUNTEERS MUST MEET

The decision to become a volunteer can often be difficult. Some of the questions to which you must answer before you decide for this step are: What do I expect from volunteer work? How much time am I willing to devote to volunteer work? What skills and abilities do I have? When you answer these questions, it is much easier to choose.

We are proud of the fact that we focus only on projects, on which we work ourselves. We believe that personal involvement and knowing the project is extremely important for volunteer work. Our involvement has a positive impact on local communities and sustainable development of the local environment. For volunteering in local nursery and kindergarten in The Gambia we do not look for specific professional experience or higher education; instead we are looking for enthusiasm, perseverance and compassion. Speaking English language is a must (we do not require native or fluent English speaking volunteers), while knowledge of any other foreign language is ​​an added bonus. It is imperative that you are healthy and vaccinated. We will find a job that is most suitable for you, according to your wishes and abilities.

In addition you should:
– be at least 18 years of age,
– be willing to work and live in similar circumstances as your local colleagues,
– be prepared to invest time in preparations and training before you go to the place of accommodation,
– be willing to learn the basics of the local language,
– share your experience with volunteer work and inspire others after returning home.

Other desirable skills
Volunteers must have certain personality traits, if they want to be efficient. Flexibility, self-confidence and a sense for problem solving are the main characteristics that you must have. In addition, you need to excel at teamwork and to be able to listen to the needs of others. Most volunteers want to help others to learn, and to learn themselves. Although it may sometimes be faster to do the job yourself, your job will be, in many cases, to teach the others to achieve greater impact. Do not worry you have not had the opportunity to use the skills mentioned for some time or if you are not sure of your strengths. We organize assessment days where we get to know you a bit better to figure out what you can contribute.

Never forget that you are a guest in the country you are visiting and that you volunteered to help in kindergarten, which means that it is necessary to help in a manner we ask you too and where we ask. If you want to help, where see fit in the way that we do not approve, then you are not a suitable candidate to volunteer in our project. However, it does not mean that you should not express your opinion and not to share your experience with us.

Next to speaking an English language, having a combination of professional and soft skills, being flexible and healthy, there are also other important characteristics: adaptability, patience, independence, positive attitude, resourcefulness, responsibility, sense of humour… All these features are can be a good help in overcoming culture shock, which even the most experienced travelers or a volunteers go through.

Adaptability: You must be able to adjust to new situations, which you will encounter, as a volunteer. You need to have a positive attitude towards people, which you will help, live and work with. These people will probably see you as just as exotic as you see them and the new environment. In addition, you will have to get used to a lot less privacy than you are used to at home. Sometimes it can feel very crammed.
Patience:  This type of work is not suitable for those looking for quick fixes and instant results. You need patience and creativity to gain trust and establish good relationships with people in the community and that takes time.
Abilities: You have decided to volunteer and meet the conditions of the country to which you are travelling. We prepare you to do the work by acquainting you with the local language, culture, habits and needs. For some projects, you will need certain additional skills and training. The country, mentors and local communities will help you develop those skills.
Independency:   Although you might think that volunteers never work alone, sometimes it can feel very lonely. It may happen that you are the only volunteer in the community, which means that you will have to overcome the language barrier and face the challenges of a new environment. Community will accept you with open arms, but at first, you will have to dedicate your time to the little things, like remembering people’s names, and familiarizing yourself with the environment, in which you will live. A great deal of self-confidence and independence will help you in difficult times, when you are in doubt and faced with difficult situations.
Positive attitude:   Tasks and work will probably be less structured than what you are used to. The workflow can vary from chaotic to peaceful from one day to another. A positive attitude will you help you through those situations.
Flexibility: As a volunteer you will likely work in an environment that is very different from your own. Flexibility and the abandonment of expectations will allow you to meet the challenges and difficulties when accessing running water, electricity and other resources. Your accommodation will be safe, though modest. Remember that in many countries the way you dress is a sign (or lack) of respect. Therefore, it is necessary to observe certain local standards for the locals to accept you.
Resourcefulness:   People who try to adapt to new circumstances and cultures often experience unexpected emotional conditions: loneliness and isolation, uncertainty, homesickness and doubting the level of dedication. Being resourceful will help you to work with what you have, to remain open and overcome the challenges.
Responsibility:   As a volunteer, you are responsible for the quality of your work. You should also observe the general rules to stay safe and healthy. For example, volunteers may not drive a car in certain countries or may not leave the area, in which they work, without prior notice. These rules are sensible and should be followed.
Sense of humour: The ability to laugh at your own expense and to small surprises in life is very favourable. Engaging in voluntary work is a never-ending learning process. The sense of humour and a positive attitude will help you to learn from your mistakes without judgement.

WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?

