Raleigh International announces the closure of its current volunteering programmes and return of volunteers due to COVID-19

16th March 2020

Update 24/03/2020: I’m absolutely delighted to be able to inform you that all our young volunteers have safely arrived home and our remaining volunteer managers are currently flying home.

This past week has been like no other week in Raleigh’s history. Never before have we had to close all our programmes simultaneously and begin the return of over 360 volunteers from remote communities.

That we have been able to do so safely, effectively and at incredible speed is only due to the dedication and drive of our amazing staff and volunteer teams in the UK, Tanzania, Nepal and Costa Rica. They have adapted and risen to the challenge in a way that is truly humbling to me and my most sincere thanks goes out to each and every one of them. Such an effort would not be possible in most other organisations and proves that the safety of our volunteers really is at the heart of everything we do.

I’d also like to thank you for working so closely with us at this difficult time. You’ve helped to make it possible. I’d particularly like to thank those of you who have sent through kind and supportive messages to our team. It’s been really appreciated and has boosted us as we’ve worked flat out.

Our teams will be in touch with volunteers now they have returned home to continue providing support as they transition back into a very different life. We will also be looking at options for volunteers who have returned early, including the chance to complete their programmes in future if possible. We are all devastated that we have needed to close our programmes early, both for our participants and for the communities we work with. However, we firmly believe that it was the right decision.

I’d also like to ask that we all emphasise to returned volunteers the importance of respecting their government's social distancing or stay at home guidance. Young or old, we’ve all got a role to play in overcoming the COVID-19 outbreak and protecting the most vulnerable in our communities!

Please do contact us if you’d like to provide feedback or require any further support.

With my continued thoughts and best wishes to you, your family and loved ones,

Julian Olivier
CEO, Raleigh International


Update 20/03/20:

Once again, I’d like to start by thanking volunteers and next of kin for working so closely with us at this difficult time. I know we have all been working flat out with our teams to ensure we can safely return all volunteers home in the face of increasingly disrupted international travel.

I’m pleased to be able to say that the vast majority of our volunteer have either been booked on to flights departing in the next days, are currently flying home, or have already arrived home. We are constantly monitoring flight changes as this is a complex and evolving situation and we won’t rest until all are safely home. We are working to avoid disruptions by ensuring volunteers are on the earliest flight possible with the most direct route possible. For those without booked flights we are seeking to resolve this within the next 24 hours.

Our team will be in touch with volunteers as they return home to continue providing support as they transition back into a very different life and we will be looking at options for volunteers to complete their programmes if possible. We are all devastated that we have needed to close our programmes early, both for our participants and for the communities we work with.

I’d like to thank those of you who have sent through kind and supportive messages to our teams working to safely return our volunteers. It’s been really appreciated and has boosted us as we work flat out.

With my continued thoughts and best wishes to you and your family,

Julian Olivier
CEO, Raleigh International


Update 18/03/2020:

I appreciate that these are unprecedented and exceptional times. I’d like to start by thanking everyone for working with us following my last message (which can be found below this update) to ensure we can safely return all our volunteers home in the face of increasingly disrupted international travel.

Our volunteer teams have all started to move from their project sites and are all safe. They are currently travelling to Raleigh’s training facilities before moving on to airports or local routes so they can begin their journeys home. Due to the remote locations in which volunteers are working these journeys are taking between 1-5 days. We are committed to supporting volunteers and next of kin with travel arrangements and we ask that you continue working with us and our dedicated teams to do this.

The safety and security of our volunteers is at the heart of everything we do, and we take our duty of care extremely seriously. We believe that working to return volunteers home is the best way to keep this commitment. All volunteers will receive support and guidance from us before they travel. If the situation changes and it is not possible to find the right flights in the coming days, all international volunteers will receive safety, medical and security provision from Raleigh International until they are able to return home.

Please be aware that while we are working flat out to support the return of our volunteers, we have more limited capacity to answer your calls after 5pm or before 9am UK time. If you are not a current volunteer or the next of kin of a current volunteer, we would be grateful if you could only contact us in emergencies, as our teams are currently working around the clock on this issue.

I’d like to thank you for continuing to work with us through this difficult process.

With my continued thoughts and best wishes,

Julian Olivier
CEO, Raleigh International


Original update 16/03/2020:

To all our valued volunteers and staff,

I recognise that this is a complex and difficult time for everyone. I’d like to assure you that all our volunteers are safe and well, and that we have been closely monitoring and responding to the developing COVID-19 outbreak.

At Raleigh International the safety and security of our volunteers, staff and the communities we work is at the heart of everything we do. With this in mind, we have taken the difficult decision to temporarily suspend all Raleigh programmes globally and to begin the safe return of our volunteers.

We are not taking this decision lightly as we know the value and importance of the work being carried out by our incredible young volunteers. However, we believe it is the right course of action due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the potential disruption to national and international travel.

Closing our programmes will be a difficult process and we are seeking to do so in a way which maintains the benefits of our work for the communities we work with. We are acting now because we believe it is necessary to safeguard the wellbeing of our volunteers and to prevent a situation where we are unable to operate under our standard operating procedures, which includes the ability to safely return international volunteers.

Our next steps will be to work with volunteers, their next of kin, our country staff and our insurers to arrange for the safe, orderly and urgent return of volunteers to their home location over the next few days. We will be working 24/7 through our robust systems and processes to provide all support possible. We are currently working to bring all volunteers back from their project locations in our countries of operation so that international volunteers can transit to an international airport and begin their safe return home, and national volunteers can return home.

This decision applies to volunteers currently on our cycle 1 programmes. We are currently still planning to run our cycle 2 programmes from June to September, however this remains under constant review as the situation evolves and we will provide updates as soon as possible.

I appreciate that this is a difficult time and we will be working to provide as much information and support as possible directly to the affected volunteers and their next of kin. Thank you for your passion, energy, and commitment to our important work. I ask that you remain calm and work with us as we start this process.

If you have any questions about this we would ask that you please get in touch with our dedicated support teams via +44 (0)800 029 3697.

For all other enquiries please contact: +44 (0)20 7183 1270.

With my thoughts and best wishes,

Julian Olivier
CEO, Raleigh International

 


About Raleigh International:

Raleigh International’s vision is for young people everywhere to be able to change the world. We exist to create youth-driven change that lasts. We do this by empowering young people with the skills, experience and platforms to be leaders of change through our volunteering and national youth programmes. These deliver long-lasting, positive change in people and marginalised communities around the world.

Our work focuses on youth in civil society, livelihoods, natural resource management, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). These projects allow young people to make an impact and lead on the biggest challenges facing our planet.

We work in partnership with communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governments. We develop national youth-led programmes in Tanzania, Nepal, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and run two programmes for international volunteers: Raleigh Expedition, and Raleigh International Citizen Service (ICS) – funded by the UK government.

Since our foundation as a charity in 1984, more than 50,000 people from over 90 countries have volunteered with Raleigh and become part of a global community committed to building a sustainable future. Our former volunteers are active in youth-led national societies in 14 countries around the world where they are continuing to create change in their communities and beyond as active global citizens. For more information visit: www.raleighinternational.org