Many young adults are opting to take a gap year or volunteer abroad vacation for a period of time. With these vacations the children stay for a minimum of one week to three years depending on how they have planed their trip. As a result many parents these days are faced with the dilemma of letting their kids to travel alone. The parents have done a great job teaching their children to be independent and responsible. The real test comes when the children ask for their independence by asking their parents their desire to volunteer abroad. Most parents are uncomfortable with this request as there are too many concerns to address. One of the concerns is that their child might not be mature enough to live in a country by themselves for a long period of time. Another problem is that most of the parents have not travelled to other countries and they don’t know how to give advice on travelling abroad. Many parents aren’t sure that their children can travel abroad without them. They are also worried about health issues; their kids could get homesickness; and security issues. Many first time travelers have a problem convincing their parents to let them volunteer abroad.  As the volunteers they should inform their parents of the benefits that come from volunteering abroad, and most parents are glad to have let their kids volunteer abroad. As a parent who has a child who wants to volunteer abroad, you can help by:

Planning

Your child would have already done most of the work and found a travel organization that s/he would use. Although your child might have researched where they want to go and which company to use there are small details that they might have over looked. As the parent you should counter check everything the child has done to make sure s/he didn’t forget anything out. You should pay particular attention to what the organization is and not offering; fees cancelation policy; their privacy policy and the benefit to the child’s career. Find out where the volunteer project is and what work they will be doing. Since volunteering is not just a humanitarian act, picking the right volunteer abroad program it could help building your child’s career. As the parent you should contact the organization directly to speak to the person who is in charge and planning everything for your child. Also if there is an in country coordinator, s/he should be contacted to for advice about the place.

Travel together

Some parents travel with their kids and help them adjust to the new environment. They stay with their children during the first week to help them navigate around the city.  You can go with your child to the orientation, find out where the project is, look at the working conditions, meet the project coordinator, look at the available resources and check to make sure it is safe. Also you could help your kid to find out where the nearest hospitals, restaurants, cyber cafes and how well to travel around the area. You could also get for her a phone and an appropriate internet connection so that you can communicate when you leave. Make copies of your child’s important documents like passport, visa, credit cards and travel insurance just in case s/he loses them.

Budgeting

You could help your child in budgeting money for the duration of the volunteer work. Since you will be funding most of the expenses, come up with an appropriate budget that can work for both of you. Also you should set yourself as a power of attorney on your child’s bank account in case your child runs into financial problems. Ensure your child as a Visa Card or a Master as these are available in most parts of the country. Carry travelers’ cheques could be useful in case they lose their credit cards. These are also exchanged in most banks and airports.

Health

When you are planning take your child to see a general practitioner to get advice and medical checkups. Ensure your child gets the proper vaccination before they leave. Get a proper travel insurance which will take care of your child when you are abroad. If your child is going to an area prone to diseases like malaria make them carry a mosquito net, or make them have bottled water to avoid getting typhoid. If your child has a preexisting medical condition tell him/ her to carry double the medication as they might lose their first dose. Give general advice about staying healthy and avoid getting sick.

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About mukuba2002

Zablon Mukuba is the director of Volunteer Capital Centre, the leading provider of quality and affordable volunteer abroad programs and opportunities in third world countries. For more information visit http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.org and http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.blogspot.com

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