Frequently Asked QuestionsThese are based off the most common questions and objections people who have just put down their names have.
What even is Project Everest? How does it work?
We work in development internationally. Currently in Malawi, Timor-Leste, Fiji, Vietnam, Cambodia. Instead of a charity model, we use a business model to provide goods and services that work towards addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Some of the focus areas include Water and Sanitation, Environmental Sustainability, Food Security, Economic Empowerment and Health Services.
Our focus on students is directed at building capacity to implement social businesses and change the current global structure – this is where you come into the bigger picture.
On your first Project, you are a ‘Trekker’ in a team of four to nine, with one Team Leader – working on a project of your choice across one of our five countries of operation. You will build interpersonal skills in leadership, teamwork, communication, resilience, humility, and adaptability. You will work hard on a project that has the potential to impact hundreds to thousands of people. You will learn about and experience a new culture. You will become part of a growing community of motivated, capable and ambitious humans across various degrees, universities, and countries.
I don’t have the time, it will get in the way of my degree
Not true. This contributes to your degree. You will graduate with the 400 odd other people doing your degree in the year you enrolled… what sets you apart from others? What makes you employable is what you’ve done outside the classroom. This will allow you to practice what you have learnt in theory and build experience doing it in practice, regardless of whether you study business, engineering, science, international studies, agriculture, arts etc.
This internship happens outside your studies- period. Alex has been involved with Project Everest for just over 12 months now, on 5 projects across 3 countries whilst smashing his final years of an Engineering degree…and getting the grades.
“I started as a Trekker in the same position as you. Through love of this organisation and desire to build my leadership skills to those around me, I have been given opportunities to be responsible for up to 45 people in Timor-Leste… all in 12 months!” – Alex Piatek
How can I get credit and funding to do this?
We have credit approved at most universities. If we don’t have that formally approved, they would be crazy to not recognise this kind of experience as part of an internship subject, practical experience etc. If we don’t have that formally approved (yet), you have the power to approach coordinators and request your internship count as course credit. Once you have been approved for credit, grant opportunities are available.
Let us know your uni, degree and year of study and 80%* of people are able to access credit and thus funding of some sort! If you can get credit for what we do, you can access a $7700 OS HELP loan… Andrew had, personally, around $4000 leftover and bought a motorcycle… We are sure you can be more responsible with what you do with the remainder though!
How much does it cost? /Cost is too high!
This opportunity with Project Everest is able to be financed like the rest of your degree (as long as you fit some basic criteria), the work you will do and skills you develop has a greater impact on the skills employers actually look for. Kai never thought he could do something like this but it was hidden within his bachelor degree program.
“I had no idea at the start that this was completely within my reach through my University. Through my ongoing involvement for the last 15 months, it is insane how financially accessible it has been for me.” – Kai Faulkner
Regardless of credit and grants, think of this as an investment in yourself and your future. Doing something like this helps you stand out from the crowd and to get your dream graduate job, then it will pay its value back 10 fold** through the jumpstart you have received towards your career!
My parents don’t think I am ready/won’t let me
We get it. You’re 23 years old and still studying and it’s “their house, their rules” but trust us, you are absolutely ready… if you’re not, we will tell you. The last thing we want to do is have someone come work with us who isn’t mature enough to work in the communities we’ve built strong relationships with and do something stupid or put themselves at risk.
Often parents don’t fully understand what we do or how we operate and we are doing something that no one else is, so it is an unknown and thus scary for some that hear about it for the first time! We’re happy to have a chat to them about what we do and safety etc if that gives them some peace of mind. My mother freaked when I told her I was going to Africa for 4 weeks.
Is it safe?
Yes and no. The obvious no is that you’re going to a developing country and it is named a developing country for a reason… having said that, we have a better safety rating than Europe at the moment plus we are excellent at what we do, especially from a risk and safety perspective. Everyone working within Project Everest has access to International SOS, who can provide medical advice and organisational support for any emergency 24/7. We follow their advice, along with that of DFAT when determining the suitability of the countries we work in.
Think about it, we have official partnerships with Universities, we’ve had 406 students come on board before you (meaning approximately 812 parents who have gone through the skeptical “Is this safe?” process). We would not and could not operate if there was a higher than normal chance of you getting hurt. I say higher than normal, because anyone can get hurt in any country from walking out onto a road without looking left then right!
How does this interview process work? How long does it take? What next?
