We frequently receive inquiries from volunteers that span from their ability to participate in our programs to accessibility to basic needs during their stay to what to expect when they step off the plane. This post is devoted to answering some of those common questions, and please feel free to comment if we missed some that you have!
How close will I live to other volunteers and to the VFV office?
Will I have access to electricity?
All of our homestays, as well as our VFV office, have electricity currently. Keep in mind that not everyone you meet, including the some of our sponsored children, will have electricity in their homes though.
What are three things I should know about Filipino homes before staying in a homestay?
Bring a pair of indoor slippers, take them off before you enter the bathroom or go outside, and before you enter your bedroom if you’d like.
Parents and even children or extended family, regularly sleep in the family’s living area even when they have available bedrooms.
Filipinos use electricity minimally, so always unplug electronics when not in use, turn off fans and lights when you leave your room.
Will my homestay speak English? What about the VFV Staff?
You will have no trouble communicating with the VFV Staff, they have worked with hundreds of volunteers and are perfectly fluent in English, not to mention they all have college degrees and university courses are taught in English! Your host mother will also speak English well, and there will most likely be multiple other family members in your home who speak English. If you ever have questions that you feel your host family may misunderstand, the VFV staff is always available to help translate for you or address any of your needs and concerns.
Will staff be available 24 hours a day if I need anything?
Staff will provide you with necessary phone numbers in case of an emergency or an issue when the office is closed, which is typically between 6 pm and 7 am. There are also some staff that live in the same community where your homestay, and the office, will be located, so they can attend to immediate needs as soon as possible. Your homestay is well experienced and knowledgeable enough to assist you and answer any questions at any time as well.
Will I have access to the internet?
The VFV office currently has internet access and wifi capabilities, but volunteers should be mindful of their internet use since the staff members are also sharing the internet connections for general business operations. Volunteers can also visit a handful of coffee shops in downtown Tacloban (our volunteer coordinator will show you how to get to and from downtown during your city tour), which is a 15-25 minute ride from your homestay, that have wifi connection, as well as small internet cafes where you can pay per hour for computer/internet use.
Will I have access to clean drinking water?
All homestay families will provide clean drinking water for their volunteers. Mineral water is also widely available at small shops throughout the neighborhood as well as at larger grocery stores. When being served water at restaurants it is always important to ask if the water is mineral water and if the ice is made from tap water.
VFV does not require any previous experience in order to join our programs, we welcome individuals from all walks of life and experience. The only thing we ask is that volunteers come in with an open heart and an open mind, and a desire to get involved in hands on meaningful projects!
I just stepped off the plane in Tacloban, what should I expect?
At the Tacloban airport all passengers exit the plane via a staircase leading directly to the tarmac, you will be directed to enter the airport terminal through the back of the building. The baggage machine is currently not functioning, so bags will be distributed across the baggage claim belt manually by bag porters. Be prepared to wait a little while as obviously this is not the most efficient process and it make take a while for your bag to appear. Also keep in mind that the airport is not fully repaired from the damages sustained during the typhoon in November 2013, though it is getting better and better each week.
After you find your bag, you will be directed to exit out the front of the building, but first you will need to show the security guard or airport staff your baggage claim ticket to verify that you have collected the right bag. If you have a large number of bags or your bag is too heavy for you to carry, you can hire one of the baggage porters (in the white button up shirts with blue collars) to carry your bags for you; the cost of baggage porters is 50 pesos or $1 USD per bag.
When you exit the airport there will be a gated area in which people are bound to be lined up outside of waiting for arriving passengers, keep your eyes peeled for a VFV staff member holding a sign with your name on it and the VFV logo. Once you spot them give them a wave and they will meet you at the end of the gated area. After greeting you, your airport “picker-upper” will take you to a hired jeepney or car, which will transport you and any luggage you may have to Bliss, the community where most homestays and the main VFV office is located. The ride is about 10 to 15 minutes long.
Unfortunately, the neighborhoods directly outside the airport are some of the most highly devastated communities of Tacloban. So you should prepare yourself accordingly, the area is still ridden with piles of debris, destroyed buildings, and sadly, many families living in relief tents waiting to be relocated to permanent relocation sites.
Rest assured though, the community you are living in is free of debris and all families have sufficient shelter and access to food and water for the most part. Each homestay is hand selected and has mounds of experience accommodating volunteers, as well as the VFV Staff members.
Let us know if you have any more questions by commenting below!