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community volunteering in eco-tourism (BA)

business & administration
£1,260 - details below

Volunteer with an award winning eco lodge, set on the idyllic West African coast. You will work with the founders towards their inspirational vision for sustainable community development – and stay in stunning natural surroundings!<_o3a_p>

Click for larger imageSkillsRequired

We work closely with the local people who manage this project, and they have identified their primary volunteer needs. 

Sandele Eco-Retreat and ancillary operations need training and support in the following areas:<_o3a_p>

  • development of general management skills including human resources and administration
  • hospitality management
  • development of strategic planning
  • marketing strategy and implementation
  • development  management and information system
  • Information Technology
  • web design

The Project

Sandele Eco-Retreat is based on The Gambian south coast, near the village of Kartong, just a short distance from the Casamance area of Senegal. Kartong is particularly active in music, drumming, dancing and spiritualism and the people – of many different tribes, nationalities and faiths – live here in harmony.

The Eco-Retreat is run in conjunction with the local community, who benefit from the development and running of the resort and who will assume complete responsibility in twenty-five years time. The Retreat offers accommodation in luxury lodges, nestled in the bush a hundred metres from the beach.

Started by social entrepreneurs, Geri Mitchell and Maurice Phillips, the Eco-Retreat is set in 20 hectares of land owned by the village of Kartong. There are currently 4 lodges and 5 guest rooms that have been completed, with another 5 under construction.

Geri and Maurice work closely with the entire community of Kartong, where unemployment levels are regularly as high as 70% - the community are the major stakeholders in the development and 70% of staff are drawn from the village.

"anyone going to the Gambia has to visit the Sandele Eco Resort and meet them ( Geri amd Maurice), I would say if you have been to the Gambia and not met them you have not been to the Gambia. I would go so far as to say if, after the first night I spent with them to compile this marketing brief, I was leaving the Gambia the next day I would have been satisfied with my experience."Marvin

Geri and Maurice are keen to work with volunteers who have skills and experience in people management, change management and web design - such volunteers will assist with capacity-building in the village as well as marketing the development through improving the quality of internet information for Dandele and other village initiatives.

"Our Vision is to create a centre of excellence in terms of responsible tourism, sustainability; luxury and peace; where quality, first-rate service and superior cuisine are offered in a manner that maximises benefit to the local community." Geri 

A charity has been established - the Pathways Foundation - to work in parallel with the Eco-Retreat. The aim of the charity is to build capacity in sustainability, incorporating environmental, cultural and social perspectives on living and working. The Foundation will operate a Learning Centre at Sandele. The Pathways Foundation is a centre where people from all continents can join together with the aim of increasing their understanding of different cultures, societies and ways of sustainable living - a two way learning process, where local people are teachers and mentors as well as active participants in learning.

"Phew! we've been here nearly a week and our feet have hardly touched the ground.  We've met many of the movers and shakers in the responsible tourism field here and been very impressed with what they are doing.We visited the Ecotourism lodge -Sandele - on the coast near the southern border with Senegal, at the end of a new trunk road which has just opened up the area.  It was most impressive with grand domed lodges built from compressed earth brick which use hardly any cement.  The design also aims to use very little timber and the toilets are all self composting and using no water.  Power is supplied by wind turbine and solar panels and they source their vegetables and other foods locally.  Eventually they may well grow their own.  the site is only part finished at present and Hugh has been set the task of calculating how one third of the operating profits can be transferred over to the local community for development projects." Volunteers Hugh and Joan


The Gambia is one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world. It is also one of the friendliest – perhaps the most attractive “real” Africa to visit. Gambians demonstrate a genuine warmth and tolerance for other cultures. This may be the perfect place for first time travellers to Africa (and expereinced travellers are also very welcome!). 

With a total land area of 10689 square kilometres, The Gambia is located mid-way on the bulge of the West African Coast and stretches 350 kilometres (Km) inland from the West to East on either side of The Gambia River.  It is bound on the North, South and East by the Republic of Senegal and to the West by the Atlantic Ocean.  The River Gambia which runs the entire length of the country from the Futa Jallon Highlands in the Republic of Guinea to the Atlantic Ocean divides the country into two halves - the North and the South Banks.  

