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Past Webcast - October 9, 2007

Research Forum

Past Webcasts Home

VT Cast #9: Transformative Learning & VolunTourism


In 2001, CABI Publishing released a book entitled: Volunteer Tourism - Experiences that Make a Difference. The author, Dr. Stephen Wearing from the School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism at the University of Technology, Sydney, dedicated much of the book to discussing the impact of volunteer tourism on participants. How did it change their views of themselves and others? What role did the communities and residents play in catalyzing these shifts? This webcast discusses some of the interviews posted in his book and the relevance to other VolunTourism itineraries.

[Listen To The Cast] (Click Here To Download)


Elisa Sabatini, Executive Director of Los Niños, Inc.


[Is there a distinction between the transformation of an individual traveler and a group traveler on a VolunTourism experience?]

"I think that exactly what you're pointing out is quite an important aspect of the whole world of VolunTourism. An individual that goes on a program for a particular experience and is more, maybe, isolated in a culture that is not familiar to that person, may have more of an immersion in the culture itself and may have more of a change of view as it relates to that culture. But group experiences have another whole aspect to them which is the fact that in traveling together, and especially in working together, a kind of pseudo community is formed. And one of the things about, at least the United States' culture, is that we're quite individualists as a people and we're very interested in and focused on, often, self-development.

So, some people traveling together have never had that experience of belonging. I noticed it quite strongly in the interviews on the trips that Students Today Leaders Forever conduct with young people across the Country. And that key piece of belonging and learning how to be in a group and be more part of something versus, sort of the, individual-off-on-an-adventure is real different learning process and, I think, a very powerful learning experience." Elisa Sabatini

[Listen To This Quote]

[Here is a quote from Dr. Wearing's book... from Amy an SERR Participant]

"I think the biggest impact was the way that the experience affected me. I think my tolerance level and my acceptance levels aren't as black and white any more. It doesn't necessarily have to be about environmental things, just generally. You may not agree with the way someone lives or someone else's value system, but you've got no right to sit there and judge it, or try and change it unless you really see some benefit in re-educating people to another way of thinking. It doesn't matter that they have a totally different system to the way we do things, just enjoy the differences."


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[Here is another gem from Dr. Wearing's book... from Mic an SERR Participant]

"Carrying gravel with our group was memorable. Everyone hated doing it, but then it became a real bonding thing, because it was so hard and everyone had to do it. By the time we got to Santa Elena, we were like a family. Probably as a group, the thing I really enjoyed was comfortability with each other. There were no divisions within the group, which I have since heard occurred in other groups, where people hung out solely with their friends and they didn't talk much to other people. As 12 people, we were all together and it didn't matter who you were near, or who you were working with that day, there was some sort of sense of comradeship and friendship. Memobable experiences really were just everyday. The laughter and the fun we had working beside people all day, coming back of an evening and relaxing with them and winding down, it was still the same feeling, but probably more so with laughter, sitting up late, playing guitars and talking. There were no TVs, no interruptions, no telephones, just sitting around and chatting. It was especially good being an Australian. There were only two of us there, myself and Katie. There were quite a few Canadians and unfortunately we didn't have any Guyanese, also there were Costa Ricans, so you learn so much. I have a great interest in people, so I learnt so much about people generally and these people specifically. What Canadians are like and what the influences on their life are, what they think about things generally. I think I learnt a lot from the group with different cultures. People's humaneness stands out a lot more when you have to fight for it more through your own culture. You are so used to the everyday, whereas little things stand out a lot more. I think it was a really good sharing experience for a lot of us, working and relaxing together. I think there were a lot of memorable moments, like painting tops of tables with caricatures of the whole group, painting plastic to brighten up the camp, playing jokes on each other, working in the rain, but generally the whole thing of being with them."

Guest Bio

Elisa Sabatini, Executive Director of Los Niños, Inc.

Elisa Sabatini serves as the Executive Director for Los Niños, Inc. She is responsible for providing strategic direction, supervising staff, creating new programs, and securing all resources for activities in Mexico, the United States and Canada. Program areas include family health, nutrition, micro-finance, sustainable agriculture, community organizing and development education. In 2003, the VolunTours™ “social business” joined the family of Los Niños’ programs.

Elisa formerly served with World SHARE for fourteen years. She served as Mexico Director (1984-87) involving food movement and storage, inventories, community development projects, program proposals, fundraising and evaluation. As Country Director in Guatemala (1987-91), Elisa set up systems, trained staff in accounting software, developed food handling and warehouse manuals, designed program proposals in the areas of maternal child health, agroforestry, infrastructure development and community banks/income generation.

Elisa was named the World SHARE Regional Director for Latin America (1992-98) and coordinated participatory processes to create an autonomous SHARE organization in Guatemala as well as develop self-funding food distribution in Mexico and a rural agricultural loan fund. In Mexico, the Compartamos (SHARE) program is now the largest micro credit initiative in the country. Elisa joined Los Niños, Inc. in 1998.




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