Volunteer Abroad in Asia and Africa with Volunteering Journeys

Volunteering Journeys

About

Volunteering Journeys is a social enterprise that provides quality, affordable and tailored volunteer programs in Asia and Africa. Whether you are looking for educational growth, personal fulfillment, or skill building, our programs will give you a immersive and rewarding experience with real locals. Our projects are all community led. You can come and teach english, help women's empowerment, engage with medical and healthcare work, or be a part of animal conservation efforts. You could be from any walk of life - a student, a family, a career breaker or even over 50.

Our volunteering opportunities are supported by a team of passionate, knowledgable and experienced local teams. Our focus is to connect people to enable learning. We give quality programs at affordable rates and customise your experience to your needs, skills and interests ensuring that you get the most our of your time abroad. So check us out and start a journey of a lifetime!

Founded
2014
Headquarters

121 Kingsmead Avenue Worcester Park
Surrey
KT48UT
United Kingdom

Reviews

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Dr Jay
3/10
No, I don't recommend this program

From when I first arrived to the homestay in Kerala my induction programme and medical placement was extremely disorganised. In fact, there was no medical placement to speak of; I found it extremely unprofessional that the coordinator had to take me to three hospital placements to decide which one I wanted to take. The first two hospitals were clearly unsuitable, with the doctors hardly speaking any English. I do not understand why I was even taken to these in the first instance as they were not appropriate and I wasted 3 days of placement in administrative delays. I also have a clear trail of e-mails in which I asked you several times for the location of the hospital and you refused to provide me with this, I had doubts then but these are now confirmed by the experience I have had with volunteering journeys. Nothing at all was prepared, the company lied that the hospital has a 2 week minimum commitment fee. This was not the case, the hospital was paid days after I arrived; this has been independently verified by the HR team at the hospital. Although my supervising doctor at the hospital was great, there was a complete lack of structure to the placement. I had specifically asked for 1 week of Ayurvedic medicine and 1 week of A+E (please see the e-mails); this was not provided as the coordination between the hospital and the coordinator was poor. The hospital placement and departments I was to be posted in should have been done before I even landed in India; there was plenty of time to arrange this and I was shocked that this was not arranged.
Furthermore, I have some serious concerns regarding the health and safety of the placements, with particular regard to homestay accommodation. The homestay was of a very poor standard of cleanliness for an accommodation that is supposed to cater to the needs of international volunteers. Myself and several volunteers fell ill on the trip; although identifying a link between this and the conditions at the homestay is difficult to prove, I have no doubt that the living conditions were certainly contributory. Even worse, there were unsheathed electrical wires in my bathroom which were NOT decommissioned in accordance with basic health and safety standards.
However, what I found most concerning was that myself and the other volunteers were NOT asked to provide CRB/DBS checks. Although it states in the handbook it is to be provided, as an activity provider it is their responsibility to ensure that all volunteers are safe to work with children in a resource poor environment. I was shocked to learn that alongside myself, other volunteers did also not have to submit their DBS.
On a separate issue, it says on their website that they are a social enterprise; the company was very clear that they refuse to provide a breakdown of exactly where the £921 pounds they received has been spent, including how much of this has actually gone into donations to the projects (many projects reported they received no money at all)
Overall, although I enjoyed my experience in India as a place to visit I have been disappointed by the service provided by Volunteering journeys. At a cost in excess of £900, the trip has been poor value for money. Several days of hospital placement were missed due to the coordinator rushing me around to take passport photos and finding my placement, I was not provided with the departments I requested and basic standards of health and safety were not met.

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Bob
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

We had an absolutely remarkable time with Rainbow Voluntours. We were looking for a family volunteering opportunity and came across them in a web search. The director, Ridhi, was invariably thoughtful and responsive in our correspondence, listening to what we were looking for and matching us with a perfect situation. Our family of 6 (four kids, ages 5-13) would be teaching in a school and an after-school program, and I was worried that it would either be too much (i.e., "Here's your class for the week, best of luck!") or too little (i.e., "Sit over in the corner and watch.").