Overall per capita income is approximately US$320 per year. The Gambia is classified as one of the highly indebted poor countries.More than half of the 1.7 million population lives on less than a dollar a day, with most of the population (over 75%) surviving on subsistence agriculture. Life expectancy is a staggering 55 and the average age is 17. 

In spite of its multi-ethnic and multi-lingual characteristics occasioned by the existence of five main ethnic groups (Mandinka, Fula, Wollof, Jola and Serahule) and a similar number of minority groups (Serers, Manjagos, Akus, Balantas, and people of Lebanese origin) there is ‘unity in diversity’ because of similar structures in the communal lifestyles.  Islam is the predominant religion with 95% of the population being Muslim. Christians account for the remainder and a few people practice traditional religions.  One common strand among ethnic groups is the patriarchy where male dominance is common.  Gender disparities are notable in that women play a limited role in the decision-making processes both in the public and private domains. Other factors that militate against women are low literacy levels and low status in society. 

The social fabric of The Gambia is based on family networks often stretching into neighbouring countries where the extended family takes responsibility for the well-being and maintenance of the family.   According to the 1998 Participatory Poverty Assessments, 69% of the population live in poverty and 30% live in extreme poverty.  Poverty has been feminised as women and youths are classified the poorest of the poor.  Consequently families are finding it extremely hard to maintain this system, which largely has hindered entrepreneurship by limiting savings and investments.

Agriculture is the main economic activity and accounts for the largest proportion of economically active persons with more than half of the population engaged in subsistence farming, livestock rearing and groundnut cultivation.  Groundnut is the main cash crop but efforts to diversify have brought in sesame growing, which is predominantly grown by women.  Rice is the staple food but the country has not yet reached self-sufficiency in rice production thus leading to huge importations of the commodity.  In addition to agriculture, tourism is an important source of foreign exchange as well as of employment.

Volunteer opportunities in an award-winning poverty eco-development – agriculture, alternative technology, small business, IT and admin, product design and marketing – all these skills and more will be welcome in this project. Whether you are in work and looking for a career break, or already retired, you can share your skills and experience with this community eco-lodge. Other skills and experience will also be welcome – take a look at the list of needs, as identified by the project, near the top of this page. You can play your part in responsible volunteer work overseas.

Minimum Duration
4 weeks minimum - longer placements are welcomed
Living Conditions

Couldn't be more idyllic! You will live and work at the Eco-Retreat based in 20 hectares of land, adjacent to 5 miles of undeveloped coastline! You will have your own private room and all meals will be provided.

When you need to be in the office in Fajara, you will stay in Safari Garden, the award winning small hotel managed by the same team as Sandele.

Project Costs

£1250 for 4 weeks based on full board in a private ensuite room 

read about our costs and pricing policy here 
watch an explanatory interview with programme director Sallie Grayson

Additional weeks are costed at a sliding reduced rate.Please ask for details

returning volunteers will receive a 25% reduction in project management and matching fees 

Please note: these costs are correct to the best of our knowledge, and can only be confirmed at the time of booking due to possible changes in transport costs and taxes which are outside our control.

Included: accommodation & all meals, airport transfers, full local orientation, city tour, social event, local SIM card, project & placement liaison, project donation

Your project donation will be used for the purchase of essential aids and equipment to facilitate your work in the project.

How your money is spent based on 4 weeks
£550 - direct costs in The Gambia (airport transfers, accommodation, orientation, information packs)
£250 - project management, liaison & supervision in The Gambia
£200 - project donation in The Gambia
£260 - recruitment, matching & project development in UK

Not included: flights, insurance, visa costs, personal expenses such as phone calls, medical expenses, etc..

Recommended Reading
2011 UN report - Youth in Africa

Rough Guide to The Gambia

The Lonely Planet Guide to The Gambia and Senegal

The Good Tourist in The Gambia - a guide book for the conscientious tourist

The Bradt Travel Guide Book - The Gambia

check out slideshare   youtube  our blog  facebook for volunteer interviews & project news

Project gallery
Project reviews
Name, Location Month submitted
Nigel 11 FDR Pegler, United Kingdom Mar 2012

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