Safety is a top priority at Animal Experience International. Our amazing clients travel to more than 15 countries, helping animals in countless ways, making new friends and immersing themselves in new communities and cultures. We want to empower our clients to try these new experiences, knowing that we have ensured the best safety practices are in place.
We have personally been to all of the Placement Partner locations to inspect, participate, view and judge the transportation, activities, humane animal care, volunteer care and living conditions. We have met the people you will be staying with, working with and adventuring with our placement partners. AEI Experiences are only made official once we are satisfied that they are safe, ethical and responsible placements. AEI has signed agreements with our partners to ensure they will provide assistance in the unlikely event of an emergency or crisis, and will help you find appropriate medical care if needed.
Our volunteer coordinator emails with all of our Placement Partners at least once a week, some of them once a day! This close relationship benefits everyone. We can reach our contacts quickly if needed, we can be advised of any changes to the programs and we can give our partners feedback that we get from our volunteers. Each of our Placement Partners has established international volunteer programs, with excellent safety records. The volunteers go through applications and interviews to participate in the placement, and AEI clients sign agreements to follow rules and procedures outlined by AEI. This helps to ensure a safe and friendly volunteer environment where any acts of violence, harassment or dangerous behaviour (towards people or animals) can result in dismissal from the placement.
As a volunteer, you will be met at the airport by a representative from the organization, and taken directly to your placement. During your stay you will be living either on-site, or in the community in a pre-approved hostel or home-stay. At the end of your trip, you will be returned to the airport for your flight home. This provides a continuous duty of care, and minimizes the risk of you getting into trouble in an unfamiliar country. You are part of the group from the very beginning!
AEI provides you with up to $500,000 in travel health insurance through the International Volunteer Card - insurance specifically for “voluntourists”. The Volunteer Card has the added bonus of a 24 hour emergency support line, manned by people who specialize in travel emergencies who can offer you advice and assistance no matter where you are. You will be provided with a detailed safety procedure manual explaining how to arrange emergency medical evacuation, and payment to a hospital or facility that requests upfront payment.
We also provide you with travel manuals that give practical advice on everything from travel visas, staying safe, health concerns, and what to pack, to how to deal with culture shock - these manuals are guidebooks specifically designed for you and your exact adventure. We believe that the more prepared you are, the safer and more enjoyable your experience will be.
AEI also offers a book, Traveling Without Baggage (written by our volunteer coordinator), about keeping safe while traveling. This book is available for purchase as an e-book or a printed version can be sent to you. We’re sure all authors think their book is important, but we really believe travelers will benefit from this short book – in terms of both physical and mental health.
As you can see, your safety is very important to us at Animal Experience International and to our Placement Partners. Despite all the safe guards that are in place, safety ultimately comes down to the individual. This is a trip that you will be taking on your own, so we encourage all of our volunteers to be smart, not to take unnecessary risks, and to trust their gut! Guts always know. If something feels unsafe, it probably is, so be empowered to say no if needed and trust yourself. As in all things in life, there are no guarantees that nothing bad will happen - but we try our very best to stack the deck to ensure you will have a safe trip and a positive, life- changing experience.
If you would like more information or clarification about safety policies and procedures, please don’t hesitate to ask. That’s why we are here!
Nora and Heather.