Our Volunteer Program Includes…
Homestay Accommodation: The thought of living with a foreign family, especially in a developing country, can be daunting. You may wonder whether you will get along with the family, be accepted by them, and feel comfortable in the home. We understand this and have gone to great lengths to ensure that your homestay experience will be special. We evaluate families carefully before accepting them into our homestay program, and we train and monitor them closely.
Volunteers assigned to our Tacloban area projects will be placed with homestays in Bliss, where we are located. Bliss is a congested, low-income neighborhood but it has a low crime rate and is safe. There is strong community cohesion and pride, and the neighborhood homes and surroundings are relatively well-maintained. Our community center is located in the middle of Bliss. An adjacent basketball court area serves as a gathering place for the community. Here you’ll see youth playing basketball; tethered cocks staking out their territories on the sidelines; children keeping busy; adults sitting on benches, exchanges stories; slabs of meat being cut on portable tables; and vendors selling their wares.
Most of our homestay families have been with us for many years and are experienced in working with international volunteers. They take pride in their role and view the volunteer as a valued member of the family. They want volunteers to experience Filipino culture and participate in the family’s daily activities as well as special celebrations that come up. You will eat the same local food as the family (though the homestay parents know what foreigners typically enjoy). Let us know if you have special dietary requirements so that we can meet your needs. The homestay will provide you bottled water to drink, as it would be best for travellers to be cautious and not drink tap water.
All homes have electricity and running water. You will have a private bedroom for you alone or that you share with another volunteer, and you will sleep under a mosquito net. A fan will be provided as none of the homes are air-conditioned. There is just one bathroom in the house that is shared by all family members. Your home will be safe, clean and comfortable, but living conditions will be much lower than in developed country. The bathroom accommodations, in particular, are very basic and volunteers will be taking cold water, bucket baths. Because the weather in the Philippines is tropical, volunteers typically say that the cold water baths have been refreshing. However, each person needs to consider whether these conditions will be acceptable. There will be other things to adjust to, including the neighborhood roosters who will announce the start of a new day with pre-dawn crowing. You will be taken out of your comfort zone, at least initially. Most volunteer report they adjusted fairly quickly to these conditions.
Meals: We provide 2 meals a day (breakfast and dinner); these are traditional Filipino meals. People with special dietary restrictions can also be accommodated, however we ask to be notified in advance.
Excursions: We arrange for volunteers to go on two excursions. One of the excursions will take you to some of our project sites, such as the Dumpsite Program and to a home constructed by our Build-A-Home Program. Volunteers contribute to a number of our projects through program fee allocations. We will also visit local sites of interest, such as the San Juanico Bridge, the Santo Nino Shrine, and the MacArthur Landing Memorial Park. Our second excursion will be to outlying scenic areas, where you will be able to experience the natural beauty of our tropical island.
Waray Waray Crash Courses: English is one of two national languages of the Philippines and is taught from grade one. (The other national language is Filipino/Tagalog.) You will be able to communicate with program participants, VFV staff, and most local residents in English, without too much difficulty. However, your placement experience will be enhanced if you learn key phrases of Waray-Waray, the local dialect; you will be respected by residents for making the effort to learn the language. VFV will conduct two crash classes for volunteer in Waray-Waray.
Local Staff Support: Volunteering abroad can be very demanding and stressful, especially if the placement is in a developing country where living conditions are austere and customs are very different. We do our best to describe out projects and homestay conditions accurately so that you can determine if volunteering with us will work for you. We will help you determine if the project that interests you is a good match.
If you enroll with VFV, we will provide you with a detailed Pre-Departure orientation packet and we will encourage you to prepare for your trip by doing some research on the Philippines and the program you have selected. You can learn a bit more about where you’ll work and stay here.
We take pride in our local staff, who are experienced and committed to making your placement a success. We know that you may arrive tired from a long trip and may encounter more of a cultural shock than you anticipated. We will do our best to help cushion your transition. Our homestay parents are keenly aware of the difficulty some individuals have in adjusting to a new culture and do their best to reach out to volunteers.
You may confer with any of our staff if your project supervisor is not available. We also have staff on duty 24-hours a day/7-days a week to respond to your needs.