Q: What is Solidarity Experience Abroad?

A: Solidarity Experience Abroad is a short-term international experiential learning program designed for participants to explore social justice initiatives through solidarity, culture and spirituality. Our objective is to connect participants’ career goals with various international development projects, and to provide participants with a unique opportunity to experience hands-on solidarity on an exciting new level. Not only are participants placed outside their usual comfort zones by working on projects in developing countries, but participants also explore the rich culture and history of each place they visit. In addition, participants connect and interact with local university students, professionals, and local community leaders, and are encouraged to explore and develop critical thinking skills. These experiences give participants the opportunity to apply the valuable skills they have learned from their academic and professional training to give back to the poor, afflicted and those most in need.

Q: How much does a SEA trip cost and what is included in the price?

A: The cost of each SEA trip will depend on which program you choose and that program’s length of time abroad and its destination. Typically, the two-week programs to South America cost $2,990 CAD; the programs to South Africa costs $4,099 CAD; and a four-week program to South America costs $4,900 CAD. The cost of the Reading Week programs in February and October are typically less expensive because of the length of the trip. Prices are subject to minor changes due to fluctuating airfare costs.

SEA will cover all of your major expenses while abroad: airfare, meals and accommodations, transportation, and travel insurance. We also budget an amount that is used towards supporting your volunteer projects and campaigns. Also included in the price is a trip to a major cultural destination within your host country.

Everything will be included in the price, however participants may want extra spending money for souvenirs, gifts or some unplanned food and drinks while we’re out. Airport taxes, vaccinations and potential tourist visas are not covered by SEA.

Q: How can I raise money to pay for the trip?

A: In the past, participants have found many ways of raising money to go towards the cost of their trip. Some have written letters and sought financial aid from their own communities: social groups, clubs, or churches. Often participants appeal to their family members, and hold their own fundraising events. If needed, letter templates for donation letters and PowerPoint presentations can be provided to help students with their fundraising efforts. Please see our donations page for more information.

Q: Who do I make the cheques out to?

A: All cheques should be made payable to “Solidarity Experiences Abroad” and mailed to our office. Unfortunately, at this time we do not accept credit or debit cards, however we do accept e-mail transfers using online banking. Please send your e-transfer to: info@solidarityexperiencesabroad.org

Q: Who can go on these trips?

A: Solidarity Experiences Abroad is open to anyone who is open to accepting the physical, emotional and psychological demands of the trip. The majority of SEA participants are university students or new graduates looking to apply some of their skills, knowledge and expertise towards a specific project that SEA is offering. We also accommodate those who are exploring other professions and have an altruistic desire to serve the poor and developing communities. Professionals who are willing to lend their expertise are highly welcomed, as well as faculty and staff members from educational institutes. If your business or faculty is interested in creating a partnership with Solidarity Experiences Abroad, please contact us at your convenience to discuss future opportunities.

Q: How many people usually participate in each program?

A: Each SEA program usually allows between 15 and 30 participants. Registration is based on a process of selection, determined by an essay and an interview with an SEA staff member

Q: What if I have to cancel my trip?

A: In the event of cancellation, you will not be reimbursed the $500 registration deposit and there may be additional penalties that may not allow you to be reimbursed for the full cost of the trip. Travel insurance is included in the price of the program, which will cover any emergency cancellations due to illness, injury, death, or death of a family member. Cancellation due to the reoccurrence of a personal, pre-existing medical condition may not be accepted.

Q: Do I need a passport?

A: Yes, all participants travelling out of country need a valid passport. All passports must be signed with all emergency contact information filled out and be valid for at least 6 months from the date of your scheduled return.

Q: Which countries do I need a visa for?

A: Brazil is currently the only country that SEA participants’ visit which requires a visa for Canadian citizens. In order to apply for an entrance visa, students must have a valid passport. Typically visas are applied for as a group. Further information will be provided upon registration. Visa fees are not included in the price of the program.

Q: What will we be doing?

A: Participants will be working alongside others to provide assistance and aid that is needed according to priorities established by local community leaders. Tasks will differ depending on the type of campaigns, however some possibilities include: running dental hygiene campaigns; aiding in health clinics; building schools, medical out-post and community centers; feeding the homeless; projects to empower women, etc. For more detailed information, please visit the information page for a specific trip.

Q: Where will we work?

A: Participants work on projects that have been defined by local community leaders, leaders of local foundations and nonprofit organizations, and often members of the local municipalities. Some of the placements available are in shantytowns, rural areas, hospitals, health campaigns, schools, daycares, elders’ homes, maternity clinics, physiotherapy clinics, construction and renovation projects, environmental projects, soup kitchens and orphanages. Placements vary with each destination. It is our desire to have participants work in areas that are related to their current areas of expertise or future career goals. Participants are free to request placements in areas in which their interests lie.

Q: When and how will I get to choose my volunteer placement?

A: Typically, as a group, participants visit each possible volunteer placement prior to starting their campaign. Once they have visited the placements, participants organize into groups based on the placements they are interested in. Participants will have the opportunity to change their volunteer placements throughout the week if they so desire or remain at one placement for the duration of the trip. The size of the group for each placement depends on the requirements and needs of that specific placement.

Q: What kinds of activities do participants partake in while on a trip?

