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Tourism Review Online Magazine - In Vogue: Volunteer Vacations

Tourism Review Online Magazine - In Vogue: Volunteer Vacations

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Published by Milada Sovadinova
Volunteer vacations are growing in popularity all around the world. Explore the unique projects organized for voluntourists in Ecuador and Peru, learn how to choose your tour operator, and what to expect from your trip.
Volunteer vacations are growing in popularity all around the world. Explore the unique projects organized for voluntourists in Ecuador and Peru, learn how to choose your tour operator, and what to expect from your trip.

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Published by: Milada Sovadinova on May 31, 2011
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In Vogue: Volunteer VacatIons

ETHICAL

volunteer vacations are growing in popularity all around the world. Explore the unique projects organized for voluntourists in Ecuador and Peru, learn how to choose your tour operator, and what to expect from your trip.

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in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons

voluntourism And positive sociAl impAct
Over the last decade, many of the cataclysmic events that have shaped our global awareness of the economic contribution of the travel industry to destinations have come as a result of its starkly-contrasted absence in the aftermath of devastation. Think of New York following September 11th. Think of Southeast Asia following the tsunami. Think of New Orleans following Hurricane katrina. And think of China, Haiti, and Chile following the earthquakes. Doubtless, in each of these destinations, the economic loss associated with declines in travel and tourism was significant. But, what was not immediately evident, yet has increasingly come to our attention during these past ten years, is the travel industry’s growing potential to be the delivery vehicle for direct, social impact that benefits destinations. voluntourism, blending voluntary service and travel, has seen notable adoption among travelers and the industry alike since the turn of the millennium. Clearly, the travel industry, through voluntourism, is embarking on a new role, one with which it is not wholly familiar. This is not a reinvention, however; it represents a realization. Travel in the 21st Century demands experiential authenticity and, therefore, the inclusion of all elements of the destination – be they dark, light, or gray. Today’s travelers are seeking a personal encounter with the destinaJune, 2011

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tion, its people and environment. Passivity is giving way to a requisite of active engagement; only then can a traveler begin to approach satisfaction. And today’s destinations – residents and the environment – are demanding a travel industry that is engaged, supportive, and approaching sustainability with an enthusiasm that is equal to that of their own. in this new role, the travel industry’s social impact can indeed be measured in the customary, quantitative manner; nevertheless, the qualitative measurement of such ‘intangibles’ as goodwill or a deepening of the relationship between traveler and destination, poses a vast opportunity, one that has never been truly explored. it is this very exploration, into a realm of inspiration no less, which may prove to be the most exciting adventure for the travel industry thus far. How do we begin this process? Certainly, any entity can adopt its own measurement guidelines and ‘accounting’ formulas for social impact. Some have already done so in annual reports on corporate social responsibility and philanthropy. However, most of these reports speak specifically to the financial outlay or in-kind support of philanthropic efforts or NgOs, or they may speak of the direct contributions of employees. With the introduction of travelers into this already-existing mix, not only do we have a new set of quantitative data to consistently measure and track, but we have an opportunity to share unique testimonials, photos, and videos demonstrating the net positive social benefit that can be generated through travel.

voluntourism is not a public relations campaign for the travel industry; rather, it is a public awareness-raising campaign designed to emphasize the consumer’s role in the advancement of the well-being of destinations. The long-term health and sustainability of destinations across the globe is enhanced by travel that unites social beneficence and net, economic benefit. The travel industry is best-

suited to play the role of delivery system and enable travelers to contribute, as effectively and efficiently as possible, to projects aligned with goals and objectives set forth by communities on behalf of residents and/or the environment. Projects will vary from destination to destination. Some projects will focus on such things as food security, clean water, or micro-enterprise development. Others will conflict with our notions of sustainability: take the recent voluntourist-led effort to build a community theater in Haiti on the outskirts of a tent city. Yet, it was exactly what residents wanted – a place where they can laugh or cry or dance or sing to Hollywood’s finest, and not so fine, creative expressions. voluntourism represents the true hospitality and service that is inherently built into the DNA of the travel industry. All we are proposing to do through voluntourism is extrapolate the footprint of this hospitality and service, to extend to consumers the chance to have a reciprocal relationship with destinations. ultimately, voluntourism affords travelers an opportunity to transform what they receive in the form of art, culture, history, geography and recreation, into what they give back in honor of these priceless gifts.

