Today’s headline news about the two British volunteers attacked on the popular holiday island of Zanzibar has shocked us all. The teenagers were apparently walking down a street in Stone Town when two men on a moped threw acid over them.
Deputy Police Commissioner Mkadam Khamise has launched a manhunt and said ‘the motive for the attack on the volunteers, aged 18 years, has not been established”. The BBC also reported that ‘The police on Zanzibar said it was the first time foreigners had been attacked in this way’.
So, How safe is Volunteering?
There are a plethora of for profit ‘voluntourism’ organisations out there who arrange volunteer trips abroad, connecting volunteers with numerous volunteer projects all over the world. This area has developed a tarnished reputation of late but despite this there are still a number of genuine ethical organisations to choose from.
Philip Russell from ‘Plan My Gap Year’, a travel company that as the name suggests speaialises in arranging volunteer and Gapyear travel recomends that you should ‘talk to the organisations in advance and GRILL them to make sure they have real experience of the area that you’re going to and have actually been there themselves. You want to be sure that they know what they’re talking about’.
He goes onto suggest that any organisation should include a thorough ‘induction procedure, for example, Plan My Gap Year sends you a 50 page booklet before hand and you will also receive a full days orientation upon arrival. He also advises that you check out independent reviews about any organisation and don’t rely on the reviews on a companies own website.
Duncan Milligan from Tour De Force Adventure Logistics, recommends travellers follow good old fashioned common sense such as;
- keep to crowded well lit areas,
- take of local advice
- and always dress appropriately so as not to offend.
Unscrupulous volunteer organisations will often post numerous glowing reviews about themselves on forums and such. Remember that if the reviews sound too good to be true, be wary, especially if the revue includes a have a direct link to the website. Philip recommends checking out feedback on reviewcentre.com as they check the IP address to make sure they same address isn’t posting numerous reviews. Only recently the BBC did an expose of the highly profitable world of online fakes.
Should you volunteer?
You should not be put off from volunteering but please do your homework. Loads of people volunteer every year and most of them have a great time. Also volunteering can have a massive impact on local communities, but you must do your homework and always respect the communities culture.
The sad reality is that no amount of preparation and good advice guarantees your safety anywhere in the world, both Philip and Gad of Plan My Gap Year ‘visited Zanzibar themselves only last month and considered it one of the safest places in East Africa’.
We contacted i-to-i with whom the two girls had arranged their trip, but they were unavailable to comment.
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