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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.

Volume 6 Issue 4 Highlights



David Clemmons, Publisher/Editor of The VolunTourist, responds to some of your questions and emails. (Additional questions and responses are posted on the VolunTourism.org Blog)

Volume 6, Issue 3 Reader Comments & Other Mail

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for your email. You ask two very thought-provoking questions here. So let’s look at each of them.

First, “Do you know when voluntourism started becoming popular?”

I am not sure that voluntourism has ever achieved a state of being popular. If you review some of the critical commentary by journalists, freelancers, bloggers, academics, NGO practitioners and others, voluntourism is certainly not popular in some circles. In fact, it is seen as likely to “cause harm” or be “neo-colonialist” by nature. Others simply do not like the term itself and see it as an affront to the values they hold near and dear – volunteering and tourism simply don’t belong together.

But for those who are not offended by the foundational elements of what voluntourism represents, a convergence of travel and voluntary service into a unique experience for participants and host communities alike, then I would say its ‘popularity’ came over the course of the past decade.

9/11, global climate change, and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina coupled with social media, the acceleration of the proliferation of internet accessibility across the planet, and the rise of social enterprise and conscious consumption – all of these ‘influencers’ from the last decade have created a catalysis that has brought forth, among other things, voluntourism.

Second, “Is there one individual that has made it what it is today?”

The answer to this is a resounding “No.” Certainly, there are those who have influenced the adoption of voluntourism on a global scale, in organizations, in the media, and elsewhere, but to suggest that one individual has been responsible for the growth and development of voluntourism would be a gross misrepresentation of the grassroots nature of, for lack of a better term, this ‘movement.’

Part of what voluntourism struggles with presently is the fact that there is no global figure to which the world can turn to rally around, which is sometimes what we seek in situations like this. Instead, voluntourism has positioned itself to be more responsive to a cooperative model, which will likely prolong its longevity because more individuals will have a say in how it unfolds in the years to come.

I hope these answers will assist you.

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Dear Lori,

Thank you for your email.

Yes, doing voluntourism as a family is certainly possible. You may want to start by looking for those programs that focus on the environment. Often, these programs are amenable to young people of all ages participating.

In terms of articles you may want to review, I suggest taking a look at Nicole Fancher’s piece written for TravelMuse entitled “Family Voluntourism Strengthens Bonds and Local Communities.”

Nancy Scrhetter at Family Travel Network is another good source. I have also interviewed Kyle McCarthy of Family Travel Forum and Kimberly Haley Coleman of GlobeAware regarding Family VolunTourism and you can listen to that webcast here: http://www.voluntourism.org/pastcasts-021908.html

Or you may wish to read this blog post on Multi-Generational VolunTourism which also includes some discussion on Family VolunTourism, again with Kyle McCarthy.

These should provide you with good starting points to assist you in your quest.

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Thank you, Anne, for your email.

Yes, I realize that it must be frustrating to come to a website that doesn’t show pricing on the homepage. Truth is, though, that VolunTourism.org doesn’t offer trips. The website is meant to serve as an educational venue to assist you in making a decision whether you even wish to embark on a voluntour or not.

However, we do realize that the nature of VolunTourism has changed over the years and are now contemplating how to serve those who actually want to take a trip and book a trip through VolunTourism.org. We hope to discover how best to do this in 2011 to alleviate any frustration for those who may be searching for trips and to assist trip providers in connecting with those who are more than ready to embark on these journeys. It is definitely on the “To Do” list and we appreciate you sharing your interest.

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"18 and 85 - - Cleaning Walls At Machu Picchu" Copyright © Conservation VIP, All Rights Reserved

Dear Chenghua,

Thank you for your email. It is always a pleasure to hear from those in East Asia, particularly since voluntourism is catching on in your part of the world.

Students have a unique skill which they bring to any voluntourism experience – their ever-growing capacity to utilize the internet, social media, and mobile, hand-held devices. This is one thing that is rarely discussed yet is essential to any voluntourism organization. So, for those students who are particularly savvy with technology, look for opportunities to share that knowledge and assist NGOs in developing their own capacity to utilize these tools.

As for other tips, consider options that allow for cross-generational exposure, such as the one depicted here. Students connecting with older adults is an incredible experience for both the students and the adults. Likewise, I suggest looking at organizations which cater, specifically, to students. One that offers a unique model, and which also focuses on service & travel experiences as a part of leadership development, is Students Today Leaders Forever. I think any student could benefit from seeing what this organization has done and is doing to motivate young people to engage, really engage, in civil society.

As for coming to Taiwan, I have not connected with any students who have traveled there for voluntourism purposes. I am sure that there are some who have done so, but I have not connected with them personally.

In terms of how to best prepare for a voluntour to east Asia, I think the primary point would be one of cultural integration. For students from the West, this transition will take a bit of time. Therefore, I would definitely suggest making sure that your voluntourism program provides ample opportunity to engage in touristic activities prior to your voluntary service experience. Long-haul destinations, of any kind, should offer adequate opportunity to connect with the culture and heritage of the space through visits to museums, cultural centers, historic landmarks & national treasures, etc. This, in turn, will give greater context to the service portion of the trip and enable the student to have a better understanding of the people with whom they will be working during the volunteer portion of their journey.

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