As one of the world’s leading gap year companies, we believe it’s important to do everything we can to be responsible. From the little things such as recycling in our offices around the world to the bigger things- aka, ensuring that our trips make a positive contribution to the destinations we visit, we're a company that cares about the impact we make on the world and we're always trying to do one better.
Not only are we dedicated to giving travellers support, information and assistance to make their trip responsible, we also strive to offer safe experiences, sustainable tourism, necessary employment and help where needed. Here are just a few areas where we try to make it happen…
Social/cultural – our trips are designed to respect local traditions and cultures, encourage authentic travel and a greater understanding between you and your hosts. So not only will you get an authentic taste of local life on our trips, you’ll learn about the ins and outs of local culture and what it means to be a traveller, not a tourist. We encourage you to learn some of the local language, customs and traditions before you go and think about the impact of your presence while you are there. It's always worth Googling local traditions before you go, especically when it comes to local dress as you may need to cover up in some countries!
Environment – our conservation projects make a positive contribution to the preservation of natural and human heritage, biodiversity and wilderness across the globe.
Local projects, local business - we work with locally run and organised projects that are sustainable and on going. This means that communities get help where it's needed the most and you can be sure that the good work you take part in will continue once you're back at home. We also use local transport, accommodation and facilities wherever possible to reduce environmental and cultural impact when you travel, as well as helping to boost the local economy.
Every project we work with is a local project set up and driven by the community in which it sits, who have identified a need for support from overseas volunteers and the benefits that this can bring them in reaching their goals with our volunteers working alongside local workers (and local volunteers in many cases) at projects. The reason for this is to ensure that the project is driven by the local community for the local community. The feedback that we have from the projects who we’ve worked with consistently for many years shows clearly the positive impact that volunteer travellers have had and we continue to work with our partners in country to assist them in achieving their goals, provide a safe environment for volunteers through advice on health & safety/completing risk assessments and through the assistance provided by the volunteers.
Here are two examples of how our projects have made a real sustainable difference to communities.
South Africa – Child Literacy and Classroom Volunteer
Many of South Africa’s government-run schools don’t have enough space for all of the pupils who need a better standard of education. We recently funded the purchase and renovation of a shipping container and turned it into a classroom for underprivileged children in Cape Town.
The container made a huge difference to the school. Filled with tables, chairs, books, blackboards and plenty of volunteers it helped to give youngsters a safe refuge as well as a better standard of education. The good work continues and volunteers are still setting off to give the kids a hand with their literacy!
In early 2011 we discovered a truly inspiring care centre in the town of Surin that desperately needed help. The care centre provides local youngsters with a safe haven from life on the streets but the building was in severe need of renovation to help make it a secure refuge.
We were able to fund and successfully complete the renovation of both the inside and outside of the centre, including a toilet/shower block, kitchen, lunch area and a meeting room for staff, children, their families and volunteers. The renovation was supported by dedicated volunteers and care work goes on as more volunteers join the project to help take care of the children and support the staff at the project.
Where Does Your Money Go?
For our volunteer programmes, on average, just over half of the fee you’ve paid goes directly to your destination, to pay local suppliers for your transport, accommodation and food. The fee also pays for local support staff, through our partners overseas in the form of materials of services rather than a monetary amount. The local community and economy in which you will be based therefore benefits from both your time and your financial contribution.
The remainder of your fee is used to provide all the other services we carry out to ensure that you have a fantastic and valuable experience. This involves important research and development of programmes to ensure that your time and energy are dedicated to projects that they will really benefit.
We also employ our awesome Real Gappers to provide the services you receive before, during and after your trip, such as extensive pre-departure information, a 24 hour global support network and carrying out background checks on all those volunteering with kids or vulnerable adults.
To ensure a steady flow of volunteers to the projects throughout the year, not just through the peak summer months, thus making them more sustainable our investment in the projects comes from the recruitment of volunteers through our marketing efforts. It’s your time, effort and enthusiasm (rather than the cold hard cash) that makes a difference to these grass root projects and we truly believe that by working together and forging relationships with them, we can make a real and lasting difference.
As a general rule we do not provide direct financial funding to the projects our volunteers, so to ensure sustainability and an independence for the project, we provide materials, product and support for the project as well as for the volunteers. The question of direct financial funding is one which has been widely discussed by experts in the field of responsible tourism, who highlight that the constant flow of financial aid into the developing world causes an over-reliance on foreign aid, which harms the long-term sustainability and stability of communities.