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VT Cast #18: Nonprofits & VolunTourism

Synopsis

What are nonprofit organizations doing in order to become more connected to VolunTourism? What collaborations are they forming with tour operators and suppliers? How are they utilizing VolunTourism as a revenue generator? This is some of what wil be explored on the next episode of The VolunTourist.

Copyright © Arday Ardayfio, All Rights Reserved

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Past Webcast - December 11, 2007
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Guests

Arday Ardayfio, Founder, The Ghana Computer Project at Quantum Connections [Bio]; Kellie Bentz, Executive Director, of Hands On New Orleans [Bio].

Quotables

[On the role that solidarity played in Arday's initiative, particularly in connecting students from the U.S. with students in Ghana... ]

"Oh, yeah for sure. A lot of people have come together to make this work. A lot of business in town have donated money and other businesses, besides Concordia College give me computers and stuff like that, too. And one of the biggest groups, actually that I feel had the most impact on, was the high school kids from Students Today Leaders Forever - - STLF. They brought a group from a part of North Dakota and, I think, oh, Braynard, or somewhere middle of Minnesota somewhere, and those kids came in, and they helped get the computers ready and moved them from Concordia College to storage.

It was a wonderful experience when they realized that these computers that they are working on, even though they don't get to go to Ghana, that these computers are going to go there and through their efforts and stuff other kids their age will have access to computers. And so they wrote notes and stuff, and that was really nice, they wrote notes that we sent together with the computers to the kids in Ghana.

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[And as it relates to these students was their an apparent change that occurred in them as a result of participating in the VolunTourism experience with you?]

Well, they were very appreciative of what they had. And that's one thing I noticed and a couple of them said that they just, they didn't know that other parts of the world had, computers that they see and play with every day, these old computers are probably going to be the first computers that some people will see. And, bear in mind, other schools have computers, and I usually get into trouble if I say that Ghana doesn't have any computers, but some high schools have computers. The problem is access; there's not a lot of access. Students can walk into any library and use any computer that they want here and students in Ghana can't do that. So you have to schedule a time, or you know it's just, it's just not very accessible. You have to go to communication centers or internet cafes to have access to computers. And especially for academic purposes where students can take apart the computers, play with them, try to figure out how can we use this to develop economy, or how can we use this to solve problems and stuff like that is not readily accessible to students.

So definitely they felt that we are having a huge impact, we are helping people who definitely need the help, people who just kind of need a little push to get things going to get the economy going and stuff like that. And personally, I felt that with these high school students helping out and with the notes and stuff that they sent to the other high school students in Ghana, we'll see that kids everywhere are very interested in kids everywhere. Kids love kids!" Arday Ardayfio

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[On working with Travelocity and other members of the travel industry... as something new, how is it accepted within your nonprofit?]

"I think it is new for us, if you view it as a recruitment tool to then get a different demographic of folks, particularly folks that are coming in that may not even be housed with us but then would be housed at a different hotel and coming in during the day to volunteer with us. Right now we're kind of phasing in just because it is so new and I think it is something that we need to make sure that on the back end we have the support structures in place for. We have what they (Travelocity) call a 'bite size' opportunity on their web site for folks that are booking travel to New Orleans can then click on that just like they would a 'dolphin dive' in Florida or a tour somewhere else, they can click on volunteering with Hands On New Orleans for a day, they come in and they connect with our volunteer coordinator to arrange that. So we've done that in a very small way with a very small capacity of only a few volunteers allowed to book through that package.

But I think it is a good recruitment tool; it certainly is a little bit out of the box for many of us. It actually is sort of a trend I'm seeing. Actually, I was supposed to be on a call today which we've rescheduled with a company called Forward Motion based out of Minnesota - another travel company that is doing sort of 'travel for good' idea and the whole basis of that company is really connecting tourists with volunteer opportunities. We've also been approached by cruise lines that go in and out of New Orleans that want to engage some of their guests in volunteering and potentially doing an entire cruise ship of volunteers.

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So I think it's definitely a wave and a new trend. We also have a package with the W Hotel here in New Orleans where people come and they book a package and they stay there and they come back here to volunteer with us and then they are given a certain package in order to volunteer with us. They actually give 10% of their proceeds, from that package, to Hands On New Orleans. It is kind of something that is bubbling up everywhere and, like you (David) were saying the New York Times and USA Today have recently written articles. And then we also had two articles recently with Southern Living magazine around the same idea and, particularly, around the W (Hotel) package.

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[And does this pose a challenge to you as an organization - the tourism industry coming to you instead of the Mississippi?]

I think we need to look at it as an opportunity; versus, I think, the challenges and the cautions that we see is just that making sure that we are not catering to folks that are coming in and their ideas and what they want to be doing but that those persons are listening - the companies, individuals, etc. - are listening to what local needs, that they trust the opportunities that they're going into are meeting a critical need. And that we're able to manage these processes and that we are still meeting those needs that we've set out and then still being able to run these programs. So I think there is some caution just around making sure that the service is meaningful on both ends - from a community perspective, which is most important, and then to the volunteers' perspective so that they continue volunteering. But, again, I think trying to look at this as more of an opportunity than anything because there can be a lot of cautions around that." Kellie Bentz

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Guest Bios

Arday Ardayfio, Founder, The Ghana Computer Project at Quantum Connections

I am a native of Ghana, West Africa. In 1998, I left Accra, Ghana to further my education in the United States of America. I graduated in 2002 with a double major in Business Administration and Computer Science and a minor in Psychology. During my days at Concordia, I was not only a Resident Assistant, but also active in numerous campus organizations. I was the Technology Commissioner for Student Government, member of the Orientation Committee and served on several campus committees. I held several campus jobs during the 4 years I was at Concordia. They include Dining Services, Electronic Services, Computer Services, Computer Lab Consultant, Assisted the Campus Webmaster. Worked on several projects with the Networking group. Almost forgot my desk job in a couple of the residence buildings. A month after graduation, I started work as an Admissions Counselor at my alma mater Concordia College and served for 4 years. I am currently employed by State Bank & Trust.

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Kellie Bentz, Executive Director, Hands On New Orleans

Kellie is a graduate of the College of Charleston with a B.A. in Corporate Communications and Business Administration. Kellie has been the Director of Hands On New Orleans for the past year and a half. Prior to this position Kellie worked with the Hands On Network national office working with the Director of AmeriCorps Alums to launch AmeriCorps Alums at the annual Points of Light Conference Washington D.C.. Kellie became the President of the Atlanta Chapter of AmeriCorps Alums while serving on the AmeriCorps Alums national strategic planning committee. In January of 2006 she was asked to help initiate the Hands On New Orleans Disaster Response Project that is now in the process of becoming a thriving local organization. Kellie’s passion for Hands On Network was sparked during her term as an AmeriCorps Team Leader for the Hands On Atlanta School Based AmeriCorps program. Kellie’s background includes business development, event planning, project management, marketing and strategic planning in both non profit and for profit organizations.

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