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James Jardella in Bolivia last year
James Jardella in Bolivia last year
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Press Release - 14 November 2006

Service offers escape from gap year “package holiday” volunteer experiences

Many gap year students are missing out on the chance to help people in the developing world because the businesses behind “package holiday” volunteering placements have priced them out of the opportunity, says the student behind a new travel service.

James Jardella, a second year engineering student at the University of Bath, came up with the idea for Travellingbug Ltd after planning a trip to Bolivia and discovering that he could not afford most of the volunteering placements available.

He decided to travel to Bolivia on his own and soon began working with a charity called CEPROSI, which works for social justice, equality and peace throughout Bolivia, helping run classes for children in their outreach centres.

His experience made him realise that not only are there many charities that could benefit from the kind of help volunteers can offer, but also that many students would be prepared to work for charities but can’t afford the £1,000 or more they need to pay.

On returning from his year abroad, James contacted the Bolivian embassy in London in July 2006 and made enquiries about setting up a service to help introduce students to the charities they could help.

After receiving funding from the University’ s Careers Service enterprise fund, he has set up a service that helps volunteers negotiate the Bolivian visa application system and make adequate preparations for their travel.

Instead of organising flights, transfers and accommodation, Travellingbug leaves that to the students – helping them to save money and gain a much broader experience whilst they are abroad.

“Many of the companies behind volunteering placements are there to make money, so although students get a great service, they are paying through the nose for it,” said James, aged 21 and originally from Canterbury in Kent.

“These placements can cost anywhere between several hundred to several thousand pounds.

“For that everything is thrown in, including travel, insurance and accommodation in lodgings with a family in the area.

“You can do all of these things yourself at a fraction of the cost – so why pay some big company here when you can do these things for yourself?

“The thing I had to do after arriving in Bolivia was to arrange a visa so I could start work with the charity. For that you need a letter from the charity you are working with – which is why I thought a service that helped people do this in advance, among other things, would be really useful.”

For now the Travellingbug is linked only to the charity James worked with in Bolivia, but he hopes to expand the service to cover other charities, and other destinations in the future.

The Travellingbug fee of £300 includes a £100 donation to the charity and covers help on gaining a visa for the student and other essential administrative costs.

Students will also receive a package of information on travelling to Bolivia which includes advice on which jabs to have, local contact information of tourism services, advice on language tutors, general dos and donts, and a list of local hoteliers.

“The fee Travellingbug charges is a fraction of the cost of those levied by the placement companies and people can see exactly where that money goes,” said James.

“I am hoping to run a pilot trip to Bolivia next summer, with around 10 volunteers, and extend the service further after then.”

James is hoping to run a pilot trip to Bolivia with ten volunteers from the University of Bath and the wider community next summer. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact James on 07818420154.

James will be taking part in the Student Enterprise ’06 conference later this week which is aiming to help students develop the skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs.

“Enterprise is not just about making money; social entrepreneurship is an important way of making a difference to the lives of people here and abroad,” said Siobain Hone, Student Enterprise Co-ordinator in the Students’ Union at the University of Bath.

“Entrepreneurship is not always an easy career path to follow, which is why we try to support them in these early stages through events like Student Enterprise ’06.”


The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. View a full list of the University's press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/

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