Hope you’re all keeping warm with the colder temperatures approaching!
Before we get into the ‘business’ (can’t find a better word for it) part of this update, it is with very mixed feelings that I am saying goodbye! I have been with WWOOF NZ for 7 years, longer than in any other job and I really loved my time here. I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with fantastic hosts and WWOOFers, who have inspired me and most of the time ; ) made my work fun and enjoyable. The reason for leaving is that I have taken on a new venture – an organic, raw, vegan food business, including food cart. So you may see me at your local farmers market one day – look out for the Magic Garden!
Alannah will be taking over my role as WWOOF admin. She is passionate about organic farming and working towards a sustainable future. She’s up with Instagram and Facebook so will be actively showcasing WWOOF on social media. Her new e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you finding that you are not getting the WWOOFer enquiries you’re looking for?? Read on ..
Apart from it being winter and there is usually a decline at this time, over the past couple of years we have noticed a change in international travellers. We believe that young people are now looking for a different experience in voluntourism. Across the board volunteers seem to have higher expectations and want more choices than they did a few years ago. This is not to say that they are lazy and don’t want to help, rather that this voluntourism experience is one part of their many activities participated in while visiting our country. They want useful learning opportunities, valuable personal experiences and a meaningful cultural interchange. Travellers are after more than just a bed to sleep in and being left to weed or be the general dogs body for days on end. We have also heard that clear information as to what to expect, jobs to be done, set of hours help (more details about this in ‘WWOOFers vs Exploitation) and what activities are available for their free time are important. With the prolific rise of similar websites and advertising on social media they know there are great hosts out there who offer more than just the basics, and that’s what they want!
So here are a few tips to make you stand out as a host:
- Be specific about what you are looking for and what you can offer. What types of learning experiences are there on your property?
- Describe the area you live in, point out nearby attractions and what can be done after WWOOFing. There is a field on your profile that says Nearby (activities and attractions).
- Load interesting and many photos!! These have to be good quality. Check what they look like when you’ve uploaded them, especially the banner image!!! Sometimes I can hardly make out what is on the image. We are constantly looking for good quality content to post on Facebook and Instagram and are more than happy to feature you, or even better, short videos (no more than three minutes) are of high enough standard. If you loaded your photos over five years ago they will have been lower quality back then – try uploading some new photos. These photos showcase you and your property.
- WWOOFers expect warm, dry, clean, comfortable accommodation with good meals. This doesn’t mean fancy, but it does mean nutritious.
- Include your WWOOFer in the daily farming and family life, this means meals and personal interactions as well. In general WWOOFers join for the learning experiences both on the land and in the home. For the exchange to be successful it has to be about more than cheap labour for you or free accommodation for your guests!
- Invite your WWOOFers to place feedback and ask them tell others about WWOOF.
You as hosts are very much in the middle of it all with ‘easy access to the source of information’, so if you have any ideas or receive feedback from WWOOFers about this, we would really love to hear from you. If we can get a more detailed understanding of what volunteers are looking for, we can offer more support and make any necessary changes at our end. Is it that WWOOF is now a niche as other international organisations have come on the scene? A suggestion that we will most likely need to implement is to clarify WWOOFer and host commitments. By doing this we may be able to address several issues at the same time, i.e. MBIE regulations, Visa restrictions and the quality of the exchange, this in turn will increase enquiries and attract more volunteers.
WWOOFers vs Exploitation
You may have seen media articles about a so called “organic” property exploiting travellers. While these are not registered WWOOF properties, we can understand why MBIE is taking steps to make sure workers are not exploited. It has brought about a greater need to clarify just what WWOOFing is all about and the interpretation of the law regarding people living and learning on your property! As you know we have been working with a lawyer on approaching the government about WWOOF and where we stand regarding MBIE and Immigration regulations. This has been a long process and just when we thought there was a meeting imminent we were passed on to a different official. So we are re-submitting documents and again waiting for a confirmation of date to meet, this time with Ian Lees-Galloway. It is not a straight forward issue as there is Immigration and IRD regulations to consider as well so we hope to have someone from those departments participating too.
Our aim is to show the government that there is a distinction between exploitation of migrant workers and tourists who choose to stay on WWOOF properties. The way we see it, and want to present the WWOOF program, is as an experience which is incidental to their holiday in NZ, not their main reason for coming here. WWOOFers expect to live with the family, give a helping hand and learn about different ways of life and how to make organic farming a viable option.
Our legal adviser has suggested that we have a “contract” written for both hosts and WWOOFers that clearly states the commitment each gives on a WWOOF stay. We think this could be a good idea and there are already several WWOOF groups who do this – specifically the ones in countries that allow WWOOFing on a Tourist Visa! We would like your thoughts on how this could work.
Amongst other things, this commitment would explain that it is not an employer/employee relationship; guests volunteer their help, are free to leave at any time, there is no expectation of productivity, they do not have to work to gain residency and are here on short term visas wanting to visit NZ as a tourist then returning to their home country. A maximum amount of hours help would also be clearly stipulated. WWOOFers will then not be left wondering or feeling that they have been over worked (other countries have from 20-30 hours maximum per week.) Among other things the document would show MBIE officials that the hours “worked” are no more than “income” or benefit gained. For example; take a WWOOFer helping 4 hours per day, 6 days a week. If they were paid minimum wage that equates to $396 for the week and averages out to $56.57 a day for 7 days. Does this reflect the value of what they gained? We believe it more than does when equated to the cost of accommodation, food, wifi, pick up and drop off etc. Sadly we have to break it down in this way as it is the only language the government understands. They don’t appreciate the learning, the friendships and the life long experiences gained.
We have hosts who are non commercial lifestyle blocks and our goal is for government to make a ruling that will allow people to stay on these properties for a specified time and help for so many hours per week whilst holding a tourist permit. Hosts who are trying to be self-sustaining and make an income off their land also offer valuable learning experiences and if necessary we will put forward the idea of a more formal contract that shows details that will satisfy MBIE and IRD. There are one or two hosts doing this now and it seems to be working for them.
There are travellers who volunteer and people hosting who call the exchange “WWOOFing” without being members of WWOOF. Some say they have felt exploited and as they are not part of our organisation they have no point of contact or a procedure to follow should any issues arise or things turn bad. MBIE may agree that officially recognising WWOOF will mean there is someone to follow up on issues and a complaints procedure if there are problems with WWOOFers or hosts feeling like they have been taken advantage of.
We really want to make sure that you are still getting lots of WWOOFers contacting you, helping with your projects, sharing in your daily life and making connections with people from around the world. We hope we can negotiate an MBIE policy change to reflect the reality of this ‘voluntourism’ experience.
Pacific Island hosts
A reminder that we list hosts in the Pacific Islands. The Pacific Islands are a perfect match up with WWOOF NZ as many travellers coming to New Zealand stop off and visit the Islands either on the way here or the way back home.
This will attract more WWOOFers to join up and will not take WWOOFers away from NZ hosts!
If you know anyone in the Pacific Islands wanting to host, please refer them to WWOOF NZ.
Katrin, Andrew and Jane.