If it is properly planned and implemented, volunteerism can add value to the economic sector and make people aware of their responsibilities as global citizens. Visitors working under local leadership perform well if there is proper training and properly defined expectations on all sides. Even short term unskilled volunteering works if the individual effort contributes to a proper long-term aim.
Our Trust Deed defines one of our objectives as providing benefits, experiences and opportunities for volunteers through global citizenship and youth development. It's not only for the well-off, they are not a luxury and they don’t deny someone else a job.
We look for skilled people to work with our employees and partners in Kenya and Nepal to help with some of the programmes and to share their knowledge and abilities for the benefit of the beneficiaries. This could be someone working or studying in (or with experience in) child development, teaching, counselling, mentoring, public health, nursing, social welfare and development or community health.
We also encourage groups of younger unskilled volunteers (school groups for example) to come and help run our street kid summer camps and are great fun and a great way to introduce young people to personal development through international development, travel abroad and independence.
Opportunities for Volunteers
For us, visitors going to spend time with our staff and learning about the work of an NGO is an education in itself and an adventure. The simple aim is to offer an experience that encourages exploration and innovation and puts people in a place where their stereotypes, opinions and morals would be challenged. We see this as development education, not volunteering.
Our visitors engage with teachers, counsellors, social workers and community health practitioners to examine what words like development, poverty, community, discrimination, prejudice and education can actually mean. They are encouraged to look at solutions in terms of the Millennium Sustainable Goals and how different communities tackle these problems. Properly run, these programmes really do challenge people to look at stereotypes and consider how globalisation is changing the world and the ways in which we will have to adapt in order to flourish.
Our placements are not all the same, we try hard to make each placement unique and we recognise that no one size fits all when it comes to what people want to get out of these trips. Our priority is to deliver a realistic expectation and ensure that it fits with the needs of the local people.
Benefits of the Volunteer
The money which is fund raised from volunteers really does enable us to carry out our work. Historically we have always found that once people visit and experience our ‘model’ of development, they tend to get very involved and become part of the fundraising effort. So, we ask that groups and volunteers achieve a minimum donation for their trip, and hopefully stay with us for the long term.
We have no evidence that a short-term visit from a volunteer results in raising hopes for children or creates a sense of transience in their lives. The Kenyan and Nepalese staff have been working with them for many years and everybody understands the role and value of a visitor. Neither do any of the institutions that we support operate exclusively because of volunteers; Moving Mountains has a commitment to them which exists outside of the volunteering programme.
Nor do we allow any of the institutions that we work with to promote, market or sell volunteer placements independently; their remit is determined by Government authorities which handle the allocation of children as wards of the court to registered homes. Our role is to support and assist.
Moving Mountains Trust is a charity that aims to relieve poverty; it provides grants, support and strategic advice to two independent NGOs, Moving Mountains Kenya and Moving Mountains Nepal, which both carry out the implementation of the programmes and projects in-country with fully employed qualified staff who have many years of experience in education, health, social welfare and community development.
Description of volunteer programme
Moving Mountains relies on donations from the general public to support its work, and it provides an opportunity for volunteers to engage with staff in-country and assist with some of the programmes it runs. Many group volunteering trips support a specific programme or project, while individual volunteering generally contributes to the ongoing annual cost of a programme.
For example our medical camps in Nepal fund the annual costs of running a clinic for one year including the salaries of two nurses, however a 3 week volunteering period in a school in Kenya will help contribute to a wider programme for early child development.
Role descriptions and the volunteers’ involvement
Volunteers can apply for roles supporting our educational programmes providing extra-curricular activities for children in primary or secondary school and in communities in the countries where we operate. The charity much prefers volunteers to spend at least a term working with beneficiaries, but the minimum time should be three weeks.
This might be working with early child development teachers in a nursery school or helping with a music or drama or dance programme outside school hours, or working with our football coaches to give children access to sport, or perhaps running a reading club.
