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Past Webcast - September 25, 2007

Research Forum

Past Webcasts Home

VT Cast #7: Women & VolunTourism


Why do women represent the overwhelming majority of VolunTourists? Some VolunTourism entities say that three out of every four VolunTourists are female. Today's guests respond with their thoughts on this subject.

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


Dr. Sally Brown, Ambassadors For Children [Bio];Nancy Rivard, Airline Ambassadors [Bio]; and Renee Werbin, Travel Girl, Inc. [Bio]


[In response to safety & security]

"Being in the industry for over thirty years, safety is always number one. So any time there is a destination, just, kind of a concern, we always monitor it. Unfortunately, we have had to cancel trips just a few weeks out because we will never do anything that is unsafe for our passengers. One wonderful trip that I did a year ago was to Jordan. About three months before, they obviously had some problems in the Middle East; just told the passengers let’s hold off things like that can turn around over there, and it did; and we got even people booking at the last minute. Had a great trip, being able to see Petra and the Dead Sea and everything like that. But because of the concern, we were just a little bit more cautious, and had absolutely no problem. But other destinations, like El Salvador, Guatemala, if there is a concern, we have police protection… the passengers may travel with our trip escort or they may actually get there on their own, but from the minute they get there, we’re a group; we stay together, and just develop this comradery, which is, I think, another major benefit of voluntourism - the comradery that you get, the cultural immersion." Dr. Sally Brown

[Listen To This Quote]

[In response to changing affinities for voluntary service projects around the world]

"One of the issues of Airline Ambassadors - on one level, we’re creating a network, like the internet, where people can self-select – a mechanism where you that are impassioned about a particular orphanage can actually go there and bring your friends. The problem with that is that women often keep changing their minds, not only women, but our members keep changing their minds, and are all over the map. So we’re creating a structure, like a posting board on our web site ultimately, where people can say ‘hey, I’m going to Peru, here’s the projects that we know of that are excellent in Peru’ and have a chance to go there. But, I’m trying now to focus as an organization on specific projects - we know there’s need and we know we can make a difference, and channel our membership to going back to those. There does seem to be a bit of an affinity by our members to keep coming up with new projects. I mean, every day, I get requests for maybe fifty projects requesting our assistance. And if we spread ourselves too thin, we won’t be making a long-term sustainable impact." Nancy Rivard

[Listen To This Quote]

[On the intensity of voluntary service work as part of a VolunTourism itinerary]

"I think most of the people that enroll in these types of programs are pretty savvy when it comes to what’s required. But if we do get somebody into an area and we feel like it’s more stressful than they are going to be able to - they’re not going to be able to stand up to what’s required of them, then we usually do a shift and have them take over some sort of a role where they’re more helpful, as an encouraging someone to continue or we put them in the position for ten or fifteen minutes rather than for an hour. But we try to get a look physically at the person we’re taking to see what they’re up to and to see if they’re able to walk a long distance. We want to make sure they have comfortable shoes on and the right kind of clothes to be able to be helpful and then that they’re in pretty good shape. Obviously, we can’t take somebody on a trip like that that’s eighty years old or that’s been through a serious illness, because they’re not going to be able to stand up, not just to the rigors of doing the work, but the rigors of travel itself. Travel to a destination is not easy in itself. So as long as they are able to make the journey; it’s constant encouragement and you can accomplish more in day two than you did on day one." Renee Werbin

[Listen To This Quote]

Guest Bios

Sally Brown, PhD, Founder, Ambassadors For Children


Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT



Dr. Sally Brown is Founder and President of the non-profit organization, Ambassadors for Children, which offers short-term humanitarian trips and sustainable projects to serve children worldwide. She has traveled to over 130 countries and has held numerous positions from airline stewardess to C.E.O. Sally went from the galley to the boardroom in 30 years with the travel club and airline.

Sally’s passion has been traveling the world. Homebound for over six months while in third grade with rheumatic fever, she began collecting postcards from exotic vacation spots throughout the world. That was the beginning of a long, deliberate path toward a life of travel---a path that would lead Sally to every corner of the world with her career and later her family.

Sally has hosted weekly TV travel segments as well as weekly travel tips on Indy radio stations. She is the author of Where Journeys Begin—Tips for the Novice and Seasoned Traveler and a children’s adventure book entitled “Alexandra’s Travel Adventures.” As a motivational speaker, Sally especially tries to inspire people to step out of their comfort zone and find real personal growth. She says the two keys to success are passion and perseverance. She also stresses a balanced life in five areas of your life: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and last but not least, spiritually.

