FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: KS SERVICE/EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS
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1. Why should I choose a Kindred Spirits program?
On a personal level, our service and educational adventures allow you the opportunity to travel in a way no typical tourist will ever experience. You will go from being an "outsider" to a trusted member of another community within a matter of days. You will be exposed to a different way of life not by merely observing, but by becoming actively involved with others. By working and learning as a member of a close-knit group , you will have a chance to forge lasting new relationships.
On a global level, the world needs your service and curiosity now more than ever. By building bridges of altruism and open-minded inquiry across cultures, we reaffirm the common bonds of humanity and strengthen the foundations for peace. There could be no more meaningful way to spend your time, money, and energy.
2. Who will I be traveling with?
We purposely keep the size of our groups small to allow for the most intimate, learner-friendly environments. The maximum number is usually 15. (Depending on the program and destination, we may be able to accommodate a larger group for a customized program). We invite people of all ages and backgrounds to participate: families, couples, individuals, co-workers, teachers, classmates
, and friends. It is also possible to set up a customized program for a pre-arranged group of people (church, family reunion, office retreat, Alternative School Break, etc .). There is no "typical" participant - but most display at least one (if not all) of the following characteristics: a willingness to take risks, compassion for others, open-mindedness, cross-cultural sensitivity, a sense of humor, and endless curiosity.
You will be accompanied by professional guides who have proven skills in experiential education. Many are from, or have extensive experience living/working in, the places we visit. Rather than being a "traditional" tour consultant, they are integral members of the team. They will facilitate an exchange of ideas, and encourage all participants to join. On all of our programs, we hope to instill an ethic of joyful collaboration.
3. What will we be doing every day?
It depends. On volunteer vacations, your time will be devoted to a combination of active service and cultural immersion in one of our partner
host communities. We will work for part of the day, either as a large group or individually, on projects ranging from construction to teaching. There will also be plenty of time to interact with the local people, as they will more often than not be working alongside you. During the evenings and "down time", we will join in on community-wide celebrations, visit nearby attractions, and engage in relevant educational opportunities. We also allow time for and encourage smaller and more personal interchanges. Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences you will have is a conversation with a village elder while sipping tea on his stoop?
When not in the host community, you will be exposed to the many wonders of surrounding locales through recreational activities, tours of historic monuments, and off-the-beaten track excursions. (Please refer to "itineraries" for site-specific information.)
On educational adventures, our itinerary will largely be determined by the specific "focus" of each trip - whether it be archaeology, foreign language acquisition or marine biology. In order to meet your self-identified objectives, we will engage you in a balanced combination of academic inquiry, field lectures, and experiential learning.
Please Note: On any program, we may have to alter plans based on weather or other unforeseeable circumstances. We appreciate your flexibility and patience when this happens.
4. Will I have any free time?
Of course! What would a "vacation" be without time to relax? We make a concerted effort not to schedule every minute of your day in order to allow you many opportunities to explore and reflect peacefully. It is also not uncommon (especially in Latin America ) to take a "siesta" after lunch! By the end of the trip, we promise that your physical and emotional batteries will be re-charged.
5. How are the service programs chosen?
Primarily, we follow the direction of our local hosts. We are there simply to lend a hand in grassroots initiatives that have already been identified and set up by native organizations. When there is more than one project worthy of our attention, we choose the ones that satisfy the most pressing needs. Specific areas may include: poverty/hunger alleviation, education, agriculture, health care, small business creation, and infrastructure development. Whenever possible, we try not to involve ourselves in the political situations of our host communities. We must remember that our role there is to humbly serve, not to make judgments about the way things are run.
Participants with specialized expertise or technical skills are encouraged to share them. In fact, we strongly recommend to our hosts that they take advantage of the individual skills of each and every volunteer. Whether they choose to or not is another matter entirely.
Note: Kindred Spirits has recently established a non-profit foundation to further support specific development projects in each of our host communities. A % of your tour fees will be devoted to such endeavors.
6. What will the food and accommodations be like?
Participants on Kindred Spirits Service Programs will live quite simply. In our host communities, we either stay with local families or in a communal guesthouse. Facilities are comfortable, yet might often lack the amenities (or privacy) you are familiar with: 24-hour electricity, running water, central heat/air-conditioning, etc. For the most part, though, you can expect to live in better conditions than most of the people around you.
On excursions and educational adventures , we stay in quaint B & B's, 3 to 4-star
hotels or even yachts (Galapagos) and safari lodges ( Africa )! We purposely make an effort to keep program costs down by NOT staying in luxury accommodations. However, what you give up in luxury you gain in uniqueness.
Your diet will be nutritious, tasty, and cooked with the utmost of care. In most locations, there will be plenty of fruits, grains, meat and vegetables. However, you may not have the variety you are accustomed to at home.
Please Note: Special dietary needs should be communicated to the Kindred Spirits staff in advance.
7. Do I need to be in good physical condition to do this? How rugged is it?
Basically, we want you to choose the right experience for you . Our programs vary in length and physical demands. In most locations, you will have access to phone, email, and laundry facilities. but others will be more remote. We do not, however, discriminate on the basis of age, weight, gender or disability. What's most important is that you are willing to try something new, and expand your "comfort zone."
(Please Note: We do require each person to fill out a "health form" to let us know if you suffer from any conditions which might preclude your involvement in certain activities. If that should be the case, we will advise you of the risks and/or refer you to a more appropriate program.)
