A Parent’s View: Father of Jennifer Byres – Sri Lanka & India
1. What were your initial concerns when your daughter suggested volunteering abroad?My main concern was safeguards – what would be put in place when she arrived? Is the country she is visiting safe? I think the fear of the unknown and the potential danger were my initial concerns. I also wanted to know her reasons for wanting to do it, as in, how it would help her in the future.
2. How did Projects Abroad handle your concerns?Jennifer mainly handled it herself. I spoke on the phone initially with a member of the team and Jennifer took it from there. She organised the dates, times, placement and flights but kept me informed of each step. Everything seemed to come together well and there was no major concerns I needed to talk about. The staff were all friendly and knowledgeable.
3. Did you have enough phone or email contact with the office staff prior to applying for the project?As Jennifer dealt with most of it I didn’t have a lot. However, it was good that everything was on the personalised web-page for the volunteer as it made an easy point of reference. I knew that if I had a question it was easy to contact somebody.
4. Did you feel reassured that your daughter could reach support from our staff throughout her time overseas?Yes, there was also plenty of numbers, addresses and emails provided that I could keep during her time away which she printed off for me.
5. Did you find that your daughter had enough opportunity to contact home whilst away?Yes, she had access to internet cafes and so we kept in touch by email. She also set up a SIM card when she arrived and I kept a note of this, which meant we could contact each other in an emergency. During her second trip to India she was in a journalist’s office and so had access to a computer at all times which helped a bit. However, not hearing from her too much reassured me she was enjoying herself.
6. Whilst away did your daughter have any issues which you needed to get involved in and if so how was this resolved?Not really. There was one instance I needed to transfer money but this was done fine as she uses online banking and had her card. Other than that, there was nothing.
7. How did the trip affect your daughter? For example has their experience helped secure a job or university place?It definitely widened her horizons and her urge to travel and see the world. She had already gained a place at university, but it was an exciting and productive way to spend the summers. She now has a place in teacher training and I think the experience in a school in Sri Lanka played a big part in that. Having to travel on your own at a young age also improves your maturity and ability to handle challenging situations.
8. Knowing the process of application, volunteer and on the return to the UK is there anything else that Projects Abroad could do to improve the service?When Jennifer left Sri Lanka, there was a bit of confusion at the airport with queues etc. Perhaps ensuring the transition through the airport is dealt with smoothly as this has the potential to cause problems. Otherwise, I was happy with the support they gave before and during the trip. (Note from Projects Abroad – local staff are only allowed so far into the airports when someone is flying out of the country, local staff do talk volunteers through the departure procedures and accompany them as far as possible).
9. Would you recommend Projects Abroad to a friend?Yes, as I feel Jennifer has had a positive experience from it, so much so that she did it twice, first going to Sri Lanka and then to India. I would recommend Projects Abroad when it is the first time travelling on your own and you want a good support system in place, whilst at the same a thorough experience. I would also advise to do your research as much as possible, ask as many questions as possible and keep an open mind. I was very pragmatic and asked as many questions as I could, which Projects Abroad were only happy to accommodate.