Tourism Review Online Magazine - In Vogue: Volunteer Vacations

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					   ETHICAL
In Vogue: Volunteer VacatIons




                    volunteer vacations are grow-
                    ing in popularity all around the
                    world. Explore the unique proj-
                    ects organized for voluntourists
                    in Ecuador and Peru, learn how
                    to choose your tour operator,
                    and what to expect from your
                    trip.
                                                            ETHICAL   in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons


                     voluntourism And positive
                           sociAl impAct
Over the last decade, many of the cataclysmic
events that have shaped our global aware-
ness of the economic contribution of the travel
industry to destinations have come as a result
of its starkly-contrasted absence in the after-
math of devastation. Think of New York follow-
ing September 11th. Think of Southeast Asia
following the tsunami. Think of New Orleans
following Hurricane katrina. And think of China,
Haiti, and Chile following the earthquakes.
  Doubtless, in each of these destinations,
the economic loss associated with declines in
travel and tourism was significant. But, what
was not immediately evident, yet has increas-
ingly come to our attention during these past
ten years, is the travel industry’s growing
potential to be the delivery vehicle for direct,
social impact that benefits destinations.
  voluntourism, blending voluntary service
and travel, has seen notable adoption among
travelers and the industry alike since the turn
of the millennium. Clearly, the travel industry,
through voluntourism, is embarking on a new
role, one with which it is not wholly familiar.
This is not a reinvention, however; it repre-
sents a realization.
  Travel in the 21st Century demands experi-
ential authenticity and, therefore, the inclu-
sion of all elements of the destination – be
they dark, light, or gray. Today’s travelers are
seeking a personal encounter with the destina-

June, 2011                                         — 24 —
                                                                                                 ETHICAL     in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons

tion, its people and environment. Passivity is                                                        suited to play the role of delivery system and
giving way to a requisite of active engagement;                                                       enable travelers to contribute, as effectively
only then can a traveler begin to approach                                                            and efficiently as possible, to projects aligned
satisfaction. And today’s destinations – resi-                                                        with goals and objectives set forth by commu-
dents and the environment – are demanding a                                                           nities on behalf of residents and/or the envi-
travel industry that is engaged, supportive, and                                                      ronment.
approaching sustainability with an enthusiasm                                                            Projects will vary from destination to destina-
that is equal to that of their own.                                                                   tion. Some projects will focus on such things as
  in this new role, the travel industry’s social                                                      food security, clean water, or micro-enterprise
impact can indeed be measured in the cus-                                                             development. Others will conflict with our
tomary, quantitative manner; nevertheless,                                                            notions of sustainability: take the recent vol-
the qualitative measurement of such ‘intan-                                                           untourist-led effort to build a community the-
gibles’ as goodwill or a deepening of the rela-                                                       ater in Haiti on the outskirts of a tent city. Yet,
tionship between traveler and destination,                                                            it was exactly what residents wanted – a place
poses a vast opportunity, one that has never
                                                                                                      where they can laugh or cry or dance or sing
been truly explored. it is this very exploration,
                                                                                                      to Hollywood’s finest, and not so fine, creative
into a realm of inspiration no less, which may
prove to be the most exciting adventure for the                                                       expressions.
travel industry thus far. How do we begin this                                                           voluntourism represents the true hos-
process?                                                                                              pitality and service that is inherently built
  Certainly, any entity can adopt its own mea-                                                        into the DNA of the travel industry. All we
surement guidelines and ‘accounting’ formulas                                                         are proposing to do through voluntourism
for social impact. Some have already done so in                                                       is extrapolate the footprint of this hospi-
annual reports on corporate social responsibil-                                                       tality and service, to extend to consumers
ity and philanthropy. However, most of these                                                          the chance to have a reciprocal relationship
reports speak specifically to the financial out-                                                      with destinations. ultimately, voluntourism
lay or in-kind support of philanthropic efforts                                                       affords travelers an opportunity to trans-
or NgOs, or they may speak of the direct con-         voluntourism is not a public relations cam-     form what they receive in the form of art,
tributions of employees. With the introduction      paign for the travel industry; rather, it is a    culture, history, geography and recreation,
of travelers into this already-existing mix, not    public awareness-raising campaign designed        into what they give back in honor of these
only do we have a new set of quantitative data      to emphasize the consumer’s role in the           priceless gifts.
to consistently measure and track, but we have      advancement of the well-being of destina-
an opportunity to share unique testimonials,        tions. The long-term health and sustainability
photos, and videos demonstrating the net            of destinations across the globe is enhanced by
positive social benefit that can be generated       travel that unites social beneficence and net,    By David Clemmons (Founder of VolunTourism.org)
through travel.                                     economic benefit. The travel industry is best-    http://www.voluntourism.org




