In 2005, three travellers met by chance in a Gambian garden. Harold, Sallie and Kate
were there for different, yet related, reasons – Harold was advising the government on its national tourism guidelines; Sallie was using her business skills
in volunteer work; Kate was designing a special interest holiday for a newspaper readers’ offer.
Our discussions rapidly centered on volunteer travel, with one overwhelming and recurring theme – the extant chasm between marketing and reality in a significant number of volunteer offers. Both sides in the equation – volunteers and local communities – frequently find themselves being sold a project that bears little resemblance to the real situation.
What could we do to address such potential exploitation of volunteers and local people?
Our initial idea was to ‘name and shame’ through targeted campaigning, but over the next few months, another idea took precedence: to achieve positive and long-term change, we would develop our own unique model of ethical and responsible volunteering, whereby all parties would be best-served and which would be totally open and honest in all its activities, including financial matters.
Thus – people and places – a social enterprise, committed to responsible volunteering.
The initial volunteer projects we launched with were in South Africa and Nepal – and our very first volunteer was placed in one of the South Africa projects in April 2006.
We’ve come a long way since then … today we are matching volunteers’ skills to projects’ needs in 12 countries.
One of our goals has always been to encourage and support people who would like to volunteer abroad but who prefer to travel with the protection afforded by a fully bonded package.
We were thrilled that our first packaged volunteer travel was with SAGA – we developed Saga Volunteer Travel in partnership with them – and for 5 years we worked together enabling their customers to work with our volunteer programme in South Africa and Nepal, to the great benefit of several of the volunteer projects. Our relationship with Saga Volunteer Travel ended in 2010,
people and places has continued to grow – with more corporate relationships, more local partners and volunteer projects, more volunteers!
We also work with Interchange to package most of our volunteer programmes in other countries.
So we’ve come a long way since 2005!