By David Clemmons (Founder of VolunTourism.org) http://www.voluntourism.org

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ecuAdor's volunteer vAcAtions for "groWn ups"
It is not hard to identify volunteer needs in developing countries such as Ecuador. However, there is always a challenge in finding reliable in-country organizations with a track record of efficiently matching the willing volunteer with creative, reliable service projects. Better yet is to discover organizations that make all living and working arrangements, and shepherd volunteers through their chosen experience (including any crisis!) from arrival to departure. i was fortunate to discover quito-based LEAD Adventures (lead-adventures.com) whose dedicated staff carries out these services year round with a creative menu of well-researched options on the country's mainland and in the galapagos islands. Launched in 2004 by Ecuadorian Enrique Torres, following years of university study and investment banking work in the u.S., the company has made arrangements for over 2,000 participants in conservation, social service, sports development and education. Best of all, the LEAD team understands the needs and interests of adult participants, offering alternatives and customization to what they call their "grown up" clients, 35 and older. While the majority of clients are still in their teens and 20s, LEAD reports a rapidly growing clientele of adult travelers and family groups
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Nine women from Britain joined forces for a threeweek Galapagos Islands volunteer and adventure program, among LEAD Adventures most popular itineraries. Photo credit: Trudie Udell

for certain projects. it also pays a commission for travel agent bookings. very reasonable prices vary from project to project usually including a comprehensive orientation at LEAD's quito office, many meals, airport transfers, travel insurance for direct bookings only, 24-hour-a-day emergency support, and organization of Spanish classes in some locations. volunteer accommodation varies from on-site dormitory-style out in the

country to well-situated hostels and homestays in the city. Many city-based options may be customized by choice of accommodation and other support services. volunteers may also choose to do more than one program (minimum two weeks each) to experience different projects and parts of the country. Here is a glimpse of two experiences of my own to illustrate Ecuador options suitable for grown up volunteers. A private Animal Rescue Center on the edge of the Ecuadorian has its own English-speaking volunteer coordinator from Holland, and several hand built cabins on the property. The Flores family lives on this vast jungle property themselves, treating every volunteer as an honored guest in their home and country. german Flores and his son, Jorge, are both passionate about their mission of animal rescue, rehabilitation and re-introduction to the wild where possible. As we toured many acres of well-maintained buildings and jungle-setting enclosures, we met Chilean veterinarian, Tatiana, patiently feeding an abandoned new-born coati with a tiny milk bottle. She had read about Yanacocha on the internet and flown north to volunteer for two months. Another participant, Australian Alex Wilson, had heard about the rescue center from friends while he was traveling in

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At an Amazon Animal Rescue Center, volunteers are the care and feeding of indigenous wild animals dropped off as infants or in an injured state. Photo credit: LEAD Adventures

