Q: Who can apply?
A: We are looking for committed evangelical Christians who are actively involved in their church. Applicants should be flexible, able to show initiative and be open to learn. The minimum age is 17 years (unless applying as a family or as part of a ‘ready-made team’) and there is no maximum age; we have had Steppers in their 60s and 70s!
We welcome applications from CU, church or other ‘ready-made’ teams, and the timing and length of these projects can be flexible.
Q: What happens after you receive my application form?
A: We read it through carefully and then usually send you an email inviting you to a Step selection day. We will also contact your two referees and ask them to give us their views on your suitability for Step. Assuming that all goes well on the selection day, we will send you an offer of a place on the Step programme, and a number of information mailings over the months following your acceptance of that place.
Q: What are the chances of me being accepted onto a Step team?
A: The vast majority of people who apply are accepted onto the programme. This is often because they have carefully considered the challenge of short-term mission and have received advice from Christian friends before applying. We also have a responsibility to ensure that you are emotionally and physically able to do Step, and therefore it's important that you are one hundred per cent honest on your application form. We particularly need to know if you have suffered from depression or other emotional illness at any time. This would not necessarily exclude you, but we will need to talk it through with you and possibly with your doctor or therapist (with your consent). Finally, we ask all applicants to complete a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check as Step teams will often be involved in youth and children's work.
Q. What about medical stuff?
A: Latin Link employs Interhealth to advise us on medical preparations for all our Step teams. Interhealth is a Christian health centre used by many organisations to advise their personnel on overseas health matters. They have an excellent reputation and give us up-to-the-minute advice on health precautions as well as assessing applicants’ fitness to take part in Step.
We require everyone who goes on Step to get medical clearance from Interhealth before they leave for Latin America. Generally this is not an actual medical test, just a medical form filled in by you. Very occasionally we may ask some of you to visit Interhealth for an individual appointment. As an organisation we have a duty of care to ensure that all participants are physically and mentally fit to travel and withstand the challenge of cross-cultural work.
You will need to have some inoculations before you go to Latin America, and we will give you full details of these at selection day. Don't worry, they don’t hurt that much! Please note that you are responsible for the cost of these although we will give you a letter which may help you get a discount at your GP surgery or travel clinic.
At orientation training there will be further information provided about medical issues and how to stay healthy in Latin America.
Q. How will I raise the cost?
A: We will give you specific advice about this at the Step selection day, and continuing advice and encouragement as you begin your fundraising. There are many ways in which people have raised their contributions for Step in the past, including charitable trust funds, donations from friends and family, church mission committee, sponsored events, and some even earn it.
We give you a schedule of dates to work to to send money into us that you've raised. This is to help you break down the total into manageable chunks and help us with cashflow as we book flights. It is helpful for us if you send some of the total when you accept your place on Step and try and make sure all the money is sent in before Orientation.
Nobody who has accepted a place on Step has ever been stopped from going through lack of funds! Trust that God will provide and actively seek to raise the support and the money will come in.
Q. When will I find out where I am going?
A: With the majority of teams you may not find out which country you are going to until about a month before you have your orientation. This allows us a chance to meet with all the applicants and then put together the best possible teams, with a balance of people with different skills and personalities. To do this properly we need to wait until we have interviewed and assessed everybody who has applied to the programme.
In some cases you may have the opportunity to apply for a specific project (this is more applicable for Summer Teams). In this instance we will look to confirm your place on your chosen team as soon as possible. This is subject to you receiving acceptance onto the Step programme and providing there are spaces still remaining.
Q. Can I choose which country I go to?
A: We always take into consideration people’s personal preferences. However, our primary aim is to put you on the team that best suits your skills and personality. We believe it is important that teams are well balanced in this way so everyone has an opportunity to grow in their relationship with God. Where you actually go is of secondary importance, as we pray your experience will be rewarding in the team we place you on.
In some cases you may have the opportunity to apply for a specific project (this is more applicable for Summer Teams). In this instance we will always look to place you on your chosen project providing there are spaces available.
Q. Do you ever cancel trips if there aren't enough people?
A: Depending on where the team is due to go and what they'd be doing, the minimum number of people required for a trip to take place would be 3 or 4. If there were fewer than this number who applied for a specific trip then we would have to re-think going to that project for that year and offer those who'd applied for that particular opportunity the chance to join another team.
We would know whether we would have to cancel a team around a month before Orientation, as by this time all the applications are in and we will have met with all applicants.
Q. What's the accommodation like?
A: Step teams stay right in the heart of the community they are serving, living together as a team either at the project base, in the church building or with members of the church in their houses. Latin Americans are extremely hospitable but as you're going to areas with greater economic need, you should expect accommodation to be cosy and fairly basic. Most places have electricity and running water but most won't have hot water on tap so expect cold showers and anything else is a bonus!
