It was 2010, I was just finishing my A levels and had two months before starting university. I knew I wanted to go away and do something different. I was interested in development work and as an eager and naïve 17-year-old, volunteering abroad in an orphanage seemed like a rewarding, helpful and ethical thing to do.
When I was researching orphanage volunteering there were endless companies who were willing to take my hard-earned cash from my Saturday job and send me all over the world. There was so much choice and it all looked organised and legitimate. Eventually I settled a well-known volunteering organisation. They were based in Australia which made my mum a little dubious, but I was set on my decision so I ignored her concern and booked. At no point in the booking process did I speak to anyone on the phone, Skype or by email. I paid my tour costs and then booked my flights. Easy. No questions asked.
My friends thought it was a great idea. Teachers and family friends wanted to donate books and pens for me to bring over – the only person who really questioned it was my brother. “Why don’t you wait until you’re older and have a job and actual skills to share?” was his reaction.