South America. Now after 10 days he was quite the pro with preparing quantities of fruit and veggies for each rescued critter twice a day and delivering buckets and wheelbarrows of
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specialized menus to each enclosure. We were soon pressed into chopping service ourselves (the animals come first!) and later into helping with dinner preparation in the well-equipped volunteer kitchen and outdoor dining area. Back at quito's 10,000-foot elevation, my focus switched from animals to people with the Villa Tica Street Children Daycare. its goal is to help pre-school children of single and teen working mothers, and to offer support to impoverished families in the neighborhood. On the street, you can't miss the three-storey whitewashed building with black and white cows dancing all over it. inside, colorful murals decorate every wall of the secure interior courtyard full of playground equipment. Each nursery and classroom is divided by age from six months to five years. This is much more than a safe haven and a babysitting service for 100 lucky children. Besides receiving health programs not otherwise available to them, donated clothes and the only nutritional meals of their day, there are creative educational programs, especially for the three, four and five year olds. These are planned by accredited Ecuadorian pre-school teachers and delivered with the helping hands and loving support of many international volunteers. villa Tica has achieved a great deal since it was started by three Dutch women who came to Ecuador as volunteers themselves in 2002 and stayed to establish this inspiring charity which began operations in 2004. i was treated to an animated sing-a-long of "head and shoulders, knees and toes" in English by the class of four-year-olds. To my astonishment, the Ecuadorian teacher then proudly

While in Ecuador, I researched the following four options and interviewed adult volunteers (age 35 and up). Contact LEAD Adventures (lead-adventures.com) for project details. • Amazon Animal Rescue Center (lead-adventures.com/grown-up/index.php?/AmazonDetails/) six hours by public bus or car from Quito is a privately-funded operation for rescued and confiscated wild animals indigenous to Ecuador. The goal is to return them to their natural habitat if at all possible. • Villa Tica Daycare Center (lead-adventures. com/index.php?/Street-Children-QuitoDetails/) in Quito supports 100 children (6 months to 5 years old) of teenage and single mothers, as well as children of financiallydestitute families. • Extreme Response City Dump Daycare (leadadventures.com/grown-up/index.php?/ Zambiza-Details/) in Quito supports 40 to 50 pre-school children of trash dump-working families, located right at the dump site. • Galapagos Adventures (lead-adventures. com/grown-up/index.php?/Galapagos-Experience-Details/) is an enriching land-based introduction to three key islands, combining well-planned volunteer days and educational vacation days during two or three week programs. A different way to visit the Galapagos at a fraction of the cruise options!

A sample of ecuador’s volunteer possibilities

encouraged me to talk to the twenty children in English rather than in Spanish! Clearly, they had not just memorized a catchy song. Even at such a young age and within the impoverished

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Genthiner Straße275 · www.ESV.info · ESV@ESVmedien.de time your bookshop or send it directly to: erichfor the schm Fax +49 (0) 30 250085 30 G 93 HRB 27 197 · Erich Schmidt Verlag GmbH &Service@ESVmedien.de. Geschäftsführer: Dr. Joachim Schmidt 93 HRB 27 197 · Geschäftsführer: Dr. Joachim Schmidt Co. KG Please order at www.ESV.info/978-3-503-13002-3 We only collect and process your data for the performance of the contract, for the only collect and process your data for the performance of the contract, We 10785 ·Berlin,10785 Berlin, Germany Germany Erich of the ongoing customer relationship fosteringSchmidt Verlag GmbH & Co. KGand to inform you about our offers fostering of the ongoing customer relationship and to inform you about our offers s e n Genthiner Straße 30 G Auf Wis Erich Schmidt Verlag GmbH & Co. KG · Sitz: Berlin Persönlich haftende

