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Departure Rituals (e.g. Tree Dedication, Last Trip, Departure Circle)

As inspired by Sieben Linden and practised at Sieben Linden, Ananda Gaorii and Ängsbacka 

What is it/ How do you do it?

  • Some form of send-off activity around the time of Departure. For example:
  • Planting a Tree in the community for each Volunteer who has committed to the programme
  • having a joint Group Trip somewhere together for one last time or
  • Holding a ritual e.g. a Departure Circle where each Volunteer can share how their experience has been.


  • Good way for Volunteers to gain a sense of closure on their experience
  • Can serve as a final, connecting activity for the group before they go their separate ways. 
  • The tree dedication for example also provides some comfort as it gives the message that the Volunteers have a place in the community, are always welcome and will always have a home there. 


  • Departure time is usually a busy and stressful time for most Volunteers as they begin saying goodbye to the community and planning their next move. 
  • This final activity could create some feelings of overwhelm as Volunteers perceive it as ‘yet another thing’ to add to their already limited time

What is Needed:

  • Time and planning: Giving the Volunteers a fair warning in advance so that they can plan their departure around this event or ritual.
  • Community participation.

Supporting the Departure Process (Anxiety, Foggy plans, Desire Map)

As practised by Ananda Gaorii, Ängsbacka, Sieben Linden, Cloughjordan

Offering tools and activities to help Volunteers get in connect with their intention for their next steps and enable them to envision and discuss their next steps:

  • by for example, creating Desire Maps* ( * insert explanatory link)
  • having One to One Departure Sessions.


  • This helps mentor Volunteers throughout the end period of the programme, to support them through any anxiety they may have around their future plans. 


  • Could have an adverse effect if not executed in a mindful manner
  • Some Volunteers may be more spontaneous with their planning and there is a need to formulate questions in a way that does not plant unnecessary seeds of worry or urgency.

What is Needed:

  • Time and planning for a formal ritual or set procedure

Time Capsules (letter to yourself, picture)

As practised by Ängsbacka, Sieben Linden

What is it/ How do you do it?
Volunteers create a ‘capsule’ item within the first week (or ideally first day) they arrive. It can be:

  • a letter or a painting
  • a piece of art or simply 
  • a detailed version of what they hope to get out of their volunteering programme. 

The Volunteers then give this to their Coordinator, who keeps hold of them and returns them to the Volunteers within the last week of the programme


  • It supports Volunteers to get in contact with their intentions at the beginning of their programme and helps them to reflect back over their time, and what they have achieved, since, after the piece is returned to them. 
  • Creates a feeling of connection and nostalgia and also hopefully a sense of achievement, that they have completed their time – by helping them look back at how far they have come since first creating the piece


  • It could lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment if the goals that were first intended were not met within their time on the programme.

What is Needed:

  • Ensuring a safe and private space to keep the capsule items in for the duration of the programme.
  • Care and compassion during the return process, and preparedness to counsel anyone disappointed or upset.
  • Planning of ritual
  • Presence of Volunteer Coordinator and/or Mentor, if separate.


As practised at Sieben Linden and Ananda Gaorii

What is it/ How do you do it?
Presenting Volunteers with an item of some kind to remember the community by and also their experience on the programme whenever they see the item e.g. a small plaque, badge, ornament


  • Provides a solid sign of community appreciation for work done
  • Reminds Volunteers of their dedication, commitment and their achievement-  in completing the programme and making those valuable connections
  • Maintains a tangible connection between the Volunteer and the community


  • Depending on the item, it could be a little costly for the community

What is Needed:

  • Time and Materials to make the Momento
  • Funding to pay for its design and production

Changeover Celebration

As practised at Sieben Linden

This is an evening celebration that we do every year- at the end of August when one group of Volunteers leaves and a new one starts at the beginning of September- with both arriving and departing groups being part of the celebration. 

The whole community is invited and usually a lot of people come. 

It is mostly about honouring the group leaving but the community also gets the chance at this ritual to briefly meet the new, incoming Volunteers.

The content of this ritual has been changing and evolving over the years. Here are some of the elements that have usually been part of it:

The setup:

  • A room large enough to hold everyone- community and Volunteer groups.
  • Seating/sofas at the top of the room that the departing Volunteers are to sit on, facing the seated audience.
    1. The Angel Walk: the departing group is made to wait outside the room door. They are then each led- blindfolded!!- into the room by their Buddy/ Godparent (a community member that has had a supportive role towards them for the duration of their stay), where everyone else in the room has lined up in two facing rows.
      • The blindfolded Volunteers then slowly walk down between the two rows of gathered people, who welcome them with gentle touch but also then spin them around so they get disoriented.
      • When they arrive at the end of the row, a floral wreath is placed on their heads and they are seated on the sofas.
    2. Community members are encouraged to speak, pop-up style, addressing the whole group or just one volunteer, voicing gratitude: and sharing memories of beautiful moments they shared with the Volunteers:
      • Some contributions may be about their work, others can be more personal.
    3. The departing Volunteers then get the chance to speak about what their experience has been like and what the year has meant to them.
    4. Towards the end of this Departure ritual, the Newly Arrived Volunteers briefly introduce themselves.

(In the past, departing Volunteers have prepared a little play about their time in the community which can be very funny. At other times, community members offer some clowning or their own comedy performance, or similar.)


  • Choose appropriate activities that all Volunteers involved feel comfortable with. 
  • Go through the ritual with them beforehand so they know what to expect.


  • The purpose is to create connection and to give thanks to the Volunteers who are leaving. 
  • This fun ritual is an important part of the community giving their appreciation and expressing gratitude to the Volunteers.
  • It reminds the community of the value of our volunteering activities and raises awareness around how much the Volunteers contribute to the life and the work of the community. 
  • It also creates a really warm and welcoming feeling for the newly arrived Volunteers


  • Naturally, some of the new Volunteers feel shy to speak in front of so many people they don’t know. 
  • For that reason, we keep the expectations very low and ask them just some basics: tell us your name, where you are from and which work placement you’re in. 
  • For some, that is challenging enough. Others may talk a bit longer, saying more about themselves.

What is Needed:

  • To plan the course of the evening
  • A facilitator to lead through the different activities.