We’re glad you’re interested in lending a hand in the creation of the Transcaucasian Trail. Building what will eventually become a 2,000 km+ trail network is an enormous project. Volunteers will play a key role in helping to build and maintain this resource. Please read this packet carefully and entirely, and then decide if the program is for you. If you do apply, we expect you to understand and agree to the conditions and rules of the program.
We provide a no-frills experience for those interested in taking on challenging (and sometimes monotonous) manual labor that supports the creation of the trail. We hope participants will enjoy themselves, make new friends, and learn about the Caucasus, trail building, and conservation, but the program’s primary purpose is to get help with the massive project of building this trail. We ask volunteers to understand the realities of this—which means being flexible, open minded, adventurous, and willing to work hard. We will continually strive to improve our program based on volunteer feedback.
If you join us, we want you to have an enjoyable and productive experience, and to understand ahead of time what you are committing to. The beautiful photos and stories from the Caucasus give you part of the story, but we want applicants to understand the challenges and rules as well.
When you have been accepted to the program, we ask that you pay a deposit to secure your spot. This deposit is non-refundable, and goes towards the volunteer fee. Two weeks after acceptance, if we have not received your deposit, we will fill your spot with someone from the waitlist.
For summer 2017, we are excited to offer opportunities for volunteers to join the trail crew in Svaneti, Georgian and Dilijan National Park, Armenia. Both settings provide spectacular scenery and interesting cultural highlights. The volunteer program runs in 14-day sessions in June, July, and August, with between eight to ten participants in each group. The exact schedule of fieldwork is different in Svaneti and Dilijan, but on both programs, volunteers spend roughly 8 nights in the field and 5 nights at the basecamp in the towns of Dilijan (Armenia) or Mestia (Georgia).
|Svaneti, Georgia||Dilijan National Park, Armenia|
|Program||14 days||14 days|
3 nights in Mestia
8 nights in the field
2 nights in Mestia
1 night in Dilijan
4 nights in the field
3 nights in Dilijan
4 nights in the field
1 night in Dilijan
- The Volunteer Leaders, who live and work with the group, are the primary supervisors and point persons for volunteers while at on working on the trail.
- We can give you travel tips and suggestions, but you are responsible for planning and paying for your travel outside of the mountain region where you are volunteering.
- By deciding to join us, we expect that volunteers have read and agreed to the expectations of the program. While you are with us, we need you to respect our policies and staff leadership. Those who do not do so will be asked to leave the program.
- Adaptablity / Flexibility – we will be working in wilderness areas where plans are subject to changes and challenges presented by weather, local logistics, and extreme topography. Volunteers should remain flexible, adaptable and positive from resulting unavoidable changes to the volunteer camp plans.
- Respect wildlife, ecology, infrastructure and other visitors: practice minimal impact camping, respect facilities, maintain tidiness and order, keep noise to a minimum.
- Respect other team members: follow directions of staff members, recognize the challenges of living and working here, and accept delays and changes of plan.
- Respect your fellow volunteers: learn their language, accept and embrace their differences, help out and do more than your share (wash dishes, wake up early, offer to help) and have fun.
- Do not buy or consume alcohol or illegal drugs during your time here, with the exception of alcohol served by staff or our hosts on special occasions.
- Maintain a positive, enthusiastic, understanding attitude, and understand that the volunteer program is one of many components of creating this new trail.
- Arrive to meet your group in Dilijan or Mestia on the first day of the program and leave on the last—we cannot accommodate other dates. Volunteers who want to arrive earlier or stay later may be able to camp at the volunteer house if agreed ahead of time by the volunteer coordinator.
- Be over 18 years old to join the program, for liability reasons.
- The volunteer program is in English, with a lot of translated Georgian and Armenian mixed in. We will be working with Armenian and Georgian volunteers, and knowledge of Georgian, Armenian, or Russian is useful, but not essential. The ability to communicate and follow directions in English is a must.
- We expect that volunteers join us to work hard and make a contribution. If your primary goal is traveling and exploring Georgia or Armenia, this program might not be for you.
- Work is hard physical labor outdoors and can be repetitive/mundane. You should expect to work 8 hours a day, up to 7 days in a row. Volunteers should be in GOOD physical shape and health to participate in the program! Certain jobs are extremely physically demanding.
- Work plans shift according to our needs. You may find yourself assisting with trail repair, construction, clearing undergrowth, painting trail blazes, or installing signs, and we ask you to be flexible.
- Volunteers may have to hike up to 15 kilometers/day to reach the base camps and/or work sites. Be prepared for long days, even in bad weather. Hikes may be off trail and may include river crossings, rock scrambling, and significant changes in elevation.
- You will stay in your tent for your whole time in the field. Be prepared for cold nights and high winds: bring a warm sleeping bag (at least 0º C/32 Fº), good sleeping pad, and a sturdy tent (3 season tent).
- In the field, you’ll stay at a remote camp with a basic common/cooking area. There are NO showers in the field—expect to go at least a week at a time without access to a shower. If you’d like, consider bringing a SunShower.
