FAQs
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In addition to the training course (where many questions are answered in detail), volunteers also receive 3 information booklets: pre-departure, in-country and training.  There's also usually personal questions and issues dealt with by email and phone. However, you may find it useful to have answers to the following questions now!

What’s the minimum time I can volunteer for?

Recommended minimum of one month. We believe that you should arrive as prepared as possible to hit the ground running but even with good pre-departure training and preparation, it’ll take time to travel to your placement location and to get settled in. Most volunteers who go for one month can’t believe how quickly the time goes and most wish they were staying for longer. Volunteers who go for 3 months feel the same! Volunteers who are going for 6-12 months will have a slightly different perspective but volunteers going for a month will still be able to contribute and feel settled into the community.

Do I have to teach English?

No and yes! Schoolhouse works with partner organisations in a range of situations. So - if you want to teach IT, singing, do sports, care for babies or toddlers, work with adults or focus on special needs, you can! Whatever you do, there’ll be an element of English teaching involved anyway. All of these situations are a rich ground for passing on English.

Whatever age group you’d most like to work with, we’ll do our best to place you in a project where you’ll be able to fulfil this aspiration (and that includes working with elderly people -who may still speak good English from the old colonial days and appreciate the opportunity to re-use their English!).

Do I need teaching experience?

No! Although you can gain tremendous experience in teaching (and if you DO have experience, you’ll be highly valued), it’s not necessary to have teaching experience. Enthusiasm and commitment are needed and the Schoolhouse training course will open your eyes, heart and mind to the potential for finding ways to teach English in simple, effective and enjoyable ways. We’ll place you in a situation that matches your confidence and your interests. Teaching spoken English is not an academic skill and games, sports, songs and conversation can all be used effectively.

I want to make a difference! Can I do any good within one month?

YES! You’ll be placed in a project which will allow you to contribute effectively, right from the start. In some form or another, you’ll be teaching the highly valued skill of spoken English and the language you impart will not be lost after you’ve gone nor It will forgotten. English is a valuable life skill and a positive encounter will not only improve spoken language competence but will also give a positive

This is also a cultural experience and exchange, so there are many benefits arising from this aspect of your volunteering. Also, you’ll be contributing extra hands, extra help and extra skills to the project you’re volunteering in. Furthermore, we aim to send a stream of volunteers to the projects we work with, so when you leave, another volunteer will arrive shortly to take up where you left off.

Also - you’ll be doing yourself a lot of good and just the like the lasting effects you can leave with those you work with, you will retain many of the lessons you learn - your confidence, communication, awareness and understanding of the world will all have developed. You’ll return with first hand experience of the challenges and benefits of life in a developing country and you’ll be a better global citizen.

Can I go at any time?

Yes! Projects run throughout the year and it’s possible to arrange start dates throughout the year. If you want to work in a school, holiday periods (August and December in Sri Lanka, April and December in South India), would need to be avoided. You could, of course do a two-part placement and work in a home or project during holidays. Also, Schoolhouse runs English Camps and thesae have very specific dates.

You’ll need at least 4-6 weeks to plan and make all necessary arrangements for your trip (injections, child protection certificates etc).

If you want to travel as part of a group, or with a partner, you’ll have to co-ordinate your dates with them.

Will I be met on arrival?

Volunteers arriving in Sri Lanka are always met at the airport and transported either to a hotel to rest for the first night before onward travel to the placement the next day or are driven directly to the placement or are dropped at the railway station for onward travel to the placement. Travel arrangements are always fully discussed prior to departure.

In India, volunteers are usually met at the airport - sometimes, this is difficult due to the distances involved but in these instances, clear instructions for onward travel are given and a taxi will be waiting to take you to a hotel for the first night to rest after the long journey.

How do I go about arranging flights and roughly how much will it cost?

Schoolhouse can advise and help with booking flights. Flight prices vary - roughly between £400 - £650 for return flights to Sri Lanka and £350 - £500 for India.

Are there local contacts to turn to in the event of an emergency?