We want to ensure your skills are matching needs of our local project so that you can benefit from The Gambia as much as possible. For successful volunteering you must collaborate with humanitarian organization Charity Pearl The Gambia. They play an important role in coordinating with organizations and volunteers on behalf of this partnership. They implement many functions, such as identifying and determining opportunities for voluntary work and developing projects that benefit local communities.

In addition, they appoint the tasks for volunteers, prepare them for carrying out these tasks, ensure to control and host them. Activities can be performed individually or in a group for shorter or longer periods. Activities can range from 14 days to 6 months more. Voluntary work covers many areas such as culture, sport, social security, the arts, education, development…All share the same aspect – intercultural learning. A question that most ask at some point before they become volunteers: Can one person really make a difference? The answer is “yes”. Though only if the right person is in the right place at the right time.

HOW TO APPLY FOR VOLUNTEER WORK IN OUR PROJECT

The first step is to fill in the application form and send it to volunteer@treasuresofwestafrica.com. It will take a few minutes and give you the opportunity to tell us more about yourself, including about the required knowledge, experience and qualifications. It makes sense to fill out a form, although you may still not decided to travel at all. This way we can check whether there is a demand for your skills and start the process.

Each volunteer has unique set of experience and skills – they can be professional or not. You may have worked in small firms, have experience in working with young children, practical skills such as cooking; you may be qualified as a teacher or lecturer, as a nurse in pediatrics… Each volunteer is considered individually, ensuring the best possible match of your strengths with the needs of our projects.

Before you travel we will guide you through administrative matters that are necessary if you are travelling to The Gambia. We offer advice on vaccinations and health requirements, and in your stead organize flights and visas to enter the country. We are ready to assist you in preparing before you travel. When you arrive to The Gambia, our representative will take care of you. When you arrive, you will attend training on work and cultural awareness. The training will take up to two days and will help you to understand the culture and history of the country, in which you will be working, and allow you to connect with other volunteers.

WHERE ARE WE AND HOW TO FIND US

Our office is located in Serekunda. Serekunda (Serrekunds, or Sere Kunda) is the biggest city in Gambia. It lies southwest of Banjul. In 2006, the population was estimated at 340,000. Although the capital city of Gambia is Banjul, the development is centralized in Serekunda, as Banjul lies on an island and therefore cannot expand.

Check your travel agency for reasonable priced airplane tickets or contact us. We can also help you in finding cheap flight to The Gambia.
At the airport in Banjul, we are there to pick you up. For transportation from the airport, we offer the best rates.

ACCOMMODATIONS DURING YOUR STAY IN GAMBIA

The Gambia offers wide choice of accommodation. Our volunteers usually stay in self-catering apartment which are located in a safe area. Living conditions are up to the standard,  hygiene and safety is on a much higher level in this area. There is 20 hours of electricity, free wi-fi and water access. The apartments are close to the shops, craft market, airport, restaurants, banks, money exchange offices, etc. There is an access to the beach on 5 min walking distance. Cleaning services, daily fresh towels, bed linen changing available at no extra cost. Using the swimming pool, sun beds and shades, large general lounge with satellite TV is also included in the price.

DESCRIPTION OF A TYPICAL DAY

We believe that volunteers deserve the best support available, so our local representatives have their job cut out for them. Our volunteers live and work in the heart of the community. Like that, you can gain a real insight into local customs and challenges, which also allows you to be accepted by the community.

School schedule:
Monday to Thursday from 08:30 – 13:30
Friday from 08:30 – 12:00

Extra classes for children who need more attention and an individual approach are carried out solely by volunteers.

For the duration of your work at school you will need to bring your lunch and water with you or you buy it in the shop close to school.

At the end of the workday, you can prepare lunch for yourself or you try Gambian cuisine by trustful vendors. If you will stay in a hotel, than a hotel restaurant is an option.  In case you are a vegetarian, you need not worry! Gambia offers an array of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables!

Afternoons are spent casually and are intended for enjoying the garden, learning about the way of life of local residents, and learning, discovering local culture, and meeting new people. You might also want read a book, write an article, record a video, take a walk, or watch TV.

It is important that you follow safety advices during night outings, and that you do not spend evenings outside without our supervision. All outings are supposed to be done in a group as we are a team with a common objective. It is very important to know how to adapt to one another. This way we learn self-control, adjusting to others, and teamwork. Outings on your own are done at your own risk and we will not be responsible for any are inconveniences. It is recommended that such outings do not happen or are kept at a minimum.

We expect you to bring new ideas to our projects, share experiences, to help solving current problems, be innovative and be committed to the program. After your departure from The Gambia, we would be very happy if you continued your collaboration with us. On weekends, a variety of activities will be held for all those who would want to attend. Together we can organize educational and fun workshops for children; we can go to the village and explore cultural tourism in connection to voluntary work (participation in projects that help women, projects that help the local community). In short, the weekends will be fun and spent work; you will see new places and meet new people. We expect cooperation, suggestions and organization.