We would encourage volunteer(s) to work with our own staff locally to provide something specific, for example putting on a school play or performance, and ensuring that everything contributes to an ongoing long term programme which is not reliant on the volunteer. In other words, a volunteer is contributing to something that already exists and working with existing staff, so that there is no potential feeling of loss or disengagement once the volunteer leaves. This is an important ethic of the charity - long term consistent support and development with familiar people to create a family identity. An engaged volunteer can become a long term friend and mentor to young people across many divides, ultimately breaking down cultural stereotypes and instilling a sense of equality and worth in everybody.
The aim is to keep children occupied and stimulated out of school, which will assist in their social development and prevent them from either going on the streets or into petty crime. Much of the time is spent informally, using creative or sports pursuits to help build self-esteem and confidence, communication skills and empathy.
Some volunteers engage in programmes to do with health and social welfare and those people will be supervised accordingly with medical professionals in-country, either Doctors or medical locums. Any medical volunteer must be either a professional or in active study of medicine or an associated degree course such as nursing, dentistry, physiotherapy, public health, obstetrics or paediatrics.
Our aim is to adopt a train the trainer approach as well, especially with regard to public health campaigns and teaching new techniques in physiotherapy for example. We actively welcome any volunteer with experience in managing people with special needs, and anyone who can for example assist with training sign language or specific methods for managing people who have defined physical or mental disabilities.
Finally we welcome volunteers who want to come and assist with a renovation programme on a school or establishment which provides benefit to beneficiaries, especially children who come from the streets. For example a rescue or feeding centre. We are always looking for willing groups to help raise funds and come to work with our staff in building or renovating something.
Recruitment and selection of volunteers
Moving Mountains Volunteers aims to keep the volunteer recruitment process as simple as possible and open to all those over eighteen years of age.
Prospective volunteers will be required to complete an application or registration form after which there will be an interview with one of the trustees which will include questions about past experiences and reasons to volunteer, as well as a discussion about expectations and realities and needs.
Moving Mountains will DBS check all volunteers working with children, except for young people in a school group who are supervised by school staff. The DBS check will not apply to medical students or professionals taking part in medical camps, nor will it apply to groups undertaking construction projects.
We reserve the right to refuse applications from people who have a criminal record. A criminal record is not necessarily a criteria for not being a volunteer, we will need to look at each case by case.
In all cases personal information will be shared with our staff and the provincial education or health officials, head teachers and teachers in-country who will be involved in your volunteering activity. This is an official requirement now in most institutions, and those people reserve the right to do a follow-up check on the experience and relevance of volunteers.
Moving Mountains promotes gender equality mainstreaming throughout all of its activities including volunteering and also a fair and non-discriminatory approach to recruitment of volunteers and staff. We are committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for all volunteers and beneficiaries, irrespective of race, gender, disability, belief, sexual orientation, age or socio-economic background. Volunteers will always be accepted on merit.
Training and development
Volunteers who are travelling overseas will always receive pre-trip advice in the UK followed by a period of settling in with our staff on the ground. Groups and individuals receive a number of emails and calls and meetings if possible to discuss preparation and things to do, covering everything from a simple to-do list to understanding the culture, the danger of stereotyping, the nature of ‘aid’ and ‘development’ and how Moving Mountains works. Once in-country this becomes part of a few days preparation during which the volunteer meets everyone and gets to know the area and the routine before actually starting.
During the period abroad, volunteers are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings with the staff and also with the UK trustees and feel free to ask questions. We keep in touch to make sure the experience is matching expectations and also delivering the service to the beneficiaries. Sometimes things happen, like homesickness, which are quite normal to expect, but we do rely on an openness between everyone to make sure there is always good communication.
Moving Mountains Trust runs its programmes through the NGOs in Nepal and Kenya and those NGOs come under the law of the country they are registered in, so therefore any volunteer is required to abide not only to the law of the land but also by any specific rules around the NGO. For example there are specific laws regarding child protection in Kenya and Nepal which, although similar, are not exactly the same as other countries.
