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David Clemmons, Publisher/Editor of The VolunTourist, responds to your questions and emails.
Volume 4, Issue 2 Reader Comments & Other Mail
Thank you for your email.
It sounds as though you have a very worthy project for which you are seeking assistance. And you are not alone in your desire to help; nor are you alone in striving to determine the best way to reach potential voluntourists.
There are several ways by which you can approach your objective of generating interest in your program. The key element in all of this is, of course, patience. As a fledgling entity, it will be more difficult for you to "compete" with organizations that have a long track record of operating in the area.
First, I would recommend that you connect with Experience Bangladesh; I believe that you would find it beneficial to connect with Sarah Siddiqui there. As for an additional option, once you have your website up and going, let us know. I can pass along the information during the weekly webcast - The VolunTourist.
Another option is to determine whether you want to try to work with "sending" agencies. There may be VolunTourism Operators that would like to have projects to connect their clients to directly in Bangladesh. Google Ads are certainly an opportunity. In the UK, Lynda and Len Hough launched Responsible Tourism in April 2008. They feature a section on Voluntourism and applications are available for those who want to post their options into the search engine. Or you may want to look at Worldwide Volunteering, probably the most comprehensive database of voluntary service activities available on the planet.
Good luck and keep us posted!
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Thank you for sharing this opportunity with us here at VolunTourism.org and your kind remarks about the website.
As you are probably aware, many individuals that own and operate voluntourism ventures do not live in the country in which the operation exists. Thus, you have a vast audience from which to choose in terms of getting some perspectives on how to run the operation 'remotely.' You may find, however, that a number of these folks lived in the destination in which they were developing the business during the start-up phase of operations. Again, inquiring as to how these organizations got their start, etc., will likely give you some good insights in this arena.
Here are some questions that you could ask some of these providers: 1) How much effort & time did you spend educating yourself, what resources did you use, how much was trial and error? 2) How long did you live in-country during the start-up phase of the operation? 3) With whom did you work, when, and to what extent during the start-up phase to groom the person(s) to take over your position(s) upon your departure? 4) Once you transitioned from being the owner/operator to being simply the owner, how much time did you spend in-destination and during what period? 5) How did you maintain continuity of experience for all stakeholders - community, voluntourists, employees, vendors, etc. - during your absence? 6) How would you do what you have done differently - what 'flat tires,' in other words, should I know about?
Realize that you are not alone in this quest and that others have followed a similar path. Finding such folks will be paramount to your success.
I also recommend reading some of the journal articles on 'volunteer tourism' and 'voluntourism' that have been posted in the literature. A visit to a public university or college will be a good starting point for this. I would also suggest, if it is possible, to focus your initial efforts with your voluntourism business and supporting the environment. The environment is much more flexible and forgiving than resident communities when it comes to making mistakes. Trust is the most important aspect of a relationship with communities. If this is obliterated at the outset because of poor planning or lack of experience on your part, the damage can be irreparable. Relationships are the heart of any voluntourism business, the primary asset; if you remember this, you should be successful.
I hope this helps.
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Thanks for your email.
I would suggest a few things to support you. If you are open to connecting with media folks, I recommend that you connect with Debra Cummings. She and her family took an around the world trip that included multiple stops for voluntary service along the way; and Reader's Digest Canada posted several articles regarding her trip.
Nicole Fancher wrote this article for Travel Muse in June 2008. It focuses on family voluntourism and how to prepare for such a journey. One point that she emphasizes in the piece is the educational aspect of these trips for all members of the family. Learning about social issues and the environment through service can be a unique approach to family travel.
Another resource that you may connect with is the Family Travel Forum. I had a chance to interview Kyle McCarthy, the founder of Family Travel Forum, earlier this year. She also spoke of the importance of education and the potential that this type of travel has in bringing a family together.
Finally, you may want to check with some convention & visitors bureaus to discover if they have options for family voluntourism. Not all of them will, of course, but if you ask, they may have someone on staff that can assist you.
But you know your family better than anyone else possibly ever could. Whatever you select, let it be as easeful as possible. If it becomes too difficult, more challenging than you anticipated, step back from it and discover if there are other options. You may want to take one of these trips by yourself, for example, or with your spouse or a friend prior to engaging the entire family. This way you can experience it firsthand and know about some of the challenges.
Larry Beck, author of this issue's Feature 1: Here Comes The Sun, had a family on his trip. You may be able to reach out to him to discuss his thoughts on this subject as well.
Keep us posted on your progress.
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Thank you for taking the time to email VolunTourism.org.
There are a number of organizations that use VolunTourism as a means for generating revenues to support their core programs. These 'social business ventures' build on the values of the organization and the notion that it is possible to both share these values and acquire additional volunteer support to meet the needs of the constituents. I have interviewed some of these organizations on past webcasts and some of them have been featured in The VolunTourist Newsletter.
What may be helpful, initially, is to determine what function your NGOs will play.
- Will they be a supplier? (An entity that serves tour operators or other NGOs that bring individuals to a given destination)
- Will they be an operator/supplier? (An entity that serves in two capacities: 1) as a coordinator of all activities - volunteer & tourism-related both - and 2) as a provider of the voluntary service activity)
- Will they be part of a DMO cooperative? (Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) may be looking for entities to be part of a cooperative of offerings available to inbound visitors)
- Will they be an educator/catalyst? (An entity that educates and engages other NGOs in organizing these types of activities by creating a 'cooperative' of voluntourism suppliers. This voluntourism cooperative can then offer its services to inbound tour operators or NGOs, or be part of a DMO website.)
These are all viable business options for an entity that will generate revenues that can support other programming.
In your region, you may want to connect with Voluntours South Africa. Although they are a for-profit company, they may be able to provide you with some insights as to how to become a supplier for companies and tour operators in the region.
I wish you good luck in your ventures.
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