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and prices. You can stop your data being used Germany purposes at any time. prices. You can stop your data being used for advertising purposes at any time. and Genthiner Str. 30 G · 10785 Berlin · for advertising If you would like to do so, please send a letter by post or fax, or send us an emailIfat would like to do so, please send a letter by post or fax, or send us an email at you Fax +49 (0) 30 250085 275 · www.ESV.info · ESV@ESVmedien.de Service@ESVmedien.de. Please order at your bookshop or sen Right of revocation: Customers of revocation: Customers may revoke from the contract within twoService@ESVmedien.de. Right may revoke from the contract within two weeks weeks Erich Schmidt Erich after receipt of said goods. afternotification of revocation must be in writing to The receipt of said goods. The notification of revocation must be in writing to Schmidt Verlag GmbH & Co. KG · Sitz: Berlin · Persönlich haftende Erich Schmidt Verlag GmbH & Co. KG · Sitz: Berlin · Persönlich haftende Verlag GmbH & Co. KG Genthiner Str. 30 G · 10785 Gesellschafterin: ESV Verlagsführung GmbH · Amtsgericht: Berlin-Charlottenburg · either your bookshop or Erich Schmidtbookshop or Erich Schmidt Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Genthiner Str. 30 G, Gesellschafterin: ESV Verlagsführung GmbH · Amtsgericht: Berlin-Charlottenburg · Berlin · G either your Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Genthiner Str. 30 G, 93 HRB 27 10785 Berlin, Germany, Fax10785 Berlin, Germany,email: Vertrieb@ESVmedien.de Vertrieb@ESVmedien.de 197 · Geschäftsführer: Dr. Joachim Schmidt +49 (0) 30 250085 275, Fax +49 (0) 30 250085 275, email: 93 HRB 27 197 · Geschäftsführer: Dr. Joachim Schmidt Fax +49 (0) 30 250085 275 · www.ESV (sending in due time is sufficient). in due time is sufficient). (sending

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erich schmid t verl ag

erich schmidt verl ag

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ten tips for tAKing A volunteer vAcAtion
These days, many travelers are forgoing traditional vacations in order to take part in a volunteer vacation. volunteer vacations gives average travelers the chance to volunteer abroad by taking part in a worthwhile project such as helping to preserve endangered wild animals or ecosystems through wildlife conservation programs, often in remote parts of the world, and much more. Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director of non-profit wildlife conservation volunteer organization Biosphere Expeditions, offers his top ten tips on how to choose the right volunteer vacation: 1. Make sure it is a well-established organization with a proven track record of making a real difference in the projects it has become involved with – has it won any awards for its work? 2. if for example the project is about wildlife conservation, make sure that the program is run on verifiable scientific grounds. While you give your time as an interested traveler who wants to make a difference, you need to have peace of mind that the project you are helping with is being run by a qualified scientist. 3. Ask where your money goes. To truly make a difference, it is best if as much money and resources as possible go to help the local
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4.

5.

6.

7.

environment in the country the project is in. Reputable organizations will always publish information about how funds are distributed to the public. Make sure that the organization keeps you up to date on how your volunteer project is progressing. Even though you may have only been there for one or two weeks, many volunteer programs run for many years. Make sure that you will be sent regular reports to see what is happening with the program. Many volunteer vacations will take place in remote parts of the world where you may have close encounters with potentially dangerous wild animals. Make sure the organization that you are volunteering with has an excellent safety record and takes the whole issue seriously. Do some background research on your expedition leader and make sure that they are qualified. To some extent you may be putting your life in their hands, so you need to be sure they have all the necessary qualifications. Determine what new skills you will learn on your volunteer vacation and how you will be taught these skills. One of the biggest bonuses of a volunteer program may be learning something new in an exciting environment and you want to make sure that

© Biosphere Expeditions

the people who are teaching you are well qualified. 8. Make sure that you have clear goals about what you hope to accomplish out of the whole experience and don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek the views of travelers who have gone before you. Reputable organizations will always offer to put you in touch with previous travellers – if they don’t, beware.

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© Biosphere Expeditions

© Biosphere Expeditions

9. Find out who you will be traveling with. As you may be virtually living “next door” to each other for some time, you need to be comfortable with the type of people you are likely to be with. The organization should be able to tell you about the kind of people who typically attends their projects. Facebook, blog pages, and social media outlets can be invaluable information gathering tools for volunteer vacations. 10. Most importantly, determine if it will be fun. Although most volunteer vacations

have a serious purpose, you should have fun considering that you are spending your valuable vacation time “giving back”. For more tips, advice, and information about volunteer vacations and volunteer wildlife conservation programs visit the Biosphere Expeditions website at www.biosphere-expeditions. org or contact info@biosphere-expeditions. org.
http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org