June, 2011                                                            — 25 —
                                                                                                     ETHICAL     in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons


   ecuAdor's volunteer vAcAtions for
              "groWn ups"
It is not hard to identify volunteer needs in                                                             country to well-situated hostels and home-
developing countries such as Ecuador. How-                                                                stays in the city. Many city-based options may
ever, there is always a challenge in finding                                                              be customized by choice of accommodation
reliable in-country organizations with a track                                                            and other support services. volunteers may
record of efficiently matching the willing vol-                                                           also choose to do more than one program
unteer with creative, reliable service proj-                                                              (minimum two weeks each) to experience dif-
ects.                                                                                                     ferent projects and parts of the country.
  Better yet is to discover organizations that                                                              Here is a glimpse of two experiences of my
make all living and working arrangements,                                                                 own to illustrate Ecuador options suitable for
and shepherd volunteers through their chosen                                                              grown up volunteers.
experience (including any crisis!) from arrival                                                             A private Animal Rescue Center on the edge
to departure. i was fortunate to discover                                                                 of the Ecuadorian has its own English-speak-
quito-based LEAD Adventures (lead-adven-                                                                  ing volunteer coordinator from Holland, and
tures.com) whose dedicated staff carries out                                                              several hand built cabins on the property. The
these services year round with a creative menu                                                            Flores family lives on this vast jungle property
of well-researched options on the country's         Nine women from Britain joined forces for a three-    themselves, treating every volunteer as an
mainland and in the galapagos islands.              week Galapagos Islands volunteer and adventure pro-   honored guest in their home and country. ger-
  Launched in 2004 by Ecuadorian Enrique            gram, among LEAD Adventures most popular itinerar-    man Flores and his son, Jorge, are both pas-
Torres, following years of university study and     ies. Photo credit: Trudie Udell                       sionate about their mission of animal rescue,
investment banking work in the u.S., the com-                                                             rehabilitation and re-introduction to the wild
pany has made arrangements for over 2,000           for certain projects. it also pays a commission       where possible.
participants in conservation, social service,       for travel agent bookings.                              As we toured many acres of well-maintained
sports development and education.                     very reasonable prices vary from project to         buildings and jungle-setting enclosures, we
  Best of all, the LEAD team understands the        project usually including a comprehensive ori-        met Chilean veterinarian, Tatiana, patiently
needs and interests of adult participants, offer-   entation at LEAD's quito office, many meals,          feeding an abandoned new-born coati with a
ing alternatives and customization to what          airport transfers, travel insurance for direct        tiny milk bottle. She had read about Yanacocha
they call their "grown up" clients, 35 and older.   bookings only, 24-hour-a-day emergency sup-           on the internet and flown north to volunteer
While the majority of clients are still in their    port, and organization of Spanish classes in          for two months. Another participant, Austra-
teens and 20s, LEAD reports a rapidly growing       some locations. volunteer accommodation               lian Alex Wilson, had heard about the rescue
clientele of adult travelers and family groups      varies from on-site dormitory-style out in the        center from friends while he was traveling in

June, 2011                                                             — 26 —
                                                                                                       ETHICAL     in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons

