Expedition COVID-19 update

Last updated 07/05/2021

International Expeditions – Costa Rica

We are continuing to plan for our Expeditions to start again in Costa Rica this year, with the first to run in summer 2021. All programmes will be Covid-adapted to best ensure the safety of our communities, staff, and volunteers.

We regularly monitor advice provided by the World Health Organisation, UK government, and relevant authorities in our countries of operation; monitor how international travel will resume and the local contexts and review our operational plans and protocols.

International Expeditions – Nepal

As you may be aware, the context in Nepal has recently changed.  Unfortunately, we have come to the very difficult decision to cancel our Expeditions to Nepal this summer (Cycle 2: June to September).

We had been very confident that Expeditions were safe to go ahead as COVID-19 cases were low, vaccinations were starting to be rolled out, and international travel was becoming more available. Our teams were working hard to ensure the projects were set up, safety protocols were in place, and adaptations were made to ensure we were running our Expeditions safely and to maximise the impact of our volunteers’ efforts.

However, things have changed very rapidly in Nepal. Over the last 1-2 weeks Nepal has seen rising cases of COVID-19, Kathmandu has recently gone into lockdown, and in the last couple of days it was announced that international and domestic flights have been halted. Whilst these measures have been put in place to be a ‘circuit breaker’, the projected figures of estimated cases are still expected to rise, and we anticipate pressure on the medical facilities in Nepal. These, and other factors, mean that we think it is no longer safe to continue planning our Expeditions in Nepal this summer.

For those volunteers that have already signed up to volunteer, we will be in touch by email next week to fully explain your options and next steps.

Please see the FAQs below if you are considering applying or if you have already secured a place. Get in touch if you can’t find the answer you need.

Re:Green UK

This programme, taking place in Scotland, will start this summer after restrictions have been eased in June. We will ensure that all relevant COVID protocols at that time are followed to enable a safe and impactful programme.

How we responded so far

Last year, in March 2020, we suspended our international volunteering programmes as a result of the global pandemic. We are proud to have successfully and safely returned over 500 volunteers home from their various programme locations. For the safety of our volunteers, staff, partners and the communities we work with, we also made the difficult decision to reschedule our international programmes from this summer 2021.

Our staff teams continue to work remotely at home or to a limited degree in each of our offices. Throughout we have remained fully connected and focused on restarting our international volunteering programmes and continuing to deliver our national volunteer programmes, where safe to do so.

Please see below the current answers to some frequently asked questions. Get in touch if you can’t find the answer you need.

Covid-19 Related FAQs – Expedition

How is the Expedition programme being adapted to be Covid-secure and to keep volunteers and communities safe?

We are constantly monitoring and assessing the situation, here and in our countries of operation. We have permanent staff in each country that are in contact with local governments, embassies, and other authorities. We’ll only go ahead with our programmes knowing that we can maintain our high standards of safety and risk management. We continue to review and update our operational protocols to ensure we can work safely.  We will give finalised, full detailed guidance prior to the upcoming Expeditions, but for your safety and that of others, the measures are likely to be the following:

Before Expedition

  • Enhanced medical screening protocols to ensure those more vulnerable to the virus are not unduly exposed to health risks. ​
  • Requirement for all volunteers to maintain strict physical distancing for 14 days before departure for the airport.  ​
  • Declaration from volunteers that they have not had any COVID-19 symptoms prior to or since arriving in the programme country, and agreement that they understand that if symptoms emerge, they will need to isolate in the programme country before joining the Expedition.​
  • Any other requirements imposed by the Expedition country local immigration, which may include completion of a COVID-19 test pre-departure and/or on arrival in the programme country.
  • Requiring volunteers to bring at least 7 reusable fabric face coverings. ​
  • Updated additional insurance guidance for volunteers to purchase.

