One of the things about working so closely with a local community on a service vacation…exascerbated when living with a local host family…is saying goodbye. That family becomes your family and it is devastating to think you might never again be in touch.
The British volunteer vacation company, Projects Abroad (www.projects-abroad.org), (an organization that has hosted both Angelina Jolie and Madonna) is working with Vodaphone to help create a long-term connection between volunteers and recipients of aid projects.
The company has found that more than 70% of their volunteers are women, and has marketed the idea as an “adoption” program for young female volunteers, where a child with whom you’ve worked is given a pay-as-you-go cell phone that is funded by Projects Abroad (with at least £5 per month topped off remotely by the volunteer) so you can remain in contact with the family indefinitely.
“[Volunteers] are heart broken when they have to return,” says Faye Stickings, Head of Project Abroad’s Social Development. “They live with and completely immerse themselves within the lives of the families. Breaking that tie is always harrowing. The Link-for-Life program changes all that.”
Saying goodbye after creating such a bond will never be easy, but this is a smart idea (that I hope will catch on with other organizations) that can help ease the ache.