It was the perfect balance: making a contribution but not being asked to do too much, with Rainbow Voluntours staff with us every step of the way to help, support, clarify, etc. I was also impressed that they didn't feed us a line about how we were changing the world in a week; I knew going in that *we* would be the ones most changed, and the staff's perspective's was the same: we were making an impact by showing we cared and sharing experiences, which hopefully meant something to a lot of people.

The whole staff in Kerala -- Ridhi, Geeta, Midhu -- were wonderful, and it was a transformative experience for our family.

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Anne-Marie
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This is a great option for short term volunteers. Fort Kochi city is gorgeous, safe and really welcoming. There are loads of lovely restaurants, shops and markets so it is a nice place to explore when you are not with the school. Rainbow will organise great tours for you on your weekends off.

My homestay was really great, the family made me really welcome and they added to the fun and authenticity of the whole experience.

My volunteering experience was mostly with children in the school, and also with teacher some of the mum's English. They were wonderful people, I really enjoyed it. I had no previous experience of volunteering or teaching, I think if you have experience it is better for the children of course - but the most important think is to be enthusiastic, flexible and caring towards your young charges!

I would recommend Rainbow Volunteers to people who want to add on some volunteer experience to their trip to India. Or if you haven't been to India, it is a very good place to start.

What would you improve about this program?
The programme is a great - the children, the accommodation, Fort Kochi is a great town for those new to India. It's really safe, interesting, a great place for culture and people - full of great restaurants and shops. Rainbow Volunteers will also organise lifts to and from the airport and great day trips from Fort Kochi. The programme could be improved by having more of a set curriculum for the volunteers to follow rather than having each volunteer create their own as it would improve consistency for the children. Maybe, Rainbow could also give the volunteers some pre-work to prepare before they reach India. I am sure that most volunteers would be happy to do this and it would be easier than trying to prepare in India when Internet, printing etc are not as easily found. Overall, a great programme.
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Liz
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The volunteer teaching program was a great experience. Having never taught children before the first couple of days were a bit daunting but by day three I was very comfortable. The kids were adorable and loved interacting with us. Just seeing their faces light up each day when we arrived was amazing. I will never forget them.

What would you improve about this program?
It would be great if we could have more time with the teachers before class to help plan for lessons.
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Alison
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was a bit scared to begin with, it was my first time traveling on my own and the furthest East I had been. When I arrived in Calcutta, I saw no other Westerner, but..........I felt India. I felt part of the scene, part of the culture and part of the community. The charity I volunteered for added another dimension to my experience.
The experience I had with Rainbow Voluntours has enthused my desire to travel and hopefully have other wonderful experiences. Thank you!

What would you improve about this program?
The program was fine for me.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Glyn Owen

Glyn Owen lives in London, England and works as the Head of Marketing for Travelzoo, the world's most trusted publisher of travel and entertainment deals. He enjoys exploring the world, cooking, wood working and road cycling.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Rainbow Voluntours in India?

Glyn: When I was looking for volunteering opportunities in India I knew that I wanted to stay in Kerala.

I'd heard from friends who'd been that it was a beautiful part of the country and I had also looked at surfing in the area, which was something I wanted to learn.

I searched on Google for volunteering opportunities in Kerala and found a program with Rainbow Voluntours. It combined two weeks volunteering in a primary school with a tour of the back waters, and that suited me just fine!

I had lots of questions about the volunteering program before I booked, which were all answered extremely well by the organisation. The communication from Rainbow Voluntours was excellent from start to finish.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

I stayed with a young couple who straight away made me feel at home and made my stay in Fort Cochin really special.

I'd get up early and go for a run on the waterfront with my host Afzal and return home to a lovely traditional breakfast cooked by his wife Jezna.

Ridhi my volunteer coordinator would sometimes join us for the run, which became a regular occurrence, or she would pop round to the house at 9 am and we'd grab a rickshaw to school.