Sally’s motivation centers on her gratitude for all of God’s blessings in her life. She envisions these blessings both as gifts and as the responsibility to maximize. With the advent of Ambassadors for Children, Sally tries to inspire a multitude of people to try volunteer vacations, which greatly contributes to a public awareness of third world challenges as well as life changing experiences for the volunteers. She completed her doctorates at Purdue University in tourism with the emphasis on how to expand voluntourism.

Sally enjoys exercising every day through her yoga practice, hiking and adventure travel. Founder of the Peace through Yoga centers, Sally enjoys teaching yoga as well as being a student. Her goal is to also to be the best role model as possible to her two daughters, Ashley and Laura. They have traveled with her to more than 40 countries.

[Return To The Top]

Nancy Rivard - President and Founder, Airline Ambassadors

Employed by American Airlines since 1976, Nancy founded Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) to provide humanitarian aid to children in need and international development and relief to under-privileged communities around the world. AAI is the only non-profit in the world leveraging connections with the airline industry to facilitate humanitarian efforts, and is recognized by the US Congress and the United Nations.

Prompted by the sudden death of her father, Nancy left a career management track with American Airlines, returned to a position as a flight attendant, to begin a profound search for meaning. During extensive travel over the next seven years, she saw the glaring inequities between the developed and developing world, and potential for the travel industry to play a more fundamental role building sharing, understanding and goodwill between peoples and cultures.

She founded Airline Ambassadors in 1996 to provide a way for individuals to match their unique interests and skills to actual world need. It began with airline personnel and now has expanded to 6000 members, including medical and business professionals, students and retirees. AAI provides humanitarian assistance to local communities and at the same time creates a context for compassion, giving ordinary individuals the opportunity to be of extra-ordinary service to one another.

Airline Ambassadors has hand-delivered over $41 million of aid to children in 51 countries in orphanages, clinics and remote communities. Members have started schools, clinics, housing projects and vocational training programs, impacting over 500,000 children.

Nancy was honored with the 1999 Woman of Peace Award, the 2000 Ambassador of Peace Award , in 2001 as a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and the Islamic Cultural Center in 2002 , in 2003 she received the National Caring Award, and 2004 the President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005. She received honors from the Governor of Mississippi as well as the Foreign Ministry of El Salvador in 2006.

Nancy has a Master's Degree in Public Administration from Southern Methodist University and recently signed a contract for her life rights and a book and movie on her life story. She is married to San Francisco contractor and environmentalist Dave Rivard.

[Return To The Top]

Renee Werbin, Publisher, Travel Girl, Inc.

"So many times I have thought how wonderful it would be to publish a magazine with insights into a world I know so much about. travelgirl is the realization of that dream. I welcome the opportunity to share my experiences with the public as I have been doing for so many years with my clients."

Atlanta native Renee Werbin knows the ins and outs of the travel business. She has successfully navigated the industry for nearly 18 years as CEO and President of SRI Travel and Werbin LTI Tours, LTD. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, screen legends, and CEOs from some of the most prestigious companies around the world. Her companies have organized trade missions for Governors around the globe.

Werbin’s travel expertise has influenced network news organizations, multi-million dollar corporations, politicians and foreign dignitaries. She has been a guest many times on CNN, FOX and CBS. Her traveling companions have included celebrities, television crews, and publishers and editors from some of the most distinguished publications in the country. She is requested often as a keynote speaker at women’s events, journalism schools, news organizations and company events, lending her expertise on travel to people across the United States.

In 2002, Renee parlayed her journalistic skills into her most recent entrepreneurial endeavor, as co-founder and publisher of travelgirl magazine. travelgirl is the culmination of her dream to share her vast knowledge of travel and her zest for life with others. Seeing our country face the tragedies of 9/11 enforced her goal to help others navigate this new world of travel. She is passionate about travel, flying weekly for business in search of a story or a new take on a previously visited destination. From Cher to Paula Zahn, Jane Seymour, Lauren Hutton, Soledad O’Brien, Carol Alt, Christina Applegate, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Liza Minnelli, Renee interviews the famous faces that grace the travelgirl covers.

Werbin is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia. She serves on nine charitable and advisory boards and has been recognized numerous times for her civic and charitable endeavors.

Renee’s most cherished role is that of wife and mother. Her husband is an attorney and in her words, “the single best decision I’ve ever made in my entire life.” Her children are her pride and joy, each an accomplished adult and Renee is proud of their dedication and integrity.

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