Q. What about speaking the language?
A: Don't worry. Being able to speak Spanish (or Portuguese for Brazil) isn't essential - but it is a great help, particularly on the longer Spring teams. The more you can communicate with local people, the more you will get out of the project. Why not start some evening classes now in preparation?
Q. What about training will I receive before I go?
A: All accepted applicants are expected to attend a Step orientation prior to departure to Latin America or Spain. The aim is to prepare and equip you for your time away. This is also a chance for Step teams to come together, potentially for the first time, and to begin to develop friendships. Spring orientation lasts for five days, while summer orientation takes place over a weekend. The cost of orientation is included in your Step contribution.
The following topics are generally covered during Step orientation:
- biblical basis for mission
- team devotions - personal and team spiritual development
- language sessions
- working with children
- cross cultural awareness
- practical travel tips and advice
- drama training
- sharing your testimony
- working as a team – assigning of team roles.
Q. Do I have to book my own flight or transport within Latin America?
A: Yes, but don't panic! All teams heading out to Latin America will have their flights organised for them so you're all travelling together. You'll then have to call up and pay for your flight directly with our Travel Management Company so you are covered by their ATOL licence. We will talk you through this process and tell you how much to budget for this!
Once you arrive at the airport in your destination country, you'll be met by one of our Latin Link members who will take you to the project. Depending on the country, you may use some public transport but you will never be travelling on your own or using any form of transport that may be dangerous. The cost of all project-related travel is included in the money you raise to participate in Step.
Q. What about insurance?
A: The cost of joining the Latin Link’s insurance policy for the duration of Step is covered by your overall contribution to Latin Link. Our policy has been specifically designed to fit the requirements of volunteers on the programme. It provides full medical cover, including any injuries sustained when working on a building site, as well as cover against loss of personal belongings.
You must also have appropriate insurance cover if you choose to travel after the end of your Step project. If you need to extend your Step insurance to include travel after the team holiday, then you will be required to pay a small fee to cover the extra period.
Q. What about passports and visas?
A: You need to make sure you have a valid passport to travel to Latin America for your time on Step. Your passport will need to be valid for 6 months after your likely return date, otherwise they could refuse to let you board the plane of turn you away at the border!
If you are a British/Irish passport holder, you won't need a visa to travel to any country in Latin America except for Cuba. If you are applying to join a Step team to Cuba, we will talk you through the visa application process and organise everything for you.
If you do not hold a British/ Irish passport then you may need a visa. It is your responsibility to investigate this and apply for the necessary visa in time. We are happy to help you with any paperwork you might need or any questions you may have. It could be that you don't need a visa to enter the Latin American country you're visiting on Step but you may need a transit visa for a country you pass through as part of your flight route, so be sure to check this too!
Q. What support will get while I'm on Step?
A: In many countries we have Short-Term Mission Coordinators who find placements for the teams and coordinate them during their time on Step. In all other cases a resident Latin Link member or someone working with a partner organisation known to us will coordinate the team. Each Step team will also have a local supervisor – this may be the Short-Term Mission Coordinator or a Latin Link member nearby, or it could be a local person. Church leaders of the project hosting the team will be involved in day-to-day supervision as well. All our supervisors and coordinators will provide practical help and pastoral support for the team.
Q. Who leads the Step teams?
A: Each team has one male and one female leader. These leaders are carefully chosen from among the applicants, and they all receive full leadership training for the role. It is the team leaders’ responsibility to ensure the safe and effective running of the team day-to-day. The team leaders will be supported by a local supervisor, usually established Latin Link members, and they have overall responsibility for the team. They will meet with the team regularly, provide cultural orientation and be on hand to give advice where needed.
Teams also come under the authority of the local church they are working with and will need to be careful not to do anything that might offend. To help this, each Stepper is required to sign an undertaking that they will act appropriately both within the team and in the local community. We take it very seriously if people repeatedly act inappropriately and will fly people back home if need be.
Q. Why join a Step team instead of just sending money?
A: To encourage the Latin American church. Years of experience in short-term mission have shown us how much the Latin American church values the support given by Step teams. Not only are churches helped by the practical help that Step teams offer, but also through the support, friendship, and personal testimony given by the Step teams.
To develop as an individual. Many Steppers return home with stories of how God has impacted their own lives as they served him. ’It was an amazing opportunity living and working as a team in a new culture, developing new skills and gifts, learning to be dependent on God, stepping out of my comfort zone…’
If you are interested in being part of a Step team why not have a look at the volunteer area.