Recent news stories regarding the sexual exploitation of vulnerable people by aid workers, who had been trusted to help and protect them, have made for painful reading. These disgraceful actions may have been committed by a few people, but it has rightly sent shockwaves around the development and aid communities. Raleigh International has zero tolerance for any form of harassment or exploitation of any kind against the communities we work with, our partners, staff, or volunteers.
At times like these, our first thoughts are with the individuals affected by the incidents. But it is hard to come to terms with the immense anger, sadness and shame you feel as a member of a community which is here to help people, but instead has let them down.
As an international development charity, especially one which focuses on working in partnership with young people, this is a time for us to reflect and recommit to the aims and values that we stand for. It is also an opportunity for us to ensure that we have the very best processes in place, and to be confident that the chances of such an incident happening on our watch are as close to zero as possible.
What makes Raleigh unique is that young people from all over the world develop and deliver our work. Their safety and wellbeing is our top priority, so that they can be empowered to be at the heart of global change.
All Raleigh volunteers receive comprehensive training and safety briefings on issues such as safeguarding, gender relations, cultural orientation and Raleigh’s Code of Conduct. All leaders, host families and project partners receive safeguarding training and all UK staff and volunteer leaders, are subject to UK Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks before engaging in any work with young people. Although DBS checks are not available in the countries where we work, we also do background checks on all our overseas volunteers.
Our Safeguarding Policy is led by a central Safeguarding Team and implemented by our country offices. Our response to any incident includes referral to external authorities as appropriate. We also have a confidential email address, which we encourage our staff and volunteers to use should they have any concerns: email@example.com.
We take all complaints and allegations extremely seriously, and all reported incidents are fully investigated. All serious safety, medical and safeguarding incidents, and allegations of sexual harassment or assault, are reported to our Board of Trustees, maintaining confidentiality where necessary. Where appropriate, Raleigh will report incidents to the Charity Commission and other necessary authorities.
Crucial to our unique approach is the way our young volunteers work, and often live, alongside communities around the world to create meaningful and lasting change. It is clear that trust, mutual understanding and respect are vital, not only for ensuring the safety of our programmes, but also for achieving the sustainable outcomes of our work for communities.
Before every programme, Raleigh conducts risk assessments, both at a country level and specifically for every community that our volunteers will work and/or live in. All host families receive comprehensive safeguarding training and know who to contact at Raleigh to report any concerns they may have over safeguarding issues.
Our community-based teams are in daily communication with our country offices, providing our volunteers with the opportunity to request confidential communications with the team in the country office. Our country offices are also in constant communication with Raleigh head office regarding any ongoing incidents or issues in our communities. Head office support and contact is provided to our country offices, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
I hope this gives a clear indication of the processes we currently have in place and the seriousness with which we treat our duty of care to staff, volunteers and the communities we work with. However, there is always room for improvement.
I have already instructed our teams to carry out a full review of our systems and process. If any gaps are identified, we will work to address these as a matter of urgency. We will also be extending our existing Whistleblowing Policy to give volunteers, volunteer managers, team leaders, and community members a confidential route to report any wrongdoing.
Throughout this review process, we will continue to work in collaboration with other organisations in the sector to ensure that best practice is shared and that we are continually learning from each other.
I would like everyone within the Raleigh family to know that they have a part to play in ensuring that we meet the high standards we set ourselves. If anyone has any concerns, specific complaints or information I would encourage you to contact us confidentially through: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our dedication to making the world a better place for everyone remains unchanged, and our commitment to young people and disadvantaged communities around the world is as strong as ever.