Yes - the placements themselves have excellent in-built support and contacts but there’s also a very capable in-country co-ordinator in each country and volunteers also receive a list of local contacts they can turn to outwith the placement and host family. And of course, Alan and Cathy of Schoolhouse are always contactable directly.

Will I need injections?

Yes - you’ll be given clear guidelines as to what is essential and what you may also wish to cover yourself for.

Can I talk to former Schoolhouse volunteers about their experiences?

Yes! Returned volunteers often act as mentors to volunteers about to depart. We’ll put you in touch with several volunteers who you can communicate with and perhaps nominate one for you to get specific advice from (ie - you may taking over at a school or project where they have left off).

We also hope to have an annual volunteer reunion to which all past and future volunteers will be invited.

My parents are concerned! Can you talk to them?

Yes! We usually end up speaking to parents prior to the departure of volunteers. We usually find that we can answer all their questions and put their minds at rest. In fact, it can be quite good to have a chat with parents/partners and involve them in the process!

Where will I stay?

In Sri Lanka, you’ll usually in carefully selected host family accommodation, in a clean and comfortable house whare you’ll be well looked after and very safe.. You’ll probably have your own room or you may share a room. There’s usually a western style toilet and shower room. You’ll get all your meals there and packed lunch when needed.

In India, accommodation is often provided on campus - so you’ll perhaps stay in a room in a children’s home and take your meals at the home. The projects we work with are all small and very friendly so you’ll be welcomed and well looked after - often project staff will invite you to their own homes for meals and take you to visit relatives.

For English Camps, you’ll stay in a rented house with the other camp volunteers and meals will either be taken in a nearby guest-house, or a local lady will come in to cook every day.

Will there be other volunteers there?

Usually- but not always. It depends on the time of year you’re going and where you’re going. Wherever possible, you’ll be placed with a partner volunteer but occasionally, you’ll be the only one. However, there will be plenty of local support and it can be be very rewarding to be the only one!

Why is there a fee to volunteer?

A tremendous amount of work is required to establish and run an organisation which provides volunteering opportunities. Admin, ongoing communication with projects, government departments, host families, transport providers, volunteers and their families, selection and recruitment processes, training, support and follow-up, are all part of the work that has to be done before a single hour of volunteering can take place. A small proportion of your fee pays for this - the rest is needed to pay host families or other accommodation, it pays for your meals, for being met and picked -up at the airport and for local support and continuing support and networking with Schoolhouse on your return.

As an individual, it would be very difficult to simply arrive in a country and become a volunteer in a worthwhile project. By volunteering through an organisation with all the agreements and networks in place, you can be sure of a bone fide placement and a safe placement and one in which a large proportion of your fee trickles down into the community you live and work in.

Is Schoolhouse a charity?

No! Schoolhouse is a not-for profit social enterprise. Schoolhouse became a social enterprise rather than a charity because we felt that this model suited us better - we could be flexible, efficient and accountable and not be reliant on hand-outs from government or other sources. This means, we have to cover our costs - unlike people who work for charities and receive a salary no matter what, in a social enterprise, a salary is only possible after all expenses have been paid.

Can I still fundraise for the costs of my volunteering if Schoolhouse isn’t a charity?

Yes! Fundraising is a great way to start - it’s also a great way to develop many of the skills (confidence, financial awareness etc) that we seek to develop in volunteers.

Schoolhouse has a charitable trust and as such, volunteers can raise funds into their own JustGiving page. The charitable trust exists to support projects we work with in India and Sri Lanka and also to support volunteers who may not be able to raise enough money to volunteer.

How much spending money will I need?

You won’t NEED much - perhaps £100 for a month’s placement, will be plenty for you to get around, have the odd meal out if you like, or ice creams, drinks etc.

However, it will depend on how much independent travelling you want to do (at weekends or at the end of your placement), or how much shopping you’ll do.

We recommend that you take a supply of different money sources ( card, dollars, travellers’ cheques to cover all eventualities and this is dealt with in the pre-departure booklet all volunteers receive.

Can you advise about independent travel and places to see?

Yes! Schoolhouse has extensive experience and local knowledge in both countries and can work closely with you to organise an excellent tour to suit your interests, budget and time available.