Give A Fig Volunteering

Give A Fig Volunteering


We're a UK non-profit operating on the beautiful safe varied and exciting island of Sri Lanka. We offer unique fully supported government partnered education and development projects, and set the standard for volunteering as official education partners of the Sri Lankan government. We offer professional, and non-professional volunteering and internship opportunities from 2 - 52 weeks. We train government teachers of English in Sri Lanka, work in government schools, monks' schools and at universities, in vocational colleges, with a global orphanage charity, and in villages, all delivering English education. We work to grow local incomes through sustainable tourism, as well as building toilets and renovating and refurbishing community buildings.



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Yes, I recommend this program

It is quite hard to help your child decide what to do during the holidays. We were keen to find a worthwhile volunteering experience for 4-6 weeks, and it did feel a bit like a jump in the dark.

After a lot of internet searching and asking lots of questions of knowledgable friends and acquaintances, we decided that Give A Fig would be the one. Our main concerns were to find something which would be safe for our daughter. We wanted it to be educational for her whilst allowing her an opportunity to make a difference to the pupils she was helping.

Paul and Jane were so welcoming and amazingly selfless and they certainly seem to have found a great balance of helping the community while also providing a cultural immersion for their volunteers. They also made it very easy to obtain a visa by completing all the paperwork for us to take to the Embassy.

I highly recommend Give a Fig to any parent of late teens/early 20s who want to volunteer.

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Yes, I recommend this program

I stayed in Sri Lanka for 3 weeks with Give a Fig Volunteering at the Fig and Gecko and it was honestly one of the best experiences I've ever had! Give a Fig Volunteering are such an accommodating organisation which ensure that you can get the most out of your visit safely and efficiently. whilst staying with them I volunteered in the local school, visited orphanages and taught young monks English. Give a Fig also organised a weekend trip for me and my friend to go on an elephant safari and scuba diving, where I got to see wild turtles and black tip sharks in their natural habitat! the opportunities and experiences Give a Fig offer are unparalleled to anything you would find anywhere else for such a good price! Both Paul and Jane are so friendly and so concerned about making your stay as comfortable and as fulfilling as you want. Give a Fig organised tours of the local areas for my friend and I to see all the historical and religious sites in Anuradhapura and there was always something more to see! with Give a Fig volunteering I got to volunteer at a turtle sanctuary, helping to clean and feed the turtles whilst also gaining a very valuable insight into the lives of the locals and making memories for life. The opportunities, experiences and memories I have gained from volunteering with Give a Fig volunteering in Sri Lanka will stay with me for life and I would 100% recommend it to anyone and everyone else! Just do it!!

What would you improve about this program?
Paul and Jane were always so open to improvments, that anything i felt needed improving was improved by the end of the day! I could've asked for nothing more!
Yes, I recommend this program

As a parent I couldn’t have asked for more from a Volunteering company. Even though our daughter is in university, as a parent you are still concerned about them when they go abroad, especially to somewhere as different to the UK as Sri Lanka. We’ve heard some real horror stories about volunteering - from the poor quality of the food served, to the lack of support given and it was quite difficult to make a choice. Overall, the low cost compared to others, and level of support provided by Give a Fig before coming out was excellent and we got the impression- later proved correct - that they cared about what they were doing for the people of Sri Lanka and the volunteers, than the money. I guess that’s the reason they’re a non-profit organisation. With Give a Fig everything was planned and organised from the moment she stepped off the plane, to the day she got back on the plane to come home. To find out that the experience more than matched the expectation was a bonus, especially as she tells me the accommodation and food were so good. Give a Fig clearly provide a very rounded package.

Having researched many volunteering companies, my daughter spoke with Paul and Jane at Give a Fig Volunteering, who were very helpful and reassuring. Paul set out a suggested timetable of what my daughter would be able to do, and talked through the options that she had researched herself. Everything was costed and tailored to her requests, and matched what she wanted to do and see whilst in Sri Lanka. My daughter volunteered at a turtle sanctuary and taught English at a local school and orphanage, and was privileged to be able to teach English to the local monks. She loved the experience, and felt that it really supported her. On her days off she wanted to visit other parts of Sri Lanka, which Give a Fig arranged. She went scuba diving, went on an elephant safari and Give a Fig took her to a couple of festivals.

It was a fantastic opportunity for her, one that she tells me she’ll remember all her life. Indeed, until she went back to Uni after her summer break, she talked about the experience a lot.
As a parent I would highly recommend Give a Fig Volunteering if your son or daughter, anyone really of any age, who wish to undertake volunteering work in Sri Lanka, Paul organised everything so well, it took a lot of worry off a parent’s shoulders.

