Digging Into "The VolunTourist" Vault - Answers to VIQ's Part II
For this issue, we continue our celebration of ten years of VolunTourism.org and dig further into The VolunTourist Webcast archives to come up with three questions and answers on the subjects of Communications, Faith (religious practice), and Corporate Social Responsibility and their respective connections to VolunTourism. You'll hear from Peggy Bendel, of Development Counsellors International, Richard Duerksen, of Maranatha International, and Donnell Ocker, of The Whole Planet Foundation, as they provide answers for this issue's 3-Q's.
Timing & Context:
It is 4 December 2007. I am interviewing Peggy Bendel, Senior Vice President, Travel Marketing for Development Counsellors International, and Alexia Nestora, Director of North America Operations, i-to-i. Our topic is "Online Public Relations and VolunTourism" and the following question is directed to Peggy Bendel.
|Peggy Bendel, Senior Vice President, Travel Marketing for Development Counsellors International
1) Is people's personal passion, as it relates to Voluntourism, having an impact on communications?
"Very much so, David, and, of course, it's a very important component of communicating well. We sometimes talk about what we do for our clients, who are all destinations, as selling because we are trying to convince somebody to go to a particular place in the world - whether it's Dubai, or Tasmania, or Chile or any other of our clients. And that passion is so valuable because when you believe in that product, and I know, Alexia, that I'm sure that that's true of you representing i-to-i, you're so much more convincing because you're speaking from your heart.
But, the downside is that someone who has taken a trip because of their own passion will be - - if there's a high of the positive passion - - when they're disappointed, there is a corresponding low, often. First of all, they have had, perhaps, a limited amount of time and a limited amount of money to spend, they've chosen to spend it in this way, and they have been disappointed in some way. And I've forgotten the precise statistic, but in almost any situation, there's a statistic that says if you've had a positive experience you might tell, let's say, three people; if you've had a negative experience, you'll tell dozens. And they will repeat it, if it's dramatic enough or negative enough, to all of their friends and acquaintances - either, by word of mouth, literally, or, now, on a blog. And that kind of stuff lives forever and it can be very vitriolic. And so, that's the other reason that you need to pay attention to it right away.
This is not VolunTourism-related, but, I think, David, I mentioned to you that within the last year, one of my former clients ignored a comment that came through to him about their marketing program. And just thought, 'Oh, I'm so busy; I can't handle it, right now; I'll respond to him later, and besides the criticism isn't really valid.' Well, six months later, he lost his job, because the guy was so annoyed at being ignored and he had a podium - he had a blog. And not only that, he became proactive about sending links to his blog to people who were influential in this person's career.
So I think it's definitely a wave and a new trend. We also have a package with the W Hotel here in New Orleans where people come and they book a package and they stay there and they come back here to volunteer with us and then they are given a certain package in order to volunteer with us. They actually give 10% of their proceeds, from that package, to Hands On New Orleans. It is kind of something that is bubbling up everywhere and, like you (David) were saying the New York Times and USA Today have recently written articles. And then we also had two articles recently with Southern Living magazine around the same idea and, particularly, around the W (Hotel) package."
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Timing & Context:
It is 11 March 2008. I am interviewing Richard Duerksen, of Maranatha International, Seth Morgan of Orant Charities, and Aaron Smith of Venture Expeditions. Our topic is "Faith-Based VolunTourism" and the following question is directed to Richard Duerksen.
2) How do "elders" of a religious group, who often finance youth mission trips, respond to young people participating in activities that have a tourism-related component as opposed to simply being entirely service/mission-based?
"Let me give you two different responses to that. The first is: very, very, very, very, seldom, when groups come back from visiting Cambodia, or visiting Thailand, or India or anywhere, do they show their pictures of the Taj Mahal or of Angkor Wat first. That's not - that was a wonderful part, they enjoyed going to Angkor Wat, they were blown away by the animals they saw in the Galapagos - but that is always an addendum. It's like the sub-paragraph c, d, e, and 1. What they really want to talk about is the man who biked beside them; the nationals who helped, who they had the privilege of helping making bricks out of Mozambique sand. And they want to talk about the Christian worship celebration they had when the church was opened on that weekend for the service. They want to talk about putting their arms around those kids, the other kids. They want to talk about holding the orphans as during their first day when they had the privelege of being in their new bed in their new home in that orphanage.
And, although the tourism is nice and it's crucial for the whole process that we understand well, that's not what the people talk about when they come home. And that is truly transformational.
The second way I'd like to, and I find that the faith-based people in the churches, or the schools, or the hospitals, they love giving money because they see what has happened in the eyes of those they love and respect. One quick illustration of that:
We had a group of teenagers building three churches in Ecuador last Spring Break. One of the girls, before she went, she grabbed all the money out of her piggy bank, which was, if I remember right, $320, and a may be a few off and she stuffed it in her sock. And she said, 'I don't know what I'm gonna use this for God, but You show me while I'm there.' Well, she went the entire two weeks and she couldn't figure out where to spend that money; she was so frustrated. And finally, near the end of the experience, she said, 'I'm just going to go downtown and look around.' And in the process of that she found a lady whose house was falling apart and was going to have to leave her home and she didn't have any place to go. And the girl asked, 'Well, what would it cost to give her a new house?' Well, believe it or not, there is a place there that makes bamboo mats that become houses and for $320 she, in fourty-eight hours, provided a brand-new house for that lady - that is all that girl wants to talk about.
But it wasn't that she gave money, it was the party they had in the lady's new house. That was what was the most important part of her trip. And, Aaron and Seth, you understand exactly what I am talking about. That's why we do all of this." Richard Duerksen
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Timing & Context:
It is 18 March 2008. I am interviewing Richard Brubaker, of Hands On Shanghai, Donnell Ocker, of The Whole Planet Foundation, Sarah Siddiqi, of Experience Bangladesh, and Michael Strong, of FLOW Idealism. Our topic is "Corporate Social Responsibility & VolunTourism" and the following question is directed to Donnell Ocker.
3) Is what you're doing a natural extension of your work with micro-finance, or are you looking to broaden the footprint of that and give Whole Foods Team Members a chance to connect with projects that really step beyond the footprint of your operations in that regard?
"It's a really good question. We just had our annual gathering of all of Whole Foods Leadership, which is called the Tribal Gathering, and we spent a lot of time talking about what differentiates Whole Foods Market from other grocery stores. And I think really it's things like our Global Volunteer Program that really differentiate our company. We believe that everyone in the company is living for a higher purpose, that everyone needs to be connected - - that the purpose of the company itself is to be connected to a higher mission. And I think the volunteer program is just one of the ways we're living that, we're experiencing that, and we're enabling all of our team members to have a chance to experience it.
I think one of the best things about the program is that while the team members that go down they learn about the micro-credit, and so its obviously connected to the micro-credit, but each project in those communities is a project in and of its own right. So they come down, they do a month-long community project - whether it's the turtle project in Costa Rica, or it's the education project in Guatemala - in each instance they're doing something that they're giving back more meaningfully. And they're giving their time; they're giving their skills; they're giving their knowledge; but more than that they're taking it back to Whole Foods and they're teaching their colleagues about what they did and how it changed their lives. And the testimonials from the volunteers that have come back from serving in Costa Rica and in Guatemala is just, it's extraordinary. It's a life-changing experience for them; they're helping, but they're also, they're growing as individuals.
And I think for Whole Foods you're going to see more and more of this because we've always been connected in our local communities from a volunteerism perspective, but now to expand that to reach developing communities, I think you're going to see it in all of the communities that we source products." Donnell Ocker
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