Saurabh Sabharwal – Volunteering Solutions, Gurgaon
Please share your thoughts on the idea of a summer camp.
At Volunteering Solutions, we provide some tailor made, customized, volunteer programs; and summer volunteering is one of our most popular ones. Mostly it is the students, who have just finished their schools and are about to enter college life, that join this program. So, for us, the idea of summer camp is an amalgamation of volunteer work, adventure activities, exploring the destination, and a whole lot of experience to gain. This brings out the element of independence in an individual, and makes them learn taking decisions.
Please tell us a little about your organization? What is your USP?
Volunteering Travel Solutions is a leading, international, volunteer match organization. We have been providing placements to gap year travellers (students mainly) from nearly a decade now. Our volunteers come from different parts of the world; mainly, US, UK, and European countries. We offer volunteer programs in various departments; such as Childcare, Women Empowerment, Animal Welfare, Healthcare, Conservation, Teaching, and more.
Our placements are highly affordable, safe, and experiential. However, our main USP is that we are the ONLY organization which provides, both, inbound and outbound placements; i.e., we are the only organization based in India to provide placements in India and abroad.
What age-group do you deal with?
We cater to volunteers of all ages. However, the majority of our volunteers come from the age group of 17 – 24 years.
What will a volunteer learn by joining your program?
As you learnt from the first two points, a volunteer trip is basically a comprehensive collaboration of volunteer work and other holiday activities. Be it any program that a volunteer choose to work for, they end up learning something new, something different, something that will not only help them mature as a person, but also escalate their future career prospects. Few of the aspects of life that a volunteer would learn through a program include, but may not be limited to;
– Handling complicated situations
– Be a decision maker
– Different cultural and traditional nuances
– That they live a highly comfortable life and should respect it.
– That travelling is not just about clicking pictures and buying souvenirs.
What are the challenges you face in running this and how do you cope with them?
Today, as we all know, everything is hopping the digital boat and sailing on the online approach. And the digital trends as well keep changing every other day. So, one needs to stay abreast with the latest technology and trends; not just in digital world, but also in the field of voluntourism. Also, being from the service industry, we need to make sure that all our volunteers get a safe and comfortable environment, throughout their sojourn, to have a great travel experience.
Thankfully, we are a close knitted team to make sure of smooth operations. We have a dedicated team for customer support, who make sure that all our volunteers’ queries get resolved within minimum turnaround time. We have of digital masters to make sure we are in sync with the latest marketing trends. Also, we have appointed dedicated coordinators at each of our destinations to provide 24*7 in-country supports to our volunteers.
What are the other types of summer camp activities you organize?
Our summer programs offer a series of activities in its 3 weeks duration. From adventure activities, to city tour, visiting heritage sites, tasting the local cuisines, organizing weekend getaways, and more. You can find the complete details of our program activities here.
How do you ensure safety, clean and hygienic conditions to the volunteers?
As stated above, we have appointed dedicated local resources at each of our destinations for a 24*7 in-country support. We do a complete background check of the coordinators before appointing them. Since, these resources are local residents; they know the local lifestyle and etiquettes. And that is what is explained in detail to the volunteers during the orientation session before they begin their program.
As far as hygiene and cleanliness is concerned, we provide accommodation at our own volunteer house, which are managed by the local coordinator. We take into consideration the area where the accommodation is located, its distance from the project area, availability of resources to commute, and other things. These guest houses are attended by cleaners and sweepers every single day. The homes are well equipped with daily ration, modern utilities, and furniture.
Apart from this, we also provide accommodation with local host families, at some of our destinations, and does a thorough background check of the family as well (including criminal records).
What is the ratio of volunteers to children in a teaching program?
The ratio of volunteers to children in a teaching program highly depends on the destination where the program is located. In general, it is 1:20/30.
How do the volunteers handle the varied temperaments of each child during the camp?
This is actually a valid question; however, it is really amazing to learn how quintessentially these volunteers tackle children; whether it is under a teaching program or a childcare project. At first, of course, some of the volunteers feel a little apprehensive in interacting, but as the program progress they really open up well; and so do the kids at the project. Also, our coordinators are always there to help the volunteers whenever they feel lost or troubled. It’s really fascinating to see the bond that builds up between the volunteers and the children. So much so that, we have seen a few finding it hard to say goodbye to the kids.
Tell us about your internship program. Any memorable incident with any volunteer or the organisation in general, motivational or otherwise, that you would like to mention?
We provide internship in the areas of Healthcare (general medicine, dental, and physiotherapy) and Journalism. Volunteers can choose to intern from a time period of 2 weeks to more than a month. The healthcare internship programs are suitable for pre-med as well medical students, and the tasks are assigned according to the level of understanding and experience.
In the last more than 9 years of our operations, we have had a lot of memorable moments. However, if I have to highlight one, it would be the recent one where we received a certificate from the Ministry of Health, Nepal, as a token of appreciation for providing help and active support during the 2015 earthquakes. It was a matter of great honour and delight.
Awards and Achievements:
– Best Video Award at WYSTC in Spain 2011.
– Innovation Award from GoAbroad for Best Use of Technology.
Contact info: www.volunteeringsolutions.com