I have a diagram for you. If you are keen, don’t mess around and can get sh*t done, the process doesn’t take longer than 7-10 days with your actual time effort being: 20 minutes on the phone with us, 1.5 hours for a Face-to-Face/Online Interview and then maybe an hour to cover any reading into us, credit and applying for credit etc… That makes 2 hours, 50 minutes. I guarantee you spent more than that amount of time drinking or watching Netflix over the weekend!
Is Project Everest registered as a NFP? Is it a registered NGO? What is the organisational structure?
We believe in market-based solutions to social problems and the power of business in delivering positive impact. Mindful of walking the talk, Project Everest is registered as a company and is not reliant on donations or fundraising to cover operating costs and to pay its staff salaries.
'Voluntourism' vs Impact Work: are students just glorified tourists?
I’m sure you’re aware of the astonishing number of voluntourism organisations, which is why I hope you can appreciate that, as an organisation that uses students to develop social enterprises in developing and emerging economies, it is incredibly difficult to differentiate ourselves from these organisations.
However, Project Everest is not an organisation that espouses, supports, practices or facilitates voluntourism. First and foremost, we are an organisation that exists to develop sustainable solutions to complex issues in developing and emerging economies. We involve students in the development of our businesses as, following sufficient pre-departure training and mentoring in social entrepreneurship and when provided with adequate technical support, they are well equipped to effectively develop social enterprises.
Some of the things that we have in common with these organisations is that a) we interact with University students, typically from developed economies and b) we operate in developing and emerging economies. Aside from that I’m proud to say that we’re quite different from voluntourism organisations. We exist for real, long-term impact for people who, as a result of colonial oppression and imperialistic exploitation throughout recent centuries, remain significantly socioeconomically disadvantaged.
With respect to our impact on and interaction with communities in developing and emerging economies, we’re acutely aware of the myriad of ways that large numbers of western people can impact small communities, particularly in a economic sense.
With this in mind, we try to minimise the effects of our periodic consumption on local economies by living within the most modest means and refraining from any donations or handout type of activities on the ground.
Instead, we aim to generate sustainable solutions that improve economic conditions and access to basic utilities in the long run.
The reason that we use enterprise as a tool for that is simply the inherent sustainability of the model. Too many failed charity based aid programs, in good conscience, promote a failed model of international development. This is not to say there is no place for charities in a broader sense, as there are myriad of social issues that only charities can solve. Modern history has shown that the provision of utilities, such as power and water, as well as dirt cheap agricultural finance, are however, not realms in which charity is the sole solution.
By aligning our financial interests with provision of socially beneficial goods and services to grossly under-served demographics, we hope to facilitate an expansion of opportunity and sustainable improvements to peoples quality of life.
Who makes the decision to continue projects?
Project Everest develops project briefs through a combination of internal input, stakeholder input, project success and Trekker input. Once the future project concepts are developed to a point that they are feasible, acceptable and suitable they are assessed by staff to approve their continuation.
What decision making abilities do Trekkers have?
This is your time to shine and the be the boss! We ultimately want you to have the ability to make key decisions about the social venture which can ultimately have an impact on the enterprises success or failure. Your Team Leader may step in if your decisions may have a negative impact on the local community, there is a lack of feasibility with your idea based on groundwork conducted by the Project Everest team, there is a lack of financial viability or there may be partner organisations with resources which aren’t being used which could deliver greater impact.
How do you balance financial sustainability with impact?
The way Project Everest balances financial sustainability with impact is very straightforward. We require at least 8 trekkers for a pilot program to cover basic costs, with the focus being on delivering an impactful and sustainable solution to the selected social problem. We are also conscious of unintended negative impacts and do all we can to help the local community and add value to the current ecosystem of changemakers.
Where do my project fees go?
Project Everest is run by full-time staff who are passionate about working for a mission-driven organisation and creating positive change.
The project fees you pay are broken down as follows according to our expenses and GST applied to the project:
- 10% GST,
- 37.4% In-country costs (Accommodation, food, team leader costs),
- 8.1% Logistics,
- 4.8% Pre-departure training,
- 2.1% Insurance costs,
- 6.5% Impact projects,
- 3.2% eLearning and course material,
- 16.2% Staff salaries,
- 7% Marketing & sales,
- 4.3% Business fixed costs.
Why are we different from any other social business internship, volunteer internship, or interning directly with partners on the ground?
