A Parent’s View: Mother and Father of Florence Vincent - Peru
1. What were your initial concerns when your daughter suggested volunteering abroad?For Florence, our youngest daughter of three, we didn’t have any concerns as both of her sisters had volunteered with Projects Abroad for their gap years. One did the Journalism project in Ghana and the other Care in Tanzania. They both had good experiences so we had no concerns. Our only initial concern was the destination as neither of them went to South America. We wanted to make sure that she was going to a safe environment in a stable country, which Peru was.
2. How did Projects Abroad handle your concerns?I had a look on their website and cross-referenced this with the information online on the FCO website but that’s all I got involved in really.
3. Did you have enough contact with the office prior to applying for the project?We didn’t contact Projects Abroad directly as we think that it is the girl’s responsibility to organize this. We asked them questions about time, money, travel etc. and expected them to go to Projects Abroad, get answers and then inform us, as it is very much their responsibility as part of the whole experience.
4. Did you feel reassured that your daughter could reach support from our staff throughout their time overseas?Yes, we knew from when our middle daughter fell ill in Tanzania and spent a short time in hospital in Arusha that Projects Abroad responded very well and quickly to make sure that she was well looked after. We were also kept informed about how she was doing by Projects Abroad. The communication network seemed to be very organized and practiced from our point of view.
5. Did you feel that your daughter had enough opportunity to contact home whilst she was away?Yes, we arranged to Skype her host family’s landline, which worked well. So Dad learnt a little Spanish so that when we called we could have a little chat but most of the time they were so excited he couldn’t get a word in edgeways! It was nice to be able to talk directly to Florence and also the American girl Kris who was living in the same family. For Peru the time difference was a bit problematic with us being at work during the day but there’s nothing you can do about that!
6. Whilst away did your daughter have any issues, which you needed to get involved in, and if so how was this resolved?When she first arrived she was exhausted and very home-sick after a fairly traumatic leaving process as she didn’t seem to want to go. And when she finally arrived after a delayed journey she was very weepy and overwhelmed. But after this had passed it was all onwards and upwards! She soon seemed to perk up in the new environment and it was really nice to speak to Kris, her host sister, and Nilda, her host mother, directly.
Florence did get ill at one point but the family took great care of her so we weren’t worried. Part of the family’s house is a pharmacy, so after trying various local remedies, they gave her some antibiotics, which did the trick.
7. How did the trip affect your daughter? For example has their experience helped secure a job or university place?Fortunately, Florence had already been offered a place at university as a deferred entry when she was in Peru. She got a great deal out of it in as she already spoke Spanish to a high level so could really know the local people in a way that perhaps people that don’t speak the language can’t. She participated in all the family activities, from being invited to a wedding to singing at a memorial service of the family’s late relatives.
Florence has also made some great friends, gained independence by going travelling for a month at the end of her placement with a Belgian girl she met out there and also has learnt a lot about the culture by being fully immersed in it. Her confidence has also increased.
8. Knowing the process of application, volunteering and on return to the UK is there anything else that Projects Abroad could do to improve the service?I think for parents the main thing we want to know is that your child is going to something safe, that you’re not taking silly risks or that you’re not going somewhere that isn’t stable. But equally we want them to go somewhere that is not as comfortable as home, where you will get some kind of life experience. I think Projects Abroad does that. Projects Abroad could offer bursaries and scholarships for young people who can’t afford to join a gap year project. It could be for people who are particularly eligible for a certain project and have skills or talents that would really make an impact.
9. Would you recommend Projects Abroad to a friend?Yes, to someone of my daughter’s age I would. And we have already! They have all gained something from it in terms of life experience.