HEALTH AND SAFETY
We won’t sugarcoat it — Traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as one of the most highly respected volunteering organizations in the sector over the past two decades through our ability to manage young people in remote and challenging environments.
Our stringent support and safety operational guidelines have ensured that we are compliant with British Standard 8848, a set of requirements designed to ensure international adventure travellers the highest standard of care on their trip abroad.
During the inaugural Go Overseas Community Choice Awards we were awarded the top honour in the category of Support & Safety. The award is especially meaningful to us because it is based on the real reviews of our participants.
Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation. A packing list, specific to your chosen location and program, will also be provided, along with cultural orientation and program-specific training. In many of our locations, we set up a Whatsapp group to effectively manage participant arrivals. We ensure that participants stay connected with local GVI staff from the moment they start their international journey to the moment we meet them at the airport. Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member.
All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. Our minimum staff to participant ratio is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. Once returning from our programs, participants will be contacted by their enrolment manager to provide feedback on their program. They also are added automatically to our Alumni support network which will give them access to special offers, professional opportunities, and connections from around the world.
International Safety Standards - GVI monitors governmental foreign policy sites like the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US State Department, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs to ensure that we are aware of any potential issues on the horizon.
Local Monitoring - GVI also stays abreast of local government updates in the countries in which we operate and maintain close contact with local partners operating in our location or nearby.
Risk Audits - Before we add any accommodation, tour operator, or in-country local partner to our itinerary, our GVI in-country staff conduct an in-depth risk audit of their services in collaboration with members of our Senior Management Team. Only once everyone agrees that the partner is fully vetted do we agree to make this service available to potential program participants.
Emergency Action Plans - All major foreseeable incidents have a corresponding GVI Emergency Action Plan.
Crisis Management Plans - Each GVI base is also required to have a formal Crisis Management Plan in place. It requires that GVI staff members take control of the situation, provide security, start delivering emergency care and contact Senior Management.
Evacuation Plan - All GVI bases, no matter how remote, have a medical and crisis evacuation plan in place.
Clear Communication Channels - For any plan to operate effectively, communication channels need to be setup and maintained. We ensure that all GVI staff and participants on base have the contact details of a senior staff member on base, who can contact local support staff and our central support office. It is the responsibility of a senior member of staff on base to ensure that our local partnerships are well-maintained.
Updates Every Quarter Or After Every Incident - All GVI in-country staff are required to complete a formal Health And Safety report after any incident, whether major or minor, or, if no such incident occurred, every quarter. They are to update Senior Management about any new risks they have been made aware of, on base, in their specific location, in their city, town, or district, in their country, or in the region where they are stationed. In collaboration with Senior Management, risk assessments, emergency action plans, crisis management plans, and evacuation plans are then updated accordingly.
Checks, Maintenance, And Restocking - All GVI vehicles, activity equipment, like diving kits and telemetry devices, safety equipment, like first aid kits and fire extinguishers, are checked on a daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual basis. After any type of incident, a thorough check is also conducted. Every year many of our GVI bases also take one week or two to work only on maintenance, restocking, and repairs.
24-hour Emergency Line - GVI's emergency phone line gives you direct access to our trained Health And Safety Coordinators as well as Senior Management at any time of day or night wherever you might be in the world. Once the incident is noted, the Emergency Action Plan for this specific scenario will take immediate effect.
Local Support - Participants have access to local medical professionals such as doctors, medics, and counsellors, vetted by GVI staff beforehand.
Medical And Dietary Requirements - GVI requires that all pre-existing medical conditions and dietary requirements be disclosed beforehand. This is the only way for us to support the advice of licensed medical professionals and ensure that participants aren’t exposed to any foods, environments, or other circumstances that could potentially cause them harm or offense.
Personal Safety Training - After settling into their accommodation, all GVI participants are required to complete Health And Safety training. This includes general instructions on how to conduct oneself as a traveler in a foreign country to ensure your personal safety as well as training on how to avoid specific safety issues to be aware of in their particular region. They are also provided with a communication card, with the relevant numbers, contacts, and addresses for our on-site and off-site staff, including the 24-hour emergency number, which we ask them to keep on their person at all times. They will also receive cultural awareness training and are instructed on how to use personal protective equipment appropriate for the project. They are also trained in how to conduct on-the-spot risk assessments to understand the severity of risk in any given scenario and what the appropriate response might be. GVI participants are also walked through the Emergency Action Plans in place for each base and print out versions are available on a designated Health And Safety board.
Safety Of Personal Belongings - Electronic devices and other valuables can be kept safe in a secure location either at the accommodation or at the project manager’s office space. GVI doesn't encourage participants to take valuables with them outside the accommodation to ensure the safety of these valuables, of participants, and any children or vulnerable adults.
GVI-specific International Health Insurance - Our insurance partner, Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI), has developed an international health insurance package specifically catered to our participants. It also covers medical emergency and disaster evacuations. A CISI GVI international health insurance policy is not covered in the program fee, but details for purchasing one can be requested by contacting your GVI Enrolment Manager or Support Coordinator. We require that all our participants submit proof of international health insurance.
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As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.
The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.
It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve, which is why people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.
After matching a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, we aim to set the right expectations. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.