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This Issue's Reader Comments
Founder/Co-Director, Voluntourism International
Greetings, David, and congratulations on your many successful endeavors with volunteer tourism.
The recent Associated Press article about Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Florence Reed's volunteer tour to Honduras has us thinking about the synergies between "voluntourism" and Peace Corps service. We expect that some of those who find their brief voluntourism experiences rewarding might consider volunteering for a longer period of time -- as Peace Corps Volunteers. Do you have any ideas on how to best reach these folks?
Thanks for your time and thought.
Thank you for your email.
In terms of the connection between the Peace Corps and VolunTourism, I can tell you anecdotally that a number of returned Peace Corps Volunteers have successfully led VolunTourism adventures to locations such as Saint Vincent in the Caribbean. Others have formed their own travel operations and market these products and services to friends, family, and other interested parties to join them as VolunTourists.
But "how to best reach these folks?"
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I think that the best way to reach VolunTourists is to personalize their connection with the Peace Corps. This can only be done by giving them opportunities to relate to the Peace Corps as it pertains to their decision-making and preparation for a VolunTourism trip, the actual experience itself, and/or processing the transformational nature of their journey.
Here are my suggestions:
- Utilize The Peace Corps Library as a Resource for VolunTourism Operators, VolunTourists, and Guardians of Young, Would-be VolunTourists
- Connect Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with VolunTourism Operators
- Engage Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to Mentor VolunTourists Prior to- and Post-VolunTourism Experiences
I will elaborate on each.
Utilizing The Peace Corps Library
With nearly five decades of delivering adults of all ages to destinations around the world to address the alleviation of poverty and other social issues, the Peace Corps has accumulated a wealth of information. The Index of Peace Corps Publications can be an invaluable resource to increase the understanding of what it means to volunteer and support development in foreign destinations. This information can benefit travelers of all nationalities and creeds as they advance their sights on making the world a better place, albeit under their current plans, in the shorter period of a VolunTourism experience.
VolunTourism Operators and other stakeholders that support the movement of VolunTourists around the globe make excellent candidates for distributing this information that is considered, for all intent and purposes, as public domain. Parents or Guardians who may be seeking peace of mind in order to "bless" the desires of their exuberant children to become VolunTourists may be well served to review some of the publications that the Peace Corps has produced over the years.
Connect Returned Peace Corps Volunteers & VolunTourism Operators
One of the biggest challenges that VolunTourism Operators refer to in describing their frustrations is: "What organizations can we work with in a given destination?" The "VolunTourism-by-default" methodology is to select an orphanage at which VolunTourists can participate in serving the children, the staff, and the facility itself. Rarely, however, does this have an impact on the development of the residents as a whole.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) may be able to support VolunTourism Operators in selecting other projects in destinations that may prove more sustainable or offer greater social impact on the destination and its residents. RPCVs may also function as trip leaders, trip hosts, or special guests for certain itineraries, particularly for alumni association or college/university groups that are also interested in the learning potential of a trip.
Determining what destination is best suited for a would-be VolunTourist is not necessarily as easy as picking up an information guide or visiting a web site. For some individuals, VolunTourism is a deeply personal undertaking. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers may serve as mentors for such individuals. Simply knowing that someone "out there" has gone to that destination "I am considering" can relieve anxiety of the prospect ahead. "If this person spent two years there, perhaps I can spend two weeks."
This sense of community before a VolunTourism experience can be that much more compelling upon one's return from a given destination when friends and family have heard more than enough of a VolunTourist's escapades. Having a mentor or network with which to communicate and share either the experience or the "re-entry" challenges may solidify an individuals desire to continue traveling in this manner. This, in turn, may lead to an ultimate decision of joining the Peace Corps.
I hope that these suggestions may have some merit or pracitcal application. I see the Peace Corps as the "wise master" that can truly support the growth and development of the "VolunTourism student."
Let us hear from you! Email us with your questions, comments, and testimonials at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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