Remember when they were first learning to walk? While teetering on their tippy toes, you were there ready to break the fall. Then one day – out of nowhere – it was time to let go?
From teaching them to ride a bicycle without training wheels to giving them their first driving lesson; from their first day of kindergarten to the day they graduated high school, every milestone ushered them into a new world of discovery and a greater level of independence.
And you, Mom and Dad, had to trust that they would remember everything you taught them along the way. Now, they’re ready to take on the world! Literally, that is.
Daddy’s little girl or Mummy’s little man wants to volunteer abroad. And that, oh so familiar, parental anxiety has begun to settle in: Is it safe? How do you protect them if they’re halfway around the world? Those are just a few of the questions racing through your mind, right?
At AMPED Abroad, reassuring nervous mums and protective dads is just par for the course. So here’s a little advice that will help parents to manage those nerves, and relax.
There is no exact science. Most of the time choosing an organisation to volunteer with is based on the relationship and comfort level established with the organisation. Call them. Make an effort to establish a comfortable rapport by asking questions beforehand, preferably prior to applying. Ask about their experience. Ask about host family selection. Ask to speak with past volunteers. If you’re still not comfortable, keep searching. Remember, go with your instincts!
The in-country staff has the lay of the land and they know which areas are safe and the things to avoid – everything from travel routes to reputable taxi companies; where to get the best currency exchange rates to the safest places to eat.
They know the culture and in many cases, they have relationships with key governmental organisations and NGOs that most foreigners don’t have access to. The knowledge and service that they provide can be invaluable. Rely on their expertise.
While safety will likely be discussed in any pre-departure information provided, in-country orientation, or both, it is certainly a subject that bears repeating. When talking to your child concerning safety, remind them to use common sense and common courtesy:
• Travel in groups, with a group of other volunteers or with members of their host family. Remind them to never go anywhere alone or with anyone who is not affiliated with their programme. And do not bring locals home, especially if they are staying at a student residence.
• Communicate with the host family and in-country staff; and you, if possible, concerning upcoming evening or weekend plans, especially if that means they are going to be gone overnight. Make sure someone knows where they are and who they are with.
• Do not carry any valuables or excessive amounts of money; or wear flashy jewellery or clothing that is too revealing. Blend in.
Once again, it boils down to a matter of trust. When it’s all said and done, trust in the fact that you have not only done your due diligence in helping your child to decide on a programme, also trust that you have raised your child to be responsible and to make mature decisions.
So, R.E.S.T and relax, Mum and Dad. It’s going to be just fine.
Charmaine Pruitt, Founder/President, is the visionary behind AMPED Abroad.
Feature image by Chamar.