While the philosophies and visions for SOS outreach trips and projects are important, the most common question a trip coordinator and leader is going to get is “What is a trip like?” or, “What happens on the trip?”.
The short answer to this question is: “Just about anything. Every trip, project and community is different and there is no set itinerary you can expect to follow. Go on your trip with an open mind and a good dose of excitement, and take it for what it is.”
However, that play-it-out attitude doesn’t often satisfy people so here is a more tangible description.
Trips are generally 2 weeks. Your group will fly down together on a group booking made by SOS months in advance. When you arrive in the country, after passing through customs and grabbing your bags, you’re met but the partner organization leader. Unless your flight arrives in the late afternoon/evening, you’ll get on a bus with the rest of your group and head straight out to your community. If your flight does arrive late, we’ll figure out whether you drive out that night or stay in a hostel for your first night.
On your first full day in the community, you’ll unpack, do a welcome ceremony and orientate yourself within the community and your group. Some groups will start building on these first days, but a lot of groups will take it easy.
Your next day (and all the days after), the group will build. Normally people wake up early to beat the heat (and because everyone else in the community is awake). You have breakfast cooked by a team of local ladies in the community and then you meet your foreman on the site. You’ll build for the day, with breaks for lunch and snacks. Some groups will have cement-based projects while others will have more wood (project confirmation and details come about a month before your trip). Your foreman will direct the group about what to do on the site, and your partner organization guide will help you out as well.
Throughout the day, you’ll have members of the community both hanging out to get to know you and helping build. Often, talking and working with the community is what participants say are the most memorable and enjoyable parts of the trip. Take breaks to get to know where you are and who you’re with… Play games, teach English, whatever.
After your work day wraps up – sometime between 3 and 5pm – your group will probably do some exploring of the community. Again, there is huge variation between trips here. Sometimes people will visit friends’ homes, or go swim in a nearby river. After dinner, most trips will have time to spend with their group as a lot of communities go to bed pretty early. Some groups will do reflection exercises, others will play games, and others will just relax. You’ll notice a theme here that again, there is big variation among groups.
In terms of where you live… I’m going to have to give you the ‘variation’ line again. Some groups live very basically in a community structure. They sleep on the floor as a group (bring a good thermarest and bug net!) and live without electricity or running water. Toilets are self-composting and often a quick sources of group bonding as stomachs adjust to a new diet. Showers are of the bucket-variety. Other groups however, will have it a bit more comfortable with electricity, running water, and in the odd trip, a bed. In all our trips, we work to have you as integrated to the community as possible.
And then in terms of what you eat… Variation! You’ll eat in line with local diets, but making sure that all your nutritional requirements are met. There will be a lot of corn tortillas, beans, rice and probably a healthy amount of peanut butter. A highlight is always the fresh fruits and vegetables. Meat often isn’t overly present on the trips as refrigeration can be a challenge. Stomachs typically go through a pretty standard adjustment phase. It isn’t always pleasant but it ends, and trust me, your group will bond as you all go through it.
Throughout your two week trip, the group will also take 2 rest days to explore the surrounding community and country. What you do on these days we determine closer to the trip… But we try to keep them local and socially-minded, so as to fit with the rest of the trip. Heads up that if people on your trip are keen to see the big tourist sites, we don’t often make it to them and they should consider spending a few days before/after your trip in the country.
Want to learn more? Check out our Past Trip Pages where you can see some information, pictures and videos from SOS Trips. Or, check out Windsor SOS’s 15-minute documentary about what they got up to in Peru!