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Risk Management



OG has received the Travel Industry Association of Ontario and World Travel and Tourism Council’s Safe Travels stamp certifying that we’ve implemented rigorous protocols to ensure the health and safety of our travellers and host destinations. Our protocols take direction from the WHO and CDC and are updated regularly as new information becomes available about COVID-19 and circumstances on the ground.

OG also follows the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s Health & Safety Guidelines. These measures were specifically developed to tackle the risks associated with COVID-19 and a wide range of activities including trekking, cycling and rafting as well as cultural, culinary, and wildlife experiences. They were all created in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic, a world renowned healthcare provider, and the adventure travel industry.

Your health & Safety

is our Top Priority

Travel is chock-a-block full of rewards but does carry with it some inherent risks. At Operation Groundswell, programs are expertly designed to navigate those risks so that we can all happily reap the rewards. Relying on over 30 years of collective risk management experience we’ve developed programs that tackle risk in a thoughtful way. Here’s what you need to know.

Every OG program is meticulously planned to maximize immersion and adventure while minimizing potential dangers. Using national travel advisories and in-country reconnaissance, we work closely with our local partners to complete detailed risk assessments for every place you visit on your program. Your Program Leaders even conduct a complete dry-run of the entire itinerary before your program. As part of this process we vett all the transportation routes and carriers, confirm the quality and availability of local healthcare services, coordinate procedures with our community partners, and strategize ways to mitigate any potential risks. 

We also require that all of our participants register with their respective country’s travel agency. For more information about our preparations around COVID-19, visit our Safe Travel Hub.

To help ensure everyone is happy and healthy on program, OG asks that all participants meet with a travel clinic or physician to discuss travel-related health stuff and complete a medical history form so that we can offer personalized advice and provide support if and when it’s needed. At Operation Groundswell, we also want to make our programs accessible and will do our best to accommodate your needs throughout your program.

*Beginning in October 2021, all participants and Program Leaders will also be required to carry proof of vaccination. For more COVID-19 health related information, checkout OG’s Safe Travel Hub.

OG programs are specially designed for intimate groups of between 6-12 participants. This creates more opportunities for personal connection, grants us access to smaller, harder-to-reach places, and gives everyone a little more personal space — even before our physical distancing measures. As part of the application process, every participant is interviewed by OGHQ so that we can help match them with the right program. 

All groups are led by highly-trained and Wilderness First Aid-certified Program Leaders (PLs) who have significant experience navigating the region’s geography, language, culture, and services. You’ll have the opportunity to meet your Program Leaders and the other members of your team during the pre-departure group orientation.

*If you’re looking for the added confidence of travelling with your own group or bubble, check-out OG’s custom programs or submit an inquiry form.

Whether it’s a bus, clubvan, pick-up truck or tuktuk, we work closely with local drivers and operators to ensure that all of our vehicles are registered, clean, and well maintained. We also do dry runs of every road, rail, highway, and trail we’ll take on your program so that we can navigate them together with confidence.

*Due to COVID-19, we are also implementing a number of other measures to minimize the risk of spread in transit including reduced capacity and assigned seating on certain routes, sanitizing vehicles before and after travel, as well as the enforcement of mask wearing on the road. For more information please visit our COVID Safe Travel Hub.

We love food! It’s an important way for us to learn about and immerse ourselves in a new culture. That’s why we plan all of our meals together with lots of care. During your program, everyone will have access to crystal-clean purified drinking water 24/7. Our friendly hosts are trained in healthy food practices and prepare special homecooked menus for us. Program Leaders also vett all the local restaurants you’ll visit in advance to ensure they’re ready to cook up safe, delicious food for us. We’ll talk about everything you might need to know when it comes to local eating and drinking during your pre-program healthy and safety chats.

*Due to COVID-19, we are also implementing a number of other measures to minimize the risk of spread during meals including the prioritization of outdoor seating and lower capacity locations as well as the enforcement of mask wearing when/where appropriate. For more information please visit our COVID Safe Travel Hub.

Whether it’s a tent, hostel, guesthouse, or homestay; we make sure that all of our local accommodations are clean, safe, and stress free. We may not stay in 5 star resorts but our hosts know us, they understand our unique needs, and do their best to make us feel right at home. More than that, the places we stay and people we meet there are important teachers on our journey. Our hosts often show us the nooks and crannies of their neighbourhoods and help us explore the local landscape in ways that no hotel concierge ever could. 

*Due to COVID-19, we are also implementing a number of other measures to minimize the risk of spread at our accommodations including reduced capacity at certain locations, increased cleaning and sanitization, and the enforcement of mask wearing in public areas. For more information please visit our COVID Safe Travel Hub.

From travel poops and missing passports to bad weather, local unrest or COVID-19  – OG’s trained professionals have over 30 years of collective experience managing risks and responding to emergencies around the world. From the knowledgeable Program Leaders that will be with you on program to our dedicated team of emergency responders at OGHQ who are available 24/7, we’re here to help you navigate any bumps in the road and return home safe and sound. If you have any questions about our emergency protocols, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Travel carries with it certain risks and the last thing we want to do is make those risks even bigger by acting irresponsibly. So, as part of our commitment to being good guests in places others call home, creating safe healthy spaces for ourselves, and building strong positive relationships with eachother, we ask that participants not engage in any recreational drug use or or excessive drinking (alcohol). Participants who choose to consume alcohol do so at their own risk and excessive alcohol consumption or drug use, whether legal or illegal, that puts people at risk is grounds for removal from program.

our experience

How did we get here?

In 2006, we boarded a flight to Accra for a visit that shattered our preconceived notions of what people called ‘the developing world’. We were surrounded by vibrant communities but could see some of the unique challenges they faced while international institutions pushed their own agendas without consulting them.

Since that fateful trip, OG has run over 350 programs in 20 countries. We’ve put international development under the microscope and focused on creating impact through comunity-engaged learning and solidarity. There are now more 3000 OG alumni scattered around the world using their experience to inspire positive change in their own communities. 

We have also expanded our work to educational institutions like Stanford, Boston University, the University of Toronto and Niagara College so that we can take education outside the classroom, and continue to grow our network of change makers around the world.

Our Record By the Numbers






og alumni



Stay in Touch

At Home

We’re here for you every step of the way! You can contact us with any questions through our main phone line at 1-888-422-0164 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, or email us at mail@operationgroundwell.com.

Applied for a program and interested in chatting with an alum about their experience? Our OMent program can help you with that! Email us at hq@operationgroundswell.com and ask for the hookup. In the meantime, you can find past participant reviews on the third party website Go Overseas.

As you prepare for your journey, we will periodically contact you with important information about logistics, payments, safety, and more. We’re in this together!

on program

We’ve got you covered! We have staff on-call at our headquarters and in each region while programs are running. In case of emergency while on program, family or next of kin can call OG’s main line at 1-888-422-0164, extension 5. From there, they will be connected directly to one of our 24-hour on-call coordinators.

Backpacktivists will periodically have internet access to email home, although telephone access is limited. Buying a local cell phone can be a more cost effective way of keeping in touch!

Program leaders have locally serviced cell phones for emergency use and are in regular contact with OG’s Programs Director and their Regional Director.

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