Information for Parents

Gap Year Fiji Lattitude teaching assistants

About Lattitude

Lattitude has been at the forefront of youth development through international volunteering for more than four decades. Founded in 1972, Lattitude has facilitated more than 40,000 volunteering experiences. Each year we support more than 1,000 young people aged 17 to 25 years and 2015 marked the 25th anniversary of our programme in China. We also recently celebrated 30 years’ operation in New Zealand, and 10 years in Ghana.

Volunteers work alongside our global team of staff who have sound knowledge and experience of volunteering overseas, youth development and international development. They are experienced in living and working overseas and are passionate about the positive impact travelling, volunteering and experiencing new cultures can make on personal and professional development.

We also understand the ups and downs of being overseas and the challenges of being in unfamiliar places away from friends and family. Our role is to ensure that each volunteer is placed in a suitable, safe and rewarding international placement.

Here, they can make a positive difference to the lives of others through a challenging and structured experience in a culture and community different from their own.

What do my fees pay for?

Lattitude is an international not-for-profit youth development organisation registered as a UK charity (No. 272761), and also here in New Zealand (No. CC46566). We send and host volunteers in 14 different countries with staff based in offices across the globe.

The fee covers Lattitude’s cost of pre-departure and in-county staff teams, administrating programmes, sourcing and ensuring the quality of placements and promoting future opportunities.

Host placements work alongside Lattitude as partner organisations. They benefit from the increased capacity and resource of well-prepared volunteers and do not receive any payments from Lattitude.

The fee excludes Flights, Travel Insurance, Medical costs and inoculations, onward travel from orientation to placement, Police check and Visa costs.

What happens in the event of an emergency?

Volunteers’ health and safety is of paramount importance. Lattitude therefore employs managers in every country that we operate in to support volunteers to have a safe and rewarding experience.

All Lattitude volunteers will be issued with a 24hr emergency contact number and will meet their Country Manager in person on arrival in country.

More serious issues such as an incident affecting personal safety or requiring evacuation will have the immediate involvement of Regional Directors.

As part of the pre-departure preparations, volunteers will receive health, wellbeing and safety and security information by way of briefings and literature. Going through this process will ensure volunteers’ knowledge and understanding of Lattitude’s practice.

Volunteers will also be required to pass on their home based emergency contact details and will need to give their consent for Lattitude to contact these people in the event of an emergency or if we feel they are at risk of significant harm. If the volunteer is aged under 18 years at any point during their engagement with Lattitude these documents will need to be signed by a parent or legal guardian.

Gap Year Ghana Lattitude teaching assistants

What happens before departure?

Once volunteers have been interviewed and have successfully passed the assessment, they will work alongside their relevant home country sending office.

The sending office will support volunteers to acquire the relevant visas, police checks and health checks.  They will provide information, advice and guidance on countries, placements and flights (in almost all cases, volunteers will fly as part of a group). They will introduce volunteers to each other as well as to returned Lattitude Volunteers.

There is also a chance for all volunteers to attend a pre-departure briefing. This is another chance to meet fellow volunteers, staff and returned volunteers.

What happens on arrival in-country?

Volunteers will be met on arrival by a Lattitude representative and taken to their placement or orientation venue.

The orientation session helps volunteers to settle in, meet country based staff and fellow volunteers and understand more about their new environment.

Once on placement volunteers will be provided with food and accommodation during their stay and in some cases an allowance.

A Lattitude representative will then visit volunteers within six to eight weeks of starting their placement.

What happens when placement ends?

Volunteers are free to include additional travel onto their trip. There are also discounts available if volunteers wish to do a second placement with Lattitude. This can be in the same country or a different one.

Volunteer’s official placement finish date (as per placement details) +4 days (to allow sufficient time to return to home country) marks the end of the Lattitude “duty of care”. Whilst we take responsibility for our volunteers duty of care during the placement and are happy to assist with any matter, Lattitude is not responsible if volunteers should choose to remain in their their destination country, or travel elsewhere after placement.