A: During the day, participants are actively involved in their volunteer placements by working on a project created for their group. Placements will depend on which program you have decided to enroll in and may differ from project to project. Night activities are designed to increase the participants’ knowledge of the host country, its culture and to build community amongst group members. Activities include visiting museums, attending concerts or dancing classes, hearing lectures or visiting local shopping destinations. When necessary, language classes are provided in order to aid the process of communication with locals. Overnight excursions to tourism landmarks, such as Macchu Picchu in Peru, the Atlantic Coast in Brazil, and Quito in Ecuador will also be provided. The program is designed not only to help participants act in solidarity with our brother and sisters in need, but also to give them an understanding of the culture and history of the host country they are visiting.

Q: Are the trips safe?

A: Travelling to any destination, especially a developing country, poses some safety risks. However, the Solidarity Experiences Abroad program takes every possible safety precaution in order to ensure the safety of its participants. Participants board in safe accommodations with 24-hour security and are required to travel in groups at all times during their time abroad. As long as participants are aware of their surroundings and obey the guidelines set out by their SEA Trip Leaders, they should not be exposed to unreasonable levels of danger.

Q: Do I need to get vaccinations?

A: Vaccinations are not required in order to participate in an SEA trip, unless the host country demands it. It is highly recommended that students make an appointment with their doctor or a travel clinic to discuss any recommended vaccinations for their destination. Ultimately, participants should make the decision with their doctor to determine whether it is necessary or convenient for them to receive certain vaccinations. The SEA program fees do not cover the cost of your vaccinations.

Q: What if I have a health condition?

A: If a participant has a health condition, they should first determine with their doctor if it is safe for them to travel and participate in the SEA Program. Participants should ensure that they are able to fully partake in this program due to its intense physical, emotional and psychological demands. It is important to find out whether your travel insurance will provide coverage for your condition in the case of an emergency/relapse of a pre-existing condition. Please contact us for more information on travel insurance if it has been issued to you through SEA. In the case of a medical emergency while overseas, an emergency protocol is in place to provide health coverage in country and transportation back home if deemed necessary. It is imperative that you disclose any health conditions to SEA during the registration process.

Q: What if I have special dietary requirements?

A: Participants who have special dietary requirements, such as vegetarian or lactose intolerance, should indicate this during registration. All efforts will be made to accommodate the participant while on the program. SEA has had no problem organizing or accommodating these regular dietary restrictions.

Q: What are our accommodations?

A: While traveling with Solidarity Experiences Abroad, participants always stay in a retreat house. These retreat houses provide safe and comfortable accommodations, as well as daily meals for the group. Participants may stay in double or triple occupancy rooms. Specific addresses of retreat houses will be provided to participants during the pre-departure orientation meeting.

Q: What are the pre-departure orientation meetings? Are they mandatory?

A: The Pre-Departure Orientation is mandatory and typically only happens once. Pre-departure meetings are sessions organized a few months prior to the participants’ departure. The meetings are designed to prepare participants before they leave on their trip. SEA staff will provide valuable information regarding international and political differences as well as how to adapt to cultural changes. Mandatory attendance is required. If participants do not attend the session, their attendance on the trip may be reconsidered.

Q: How much luggage can I take?

A: Most airlines allow two suitcases of 50 pounds each. It has become a tradition for each participant to collect enough donations to fill one suitcase with donations while using the other suitcase for personal belongings. Different airlines have specific luggage requirements, which are discussed in detail at pre-departure orientation meetings.

Q: What donations should I bring?

A: For medical campaigns, participants can collect: dental hygiene products, multi-vitamins for children and adults, women’s hygiene products, water purification tablets, sunscreen, disinfecting ointment, etc. For educational campaigns, participants can collect any type of school supplies and other instruments that could be useful in a classroom, including science equipment and laptop computers. Clothing donations are also highly needed, especially for children.

Q: Is religious affiliation required to participate on the trips?

A: Although no religious affiliation is required for participation, this inclusive program provides spiritual exposure and the possibility of spiritual exploration and it expects participants to display clear respect for the spiritual/religious beliefs and practices of other participants and of the local culture.

Q: What if I don’t speak any language other than English?

A: Many people who participate in the SEA program are not fluent in a second language. In countries where English is not the first language, participants will typically attend language classes in order to equip them with a basic knowledge of that language. Don’t expect to pick up a new language in just two weeks, but the language classes are a fun and helpful way to create a deeper connection with your hosts.

Q: Do I have to arrange my own transportation to the airport?

A: Yes. All students are responsible for arranging their own transportation to and from the airport. However, occasionally students will arrange their own carpooling groups.

Q: What will the weather be like?

A: Weather conditions vary from country to country. Participants should check the forecast for the country they are traveling to in order to get a better idea of what the climate will be like during the time they are visiting. More information is provided at pre-departure orientation meetings.

Q: How do I become an SEA Trip Leader?

A: Most SEA Trip Leaders are individuals who have participated in the program in the past and have demonstrated the ability to lead others in a complex and physically demanding environment. If you would like to apply for the position of an SEA Trip Leader, please read over all of the information provided, including the requirements; download the application forms, complete with the essay; and submit it to the SEA main office.

Q: Where should I direct comments, suggestions or constructive feedback?

A: Following each SEA program, an evaluation form will be made available for participants to voice their opinions about their experience. All constructive feedback, including comments and suggestions, will be kept confidential. If you wish to make further comments, all information should be sent directly to Br. Raoul Masseur. He can be reached by e-mailing rmasseur@gmail.com

Q: Who do I contact if I have more questions?

A: If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us by emailing info@solidarityexperiencesabroad.org