Adventure Alternative supplies all of the logistical side to any trip in-country and it has the vehicles and staff to manage transport and also extra activities like treks or safaris. As a partner Adventure Alternative funds the management and administrative costs of Moving Mountains. Many of the staff of Adventure Alternative were once beneficiaries of the charity and in some way are involved with both organisations.
The volunteer agrees to comply with the partner organization’s code of conduct at all times and will respect the agreement in place between the partner organization and Moving Mountains Trust. You agree that Moving Mountains Trust is not liable for any actions or omissions of any partner organization.
In Kenya we have our own guesthouse in Embu where volunteers will live, and in Nepal accomodation is in lodges owned by villagers. Generally a volunteer might find that he or she is sharing the guesthouse with other volunteers or medical students, plus our staff. The staff manage the house and prepare meals. The volunteers will have their own room and private space with wifi in most cases, electricity, clean water, showers and a communal bathroom, beds with bedding provided and a living area with television and so on. Laundry is done regularly and the house is cleaned regularly.
There are house rules which are mostly common sense and relate to respect for other people living there and respect for the neighbours.
During the days you will be helping in a variety of different places. Sometimes it will be in a school classroom, but often it will be in a place which we use regularly for our programmes, for example a local Scout centre or rescue centre, the guesthouse sometimes if the activity is with a small group, outside in a garden area or on a makeshift pitch, or sometimes in someone’s home. For medical activities we tend to use the facilities of local clinics or hospitals, but sometimes the medical camps are held outside in open areas.
All these places are safe but are likely to be quite basic. There may not be electricity everywhere or a clean flush toilet. It will be important to visit these places during the settling in period so you are familiar with everything and you know what to bring. For example drop toilets are common and it would be a good idea to always bring toilet paper in your bag and wet wipes and sanitary products.
We have a zero tolerance policy towards activities like taking drugs, being drunk or drinking in front of children, smoking in front of children, swearing at or in the presence of children, or acting in a way which affects the rights of any child. Your actions and words can be extremely influential and we do ask that you respect the role that you have.
Support and supervision and day-to-day management of the volunteers
Volunteers are never far from someone who is either an employee of Moving Mountains or a local person involved with the school or the clinic or the institution. Initially you will be working with adults in your role, assisting and learning, but over time you may have more responsibility and opportunity to develop your role and feel more comfortable with the place and the people. How you decide to manage the activities depends very much on you and the staff deciding what is best. You should not do anything that you feel uncomfortable or unsure about, and neither will the staff let you into a situation that compromises the safety of you or the beneficiaries.
In each location we do have staff on hand all of the time, there is no situation where a volunteer would be left completely alone or isolated for any length of time. Sometimes staff are called away for personal reasons and they also have their own lives to live, but you will always have access by phone or whatsapp to other staff.
Moving Mountains Trust and its partner organizations reserve the right to remove the volunteer from the programme at our discretion. Whilst we would aid the volunteer to return home we are not legally obliged to do so.
Health and Safety
Moving Mountains is responsible for providing and maintaining a safe and healthy environment for volunteers, in accordance with the organization’s policy and procedures. You are required to cooperate with us to help achieve our required standards of health and safety and you have a duty to take reasonable care of yourself and others who could be affected by what you do or fail to do.
The volunteer is responsible for arranging and paying for his or her own international travel to and from the host country. The volunteer is responsible for having all necessary documents when travelling abroad, including visas and travel insurance. Moving Mountains will advise on what is needed but is not responsible for any supporting documents (including visas) necessary for the volunteer’s travel needs or the direct or indirect communication of the volunteer with their given airline.
Moving Mountains Trust are in no way liable for the consequences of failing to independently verify the accuracy of the general travel advice provided in our literature and is in no way liable for any missed or late connections, including airlines.
Extra trips (Adventure Alternative)
The volunteer can easily go on extra trips which can be organised through the local office of Adventure Alternative, for example treks or safaris or sightseeing trips. Moving Mountains Trust may acts only as an advisor for these trips. Any trips booked in the country are not related in any way to Moving Mountains Trust and Moving Mountains Trust bears no responsibility or liability for them.