Once volunteers return home they can request a reference and will be invited to join the global network of Lattitude Alumni. The Alumni Association draws on fellow volunteer experiences in order to share knowledge and contribute to developing Lattitude’s services and better prepare future volunteers.

Gap Year Fiji

Ladder of support

The ups and downs of being overseas are part of the experience of an independent trip. The Ladder of Support guides volunteers on who to speak to when an issue arises.

Lattitude prepares volunteers to take the lead on their own personal safety through following information, advice and guidance and looking for restorative solutions and making compromises when things are not going to plan.

Most issues that arise are through misunderstandings due to cultural differences and can be avoided by taking a few simple precautions. Volunteers should ensure that they:

  • Establish the ground rules on arrival.
  • Keep Hosts informed if they are not coping or have a problem.
  • Follow Lattitude’s advice and the following Ladder of Support. Issues are addressed starting at the bottom of the ladder, progressing up the ladder depending on seriousness of issue:
6) Regional DirectorOverall responsibility for all programmes in their region.
Serious issues or formal complaints.
5) NZ Based Volunteer CoordinatorLattitude paid member of staff responsible for supporting and assisting volunteers pre-departure and should be contacted if unable to solve an issue when overseas.
Sending office point of contact for all other issues or if the volunteer is unable to contact any of the below. Also a point of contact for family and friends.
4) Country ManagerLattitude paid staff member who has responsibility for the placements in a particular country and for the volunteers whilst on the
placement.
If the Local Rep is not available or for larger issues or difficulties.
3) Local RepresentativePart time or volunteer member of staff allocated to a placement as a local point of contact.
First point of contact at Lattitude for logistics or if there are practical difficulties at the placement.
2) Placement HostMember of staff employed by the placement.
Day-to-day contact.
1) Fellow Volunteer
A peer that is also working on the same placement.Peer support.

Issues a volunteer may face

Going overseas is exciting but being away from home and in unfamiliar surroundings can cause all kinds of conflicting emotions.

Even though every volunteer’s experience will be different, the following are some of the most common challenges they may face:

Homesickness: As things settle down after the initial excitement of the first few weeks, homesickness may occur. If volunteers feel homesick, we advise them to try to focus on their work and activities rather than calling home too often. This can be hard, but the advice from past volunteers is always to talk to fellow volunteers rather than making a long distance call home.

Lattitude sometimes hears from anxious family members who’ve not heard from a volunteer – don’t worry if this is the case! We advise volunteers to call or email home to tell you they’ve arrived and are safe and well, but often, the initial few days go very quickly, they are jet lagged and are busy making new friends.  You can be assured that our In-Country staff teams will let sending offices know straight away if there is any problem and they will in turn let you know.

Getting along with fellow volunteers: Most volunteers will be placed with fellow Lattitude volunteers based on their skills, interests and the requirements of the host. Generally volunteers get on very well with each other and often make friends for life, but in some cases there can be personality clashes. This can happen in any situation (at school, work etc.) and we advise volunteers first of all to see if they can find a way to work together and find common ground. If it becomes a big issue and starts to affect their work and happiness, then they should discuss the situation as per the Ladder of Support.

Living/work conditions: There may be times when some volunteers feel underutilised at their placement. Because of cultural differences, this can sometimes be down to a misunderstanding or different expectations of the pace of work and can usually be resolved through a discussion with the host placement. We also advise volunteers to use their initiative and ask for direction, look for opportunities or ask to get involved in areas of interest rather than raise an issue more formally. Feedback from previous volunteers is that the best way to feel part of the community is to get involved rather than wait to be asked, however, if things are not improving, they should raise the issue.

Working hours and holidays: In most cases, the placement details will specify the working hours and holidays, and these will have been agreed beforehand with the Country Manager. Volunteers based in schools will usually have time off work during the school holidays and other volunteers should request and agree their holidays as soon as possible with their host mentor. If there are any issues with working hours (e.g. a volunteer might feel they are working too many or too few hours) they should raise this in the first instance with the host placement.