8. Do I need to have any technical skills for the Service Programs/Volunteer Vacations?
You've never made adobe bricks from scratch before? Maybe you don't even know how to hold a hammer? The thought of standing in front of a class of elementary-aged children or plowing a field terrifies you? No problem! You will never be left alone to fend for yourself because we provide expert instruction on all service projects. All we ask is that you put forth your best effort, and have a positive attitude.
9. Are there any other requirements? Do I need to know how to speak the local language, for example?
Our participants are "citizen ambassadors". We expect them to abide by the laws and customs of our host communities at all times. Rude/obnoxious behavior or any signs of blatant disrespect for the local people will not be tolerated. Anyone deemed harmful to the overall mission of Kindred Spirits will be asked to leave the program, after having been dually warned. Any case of early dismissal will be carefully reviewed by our administrative staff and guides. There will be no refunds in this situation and any additional costs will be borne by the participant.
Participants do not need to arrive on-site with any prior language experience, although we strongly encourage all participants to acquire a phrase book or to dust off those old textbooks, and do some advance preparation for your trip. Speaking a few words or phrases of the local language goes a long way in creating a wonderful experience for you and those you are visiting. A list of resources will be provided.
10. Is it safe? Are there any health or political risks?
In all travel, as in life, there are inherent risks. Strikes occur, accidents happen, and people get sick. Unfortunately, random non-violent crime is a daily reality in many of the places we visit. Kindred Spirits makes every effort, however, to limit the risks to the best of our ability. We monitor all updates/advisories provided by the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control
U.S. State Department. When in doubt, we always fall on the side of caution. Safety is our top priority. If a program is canceled for any reason prior to the published starting date, we will give you a full refund or a credit to participate in another program of your choice.
In addition, we put a tremendous amount of thought into choosing every one of our itineraries and host communities. Never do we go somewhere uninvited. There may be individuals who look upon our presence there with some suspicion, but for the most part, we are the special guests of local leaders and high-profile individuals in the community.
11. What if something does happen to me while I'm there?
Most of our sites are within easy access to adequate medical facilities. In most cases, a hospital with English-speaking doctors is within a 2-3 hour drive. Additionally, all of our guides are CPR/First Aid trained and certified. Because accidents can happen anywhere in the world, we strongly recommend that you check with your own insurance company to find out whether your homeowners or health insurance policies cover treatment while traveling overseas, and if so, how to submit claims. If not, we can offer travel insurance that will cover you during the duration of the trip. Please contact us for a quote.
12. What do I need to bring with me?
Upon enrollment, you will be sent a "Welcome Packet" explaining all the details of the program including a "what-to-bring" list.
The Kindred Spirits staff is happy to serve you in any related trip-planning, as well as make referrals to travel agents and equipment manufacturers.
13. What if I want to stay after the program ends or arrive early?
Whether your Kindred Spirits tour is a stand-alone experience or part of a larger adventure, we can assist you with any changes. To ensure that there are no problems, we do ask that you inform us as soon as possible regarding your plans. And we will ask that you show up and leave on the dates specified in our itinerary, especially if joining a larger group. (Exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis.) Just let us know what your plans are, ok? We prefer not to have to go looking for you or file a "missing persons" report. Ha!
14. What is your deposit, cancellation and refund policy?
Depending on the tour / program, a $300-500 deposit is required. Final payment is usually needed 60 days in advance of the trip departure. If you need to cancel your trip, you are required to send your cancellation in writing. If you cancel 61 days prior to departure, your monies will be refunded minus a $100 administration fee. If you cancel 60-31 days prior to departure, 50% of your monies will be refunded. If you cancel 30 days or less from the date of departure your monies are not refundable. However, if someone takes your place on the tour, we will make every effort to recoup some monies from our overseas partners.this is not guaranteed. This is why we strongly recommend that all participants acquire travel insurance as soon as they have signed-up for the tour.
15. Regarding the Service Programs and Volunteer Vacations, why do I have to pay to volunteer? Where does my money go? Is the program fee tax deductible?
Good question. Your friends and neighbors may think you are crazy for doing this, but in a nutshell, a "volunteer vacation" is an alternative, enriching way to travel. It doesn't "just happen." Direct program expenses include: materials, food & lodging, transportation, guides, etc. In addition, a significant portion of your program fee is given as a financial donation to the host community. A small amount is also put aside for organizational/administrative development, in order to make experiences like these available for many years (and generations) to come.
A small percentage of your program fees is donated to the grant programs managed by Kindred Spirits Foundation. You will be notified as to the amount that is tax deductible.
(PLEASE NOTE: We CAN provide high school-aged participants with a "Certificate of Completion" to satisfy required service hours.)
16. What IS and is NOT included in the cost?
If you are joining a Group Departure tour, please check the web site itinerary. If you are still unsure, contact us. If you are joining a customized group tour, you will need to call your group leader or us.
Generally, what is normally included are the following: local transportation, some meals, activities as described on the itinerary, pre-departure materials, accommodations, and guiding services.
Generally, what is NOT included (but can be if request by the group leader): International travel, passport fees, departure taxes, travel insurance, optional activities, souvenirs, guide gratuities, and alcoholic beverages.
17. Ok, I'm interested. What do I need to do now?
CONTACT US! Either by phone, email, or our Contact Form submit through our website. We are looking forward to hearing from you soon, and offering you the experience of a lifetime!!