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trAvel And volunteer in peru’s orphAnAge And school
Volunteer tourism begins on the individual level, with a desire to both explore and positively contribute to the communities visited during a journey abroad. For highly visited countries such as Peru, the financial benefits of traditional tourism are obvious but organizations such as Traveller Not Tourist take the concept a step further by integrating the social, cultural, and economic advantages of travel. Founders jay and Luis Chavez aimed to create a non-profit organization that connected foreign visitors with locals in a way that would foster a self-sustaining immersion experience to enrich the lives of all involved. Not only do volunteers assist with the daily operation of the school and orphanage sustained by the program, but they also have the opportunity to help by booking tours through the in-house travel agency, which donates 50% of all profits back to the program. Fundraising efforts have also gone international with the preliminary establishment of a uk based charity called Pachawawas, formed to support the work being done in Peru.
Benefiting the locAl community

Projects available to volunteers include the Casa Hogar Luz Alba orphanage and the Flora Tristan community school. Finished in 2010, the school was constructed almost exclusively
June, 2011

by the hands of volunteers and serves as a place for children in the outlying community to practice and speak English. Because tourism in Arequipa is such a profitable business, speaking English is both a highly-desired and marketable skill. Attendance is free of cost and children from ages three to eighteen find a safe place to learn and play within the walls of this colorful, five classroom building. unique from other TESL programs, the teaching here is conducted solely by volunteers who develop their own curriculum and administer all lessons and activities based on the level of comprehension of each class. Small construction projects also arise at the school, allowing for continual growth and expansion and attracting travellers who prefer the challenge of more physically demanding activities. The Casa Hogar Luz Alba orphanage is a home for about 20 children under the age of twelve. volunteers assist orphanage staff to provide constant care and attention to each child during formative years of psychological and physical growth. The good work done here is apparent as children who have been abused or abandoned find a comfortable, loving place to live and thrive under the supervision of adults. Besides spending quality time with the children, volunteers help with housework such as cooking and cleaning, homework

completion, playing games, and short outings to visit the doctor or enjoy the sunshine. volunteer gemma Smiddy adds, “Helping out at the orphanage allowed me to meet other volunteers, create lasting friendships, and participate in a more worthwhile cause as opposed to just being a tourist, which is a bit more selfindulgent. The children at Casa Hogar are so loved, and their safety and well being are our first priority.”
meAningful explorAtion

Aside from the more venerable aspects of donating time and energy, volunteers also reap the benefits of the Traveller Not Tourist

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ETHICAL

in vogue : vol unt e e r va c a t i ons

Copyright 2010 Leon Puplett

concept of cultural immersion. Many other programs charge significant fees to participate in voluntourism, whereas Traveller Not Tourist keeps costs low through the operation of an inhouse travel agency, personal Spanish lessons, and local fundraising. Living in Arequipa has its perks: the city is not only a culinary treasure with delicacies like cuy chactado (roasted guinea pig) and chicha morada (fermented corn drink), but it is also in the vicinity of excellent hiking and trekking opportunities such as Colca and Cotahuasi Canyons and volcanoes Misti, Ampato, and Chachani. The recent addition of a full-time travel operator at the office allows volunteers to easily plan trips – even at the last minute – knowing that their travel arrangements are booked with reputable local guides at fair prices. Traveller Not Tourist stands apart by offering programs of varied length, for those travellers who have anywhere from one day to one year to give to the organization. Living arrangements
June, 2011

while volunteering will also suit just about any taste, with options to live at a homestay, bed and breakfast, or at the volunteer house in town. With so many choices to tailor the experience of each volunteer, combined with the visible difference that Traveller Not Tourist is making in the lives of those in Arequipa, travellers who are looking to give and receive joy will continue to find their way to the doorstep of the Andes.
By Jessica Ward http://www.travellernottourist.com

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