From time to time we get slightly unusual requests from the wider public about our services that cause those of us staffing the WWOOF UK office to stop, scratch our heads a little and question our priorities.
One particular debate that we have chewed over in some detail is the relative merits of offering a ‘group WWOOF’ membership – in addition to the single and joint ones currently available.
We thought it best to consult our members on this matter …so here goes….
In the last six months two different group visits to WWOOF hosts have featured in our newsletter.
In the summer of 2014 (issue 243) we heard how a group of young people from Handemy Eco Village in Korea visited a host in Shropshire, whilst in the Autumn (issue 244) we read about a group of young scouts from Slovenia spending time in Devon.
The former visit was organised entirely independently and without the knowledge of the WWOOF UK office. The group leader simply took out a WWOOF membership and mass mailed 155 hosts across Wales, London and the South West. The next day a Korean colleague took out membership and e-mailed another 122 hosts. After all – they only needed one host to say ‘yes’.
In the latter case, the scout leader contacted the main office and asked whether a group visit would be possible. We agreed that a member of staff would send an e-mail to hosts who we knew had facilities for groups and that in the event we found a host willing to take them, the leader and all the other adults in the group would take out a membership and then correspond with the host in the usual way.
Eighty three hosts were messaged; we received a positive reply almost immediately and secured the payment of a joint subscription fee. Thereafter all other aspects of the visit were arranged in the normal manner.
In both cases the experience clearly unfolded to the satisfaction of all parties – so why make a fuss?
Well – we have recently received five more requests in as many weeks and are wondering whether this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Are hosts also receiving frequent group requests?
At a minimum we would suggest we need to agree a consistent response/approach to enquiries such as these, with both hosts and the main office responding in the same way. Is ‘group WWOOFing’ something to be encouraged…or stopped? Whilst hosts are of course free to decide who they do or don’t want on their property – those of us fielding requests at a national level need to know your views.
Might ‘group WWOOFs’ dilute the basic formulae of helping in return for food and accommodation, given that groups may be asked to make a contribution to food costs…? Or are ‘group WWOOFs’ an excellent way to get that stone wall finished or polytunnel erected?
If a host spends time and energy preparing for the arrival of a group like this – does it mean they will not be offering opportunities to our existing membership?
Could there be some types of groups we would be more willing to engage with/support than others (scouting groups but not language schools or profit making organisations perhaps)?
Would hosts, for example, like to see the introduction of a filter so that they could opt in to (or out of) being approached by group WWOOFers…or do we simply say ‘no’? Or should WWOOF develop a more bespoke service for this kind of clientele?
Maybe it’s a simple matter of collating some advice and guidance for hosts should you receive a group WWOOF e-mail request in your inbox?
We look forward to hearing your views. Leave a comment below or email email@example.com
Confused of Main Office!