What would you improve about this program?
Nothing that I can think of from a parents perspective
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Steve & Cath
Yes, I recommend this program

Our daughter, Harriet, visited for three weeks in summer 2017 and has not stopped talking about it since! As parents we were a little anxious about sending our daughter halfway across the world for this experience, however any concerns we had were put aside due to the well organised and coordinated itinerary, tailored to my daughter and her friend's expectations for the trip. It was reassuring to be able to chat in person to Paul, the founding director of Give a Fig Volunteering, who was very knowledgeable and able to answer any of our concerns. During their stay they were never left unsupported, with key contacts being made available for every step of their experience, from landing in the capital city through to a number of excursions etc.
We recommend any parent to have confidence in this organisation and to encourage their sons and/or daughters to benefit from this life experience, providing them with opportunities to see everyday Sri Lankan life away from the commercialised tourist areas, and understanding the true benefit of volunteering to improve the lives of these communities, whist enriching their own lives.

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Yes, I recommend this program

''I’m Mark, the leader of a youth centre in Streatham south London, and this experience of volunteering was recommended to me by a fellow London youth leader who’d brought his young leaders out in 2016 on a construction project. We decided to come out on an education project, and it was fantastic. Although none of the young leaders aged 16-22 had taught before they all threw themselves into their roles in the primary, and the secondary, as well as in the college, and the monks’ school, and 2 orphanages. I always had faith in young people’s ability to excel, but what they achieved here in Sri Lanka with Give A Fig Volunteering was beyond all I could have imagined. They too far exceeded what they thought they could do, and they loved it here. Coming out of the classroom each day feeling proud, made me proud of them too.

It was an amazing experience, and Paul and Jane looked after us really well. Their HQ is fantastic – we were the first group in it, so I can imagine that it can only improve with time. The food was really good too, fresh, which was a bit of a shock to some of us given our diet of London’s fast food, but it worked well. We volunteered a 4 day week, which was really good. It gave us the chance to see Sri Lanka, and meant that we never got too tired either. Sri Lanka’s an amazing country, and one of the best experiences of our time here was spending a day in the village doing pottery, which must have been good, as we also saw elephants, and a fabulous festival on our first night here. I suppose the best recommendation is that I want to bring another group out next year. It’s an amazing experience, and really good value for money!''

What would you improve about this program?
programme was just about right, good balance of volunteering opportunities and leisure time for seeing more of the country


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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Paul Ellmes

Job Title
Founder / CEO

What is your favorite travel memory?

I began travelling at 16, when I joined the merchant navy, and have been to every continent bar Antarctica and Australasia.

Overall, the most memorable parts of each journey are the new experiences, the characters - both the many friendly and welcoming people and the obligatory rogue - and the culture and history that open your eyes to our varied, but shared world.

My most recent experiences aside from Sri Lanka have been in the Middle East, where people have been remarkably friendly. Jordan in particular was quite magical, as it encapsulated such diversity and friendliness.

I remember Jane being mobbed in Jerash by a group of 20 young women who all wanted a group photo with her, and in the same place, boys and girls in the Roman centre dancing together to music form a big stereo blasting out Jordanian music.

Perhaps the greatest contrast we have seen has been between SE Asia's obvious lack of wildlife and the relatively huge amount still in Sri Lanka - we saw more here in 1 week in 2014, than in 10 weeks in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia the previous year.

This was one of the many factors that led us to work in Sri Lanka when we were asked to set up an education center here in Anuradhapura by the government.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Through various unplanned encounters, Jane and I we were invited by the government to begin an education company here, which has led to us work with teachers and schools to upskill teachers of English, and bring English to life in schools, in orphanages, as well as in villages.

As a result, we are also involved in development work and conservation, and so we began a volunteering company to offer these incredible opportunities to people to experience Sri Lanka and to work on government partnered projects that will not only look great on your CV, but will also change lives.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

That they had such a great time, and wanted to return, and that the experience had left an indelible mark on them is the common thread I hear.

Whether this may be in learning new skills they'd like to carry on with, or in being touched through seeing how people with seemingly so little to western eyes, appear to have so much, to be so happy, and to be so generous with their time and money.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would definitely go on our school education program, which is for anyone who speaks English well - whether you are professional teachers, retired teachers, aspiring to teach, or those who simply want to coach and talk and work in a structured and well supported environment for an experience like no other. Help in the classroom, help at break time, play and coach sports, arts and drama - through English.

The staff and children are so welcoming, and have such a great desire to work with others to learn English and to develop their confidence. With this experience, outside the school, you could work teaching and coaching in one of the world's leading orphanage charities.

This program with the government, and with us as a non-profit will really support your CV.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

We are a UK non-profit education and development volunteering company based in Sri Lanka, working in partnership with the Sri Lankan government, and universities.

We are small enough to plan your experience to suit you, and large enough to deliver fantastic experiences. This means that we are on hand to support you, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

We operate our own accommodation, and we can assure you that you will not be on your own. Our prices reflect the fact that we want you to join us and be committed to what we do, and we believe that you will find them to be incredibly good value for money.

Your certificates and letters of commendation will reflect the professional nature of your volunteering, as you will be working directly in government and local government positions.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Ensuring that everything we do, we do as well we possibly can, for all involved.