Volunteer Code of Conduct
Calabash Volunteers believe our code of conduct will help the communities we work with, as well as our visiting volunteers to achieve the mutual objective of a programme premised by the philosophy of Responsible Tourism and mutual benefit
The code of conduct serves as a guideline for understanding and overcoming the minefield of cross cultural challenges. The following values guide us in our work:
Shared Humanity: When people of different cultures have an opportunity to connect, there comes an understanding of our shared humanity.
Respect: We accept, appreciate and respect that people know and understand what is appropriate for their own communities, destinies and daily lives.
Integrity: We commit to ensuring the safety, flexibility, professionalism and excellence of our programmes.
Having understood these guiding principles; the following guidelines should be useful to you:
Calabash Volunteers acknowledges that volunteers want to be responsible but are often not aware of the issues and appropriate codes of conduct. This document is not intended to be exhaustive but it does highlight a number of issues and provide guidelines, which will help you to:
- Ensure your own personal safety.
- Show respect to the local communities, customs and value systems.
- Maximise the welfare and conservation of the wildlife you are visiting (where relevant).
- At all times respect your Project Mangement Team (PMT)and/or local hosts advice; they are experienced professional and are there to ensure you enjoy your experience but not at the expense of others or the wildlife you have come to enjoy
- If you are unsure or concerned about anything ask your Project Mangement Team (PMT)and/or local hosts
- Make sure you abide by the laws in South Africa. To this end be aware that all drugs, including marijuana are unlawful.
- When you are working on a volunteer placement, you will often be working with impressionable young people. Make sure that you present yourself as someone they can respect. This means modest dress, not smoking around children, and ensuring you leave your hangover at home. Better still, save it for the weekend if you must.
- Alcohol is part of the South African lifestyle. But it comes at a high cost. Most violent incidents have a background of alcohol abuse. Your chances of being mugged or robbed increase dramatically if under the influence. Inhibitions, including sexual inhibitions are decreased by alcohol. Be responsible.
- Should you choose to be sexually active while in South Africa, that is your choice. However, be aware that the prevalence of HIV is very high in South Africa. Abstinence is the best way of staying safe, however should you choose to be sexually active, make sure you use a condom.
- In shared accommodation booked by Calabash on your placement, sexual relationships are frowned upon. This is not a moral question, but relates to your consideration of the other people you share an apartment with. In addition, should your romantic liaison not end as planned, it creates tension among everybody. Should you be coming as a couple, please let us know, and we will do our best to accommodate you accordingly.
- Any sexually predatory behaviour, or any reports of sexual harassment will lead to your immediate termination from our programmes. Calabash Tours embraces the values of non discrimination, on the basis of race, gender, and sexual identity.
- South Africa is a water poor country with 32% of the population having no direct access to potable water. Use water sparingly and wisely. Herewith are some tips to help you:
- Never leave water taps running (even when brushing your teeth or washing your hands etc) and close them tightly when finished
- Report dripping taps to home stay owner
- Do not request bath towels to be changed every day unless really necessary.
- Shower rather than bath and do not linger longer than necessary (where the choice is available)
- When bathing use water sparingly
- In cultural village home stays water will have be fetched by hand, in some cases a few kilometres away (not applicable in urban townships), you will normally be provided with a basin of water for washing which is totally sufficient given that you will only be there for a night or two. Practice at home how to wash in a basin using a face cloth (bring one with you)
- Never contaminate natural water sources with litter or chemicals such as soap and shampoo etc there are bio-products available on the market, which are suitable.
When Participating In Cultural Activities Or Visiting Cultural Villages, or living in Townships
Remember at all times that in many instances the local culture may differ substantially from your personal views and value systems. Yours are not necessarily right and theirs wrong just different, respect these differences and enjoy the unique opportunity to broaden your knowledge.
Beware of cultural activities that exploit local cultures and communities through such practices as using underage children for performances when they should be in school. You can be assured that all experiences offered by Calabash Volunteers comply with our rigorous responsible tourism guidelines.
- Do not go uninformed and unprepared into an interactive cultural experience. Find out before hand how you should behave and to show appropriate respect. Here your PMT or local host is available to you.
- Make sure you are aware of relevant social issues, such as HIV/AIDS, poverty and water etc; pertaining to the area or culture you are visiting. This will enable you to gain a better perspective.
- Remember culture is dynamic and not all cultural activities are based on the contemporary way of life but may also be based on a traditional way of life of a bygone era. Accept these for what they are by acknowledging the difference and value in celebrating past and present cultural differences.
- Your Project Mangement Team (PMT)and/or local hosts will brief you on the cultural sensitivities specific to the area you are visiting and how you can minimise potential negative impacts of your behaviour on the local community (e.g. most appropriate dress code when in local villages, when attending traditional ceremonies etc.)
