Holly Cross, WWOOF UK team member responsible for dealing with the rare complaints and disputes that occur between hosts and WWOOFers, offers her advice on how to avoid them.
Thoughtful communication from start to finish of a WWOOF partnership can make all the difference to whether volunteer and host become firm friends or part indifferently. First impressions really do stick, and seeing as the majority of hosts and WWOOFers get in touch via e-mail, the whole WWOOF experience can become coloured by a well put word here or a misinterpretation there (or even by a lack of words!).
All WWOOF partnerships should be based on mutual trust and respect; the ethos and mission page of WWOOF UK’s website affirms this principle and also has lots of guidance about what WWOOFers and hosts can expect of the exchange.
WWOOF UK takes a firm stance on hosts responding to WWOOFer contact, and we require hosts to reply to all messages within two weeks. It’s entirely up to hosts to choose or refuse WWOOFers for their own reasons and to keep those reasons to themselves if they prefer but it’s only fair that every host they contact gets back to each WWOOFer in good time, if only to say ‘No, sorry, we don’t need your help right now’.
When a host is considering whether to welcome someone into their home and into their working life, they’re far more likely to accept a WWOOFer who has made the effort to read their host profile and point out why it is appealing. And the more detail WWOOFers give about themselves, the more chance they have of hearing back from a host.
It may be obvious to say that hosts are busy people; and as well as being eager to share their lifestyles with visitors, they want or need help from willing WWOOFers. The only quality which WWOOF UK requires all WWOOFers to have is a willingness to get involved in hosts’ activities. Even repetitive tasks can be interesting if you’re interested in them and understand why you’re doing them – yes, even weeding!
Hosts continue to find no-show WWOOFers one of the most frustrating and disappointing things. In most cases, a WWOOFer has simply failed to keep in touch with the host when their plans have changed. Such carelessness in communication can harm a host’s opinion of WWOOFers in general and we’d all love to find a way to stop it from happening. There’s no foolproof solution but it’s almost certainly less likely to happen if the initial communication is good, if ‘personal’ contact is made with a phone call or video chat, and if hosts reaffirm arrival times and travel arrangements a couple of weeks before the exchange is about to start.