DAY-TO-DAY TRANSPORT

We have public transport – small, fast buses that drive on main roads and are suitable for short journeys. This option is favourable. Another option is a taxi. The price depends on the distance. It is also possible to order a taxi to pick you up at a certain location at a certain time. The price must be set in advance (or you need to barter). There are three different taxi services in The Gambia. For volunteers and daily transportation, we recommend trustworthy taxi drivers. The driver comes to pick up volunteers in front of the house and brings them back after work. It is possible to arrange for transportation after work to attend other activities (agreed upon beforehand). We do not recommend and do not allow agreeing on activities without informing Charity Pearl team first.

SAFETY DURING VOLUNTARY WORK

Your safety is very important to us. People and places – also local communities – must be safe. Our local staff is working closely with us to ensure your safety. As in every society, there are risks and dangers, but if you follow our tips and advice of our hosts, your safety will not be compromised. We work with professional and responsible people who are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Local representatives in Gambia are also available. During a workday you will be looked after by our local associates who will provide all necessary advice in relation to your safety during the project. We will ensure that you have the contact information of the person on your work location in case of an emergency.
We will ask you to follow our advice before you travel, and especially where you will be working. Please understand that we cannot be held responsible if you experience problems or situations that could not be avoided.

ESTIMATED COST OF TRAVEL

You travel at your own expense. Voluntary work is not paid but your hard-earned money will help in the development and happiness of those who need it most.

What are your estimated costs?
– 50€ registration fee. Charity organization team offers continuous informing, teaching, counselling, supervision and assistance. Not only will you gain new experiences through volunteer work, but you/we will also affect your personal growth, positive thinking, personal achievements, etc. Registration fee must be paid in advance, along with your accommodation costs if you book through us.
– Vaccinations rates depend on country you are coming from. Please check at your local travel clinic and get advice from your personal doctor. If you are taking anti-malarials, the price or quantity of pills depends on the number of days you stay in areas with malaria.
– Airline ticket rates are subject to change. Please contact your travel agent or contact us to arrange your flight ticket. Return ticket prices depend on availability and departure date. Prices range from 400€ to 800€.
– For entering into the country you might need a visa. It depends on country you are coming from. If you will need to extend your visa, you can obtain it in Banjul.
– For transportation to the airport, please contact your travel agent or transportation agent. The prices depend on date, availability, and the distance from the airport.
– Transport from Banjul airport upon request. The price depends on number of passengers in the car.
– The cost of accommodation.
– The cost of daily transportation to school depends on the number of passengers in a taxi and on the number of days you will be working. Generally the cost of daily transportation does not exceed one euro per person.
– Additional costs are connected to your personal consumption (telephone, internet, food, miscellaneous purchases, excursions, entrance fees for local concert, drinks). On average volunteers spend about 50€ per week (per person).

HOW DO YOU BENEFIT?

It is not only giving and working. Both parties benefit from volunteering. Sometimes you can gain even more than others can, because you come from a different environment. To travel as a volunteer is the first step. After that, the decision is yours. Are you going to continue giving or will you stop.

Here are a few things that you will definitely gain from the trip:
1. Learning, adaptation, teaching.
2. Seeing towns and villages that no travel agency travels to.
3. Living and socializing with local people, forming new friendships.
4. Trying local food, experiencing local customs.
5. Saving money – to travel as a volunteer is cheaper than travelling with travel agencies.
6. Experiencing public transport, learning to be independent in a foreign country.
7. To offer help and intercultural knowledge exchange.
8. Get a higher level of social awareness and social responsibility.
9. Obtaining international work experience.
10. Improving English skills and learning basic phrases in the local language.

THINGS TO TAKE WITH YOU

If you would like to bring something to students, please let us know, because we will also send you a list of things that schools currently need most. You cannot miss with small notebooks, paper, scissors, glue, colouring books, gym equipment, educational posters or drawings, brushes and water colours, chalk, pencils, pens, erasers, English rhymes, fairy tales, etc.

GOING HOME

The end of your visit does not mean that you are done with volunteer work for us. You can stay involved after the end of your visit in many ways.

Here are some suggestions:
– volunteer again
– keep a travelogue or present your experience in a different way
– collect  rice contributions for poor families in Gambia
– help us choose and train the next group of volunteers
– help us get more volunteers
– organize activities to raise awareness on the topic of developmental disorders
– help organizing charity events.

We will also appreciate if you write your experiences in a travelogue blog and share your photos, if you will allow us to publish your story.

If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us directly (info@travelasvolunteer.com).

Volunteer described their experience of working in a kindergarten. Read their stories by clicking HERE .