- Take special consideration of and respect for gender issues to which you may have a different viewpoint. Without a full understanding of the culture, which you cannot hope to acquire on a short visit, you therefore cannot afford to challenge these. Ask questions in a attempt to get clarity but it is not for you to pass judgement.
- It is important to note cultural perspectives surrounding nudity. These differ from area to area in South Africa and between ethnic groups. Although in many contemporary traditional ceremonies today maidens (for example) will be bare-breasted, which is traditional and should be accepted with respect. Calabash Volunteers does not support the commercial exploitation of nudity as ‘tourist attractions’.
- Take up opportunities to exchange culture with the local community in authentic settings and with willing participants. There are many cultural tourist traps, which are out of context and for economic exploitation.
- Always be polite and respectful to local people and show respect by asking before taking pictures. Calabash Volunteers strongly discourages payment be made for the privilege. When photographing children ask for their parents consent first.
- Begging is a major problem in many areas. It is a sensitive issue and touches on the huge divide that exists between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. One thing that we should all agree on is it is a distasteful practice not specifically for the visitor but also for the communities it affects.
- If you are able, make a personal contribution to a local community development project in the area you have visited (e.g. local school, clinic, farming project, etc.). Calabash Volunteers has structures in place to ensure that your contribution is used to its maximum potential.
- Although children may ask you for money or sweets, and it may make you feel good to give, however please do not. The giving of cash or sweets does not help in the long term it only perpetuates an underlying problem.
- Remember at all times that most children have parents and as the family providers any giving should come from the parents.
- Remember at all times that in any cultural exchange / interaction the desired outcome is for you to part in the knowledge that you have done your best to leave positive impression with you hosts. Be tourism ambassadors!
When Buying Your Local Crafts And Souvenirs
- When buying woodcarvings and items crafted from raw animal products, unless you are sure of the source of the raw material and its sustainable policy do not buy it. The indiscriminate harvesting of indigenous hardwoods and killing of animals for skins for the souvenir trade is a major cause for concern. In some cases specially protected plants and animals are being used for which a legal permit is necessary and without which you could be liable for prosecution.
- Be aware of the import regulations of your home country and do not purchase souvenirs that contravene these
- In many rural markets bargaining is not accepted practice. These markets are organised on a cooperative basis where all the crafters take turns in selling on behalf of the group. The seller is often not the crafter and cannot accept a lesser amount. It is also in the cooperative agreement that seller cannot ‘punt’ his or her own crafts over and above another’s.
- In markets where each person is selling their own craft bargaining may be acceptable. Establish this fact first. In bargaining show respect for the crafter and pay a fair price based on whether you would sell the same article for the price you are willing to pay.
- Support local culture by being aware that in many cases the crafts you see in many markets may in fact not from South Africa at all. For instance there are no South African tribal groups that use carved wooden masks, which abound in most markets. Buy local wherever possible.
When Participating In Wildlife Activities Or Visiting Wildlife Parks And Sanctuaries
Most volunteers will wish to experience a Game Viewing experience, be it as an addition to your volunteer stay, or over a weekend
- Do not feed wildlife as this can have severe consequences for an animal’s social behaviour patterns and lead to increased aggression
- Do not touch wildlife as you can unwittingly pass on diseases to wildlife, as well as placing yourself at risk
- Do not encourage guides to move so close to wildlife that your presence disturbs it or interferes with its natural behaviour
- Do not encourage guides to pursue wildlife that is showing avoidance tactics e.g. displaying threatening/alarmed behaviour or is moving away
- Do not encourage guides to drive off-road in protected areas when this is prohibited in the protected area
- Speak quietly and do not make any sudden movements when close to wildlife so as not to alarm it
- In the presence of dangerous wildlife do not stand up if you are in an open safari vehicle or hang out the windows if you are in a closed vehicle
- Show respect and courteousy to other tourists by not spoiling or impacting on their experience
- When viewing primates do not approach closer than 5 meters to help prevent the transmission of disease between humans and wildlife (and vice versa)
- Do not approach breeding sites (nests, burrows, dens, etc.) as this can affect the breeding success of wildlife
- Be aware that the use of flash photography to take photos of wildlife can alarm it leading to increased aggression – respect your guides advice
- Do not purchase souvenirs that are made from protected / threatened wildlife products or other natural materials e.g. coral, shells (marine or land), starfish, seahorses, wild animal skin (handbags, belts, drums, etc.), ivory, hard wood, bushmeat, parts of wild animals (bone, feathers, quills, teeth, etc. used in traditional medicines, good luck charms, etc.), tortoise shell, plant parts (seeds, roots, flower heads), etc.
- Ask your guide for advise on where to make your souvenir purchases.
- If scuba diving, do not approach marine mammals but allow them instead to approach you if they so choose
- Do not drop litter or cigarette ends – this can cause fires and litter can harm wildlife - dispose of responsibly
If you are able, put something back into the conservation of the area/wildlife you have visited by making a personal contribution to support conservation in the area
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