Moving Mountains Trust has no right to use images and feedback from volunteers unless given permission to do so, and trustees may ask for such permission from time to time. Images might be used for website materials such as testimonials or descriptions of volunteer trips.
These terms are governed by the laws of England and Wales and the jurisdiction of UK courts only.
Volunteering and participating builds skills, experience and confidence. It heightens self-awareness and self-esteem and it facilitates an exchange which helps develop ideas about our place in the world: the important words to add here are “for everybody”.
Our experience is that by connecting people in a positive way we have enriched lives. We ensure principles of empowerment and equality in everything we do, including with respect to the beneficiaries, our staff, volunteers and school groups.
Meeting someone from another country, spending time together and realising that underneath it all we’re all the same, empowers and motivates people to think about their lives and change their circumstances. These interactions are very powerful and emotional for all parties, and over the years we’ve seen some incredible stories come out of those visits.
However a trip abroad may involve visiting people whose rights have been abused or have had their rights limited or even removed. For example, it is a shock to meet people who don’t have access to basic rights like a proper standard of living or an education. Those people undeniably need more ‘help’ than somebody whose basic human rights are valued and upheld.
The trick is to approach the visit in a spirit of equality, and understand that the ‘beneficiary’ of any visit is as much the visitor as it is the host or the beneficiary. All the benefits of self-confidence, self-esteem and happiness apply to everyone in the equation.
Let’s get away from the idea that only the ‘haves’ can give something of value to the ‘have nots’. Everyone has something to give, even if they are materially poor. Nobody ever got rich just on money alone; leading by example and promoting values and morals can make as much of an impact as any amount of money.
Not "Saving the World"
We’re not making any claims to save the world, but clearly a combination of travel, learning and sharing does change attitudes and empower people. The right values have to be in place to create an environment where doors are opened in people’s minds. We have worked very hard to achieve this and continue to do so.
Our placements provide benefits for the visitor and for the people being visited - but we are not trying to over-sensationalise the idea or make it out to be something it is not. One person going out to a different country to 'help' could bring little benefit to the hosts and at worst could be a bad form of tourism and even exploitative. We have shown that with sensible expectations, proper information and volunteering ideas that are realistic, we can deliver what we promise.
Volunteering does not have to be about cynical marketing, or a callous selling of dreams and commercial opportunism. We work with responsible travel company Adventure Alternative which funds a lot of our administration and handles the logistics but it is Moving Mountains and the communities which determine the content of the visit and ensure that the donated funds are properly spent.
The Controversy About Volunteering
There is a lot of controversy and debate about volunteering, yet there will always be a desire in people to help others. The issue revolves around how the relationship and attitudes of the visitor and host are managed and the integrity of what is being done in the name of 'development'.
There is an argument presented that says that volunteering is used to market commercial tours using emotionally driven messages and packaging. People may feel they have been exploited and that the project or programme has somehow been ‘used’ for nothing other than commercial gain.
The main principle of volunteering should be one of humanity and people making a difference. At Moving Mountains we place people according to their interests and skills but also according to the needs of the community or programme in any particular area. We differentiate between skilled and unskilled assistance and plan accordingly.
Skilled volunteers work with staff to help deliver a programme, unskilled volunteers take part in group events which we have been running for many years and have been proven to be beneficial and fun for all. We don’t accept volunteers just for the sake of it.
The beneficiary is the priority
One of the biggest pitfalls of volunteering today is that the aim of personal development for the visitor overshadows the aims of the international development organisation or NGO. We believe that the objectives of the charity should determine the nature of any volunteering visit. The local stakeholders must be involved in deciding the nature of any visit and how the benefits should be shared out.
At Moving Mountains every visit by any group or individual is assessed and agreed by the local Moving Mountains NGO and by the local stakeholders. This could be the parent’s committee or co-operative or educational authority or combination of different organisations and groups.