                                                        specialized menus to each enclosure. We were
                                                        soon pressed into chopping service ourselves
                                                        (the animals come first!) and later into helping
                                                                                                                A sample of ecuador’s volunteer
                                                        with dinner preparation in the well-equipped                     possibilities
                                                                                                               While in Ecuador, I researched the following
                                                        volunteer kitchen and outdoor dining area.
                                                                                                               four options and interviewed adult volunteers
                                                           Back at quito's 10,000-foot elevation, my           (age 35 and up). Contact LEAD Adventures
                                                        focus switched from animals to people with             (lead-adventures.com) for project details.
                                                        the Villa Tica Street Children Daycare. its goal        • Amazon Animal Rescue Center (lead-adven-
                                                        is to help pre-school children of single and              tures.com/grown-up/index.php?/Amazon-
                                                        teen working mothers, and to offer support to             Details/) six hours by public bus or car from
                                                        impoverished families in the neighborhood.                Quito is a privately-funded operation for
                                                        On the street, you can't miss the three-storey            rescued and confiscated wild animals indig-
                                                        whitewashed building with black and white                 enous to Ecuador. The goal is to return them
                                                        cows dancing all over it. inside, colorful murals         to their natural habitat if at all possible.
                                                        decorate every wall of the secure interior              • Villa Tica Daycare Center (lead-adventures.
                                                                                                                  com/index.php?/Street-Children-Quito-
                                                        courtyard full of playground equipment. Each              Details/) in Quito supports 100 children (6
                                                        nursery and classroom is divided by age from              months to 5 years old) of teenage and single
                                                        six months to five years.                                 mothers, as well as children of financially-
                                                           This is much more than a safe haven and                destitute families.
                                                        a babysitting service for 100 lucky children.           • Extreme Response City Dump Daycare (lead-
                                                        Besides receiving health programs not other-              adventures.com/grown-up/index.php?/
                                                        wise available to them, donated clothes and               Zambiza-Details/) in Quito supports 40 to 50
                                                        the only nutritional meals of their day, there            pre-school children of trash dump-working
                                                        are creative educational programs, especially             families, located right at the dump site.
                                                        for the three, four and five year olds. These are       • Galapagos Adventures (lead-adventures.
                                                                                                                  com/grown-up/index.php?/Galapagos-Expe-
                                                        planned by accredited Ecuadorian pre-school               rience-Details/) is an enriching land-based
                                                        teachers and delivered with the helping hands             introduction to three key islands, combining
                                                        and loving support of many international vol-             well-planned volunteer days and educational
At an Amazon Animal Rescue Center, volunteers are the   unteers. villa Tica has achieved a great deal             vacation days during two or three week pro-
care and feeding of indigenous wild animals dropped     since it was started by three Dutch women who             grams. A different way to visit the Galapagos
off as infants or in an injured state.                  came to Ecuador as volunteers themselves                  at a fraction of the cruise options!
Photo credit: LEAD Adventures                           in 2002 and stayed to establish this inspiring
                                                        charity which began operations in 2004.
South America. Now after 10 days he was quite              i was treated to an animated sing-a-long of      encouraged me to talk to the twenty children
the pro with preparing quantities of fruit and          "head and shoulders, knees and toes" in Eng-        in English rather than in Spanish! Clearly, they
veggies for each rescued critter twice a day            lish by the class of four-year-olds. To my aston-   had not just memorized a catchy song. Even at
and delivering buckets and wheelbarrows of              ishment, the Ecuadorian teacher then proudly        such a young age and within the impoverished

June, 2011                                                                 — 27 —
                                       of Tourism                                                                                                             Lessons Lessons  Lessons
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ETHICAL                         in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons

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June, 2011 Rightreceipt of said goods. The notification offrom the contract be in writing to
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                                 either your bookshop or Erich Schmidt Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Genthiner Str. 30 G,
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                                                                                                                                after receipt of said goods. afternotification of revocation must be in writing to
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Erich
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                                                                                                                                10785 Berlin, Germany, Fax10785 Berlin, Germany,email: Vertrieb@ESVmedien.de Vertrieb@ESVmedien.de 197 · Geschäftsführer: Dr. Joachim Schmidt
                                                                                                                                                              +49 (0) 30 250085 275, Fax +49 (0) 30 250085 275, email:                93 HRB 27                                                                           93 HRB 27 197 · Geschäftsführer: Dr. Joachim Schmidt Fax +49 (0) 30 250085 275 · www.ESV
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                                                                                                     ETHICAL     in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons


        ten tips for tAKing A
        volunteer vAcAtion
These days, many travelers are forgoing tradi-            environment in the country the project is
tional vacations in order to take part in a volun-        in. Reputable organizations will always pub-
teer vacation. volunteer vacations gives aver-            lish information about how funds are dis-
age travelers the chance to volunteer abroad              tributed to the public.
by taking part in a worthwhile project such as       4.   Make sure that the organization keeps you
helping to preserve endangered wild animals               up to date on how your volunteer project is
or ecosystems through wildlife conservation               progressing. Even though you may have only
programs, often in remote parts of the world,             been there for one or two weeks, many vol-
and much more.                                            unteer programs run for many years. Make
  Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director                 sure that you will be sent regular reports to
of non-profit wildlife conservation volunteer             see what is happening with the program.
organization Biosphere Expeditions, offers his       5.   Many volunteer vacations will take place in
top ten tips on how to choose the right volun-            remote parts of the world where you may
teer vacation:                                            have close encounters with potentially dan-
1. Make sure it is a well-established organiza-           gerous wild animals. Make sure the orga-
    tion with a proven track record of making a           nization that you are volunteering with has
    real difference in the projects it has become         an excellent safety record and takes the
    involved with – has it won any awards for             whole issue seriously.                                                 © Biosphere Expeditions
    its work?                                        6.   Do some background research on your
2. if for example the project is about wildlife           expedition leader and make sure that they
    conservation, make sure that the program              are qualified. To some extent you may be           the people who are teaching you are well
    is run on verifiable scientific grounds. While        putting your life in their hands, so you need      qualified.
    you give your time as an interested traveler          to be sure they have all the necessary quali-   8. Make sure that you have clear goals about
    who wants to make a difference, you need              fications.                                         what you hope to accomplish out of the
    to have peace of mind that the project you       7.   Determine what new skills you will learn on        whole experience and don’t be afraid to
    are helping with is being run by a qualified          your volunteer vacation and how you will           ask questions or seek the views of travel-
    scientist.                                            be taught these skills. One of the biggest         ers who have gone before you. Reputable
3. Ask where your money goes. To truly make               bonuses of a volunteer program may be              organizations will always offer to put you
    a difference, it is best if as much money and         learning something new in an exciting envi-        in touch with previous travellers – if they
    resources as possible go to help the local            ronment and you want to make sure that             don’t, beware.

June, 2011                                                               — 29 —
                                                                                                      ETHICAL   in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons




                        © Biosphere Expeditions                             © Biosphere Expeditions



9. Find out who you will be traveling with.            have a serious purpose, you should have
    As you may be virtually living “next door”         fun considering that you are spending your
    to each other for some time, you need to           valuable vacation time “giving back”.
    be comfortable with the type of people           For more tips, advice, and information about
    you are likely to be with. The organization    volunteer vacations and volunteer wildlife con-
    should be able to tell you about the kind of   servation programs visit the Biosphere Expedi-
    people who typically attends their projects.   tions website at www.biosphere-expeditions.
    Facebook, blog pages, and social media         org or contact info@biosphere-expeditions.
    outlets can be invaluable information gath-    org.
    ering tools for volunteer vacations.
10. Most importantly, determine if it will be
    fun. Although most volunteer vacations         http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org