During Expedition

Overall, our principle will be to adapt programme delivery to a physically distanced model, being creative to ensure as few of the key ingredients of the Expedition experience are compromised as possible.  However, the fundamental principles are to:​

  • Allocate each volunteer team into ‘groups’ on the Expedition; from arrival to departure these groups will remain the same.
  • Working in independent Expedition groups keeping a minimum of 1m physical distance from those outside this Expedition group.
  • Individual responsibility will be key and acknowledged in protocols​ and training.
  • Our travel providers will ensure physical distanced seating in vehicles throughout the programme.
  • Identified isolation areas at all sites for those who may show symptoms of COVID-19 to rest and recover without risk of transmitting to others.
  • PCR testing on day of arrival and also day five of the Expedition to increase confidence and ensure asymptomatic team members (people who have COVID-19 but are not showing symptoms) can be safely cared for and prevent further transmission. PCR test prior to return flight home if required

In addition:​

  • More physical separation of Expedition participants from communities​.
  • Use of dedicated volunteer accommodation – these may be community centres and tents, but not homestays​.
  • Briefings with community members and partners so they can understand and support our protocols​.
  • Implement our own mitigation protocols to enhance existing local government requirements.
  • Continue to run with high standards of hygiene and handwashing.
  • Require volunteers to always wear their reusable face coverings, especially when interacting with those outside their Expedition group.
  • Monitor the way we will work with local communities to ensure we do not put anyone at risk, and review protocols as appropriate.

What happens if I were to sign up now to volunteer and Raleigh International are forced to cancel the programme due to Covid-19?

You will be able to secure your place with confidence. If we have to cancel the programme in advance due to COVID-19, we’ll offer you an alternative programme, so you’ll be able to defer your place to a future Raleigh Expedition, or switch to our new Re:Green programme (starting this summer in the UK).

If you can’t travel due to travel bans or quarantine restrictions, then we’ll offer you the option to transfer your place to an alternative programme within the next 18 months.

If we cancel the programme and you are unable to defer or switch programme, as per our Terms and Conditions, if we ‘have to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances, we retain the right to deduct from such funds a proportion of costs incurred.’ We will offer to return a proportion, depending on the timing of cancellation, of directly contributed fundraising.

As an example: 

If Raleigh are forced to cancel the programme prior to departure, we will have already incurred significant planning costs of the expected volunteer fundraising for that programme (prior to 12 weeks 50%; 12-6 weeks 70%; less than 6 weeks 85% (figure X)).  Therefore, we will 1) calculate X% of total fundraising or the deposit, whichever is greater (figure A); 2) calculate / ascertain the direct/ non-online contributions made (figure B); 3) return the lower of figure A or B.  Direct/ non-online contributions are those paid directly to Raleigh by credit or debit card, cheque or bank transfer by volunteer or close family.  Indirect or online contributions are those donated to Raleigh via an online giving platform by the volunteers’ supporters, as irrevocable donations to Raleigh’s work.

What happens if I were to sign up now to volunteer and decide to withdraw?

If you choose to withdraw from a programme, for any reason, you will need to inform us in writing. If Raleigh are still going ahead with the Expedition, any funds received by the charity up to this point will be treated as donations to the charity and will not normally be refunded, as per our T&Cs.

What happens if I get COVID-19 just before the Expedition start date?

Please get in touch and let us know.  It is essential you do not join if you have COVID-19. Depending on timing / availability you may be able to join a later Expedition a few weeks later or defer to any Expedition or Re:Green programme over the next 18 months. If this is not possible, we may be able to a return proportion of your direct fundraising contributions, pending medical evidence of the diagnosis.

How has Raleigh International responded so far?

Our staff teams continue to work remotely at home or to a limited degree in each of our offices.  Throughout we have remained fully connected and focused on restarting our international volunteering programmes and continuing to deliver our national volunteer programmes, where safe to do so.

Last year, in March 2020, we suspended our international volunteering programmes as a result of the global pandemic.  We are proud to have successfully and safely returned over 500 volunteers home from their various programme locations.  For the safety of our volunteers, staff, partners and the communities we work with, we also made the difficult decision to cancel our international programmes in 2020 to date.

Is Raleigh International delivering any programmes that may help respond to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Our water, sanitation health and hygiene (WASH) programmes are already closely aligned to the type of projects that will be valuable in a COVID and post-COVID world. We will be working with project partners and communities to better understand how the needs may have changed and how we can tailor our projects and activities to support even more. More broadly, our non-Expedition programmes that work with national volunteers only are also being redeveloped to respond to this global issue.