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The VolunTourist Publisher/Editor, David Clemmons
April 2005 - So You May Know

The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in dis-covering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.


APRIL 2005 - Home


So You May Know
Wisdom & Insight
Supply Chain


So You May Know...

We Are Not Adjectives!

The world plays host to human beings. These human beings have characteristics such as skin, eye, and hair color; height, weight, and overall appearance. But, in the English language, these characteristics often precede the “human” when descriptions are offered to point out a particular person or group of persons. This is where English Grammar can potentially play a denigrating role for VolunTourism.

Most other languages place the descriptive word, or words, after the human being. This is something that has been touted by the nonprofit organizations and NGO’s around the world that provide regular services to those persons in need, suffering from physical debilitations, or develop-mental disabilities. The phrase, “People First!” is the battle cry of these organizations and the constituents they serve. These constituents are “People” with physical challenges, “People” with special needs, “People” with developmental disabilities. The fact that these people are human beings, no different than any other under the scientific classification of homo sapien, must be recognized and referenced accordingly.

This is where stakeholders in VolunTourism hold yet another responsibility in educating their staff and clients in the area of sensitivity. Certainly some tour operators do an excellent job in providing basic cultural sensitivity training for their clients. This allows their clients to feel more “at home” in a given destination. With the added experience of volunteering, however, which naturally puts one in more direct contact with local residents, sensitivity training must be expanded to encompass issues like “People First!”


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Quite often, in Developing and Least Developed Countries where much is needed in the area of infrastructure support, the last members of the population to be recognized are those persons with physical or mental disabilities. In some cultures, these individuals may be ostracized from the main body of residents. This means you will not find wheelchair access ramps for public buildings, especially schools. A substantial number of nonprofit organizations and NGO’s, therefore, will focus their attention on remedying these situations. And as VolunTourism stakeholders, you will be working directly with these types of projects.

But don’t let your good intentions blind you to the importance of uttering phrases and descriptions with the appropriate sensitivity. The most damning expression may be the one that precedes the human being; and if it goes unchecked by you or your staff, it can undermine your sincere efforts to be of service to the destination.

Remember, the key to success in operating as a VolunTourism provider is to consider that you really are working in two worlds – each with its own level of sensitivity. The tourism world is appeased through your sensitivity to high levels of customer service and hospitality. The volunteerism world is appeased through your sensitivity to the recognition of the dignity that lies in each human being.

The privilege belongs to you, your staff, and your clients to be able to render service to others. Courtesy through language is one of the greatest friends that you can have for each journey. Without it, we are nothing but adjectives!

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