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Past Webcast - November 20, 2007
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VT Cast #15: Risk Management & VolunTourism

Synopsis

Guests discuss the risks faced by VolunTourists and VolunTourism Operators & Suppliers that are engaging in the combination of voluntary service and travel & tourism. What are some of the methods that are being used to mitigate risk? What activities are being limited in avail-ability or made non-available to VolunTourists? These questions and others will be addressed by guests.

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

Guests

Whitney McIntyre Miller, University of San Diego's School of Leadership and Education Sciences [Bio]; and Bob Wurmstedt, Volunteer Adventures. [Bio]

Quotables

[How does knowing the native language play a role in mitigating risk?]

"Sure, that's definitely a big issue that we have with sending our students abroad. Oftentimes, the faculty member who is accompanying them will speak the language and they will have, if the faculty member does not speak the language, they'll usually have a cultural guide, which is generally someone already also at the University who attends the program course with them.

However, that does not help when you've got two or three students out in the town by themselves and they get lost, or they have some sort of crisis that happens. So we do encourage our students to have information with them every time they go anywhere that says:

  1. where they're staying,
  2. who they're with/what group they're with,
  3. their medical insurance card - we provide them with an insurance card before they go -

so that they have those sort of items handy in case something were to happen.

We have not required them to carry any sort of card that says in the local language or in English 'to take me to the nearest hospital,' but it sounds like it's a good idea that we might think about, in the future, of having them do because oftentimes we take students where they don't speak the language and it is a big challenge for them. And that's also part of the beauty of the program is really kind of stretching their comfort level as well." Whitney McIntyre Miller

[Listen To This Quote]

[On utilizing documentation to mitigate risk...]

"Well, Volunteer Adventures and Bridge Volunteers, we have the normal, general release of liability, but we also provide emergency medical coverage for each volunteer who is overseas, primarily to include emergency evacuation, if necessary. And then we encourage volunteers to make sure they have their own medical insurance just like we would at home and we have a plan that we can offer them if they don't have it.

I was going to just say that what we're trying to do at Volunteer Adventures is to bring on line some of the risk management techniques that the Peace Corps uses that I think are very outstanding.

[And what were some of the things that really stuck with you during your time there?]

Well, as I mentioned, the first part of risk management overseas is risk assessment and identifying risks and hazards and the impact that they might have on volunteers and work from there. In Kenya, actually, we identified six types of risks or hazards and these were:

  1. Political Unrest
  2. Ethnic Clashes
  3. Transportation - boat, rail, road, air
  4. Flooding, drought
  5. Terrorism - which was a threat in Kenya, and
  6. Epidemics, like cholera

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And by far the one that seemed to be the biggest problem with Peace Corps volunteers in Kenya, and in many other countries as well, is transportation. Volunteers seem to have problems, we've learned, when they're traveling in-country. It's traffic accidents, in part because of notoriously poor roads; travel after dark was something that we prohibited, except in the case of emergencies, because of banditry and, again, traffic accidents - that's the single thing that seemed to present the greatest risk to Peace Corps volunteers in Kenya." Bob Wurmstedt

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Guest Bios

Whitney McIntyre Miller, Global Center Coordinator, University of San Diego's School of Leadership and Education Sciences

Whitney McIntyre Miller is the Global Center Coordinator at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences. She is also a University of San Diego doctoral student in Leadership Studies with a focus on post-conflict community development. Whitney is originally from San Diego although she lived in Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and Moscow while completing her undergraduate and graduate studies in social work and international development at the University of Pittsburgh. Whitney has previously worked in the field of study abroad at the University of Pittsburgh's Study Abroad Office in the School of Engineering and has participated in both an intensive language program in Moscow, Russia and the Semester at Sea Program.

In addition, Whitney has lived, worked and traveled extensively internationally. It is her experiences that have led her to the doctoral program and to the Global Center. Whitney is dedicated not only to helping students experience global education, but also to the expansion of the influence of international programs and research at the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego.  Whitney can be contacted at the Global Center by phone, (619) 260-7443 or by e-mail, wmcintyremiller@sandiego.edu.

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Bob Wurmstedt, Consultant, Volunteer Adventures

Bob Wurmstedt is Senior Advisor for Volunteer Adventures and its sister organization Bridge Volunteers. Bob served as the U.S. Peace Corps Country Director in Kenya from 2003 to 2007. As director of one of the largest and oldest Peace Corps programs in Africa, Bob was responsible for administration, programming, and safety and security for a staff of 35 Kenyan and American professionals, as well as 150 American Peace Corps Volunteers assigned to public health, education and small enterprise development projects. In Kenya, Bob also served as a member of the U.S. Ambassador’s Country Team and the U.S. Embassy Emergency Action Committee. 

Prior to his post in Kenya, Bob worked as a bureau chief and foreign correspondent for Time Magazine and Business Week, managing news coverage from 15 countries. He also co-founded the Center for the New West, a Denver-based non-profit public policy institute, where he served as director of communications and publications until 2000. Currently, in addition to his responsibilities as Senior Advisor of Volunteer Adventures and Bridge Volunteers, Bob serves on the board of directors of the Aspen-based 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.

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