A typical school day would start with lower kindergarten (KG), with kids between 3 and 4 years old; cheeky and adorable at the same time.

We'd learn the alphabet together or do some drawing and then play some games. I would swap between upper and lower KG for the first hour and a half and then we'd take a break.

Glyn with his Rainbow Voluntours students in Fort Cochin

Break times were fun, as I would sit in the staff room with the other teachers, all local women - who enjoyed the social aspect of their jobs - and we'd drink tea and have lots of good laughs.

I would then assist with one of the other classes, teaching English, Maths or Science; I would often prepare for classes the night before, choosing a topic from the text books to teach in a fun and engaging way.

Lunch was served at midday and along with the delicious food cooked for the children which we also ate, the teachers would bring various snacks they'd made at home and which I was encouraged to have several helpings of.

After a couple more lessons in the afternoon it would be time to head home. I would sometimes stop at the art shop in town to buy some materials for the next day's activities.

The afternoon would be free for me to do as I wished. I would explore the Jewish Quarter in Fort Cochin, browsing the antique shops and taking lots of pictures. I'd also spend a lot of time with Ridhi my coordinator and her friends at Oy's Cafe, which is a great place to meet other travellers.

What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?

Glyn: Working for an online business I am used to living in a connected world. I donated a laptop to the school in the hope that they would be able to use it to make lesson plans and use multimedia to add value to the curriculum.

Although the school had computers, the teachers still relied on traditional teaching methods and still used slate boards in some classes.

Tell me about one person you met.

Glyn: Usha was one of the teachers at the school and was such good fun. She was so interested in my life in London and always asking me a million questions - what I usually ate for lunch, why I wasn't married at 30, why didn't my parents arrange for me to get married.

After school each day she would go home and spend hours making poppadoms, which she would sell to subsidise her income. I was invited to her house one day, so I asked if we could make poppadoms together.

We spent a really funny afternoon preparing various poppadoms and other snacks with her family. I still get emails from Usha asking me how things are in my life and not to forget the "golden moments" [sic] from my time at the school.

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

Our guide built 2 islands by hand, featuring well-equipped huts

Glyn: Rainbow Voluntours created a very personalised and unique volunteering experience.

Ridhi makes very careful choices about the organisations she partners with. The school where I volunteered was full of great children and teachers.

With every volunteering program, I imagine you get out of it what you put in. With no prior teaching experience, I never felt out of my depth and felt I was able to make a considerable contribution in the two weeks I was there.

With the backwaters tour in particular I felt that I was experiencing something very unique. I went on a 34km cycling trip with three other volunteers to a small village with the most idyllic backdrop. There were no other tourists in the area we visited, which made it feel like a true Indian experience.

Our guide was really knowledgeable about the local area and culture which made the trip even more memorable. He had built two islands, a bucket of sand at a time, which were linked by walkways to the village. On the islands he had built two huts which even had flushing toilets and showers - an incredible feat which made me respect him a lot.

The location and experience were totally unique, you would not have been able to book this through the myriad of tour operators in Fort Cochin. Only through Ridhi's insider knowledge were we able to have have this one-of-a-kind experience.

Staff Interviews

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

Geetha Raj

Job Title
Project Manager
Geetha is based in Cochin and works with Volunteering Journeys as a project manager. Her role for the last 15 years has been in the field of journalism, and she also has five years of marketing experience. Once meeting Ridhi Patel she started working with Volunteering Journeys, and has been doing so for the past year. Geetha is married, and has one daughter.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Geetha Raj from Volunteering Journeys

My favorite travel memory is from a visit to Munnar, travel memories become eternal when you visit places like this. The beauty and the quietness fill up your heart! The climate also is very good.

The loveliest hill station in Kerala is Munnar. It has its own natural wealth and greenery. It’s a romantic destination for all the tourists. The local people are very innocent and loving. I have visited Munnar several times, and each time I fall in love with the beauty of the place. I am sure I will go again!