Project Everest is unlike any other program. You are going to be immersed in local culture, customs and environments, which is an incredible opportunity to work with local people and develop real solutions for real problems. We work through a human centred design, where we facilitate communities to develop their own solutions, with a key focus on sustainable positive impact which drives every stage of the project.
Working with a team of dedicated and passionate students who are on project for similar reasons as yourself is an amazing experience. Not only will you be able to achieve great things with such a fantastic group of people, you are going to make friends for life.
You are going to undertake leadership and teamwork training before your trip and whilst on program, you continually develop on a personal and professional level. Project Everest is focused on community empowerment. We are also determined to empower you, as the leaders of tomorrow. Through the ups and downs of project, when things go to plan or against the grain, you are going to emerge a more confident and capable individual, equipped to tackle whatever obstacle life may throw at you.
How much free time will I have?
Whilst on project you determine the hours that you contribute each day. At the start of the project you will discuss with your team leader the specific hours you wish to contribute between Monday and Friday. The general guideline of what you should be doing is from 8am to 4 or 5pm. If you want to be a legend and work longer hours during the week you will have the full support of your team and team leader. That being said, you are encouraged to relax to ensure you don’t burn out before project close.
Weekends are yours to explore the beautiful country, undertake a grand adventure or just relax after a solid week of smashing through objectives. Be sure to appreciate all that these wonderful countries have to offer on your weekends, you will not regret it!
We are only students - what authority do we have? What makes me qualified?
As a social enterprise that exists to develop subsidiary social enterprises, Project Everest’s value to communities is in its ability to finance early stage solutions and to train junior consultants (students) to efficiently allocate that finance.
Following the completion of pre departure training and ongoing social entrepreneurship training from your team leader, you are given the authority to develop your project in country to target whatever community need you identify. Further, you have the ability to provide the community any solution or group of solutions that you investigate and develop.
You bring with you any prior project or teamwork experience coupled with your degree specific education. Your most important asset is your ability to think outside the box. You have not been ingrained with a traditional problem solving philosophy from a professional career and can therefore develop solutions within communities with a fresh perspective.
What measures does Project Everest have in place to ensure the safety and security of project participants?
The safety, security, and wellbeing of our participants are our first priority.
We partner with an incredibly well-regarded organisation within international development circles, international SOS, to ensure treatment, world class medical advice and, in the unlikely event it is required, medical evacuation services are available at all times while in the countries in which we work. More information on International SOS can be found on their website, https://www.internationalsos.com.
We conduct extensive reconnoissance missions to ensure the safety and security of locations prior to commissioning projects so as to ensure students work in safe conditions. We maintain communications with the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and local expat networks to ensure that we remain up to date with our understanding of the safety of the regions in which we operate. If the safety of the area in which we are working is brought into serious question at any stage of the project, operations will cease and students will return to safety.
What is the standard of the accommodation?
During program, as a minimum, you will have your own bed, mosquito net (where required) and space for your personal belongings. You will have access to clean water for washing and there will be safe drinking water provided at all times.
Accommodation styles will differ across the countries we operate in, depending on location and availabilities. There will typically be a common area for work and morning meetings, common sleeping area (gender separate if required), with a bathroom and kitchen.
We encourage this “hostel dorm” style living for several reasons, lean start up, so funds can be channelled towards more important aspects of the project such as the community you are trying to help and so we are integrating in with the community better. Besides, as an added bonus you get to be nice and cozy with all your team members.
Isn't this Project too ambitious?
The people who come do so to get stuff done. You have to absolutely believe that you will succeed, and at the same time confront the most brutal of realities. A balance of these will ensure success.
What happens to the Project after we are gone - particularly because there are such large gaps between proprojects?
This is something many trekkers ask, and it is quite a difficult thing to consider. What we do at Project Everest is manage expectations. We are completely transparent in the communities we work in, letting them know why we are here, how long we will be there for and making sure we never make a promise we cannot keep. We do this so that at the end of a single project, the community does not feel like they have been left high and dry. We also try to employ a local worker to liaise with the community while we are out of country.
Project Everest constantly assesses the viability of conducting projects within communities, focusing on positive impact. If, when your project or month on project is complete, there are other areas where your work can be developed or if the same area has further potential for future projects then other students may return to conduct a project. Through this, both the community that you have helped and future students will benefit directly from your work whilst in country.