In addition, every visitor raises an amount of money which is donated to the local MM NGO and used to help fund a particular programme or such as employing teachers and counsellors and field workers.
Additionally, every visitor is required to learn about the programme they are visiting and expected to communicate with the local Moving Mountains staff before arriving. There are laws for people visiting schools and clinics which protect children, plus a healthy dose of respect for the communities being visited.
Opportunities for Volunteers
Our Trust Deed defines one of our objectives as providing benefits, experiences and opportunities for volunteers through global citizenship and youth development. It's not only for the well-off, they are not a luxury and they don’t deny someone else a job.
We have a wealth of accumulated experience running volunteering placements and development education trips for groups from less advantaged, low-income communities in areas of the UK and Ireland. We also invite volunteers from Kenya and Nepal to work with the charity.
Our Equal Opportunities Policy provides the framework to ensure that we treat everyone equally, regardless of background, gender, ethnicity, etc. We select and prepare volunteers and visitors properly and we would love people to stay involved with Moving Mountains afterwards of course.
For us, visitors learning about the work of an NGO is an education in itself and an adventure. The simple aim is to offer an experience that encourages exploration and innovation and puts people in a place where their stereotypes, opinions and morals would be challenged. We see this as development education, not volunteering.
Our visitors engage with teachers, counsellors, social workers and community health practitioners to examine what words like development, poverty, community, discrimination, prejudice and education can actually mean. They are encouraged to look at solutions in terms of the Millennium Sustainable Goals and how different communities tackle these problems.
Properly run, these programmes really do challenge people to consider how globalisation is changing the world and the ways in which we will have to adapt in order to flourish.
Fair Trade Volunteering
We are founding members of Fair Trade Volunteering which provides clear guidelines on how organisations should prioritise and manage their volunteering programmes with the benefit of the host as important as the personal development of the visitor.
Ultimately it’s about being fair and honest, and not sending people out on irrelevant trips which do nothing for the host and make false claims to the visitor. We have been working hard at making sure our trips have integrity and meaning for a long time now and all of our visitors understand that they are part of a long-term development aim.
All costs for the volunteering activity can be legitimately fundraised because they fall under the charity objective “to advance the education of the public in global citizenship and youth development through expeditions in all areas of operation.” In this respect the volunteer becomes a beneficiary too, by virtue of the experience he or she will gain in-country on the programme.
Volunteers are asked to raise at least the minimum amount indicated on the website for the projected period of stay or the particular group trip being joined. The figure is a minimum, any extra money will be used to further the programme.
The fundraising aim includes the cost of the volunteer in-country (accommodation, meals, transport, activities - or as defined specifically on the website page) plus a proportion of the additional costs of the charity to fund the programme. For example a proportion of the costs of the staff member who will be supervising the volunteer, and also part of the feeding programme in a rescue centre or the salaries of a nurse in a clinic.
Volunteers are asked to complete their minimum fundraising target prior to travelling, but we would encourage them to continue to fundraise during and after their volunteering time. This can be done with a number of online platforms linked to the Moving Mountains charity.
If the minimum fundraising amount is not reached then Moving Mountains reserves the right to refuse the volunteer the placement, and any funds raised up to that point would be used as general fundraising for the charity.
Fundraising costs are inclusive of gift aid. For example a minimum target of 1000.00 pounds could mean raising 800 pounds through tax paying individuals - either through an online platform like Justgiving or by direct donation - with the balance being received in the form of gift aid. The fundraising is often completed by a mixture of donations which attract gift aid and fundraising which doesn’t, so it is incumbent on the volunteer to keep a clear account of all funds raised and share them with the charity treasurer so that it can be correctly receipted.
According to charity legal requirements with respect to accounting, all donations and fundraising received by volunteers is allocated as restricted, which means the money can only be used for the purposes of the volunteer costs and the related programme.
The volunteer is entitled to change his or her trip date if it is an individual placement or to postpone a place on a group trip with scheduled dates. Any fundraising made by the volunteer would be carried over to any new trip dates.