Adjusting to being a staff member: It can be difficult for volunteers who have only just finished education to become a staff member – especially when they have to supervise young people who may be only slightly younger or a similar age to them.

They might also find that the students or children in their care will want to be friends. Whilst we want them to be friendly towards young people in their care, they will need to be able to supervise them too. Volunteers will be in a position of authority and it is important that they are able to draw a line and remember that they are a staff member.

Cultural differences: One of the main benefits of volunteering overseas is to be able to integrate into a local community and experience a new way of life and a different culture. However many of the countries we work in may be more traditional, religious or conservative than home. This is especially true around the standards of dress, respect for older people or drinking alcohol.

While the majority of our volunteers have a great time and make a huge contribution in their local community, we do see volunteers who struggle to adapt to or respect the local culture, which causes difficulties for them in forming relationships with their hosts.

Volunteers will be given pre- departure briefings and packs for their particular country and will take part in Orientation sessions which will go into more detail about the most common cultural differences. Information will also include what clothing is seen as acceptable and other areas of obvious cultural differences such as the showing of tattoos or piercings and local attitudes to alcohol. It is really important for volunteers to remember that as they integrate into the community, they will want to be seen more as ‘locals’ rather than tourists.  It is important for volunteers to take advice from the facilitators and also find out what the norm is in certain situations. They should also observe how local people deal with situations.

Alcohol and drugs: It is important for each volunteer to be aware of local laws and customs regarding alcohol as the legal age for drinking might be different from home. The most common issue we see is regarding differences in attitudes towards drinking. What might be considered an average night out in could be seen as excessive in other countries, and living on-site in a school or with a host family will generally mean having to live with a set of rules or norms regarding alcohol. If in doubt, we would always encourage volunteers to ask and to agree beforehand so they are clear what a host or host family sees as acceptable.

If a volunteer becomes involved with illegal drugs, there is very little that Lattitude or the local Embassy or High Commission will be able to do and it may result in severe consequences – in some instances with more severe penalties than home.

Time: The other major cultural difference is the different approach to time, which many volunteers can find frustrating and have difficulties adjusting to. For example in Fiji, people often refer to the laid back, slower pace of life as “Fiji time”. This is in comparison to Japan where volunteers may be expected to arrive for work 20 minutes early every day.

Learning the unwritten rules of another country or region can make the volunteers stay more rewarding. Plus while volunteers are learning other people’s culture, local people are learning theirs. They often see our volunteers as a representative of, or an ambassador for, their home country and Lattitude.

Family & friends involvement

Contact:

Lattitude aims to balance its duty of care with the need to treat volunteers as adults and foster their independence while they are overseas. Before departure we normally communicate directly with the volunteers rather than via family, as this is part of the opportunity for them to become independent and take responsibility for their placement. We do this via email, phone, social media, information packs and in person when possible.

Due to privacy laws, if a volunteer is over 18 we will not disclose to the volunteer’s parent/legal guardian any information relating to the volunteer or his/her activities overseas without obtaining the volunteer’s prior consent. The exceptions to this would be if we feel the volunteer is at risk of serious harm, is in an emergency situation or where the volunteer has already involved their parents/guardians.

Visiting:

Often friends and family visit the volunteer while they are overseas and it is a great opportunity to get off- the-beaten-track and see places that tourists won’t normally see.

We ask volunteers to talk to their host mentor beforehand regarding taking leave when people are visiting or bringing guests. If friends or family plan to stay with the volunteers, we ask volunteers to discuss and agree this beforehand with the host or host family. Some hosts may not be comfortable with someone of the opposite sex staying unless they are a close family member, and it may not be possible for visitors to stay with a volunteer who lives on-site.

I would just like to thank you so much for all your help and support of Joe. He had the most amazing experience! He thoroughly enjoyed everything out there and has fallen in love with Fijian culture.

He has come back a very mature young man and we could not be more proud of him and everything he achieved there.

Also I would just like to say a big thank you to Lattitude. A fabulous organisation, very supportive, friendly and efficient. I would recommend it to anyone thinking of a gap year.

Aina, Parent