Information for parents

As a parent it’s natural to have queries and concerns about your child’s time abroad. This page should help answer some of the most common questions you may have. We are also very happy to talk on the phone if you have any other questions.

What do you know about us already?

Does our name bring to mind tall ships? You may know us from our Operation Raleigh or even Operation Drake days. We’re proud of our history; it has made us the organisation we are today. For more than 37 years supporting tens of thousands of young people through life-changing volunteer journeys around the world.

In 1984 Operation Raleigh was founded. This was a four year project involving 4,000 volunteers and almost 1,600 staff. Its success saw it continue, with an emphasis on land-based Expeditions. Operation Raleigh became Raleigh International in 1992.

Today more than 45,000 people have volunteered with us and young people are still at the heart of what we do. Working side by side on sustainable projects inspires and empowers communities and young people to create lasting change.

What will my son or daughter gain from the experience?

A Raleigh programme is nothing like school, work or university. We create a hands-on learning environment. We encourage young people to step out of their comfort zone. It will be challenging at times but we support and encourage our volunteers throughout the process.

Your child will learn things that cannot be taught in the classroom. A Raleigh programme will help equip them for the future and give them skills that employers are looking for. We’ll help build their confidence, resilience, leadership skills and much, much more.

How will you keep my child safe?

We take every precaution to ensure that everyone who volunteers and works with us can do so safely. Raleigh’s Expedition programmes adhere to the British Safety Standard, BS8848:2014. This is the standard for organising and managing visits, fieldwork, Expeditions, and adventurous activities outside the UK. Each year we are audited by an external body against this standard. Find out more information about Raleigh’s approach to safety, safeguarding and whistle-blowing.

We only work in countries where our approach will have a long-lasting impact and where volunteers will be welcomed. We don’t work in countries that have been affected by recent conflict. We don’t work where we think our people and our volunteers might be at risk.

We know how to work safely in the countries where we operate. In each one, we regularly conduct risk assessments to help form our safety plans. Our people are our strength. It’s important we train everyone in Raleigh’s safety systems. The plans developed in the countries we work in are overseen by a team in our London Head Office who are always here to provide support, should it be needed. We also have permanent offices in the countries where we work and trained medical professionals on all of our programmes.

The most common issues for volunteers to face are minor medical ailments which can crop up as they are travelling to a new place – stomach upsets, bites, stings etc. In case anything more serious was to occur, our safety systems and training kicks in. The country teams can contact our safety team in the UK 24 hours a day so incidents can be reported and responded to quickly. We deal with all issues individually and decide on the best course of action depending on what’s happened and who is involved, always making decisions with a ‘safety first’ approach. Of course, if anything serious happens your child’s emergency contacts would be informed. We ask all volunteers for the contact details of two people who are responsible adults able to take important calls in case of an emergency.

Got a specific medical question?

Does your child have any pre-existing conditions that you want to talk to us about? Please give our medical team a call on +44 (0)20 7183 1291 or drop them an email on

How will I keep in touch?

You probably won’t have as much contact with your child as you are used to. We limit personal technology taken to project sites. Volunteers are immersed in a new environment. Chatting with friends and family on the phone or spending time online distracts people from trying new things and learning from one another. Plus, the signal is not always that reliable in a remote community or in the middle of the rainforest.

You should assume volunteers won’t have access to the internet or phones for up to 20 days at a time. They will have the chance to contact you when they first arrive in country and then again at any training sessions. That doesn’t mean that you can’t contact them should there be an emergency. If you need to send an urgent message we will make sure that it gets to them.

For less urgent communications, you can communicate with your son or daughter through our Contact a Raleigh Volunteer page. You can leave a message and we will deliver it to them when we visit their project sites. You can also subscribe to the blog or follow our social media pages to get updates on the impact of their work.

Where does the money go?

We are a charity, and we ask all volunteers to fundraise for their programme. We give support with this, and we’ve found that it helps volunteers to build new skills, while also raising awareness of the work that they are contributing towards.

We offer volunteers full training and support before and during their programme. Once they are on programme all food, accommodation and local travel are covered. Travel and medical insurance (excluding personal belongings cover) are also included. Find out more about what’s included in our fundraising costs and how we support our volunteers with fundraising.

Our programmes are not funded by volunteer fundraising alone. We do lots of other fundraising to ensure they are as impactful as possible. And we’re committed to supporting local volunteers and disadvantaged young people from the UK to take part.

What do other parents say?

Joanna’s son Sam, volunteered with us. Here is what she had to say about his time away:

“You have given my son the experience of a lifetime in Tanzania this summer and he is reaping the rewards – greater confidence, more focus, higher self-esteem, greater independence – the list goes on! Great work to everyone that supported him and made his summer. This is one very happy mother.”

John’s son Jacob also went to Tanzania:

“As parents we have noticed how profound the impact of what he has done has been. Jacob loved his time and it has clearly had a strong emotional effect upon him. His photographs are a wonderful recollection of events and have given us a tiny glimpse of what he has experienced. I would like to thank Raleigh International for offering this opportunity to a rather shy 17 year old.”

Interested in volunteering abroad yourself?

We also have volunteer opportunities for those over the age of 25. You could join us as a Volunteer Manager. Why should young people have all the fun? Find out more about becoming a Volunteer Manager.

What’s next?

We hold Expedition information events around the UK and online. You can come with your son or daughter to meet us and hear from past volunteers about our projects. It will help bring our programmes to life and you will find out more about what we have covered above. Attend an information event

Our blogs are also a great source of information about our work. We are also very happy to speak on the phone, so do call us on +44 (0)207 183 1270 or +1 833-660-9738 if calling from the US. We’d love to hear from you.

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