WHAt do you do if you want to do charity work but are unhappy with the charities that exist? Why, set up your own, of course.
At least that’s what William Home, 25, from Gordon, has done, with a friend from his university days.
Recently, The Berwickshire News told how William’s mother, Sylvia, had volunteered to work in schools in Nepal – aided by her son, who was in the region for the new charity, Volunteers For Volunteers (VFV).
The charity was the brainchild of William’s friend Nathan Bye. The two met while studying for degrees in international politics at Northumbria University.
Educated at the local primary school in Gordon and then Longridge Towers school, William had always intended going to university, though he admits it was more about killing time before deciding what he really wanted to do.
“It was at Northumbria where I met Nathan, who was studying the same course as me.
“It did have a bearing on my life, far more than I had expected,” said William.
“I’ve realised you can’t always tell what is going to be important and that you must go into everything with the same energy and enthusiasm.”
At the end of his second year, William found himself in Thailand – a six-week trip that whetted his appetite for travel and adventure.
“I realised all I really wanted to do was explore, so when I finished university I moved to Madrid and learned how to teach English.
“I moved to Ibiza and got myself a job teaching English. I found a perfect job – working 19 hours a week at a brilliant little language school on an idyllic island.
“It was hard to leave and I almost didn’t but I wanted to explore and Asia was calling.
“Then Nathan got in touch and I decided to help him set up the charity.
“I lost a little of the free wandering and exploring I had craved, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it in the long run.”
Nathan had come up with the idea of a charity about two years ago, after he volunteered in Cameroon.
He saw first hand how much volunteers were needed, but also how badly run the project was.
He became aware of further projects that were in need of assistance and so decided to incorporate them into his plan for a charity with a strong ethical foundation.
After much planning and research, the two agreed that William would head out to Nepal and set projects up there.
Nathan would look for suitable projects in south-east Asia, before heading back to Cameroon to run those he had discovered two years earlier.
William believes that, for many, volunteer tourism has become big business, with the original intention of helping people overshadowed.
“Some of these organisations are making a lot of money, charging £1,000-£1,500 for a month’s volunteering.
“We know from experience it does not cost anywhere near that price to send a volunteer out to the places they are going,” he said.
“We also know that a lot of places that receive volunteers from these companies are receiving very little else from them.”
Volunteers For Volunteers asks for a donation of £100 a week if the volunteer is staying with it for under a month and £75 a week if staying for more.
William says the money is used to facilitate the volunteers’ stay in-country and includes transport, food and accommodation.
Less than half the donation goes to cover in-country costs of the volunteer.
The rest goes to the organisations the charity helps and covers administration and the recruitment of new volunteers.
“Our administration costs and recruitment of volunteers are kept to a minimum because we do not have an office in the UK and run our operations online through our website,” he said.
“This means that over half the donation goes directly to the projects we support.
“We provide everything that volunteers need and help with the preparation, planning, fundraising and in-country supervision.
“We have a VFV staff member in every country to support our volunteers and we do everything we can to make sure their whole trip runs smoothly. The volunteer and the projects are mutually beneficial.”
Two major projects on VFV’s drawing board are an orphanage in Cameroon and a medical outreach project in Nepal.
“We have been set up to help the people and environment in the developing world and at the same time offer our volunteers the opportunity to experience life on our projects,” said William.
“We want our volunteers to care deeply about the projects they will fundraise for before they leave and when they return home.”
Volunteers For Volunteers has a number of projects in Cameroon, Nepal and Thailand.
In Cameroon a football coaching project is working with disadvantaged children who can’t afford the local academies.
There is also an environmental project focusing on conservation work nearby and on Mount Cameroon.
In Thailand. volunteers will be working with hill tribes in the north of the country.
The work varies from reforestation to digging ditches to educating local people about the environment.
In Nepal there are two teaching projects. One of these is on the outskirts of Pokhara at a school providing education and a home for children from the Mustang region, while the other is in a small village near the Annapurna mountain range.
Projects in India, Morocco, South and Central America are in the pipeline.
“We hope that all our volunteers will have the time of their lives fundraising and volunteering on the projects where they will make real differences in the lives of people and the environment.
“We are ambitious with our plans but realistic too.
“This won’t be easy but we know we are very capable and are genuinely excited for the future. We are ready to make our ideas a reality.”
While in Nepal recently, William met with the rest of his family from the Borders. During a spell of sightseeing, a local fortune-teller told William the next three years were going to be tough.
“It’s not going to be easy, but three years isn’t that long. So bring on 28 and a large, successful charity helping those who need it the most.
“I have no fear – why worry when it appears to be all in the hands of the gods?”
For more information on Volunteers for Volunteers, go to www.volunteers-for-volunteers.org