Volunteers are 100% immersed in the culture and traditions of the community they are placed with. Volunteers and Project Leaders live in, eat with and social with the community their project is based in. We eat the same food, bucket wash or bath in rivers, sleep on mattresses on floors under mosquito nets and play local games with the children.
We sometimes live in Homestays, or the community offers a secure house to sleep in. Volunteers are encouraged to live like their community members, instead of staying in plush hotels or hostels. By doing this, we can be sure that the money volunteers raise for their trip goes back into the community, by paying them accommodation and food costs, hiring locals for specialised jobs such as carpenters and masons, and sourcing building materials locally.
As a result, volunteers and their community members become family, friends and lifelong pen pals. Ultimately, the communities we work with appreciate our help, welcome us with open arms and we can create long-term positive partnerships.
The role of Junior and Senior Project Leaders is to be the 24/7 support for volunteers., so that when they land in-country they have nothing to worry about in terms of operations and logistics and can get stuck into their project from the first day. Project Leaders are there to personally meet and greet volunteers at the airport, they work with them on their projects, they accompany them on weekend trips away and they are there to answer any questions or concerns along the way.
For a lot of volunteers, it is their first time away and its Madventurer's number one priority to ensure volunteers feel safe, supported and that ultimately their time and impact is positive.
My number one piece of advice is to keep an open mind. By that I mean have no expectations, immerse yourself into the culture, learn their traditions, learn the language, try the local dishes and be respectful of the differences you may encounter as to the way of living.
The biggest adjustment for me, in all the countries I've been to, was the pace that people lived and worked. 'Fiji time' and 'Ghana time' are well-known phrases if you've ever heard of them? Where we are used to sticking to the clock in our Western worlds more often than not in developing countries they're up when the sun rises and they sleep when the sun goes down. Whatever happens in between is at their pace and that's something you will have to embrace. If you can't beat them, join them!
“In travelling a companion; in life, compassion” - Haruki Murakami.