June, 2011                                                            — 30 —
                                                                                                  ETHICAL     in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons


               trAvel And volunteer
          in peru’s orphAnAge And school
Volunteer tourism begins on the individual          by the hands of volunteers and serves as a
level, with a desire to both explore and posi-      place for children in the outlying community to
tively contribute to the communities visited        practice and speak English. Because tourism in
during a journey abroad. For highly visited         Arequipa is such a profitable business, speak-
countries such as Peru, the financial benefits      ing English is both a highly-desired and market-
of traditional tourism are obvious but organi-      able skill. Attendance is free of cost and chil-
zations such as Traveller Not Tourist take the      dren from ages three to eighteen find a safe
concept a step further by integrating the social,   place to learn and play within the walls of this
cultural, and economic advantages of travel.        colorful, five classroom building.
  Founders jay and Luis Chavez aimed to cre-          unique from other TESL programs, the teach-
ate a non-profit organization that connected        ing here is conducted solely by volunteers who
foreign visitors with locals in a way that would    develop their own curriculum and administer
foster a self-sustaining immersion experience       all lessons and activities based on the level of
to enrich the lives of all involved. Not only do    comprehension of each class. Small construc-
volunteers assist with the daily operation of       tion projects also arise at the school, allow-
the school and orphanage sustained by the           ing for continual growth and expansion and         completion, playing games, and short outings
program, but they also have the opportunity         attracting travellers who prefer the challenge     to visit the doctor or enjoy the sunshine. vol-
to help by booking tours through the in-house       of more physically demanding activities.           unteer gemma Smiddy adds, “Helping out at
travel agency, which donates 50% of all profits       The Casa Hogar Luz Alba orphanage is a           the orphanage allowed me to meet other vol-
back to the program. Fundraising efforts have                                                          unteers, create lasting friendships, and partici-
                                                    home for about 20 children under the age of
also gone international with the preliminary                                                           pate in a more worthwhile cause as opposed
                                                    twelve. volunteers assist orphanage staff to
establishment of a uk based charity called                                                             to just being a tourist, which is a bit more self-
                                                    provide constant care and attention to each
Pachawawas, formed to support the work                                                                 indulgent. The children at Casa Hogar are so
                                                    child during formative years of psychologi-
being done in Peru.                                                                                    loved, and their safety and well being are our
                                                    cal and physical growth. The good work done
                                                    here is apparent as children who have been         first priority.”
 Benefiting the locAl community
                                                    abused or abandoned find a comfortable, lov-
  Projects available to volunteers include the      ing place to live and thrive under the supervi-          meAningful explorAtion
Casa Hogar Luz Alba orphanage and the Flora         sion of adults. Besides spending quality time        Aside from the more venerable aspects of
Tristan community school. Finished in 2010,         with the children, volunteers help with house-     donating time and energy, volunteers also
the school was constructed almost exclusively       work such as cooking and cleaning, homework        reap the benefits of the Traveller Not Tourist

June, 2011                                                            — 31 —
                                                                                                   ETHICAL   in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons




Copyright 2010 Leon Puplett

concept of cultural immersion. Many other
programs charge significant fees to participate
in voluntourism, whereas Traveller Not Tourist
keeps costs low through the operation of an in-
house travel agency, personal Spanish lessons,
and local fundraising.
  Living in Arequipa has its perks: the city is
not only a culinary treasure with delicacies like
cuy chactado (roasted guinea pig) and chicha
morada (fermented corn drink), but it is also
in the vicinity of excellent hiking and trekking    while volunteering will also suit just about any
opportunities such as Colca and Cotahuasi           taste, with options to live at a homestay, bed
Canyons and volcanoes Misti, Ampato, and            and breakfast, or at the volunteer house in
Chachani. The recent addition of a full-time        town. With so many choices to tailor the expe-
travel operator at the office allows volunteers     rience of each volunteer, combined with the
to easily plan trips – even at the last min-        visible difference that Traveller Not Tourist is
ute – knowing that their travel arrangements        making in the lives of those in Arequipa, travel-
are booked with reputable local guides at fair      lers who are looking to give and receive joy will
prices.                                             continue to find their way to the doorstep of
  Traveller Not Tourist stands apart by offering    the Andes.
programs of varied length, for those travellers
who have anywhere from one day to one year          By Jessica Ward
to give to the organization. Living arrangements    http://www.travellernottourist.com


June, 2011                                                              — 32 —

				
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Description: Volunteer vacations are growing in popularity all around the world. Explore the unique projects organized for voluntourists in Ecuador and Peru, learn how to choose your tour operator, and what to expect from your trip.