If you have a Jamaican Farm, School, Hostel or Community Project that follows Organic or Sustainability principles, you might consider becoming a Host for Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests.
Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests can provide an Extra Pair of Hands (short-term) to help your Family or Business with various projects, or be Trained to perform Ongoing Organizational tasks like Bartending, Handyman/ Maintenance and Front-Desk Reception.
In exchange, Work / Exchange Hosts (you) provide a Welcoming, Social and Learning Environment – plus Daily Food and/or Accommodation – to the Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests as token compensation for his or her Time & Assistance.
Hosting Volunteer Guests can be rewarding as you are enabling people to learn about Authentic Jamaica by culturally immersing them into the short term operations of your organization – giving them a taste of Jamaican society, work ethic and local interactions.
For Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests, you will be demonstrating your version of the Authentic Jamaican way of life – hopefully inspiring them by the experience and aiding additional growth within Jamaica’s independent budget travel and rural tourism markets.
You and your organization should be interested in positive cultural exchange where both host and volunteer are enriched by each experience, and NOT looking for a source of cheap labor to replace paid Jamaican workers.
Make new friends from all over the world who are interested in helping and learning about your Authentic Jamaican way of life, and teaching you about theirs!
Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests can stay for as short as a day or two, with a few staying up as long as a year!
For simple projects like repairing a greenhouse or planting new seedlings, a day or week may be enough commitment to require from potential volunteers.
More training intense roles like Hostel Front Desk Reception, may require a 3 to 6 month minimum Work/Exchange commitment from each individual selected, in order to be worth the time and effort you will spend teaching them what to do.
Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests offer help generally for around 4 hours per day or 20 hours a week, performing any task or duty within the abilities of a willing visitor.
Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests may be asked for general help around your house or hostel, working with animals, caring for people with disabilities or even for work on government funded community development projects.
Most legal activities are OK, as long as the volunteer willingly accepts and is comfortable with the Work/Exchange agreement and situation.
Volunteers with prior experience in the skills you seek aren’t always available, yet their commitment and enthusiasm, ability to adapt and use initiative, concern for the environment and local communities, and sincere desire to help are often more important – no matter what the need or situation!
Typical volunteer engagements can include a variety of tasks – farming, fruit-picking and gardening; office organization, bookkeeping and computer work; cooking, painting and maintenance, as well as childcare, teaching and tutoring.
Copies of a recent police record from their home city should always be requested from volunteers being considered to work directly with children.
Hosts may also advertise and negotiate online with potential Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests to exchange specific Work/Exchange services from Web Designers, Language Tutors, Permaculture Experts, etc.
Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests travel seeking a different experience by visiting the Jamaica behind the tropical beach exterior image and should be made to feel as part of your organizational family.
Hosts should interact with visitors as much as possible to stimulate the type of positive cultural exchange in which both parties benefit.
Individual host requirements and resources may be different, for example, you may just need 2 hours of Work/Exchange per day for use of a bed, leaving Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests to provide and cook their own meals.
Rasta Routes stresses the need for each Volunteer Guest to be fully self-funded and financially independent, able to cover incidental expenses and unforeseen costs beyond any basic Work/Exchange food and accommodation provided.
Many hosts may need volunteers for 4 hours every weekday – giving weekends off, while others might allow for 7 hours of work each for 3 continuous days, and then give the rest of the week off for travel and entertainment.
Still, another hosts may expect 6 hours of Work/Exchange per day in return for special meals, a private room and other benefits such as free Internet use, local transportation and sight-seeing trips, etc.
Accommodation depends entirely on your resources and can range from providing a hammock or tent in a safe backyard, to a bed in your hostel’s cheapest dorm room, to an outdoor helpers quarters or to the best room of your house – anything can be offered as long as potential volunteers know what to expect and can see accurate pictures of proposed arrangements before they arrive.
Food is normally provided to Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests doing Work/Exchange. For meals where Hosts and Volunteers dine together, the tasks of cooking and clearing up are also SHARED.
This means that you are not expected to prepare three meals a day for your volunteers and you similarly can not expect them to cook for you everyday on top of the help they provide (Unless their part of the exchange is cooking as a Chef!)
Hosts should just continue with their normal eating schedules and either cook extra servings for Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests or provide them the necessary food and appliances to prepare and store their own adequate and healthy meals.
If you cannot necessarily afford to feed volunteers even with their help, you can request a small weekly donation from them towards food, as long as this is made clear in the beginning!
Arrangements and Work/Exchange conditions for Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests will vary considerably depending on the tasks at hand and each individual host’s preferences and available resources.
Again it is always best to make all your terms, wishes and conditions for Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests clear from the start to eliminate problems in the future.
Some examples of terms and conditions you should specify for each particular circumstance are – not suitable for single women, or 9PM property curfew, or open to older couples over 50, or men with construction experience only, or, that you will only consider volunteers committed to three month stays or more.
Ask and you shall receive!
If you do not want to cook and clean up after volunteers and prefer self reliant guests, simply say so and offer full use of a kitchen instead, if you would prefer for volunteers to prepare their own meals themselves.
If you are strictly vegetarian and allow no meat, fish or chicken in the fridge or kitchen, or, if the volunteer’s accommodation will be in your utility room with a fabric curtain as the door and sharing a bathroom with the neighbor, make it known up front in your project description!
We advise both Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests and hosts to ask plenty of questions about each other in order to establish expectations from each party.
Work/Exchange volunteers are advised to never arrive at a potential host location without a prior arrangement and agreement.
Rasta Routes recommends using a short period of time, from 5 days to a week, as a trial period with the view of extending the Work/Exchange relationship should both host and volunteer agree to continue their partnership longer.
This gives both parties an “opt out clause” in case of unforeseeable circumstances, or if your personalities and work ethic simply just don’t get along!
Hosts wishing to add a free listing inviting Work/Exchange – Volunteer Guests to stay, will need to register an account at RastaRoutes.com. Registered hosts may update their details as often as they like and view helper profiles.
By Winston Irie