A Parent’s View: Mother and Father of Kieran Dash - Tanzania
1. What were your initial concerns when your son suggested volunteering abroad?Mum: Safety! Also would he actually be able to get himself there when he had never even caught a local bus before. How would he cope with the food and living with his host family? I also worried about what he may see or experience whilst working in the hospitals, he was on a medical voluntary project, along with what diseases he may come into contact with. To be honest the list was endless and my mind was working overtime!
Dad: Safety whilst Kieran was travelling, health concerns whilst in Africa and security.
2. How did Projects Abroad handle your concerns?Mum: Having met Heidi (one of the Projects Abroad UK staff members) at an Information Evening had convinced me that if Kieran was going to do a project then Projects Abroad would be the people I would trust most to take him. I was happier that he would be staying with a host family rather than staying in a hostel/large house setting. This seemed more secure and friendly plus his meals would be taken care of.
Whilst going through the booking process we found out about his personal MyProjectsAbroad webpage and this contained an unbelievable amount of information, answering anything you could want to know and if you still had a question they were always at the end of the phone. In fact Kieran was even introduced to the team out in Tanzania before he went and was able to speak to them if he had any queries. Basically they were always there for us through to guide us through this new challenging experience.
Dad: We managed to discuss these concerns with people at Projects Abroad, both on the phone and by e mail. We were reassured about the fact that Projects Abroad have people on the ground with good English and experience of handling issues should they arise.
3. Did you have any phone or email contact with the office staff prior to applying for the project?Mum:Yes, we had many a question! It was a very fast learning curve. We put Kieran’s whole project together with Projects Abroad help in two weeks…not necessarily to be recommended but just the way circumstances dictated.
Dad: Yes, this was very reassuring and they seemed informative and professional.
4. Did you feel reassured that your son could reach support from our staff throughout his time overseas?Mum: Yes, he was met by a member of staff at the airport and taken to his host family and given the essential info for that day but then allowed to rest. The following day he had a full induction and was accompanied to work the first day to be sure he understood the transport system etc. They gave him a Tanzanian SIM card and after that they were only ever a text or phone call away. They would also contact Kieran to organise socials for the volunteers or to keep him informed of anything he needed to know, for instance the fire at Nairobi airport the day before he was flying home!
Dad: Yes, for sure.
5. Did you find that your son had enough opportunity to contact home whilst away?Mum: Yes, the member of staff that met Kieran off his flight gave Kieran his phone as soon as he met him and told him to call home to let us know he had arrived safely. He was then given a Tanzanian SIM by the office the following day and we regularly received texts. The time differential was only ever a limiting factor in us being able to keep in contact, as well as Kieran’s busy social life!
Dad: As much as he would have had if he was at home!
6. How did the trip affect your son? For example has his experience helped secure a job or university place?Mum: Kieran learnt a great deal of independence in a very short space of time. He changed from only knowing the workings of a school day to how to look after himself, a bank account, changing currency, travelling by air, inoculations required and the risk of disease etc, In addition he also had a job for the very first time and the responsibility that entails as well as mixing and chatting with his ‘new family’ and work colleagues. He also now has a wider understanding of the limitations of healthcare and illness around the world but also how fortunate many of these people feel they are. As yet Kieran’s trip still hasn’t helped him secure a university place but he has had the confidence to gain various part time jobs. He is now an independent adult.
Dad: He has confidence and independence. We are still awaiting the university admission process.
7. Knowing the process from application to returning to the UK, is there anything else that Projects Abroad could do to improve the service?Mum: No, only to persuade Kieran to show me his photographs!
Dad: Not sure I can think of anything. The process was fast efficient and professional.
8. Would you recommend Projects Abroad to a friend?Mum: Most definitely, it has been life changing for him. After that first phone call when he settled into his host family’s home I knew he was safe and was about to experience some amazing things. Not only did he benefit from his work placement but also managed to go on safari and many socials. He made many new friends amongst the locals and volunteers and has regular contact with them. He was even honoured by host family inviting relatives and a Masai to a special leaving party for him, with the slaying of a goat! I’m sure this won’t be the last time Kieran will be involved with Projects Abroad.
Dad: Yes for sure. But suggest that anyone does their ‘due diligence’ on the location as we only have experience of Arusha.