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

I have changed tremendously. My perspective has changed after working here. I have become more positive and open. Here I am able to help a lot of people who deserve it. And I am able to interact with kids a lot, which is the most attractive part of my job.

Definitely I have grown also. Now I am dealing with a lot of people from different countries around the world, which gives me a chance to know different cultures, and different feelings and attitudes, and it makes me even stronger and passionate.

Though I learnt from my father to give rather than take, these people have shown me a better way to give to those really in need. And Ridhi Patel, our Director has really enlightened my life through her passion and experiences.

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

The story from a volunteer who said she was really influenced by my love and care when she was here. Her name is Paula Dhanda and she is from the UK. She came to volunteer last December, and to celebrate her 50th Birthday. She didn’t know how to do it, so I planned ahead with my team and provided a fabulous celebration for her.

I came to the volunteer house at 6 am to wish her happy birthday, gift her our present, and take her to the church. Then we celebrated the cake cutting and birthday lunch at GHS Mattancherry, which is her most favorite project, and course all of ours too. We had dinner at the boys orphanage, which is another project.

I left her at the volunteer house at night and then went back to my home. She felt so surprised and happy because I spent so much time to make her birthday memorable. Actually, I was not sure that I did a great job, because I am always happy to make others happy. I try my best to go out of the way to help the volunteers because they serve so much for my country and the local people who are the most in need.

She was so sad to leave us and our friendship continues. She said I am the kindest person she has ever seen, and it really made my time worth it, and gave me a lot of confidence.

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

Anything related with children because I love them. I believe that children are the most precious gift from the Almighty. Most of our projects are with the schools and children.

If we can give children the best we can at the early ages they will definitely become the best human being possible.

These students come from low class families and they are away from the colorful world of life. Most of them do not have their own house, and if at all, they live in a room which is used as a room for everything. In one room they have to eat, cook, and sleep.

They have no space to play or sit to study. Most of them go out to the streets to play and they mingle with bad people and learn bad habits. So it is a gift for them to have education and some space where they could spend all their day time.

The government provides them free education and lunch at the school. But there is a lot of other things that they are still in need of, like the books, uniform, and the fee for the school bus, etc. Most of the parents are not able to meet all of these needs. This is where the importance of institutions like Volunteering Journeys comes in.

We try our best to provide them the things they need, and we arrange money for the tuk tuk that they take to school and back. We are able to do this because of the volunteers. A portion of the fee they pay goes to this purpose. So when they plan to come a lot of kids are benefitting. I do want to spend the time with the kids, It gives me a lot of positive energy and they just give you back what they are given. They make me happy.

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

We are genuine. I felt really proud when one volunteer compared us with another company and said that we are very genuine and caring and are unique. She said the time and money she spent is worth and wants to come again and again.

She felt each and everyone in the Kerala team were great. I felt really proud at that time, and it is the feeling of almost all the volunteers. We all go out of the way to make them happy and I feel this makes our company unique.

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

The unity of the team. I lead the team in Kerala. I think I have a GREAT Team with me and we have the best projects and programs in Kerala. It wouldn’t have been possible if the team spirit was not there, we really work to fill each other's roles when needed.

Our local coordinator, Midhu, does all the things to co-ordinate the projects,housing, and everything necessary. When I am not there she takes charge and does all the things required at the projects so that the volunteers do not feel my absence. Our chef, Jessy cooks so fabulously that every volunteer falls in love with the food we provide. She really contributes a great place in the team.

The tuk tuk driver, Sakkeer plays an important role in the life of the volunteers when they are here. He takes them places in the tuk tuk and shows them around. All the important locations are shown to them and he showers his love by treating them with local snacks and masala tea.

The taxi drivers who pick up the volunteers from the airport are the first ones they meet as our representative. So their role also is very important. Luckily we have a great group of drivers like Rajan, Simon, Martin and Jose.

We all as a team stay united in every way and form a great team which I believe is the basic factor behind our success. And above all we have our awesome leader like Ridhi Patel as our director. She is the great motivator for all of us!

More Interviews