- When you return from the field to the homestay, you will have access to a shower.
- In the field, volunteers cook together on a basic camp stove. A volunteer cook will supervise meal preparation. Ingredients in the field are limited—think simple camping cooking. You’ll have few vegetables, meats, and dairy products, and lots of pasta, rice, lentils, bread, oatmeal, cookies, etc. Because of our remote location, fresh fruits and vegetables are in limited quantities. All food is shared within the group, so you may not get a lot of your favorite food.
- If you’d like to bring some snacks of your own, we encourage you to do so. We have only instant coffee, so bring ground coffee if that is important to you. For others, you’ll want a supply of chocolate, nuts, or energy bars. One note, though: Customs may confiscate fruits and seeds when you enter Georgia or Armenia, so check the rules before you travel if coming from abroad.
- When at the volunteer house, you will eat dinner at the house along with local volunteers and other visitors. The food is hearty and typical to the region: lots of bread and cheese, meat and potatoes and some fresh veggies.
- If you’re a vegetarian or have a dietary restriction: please know that Georgia and Armenia are not easy places to accommodate all food preferences. We can accommodate vegetarians, in fact many of the meals prepared at camp will be vegetarian, but please be aware that due to the remote location, a wide variety of food is not always available.
- While the Volunteer Leader has first aid training, access to medical facilities is difficult. The closest facility is basic. If you have significant medical issues, the program may not be for you. Please let us know about any health concerns in advance.
- When in the field, volunteers are in communication with someone in town by high frequency radio. The group makes scheduled check-in calls twice a day: one in the morning, one in the afternoon. This radio works most of the time, but communication is limited. Please consider if you are comfortable with this level or risk.
- Volunteer groups have a GPS tracker with an SOS button, but only for emergency use.
- In the town where we will stay at the homestay on the weekends, there is limited internet access and cellphone access. There may not be reliable cell phone connections in the field. If connectivity is important to you, consider this when making your decision to volunteer.
Learning and Education
- One of the goals of the volunteer program is to give hands-on experience to interested conservationists. We aim for all volunteers to leave the trail more aware of the components and challenges of large-scale international conservation projects.
- Once you are done with the program, we want you to become our ambassador and to share your experience with as many people as possible.
Cost of the Program
- Running the volunteer program comes with numerous expenses for us: food, equipment, insurance, transportation, administrative costs, and more.
- To help offset some of these costs, the program cost is US $500 (roughly £400 and €470) for 14 days.We are very grateful for the time and money that international volunteers contribute to the program, but please know that this charge doesn’t cover all of our expenses.
- We will ask you to pay half of the program cost when you accept your spot in the program, and the rest during your first days in the country. We cannot refund you (except in exceptional situations) if you decide to leave early.
- Two weeks after acceptance to the program, if we have not received your deposit we will fill your spot with someone from the waitlist.
Still up for it? You will have a rewarding experience helping out one of the most ambitious sustainable tourism projects around! Please fill out the application form here, and submit it by March 15, 2017.
Not for you? You can find more information about hiking the TCT and how to support our efforts in other ways on the website. If you are traveling to the region, we would welcome any help in our mapping and other efforts. Please keep in touch—sign up for our newsletter, and spread the word about this project! Thanks for your interest.
Help us Map the Trail
A good map is so important when heading into the mountains. While it can be fun to get lost, it’s important to know your way back to civilization. Nobody wants to end up disoriented and in a dangerous situation.
To this end, one of our programs is to help improve the maps and map data in the areas of the Caucasus around the TCT. We are utilizing the OpenStreetMap (OSM) platform, which is an open source map of the world, developed by a large, worldwide volunteer community. We have chosen this platform because:
- of its robust, developed infrastructure.
- the data feeds directly into countless existing services, apps, and websites.
- it is open, meaning all of the data in the OSM database may be used for any purpose, with minimal licensing restrictions. In other words, everyone has access to the raw geographic data to make maps with as they please.
- there is a strong volunteer community already using OSM and familiar with it.
- we believe in data sharing, community sourced information, and open source as core principles.
How can you help?
There are two ways to help us make better maps: remote mapping and field mapping. Remote mapping involves helping us out from home, while field mapping means exploring new routes or collecting more data on old routes, using GPS, pen and paper.
Help us from home by donating an hour or more of your time to help us make maps! This typically involves tracing satellite images with your mouse – drawing forests, rivers and more that will feed into our maps.
If you can help us by mapping remotely, great! If you’ve never contributed to OpenStreetMap before, it may take a short time to get started, but once you grasp the basics, it’s very easy. To learn the basics, we recommend starting with this guide. Once you have an idea how it works, and you have signed up for an account on OpenStreetMap, then read through our short guide to learn how you can contribute mapping for the TCT!
If you are planning to (or would like to) hike some trails in the Caucasus, we want your help! Specifically, we want your GPS data, route notes, and photos, so that we can continue to improve our database of trail information.
If you would like to get involved in field mapping, send us a message and let us know.