The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in discovering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.
Serve Your World!
This month our 3-Q's are for Christopher Albon, Director of Serve Your World.
1) What elements of your personal background in volunteerism and travel compelled you to create Serve Your World?
I was introduced to travel at a young age. My family moved often and I was blessed with the opportunity to see many parts of the world growing up. My family is from Zimbabwe, so there was always a strong connection to the developing world through family and friends. As a child I spent many months in Africa and learned early about the north-south divide. The desire to volunteer abroad is a natural combination of my desire to travel and my desire to help.
ServeYourWorld has its beginnings in frustration. When I started looking into volunteering abroad, I quickly found that there was no independent guide to volunteering abroad online. The internet was packed tight with sites selling voluntourism, but there was no neutral third party to provide unbiased advice and guidance.
For my own voluntourism trip I spend many hours researching. After my research was complete, it felt wasteful to keep this information to myself, and so I posted a couple pages online. Over time those pages grew to 20, then 40, then 100, and now over 300 pages of voluntourism information.
2) In your opinion, what are the typical characteristics of individuals that are interested in "Serving Their World?"
Independent motivation. College students go to Miami and Cancun for spring-break because of their friends. Voluntourism, however, is a personal trip. In our experience, more than 90 percent of all voluntourists go solo.
Some voluntourists we have talked with spent more than 100 hours planning and preparing for their volunteer trip. Most spring breakers spend less than 5 hours. The amount of time and energy needed by voluntourists to arrange a trip can only be completed by individuals who do not rely on outside motivation (or peer pressure) but instead are self-driven.
3) What do you think the future holds regarding the development and expansion of VolunTourism around the globe?
The future of voluntourism will be very different from today. Currently most voluntourists pay exorbitant prices through voluntourism middlemen. This practice is not sustainable.
As more and more local organizations get online, the future will lie with “google-like” volunteer opportunity search engines, allowing volunteers to connect and arrange work directly with local NGOs. By skipping the middlemen, the price paid by the voluntourist will be 50-70% less and the funds go directly to the local NGOs (with a commission paid to the search engine).
I often relate this change to the airfare industry. Orbitz and Travelocity have allowed millions to skip the travel agent middleman for the best fare. It is only a matter of time until this model is applied to voluntourism.
Christopher is the founder and director of ServeYourWorld. Currently he splits his time between working for ServeYourWorld and attaining a triple degree in political science, international studies and religious studies from the University of Miami. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his fiancée Jenn.
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