For Parents & Guardians

At SOS, we are very conscious of the ages and experiences of our international volunteers. For many of our SOS Outreach Trip participants it is either their first time travelling without family or friends and/or their first time travelling to a developing country. These facts can make getting the green light from loved ones difficult.SOS is here to help. Having facilitated over 118 trips for over 1250 student volunteers, we know how to plan a trip that will test our travellers’ ability to work as a team and adjust to a new environment, all while keeping them supported, happy, and safe.

Below you’ll find the most common questions SOS receives from travellers’ parents and guardians. If you wish to speak to a SOS representative, please do not hesitate to contact us at trips@studentsofferingsupport.ca to set up a meeting, or call 289-210-1855.

Parents and Guardian FAQ

What is a SOS Outreach Trip?

On a SOS Outreach trip, volunteers will spend roughly 80 hours building a education based development project. This means digging trenches, mixing cement, and laying bricks for classrooms, libraries, latrines and more. Waking up at approximately 8am, volunteers are on the project site building by 9am. Work stops at around 4pm and the late afternoons and early evenings are spent interacting with the community and getting to know their volunteer group. Two days of the trip are committed to what we call ‘Rest Days’. They have two main purposes: first, to give the volunteers rest from building, and two, to immerse them in the culture of their host community and country. In the past, volunteers have gone to markets, beaches, museums, community homes, animal sanctuaries, and more.

A sample schedule is as follows:
Day 1: Arrive in country
Day 2: Orientation to community and first work day
Days 3-11: Build Days
Day 12: Rest Day #1
Day 13: Rest Day #2
Day 14: Travel home

Will the trips be supervised?

We have built strong partnerships with local organizations throughout Central and South America, with whom we coordinate all of the in-country operations of our trips. These organizations have a great understanding of the region they work in and are a vital component to our trips. Many of our partners we have worked with since our inception, and have had volunteers work with them for over 10 years.

These organizations provide bilingual Trip Leaders who work alongside our SOS Student Trip Leaders for the entire duration of the trips to ensure the safety and security of all of trip participants.

Where is my traveller staying?

SOS Outreach Trip participants stay right in the local community, in a community building like a school, church, or community centre. They will be required to bring a sleeping bag, pillow, and thin mattress as they will be sleeping on the floor.* We do this to promote safety and integration, and to keep our costs down. By staying in the community they have the entire support of the community should any emergencies arise and are able to interact with them on a daily basis. It also helps keeps our trips affordable for students.

*A few communities provide beds for our travellers. Check your specific trip for exact details.

Has SOS been in this community before?

All of SOS’s community partners are in Central and South America, so it is very likely that we have been in that community before. And if not the exact same community, then one nearby. If it’s not listed on the trip description, ask trips@studentsofferingsupport.ca to see if we’ve been there before!

What are the safety risks in [X] country?

All host communities and countries are examined on the Government of Canada’s Global Affairs Travel Advisories and Advice. These advisories are updated regularly and monitored by SOS Head Office personnel. Prior to departure, every Canadian traveller is registered with the Registration of Canadians Abroad through the Security and Emergency Management Bureau. In the event of an emergency during the trip, such as a natural disaster or civil unrest, SOS will be immediately notified by this system.

What are the health risks in [X] country?

SOS staff are not medically trained, and as such, strongly advise that all Outreach trip participants visit a travel doctor 3-5 months before departure. SOS provides travellers with strategies to prevent common ailments but ultimately we are not doctors. Every community SOS works in is cross checked with The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s Health Information for Travellers.

Who are the other volunteers in my traveller’s group?

All participants on a SOS Outreach Trips are between the ages of 18-29. Each applicant has been screened and interviewed by a SOS volunteer and/or a SOS Head Office personnel.

Will my traveller have access to the internet?

Some communities may have internet cafes nearby, but we do not guarantee this for all. The short answer is no. It is best for you to operate with the mindset that your traveller will not be able to access the internet during their trip. For information on how to contact your traveller, see question #10.

Should they bring a cell phone?

Again, the short answer is no. Expensive electronics can attract unwanted attention and they are absolutely unnecessary. Every SOS Trip Leader will have a cell phone that they can use during emergencies. For information on how to contact your traveller, see question #10.

How can I contact my traveller during the trip?

The most common question! We do not encourage communication between yourself and your traveller during the trip. Often speaking to members of their home community can deepen travellers’ feelings of homesickness, increase culture shock, and prevent cultural exchange.

You will see the pictures and videos upon their return home, but we know you want a verification that they are safe and sound. So, SOS Head Office provides three email updates to all listed emergency contacts. First; once the group arrives, second; a midpoint check in and three; confirmation that the group is on their way to the airport on the way home.

If an emergency arises at home during the trip and you need to contact your traveller, you may call the
Outreach Trip Emergency Hotline: (289) 210-1855 ext.2. While our volunteers are working in our communities this number is monitored 24/7, 7 days a week. Please use this number for emergencies only.

Where can I find the flight schedule for my traveller?

You can email trips@studentsofferingsupport.ca for a copy of it, or, make sure to grab a copy from your traveller before they leave!

What happens if my traveller needs to come home early?

In the event a participant had to leave the trip, SOS would coordinate their journey home. We would book them a flight home and our organizational partner would assist them in getting to the airport. After that, the traveller would be responsible for their journey home. SOS does not pay for early flights home, and it would come at the participant’s expense. Every participant is given comprehensive travel and medical insurance which they can use for reimbursement, when possible.

What is included in their participant fee and what is not?

Included in the participant fee are; round trip flights (from departure city affiliated with the trip), comprehensive travel and medical insurance, all meals in the community (does not include meals during rest days or meals to airports), accommodation, in-country transportation to/from airport, support from a bilingual trip leader 24/7 during the trip, safety gear, and pre/during/post trip support from SOS Head Office.

The participant fee does not include; additional fees from airline; such as checked baggage fees, gear necessary for trip (sleeping bag, sleeping mat, pillow), immunizations or personal medication, visas or fees associated with passport, and rest day activities (including meals).