Because all money received by Moving Mountains Trust is defined as a charitable donation, if a volunteer decides not to come on a trip then all the donations remain the property of the charity and cannot be refunded.
If a volunteer has made an individual donation of his or her own money to the charity and decides to cancel his or her trip, then a refund can be considered on a case by case basis. Note that any refund would not include any gift aid portion.
Moving Mountains holds the following levels of charity/corporate insurance for all of its activities, both in the UK and abroad:
Public liability insurance to £10,000,000 • Employers’ liability insurance to £5,000,000 • Professional indemnity insurance to £5,000,000
Liability and indemnity
Notwithstanding anything else contained in any agreement, the liability of Moving Mountains Trust to the volunteer shall not in aggregate exceed the amount of the placement fee paid by the volunteer.
The volunteer agrees to indemnify Moving Mountains Trust against any and all liability which Moving Mountains Trust incurs arising directly or indirectly out of, or in connection (in any way) with, the volunteer’s travel to, living in and providing services in the volunteer’s nominated country.
The volunteer acknowledges and accepts the responsibilities and risks associated with their agreement to travel to, temporarily live in and provide volunteer services in a developing country. Such travel and volunteer work involves a certain degree of risk to the volunteer, both foreseen and unforeseen, all of which are fully accepted by and solely assumed by the volunteer. Therefore, Moving Mountains Trust including any and all of its trustees, employees, host families and host country partner organizations are not liable, to the maximum extent of the law, for any loss or harm the volunteer or associates may suffer, including but not limited to loss caused directly or indirectly by:
• Personal injury; • Emotional injury; • Death; • Illness or disease; • Damage to or loss of property; • Hostage situations; • War or terrorism; • Natural disasters; or • Any ‘Act of God.’
Personal and property insurance
It is a mandatory requirement for all volunteers to hold a certain level of both personal and property travel insurance covering as a minimum:
Medical £2,000,000 Exposure to Biological fluids £5,000 Needle Stick (HIV Compensation) £10,000 Cancellation or Curtailment £5,000 Missed Departure and delayed arrival £500 Delayed Departure £100 Personal Effects £2,000 Medical Equipment £2,000 Personal Liability £1,000,000 Legal Expenses £25,000
The volunteer is solely responsible for evaluating and determining the type, extent and levels of any insurance coverage they need or desire for their planned volunteer travel period. Any advice given by Moving Mountains Trust or any member of staff should not be taken as final and we will not be held responsible for events that should occur from the taking of this advice.
Any issue in-country should first and foremost be taken to the in-country staff to immediately try and rectify the matter. Most situations can be resolved this way, and the volunteer can of course contact the Moving Mountains trustees to assist or mediate or get involved.
If a complaint needs to be made then it should be made in writing as soon as possible, preferably by email, and addressed to the Moving Mountains trustees. All volunteers will have already had direct communication with the trustees so hopefully there will be previous correspondence and communications to refer to. All complaints must have been received by latest fourteen days after the volunteer returns home.
All complaints will be handled fairly and objectively, and they will be shared with the in-country staff in order to ascertain the full context of the complaint, unless the volunteer has a specific desire for some staff member not to be contacted in which case that request will be respected. All complaints will be handled by one trustee as a minimum, but internally the issue will be discussed between all the trustees.
The trustees would aim to respond within 24-48 hours with an acknowledgement of the complaint, after which a process of investigation takes place that might take up to two weeks. After a maximum initial period of two weeks a report will be provided, which may involve meeting face to face or talking on the phone depending on the preferences of the individual.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint then an appeal can be made to the trustees to re-consider their response, and also to register their complaint with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland where Moving Mountains is registered. It should be noted that the Commission is not an arbitration body.
Volunteers and trustees alike are asked to avoid using social media or any online platform to discuss or mention complaints or to make public defamatory comments which could be seen as subjective, harmful and damaging to the Charity’s reputation.