GeoVisions Blog

The GeoVisions Model Applicant

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Jul 07, 2014

The GeoVisions Model ApplicantHow I See You

Five days ago
Sally Smith (alias … ) talked to us about Walk and Talk Italy. She really wanted to go, the country was right, the timing was right and the price was right.

Four Days Ago
Sally Smith (same alias … ) applied for Walk and Talk Spain. She changed her mind and … that’s OK. We wrote back asking her if she really wanted Spain since she contacted us about Spain. In the meantime … she got an email from someone in Operations welcoming her to Italy. Ugh.

Three Days Ago
We got Sally Smith (yes … alias) enrolled in Spain. Chucked out Italy. (Sorry, Italy.)

Two Days Ago
Sally Smith (OK already … ) got an email from our Operations department welcoming her to Spain and suggesting she write her “Dear Family letter” in their native language … French.

Sally Smith left us a telephone message because we are closed for the July 4th holidays. Her “buyers remorse” period was ending that day. (By the way, we’re the ONLY travel company offering a 72-hour “buyers remorse” cancellation policy.) But I digress. She left a message saying she really needed more time because she originally wanted Italy, moved to Spain, got an email about writing a letter in French. And she wanted to make sure we were … uh … not having some kind of sun-stroke.

So … I’m the Executive Director. I listened to her phone message (I get them all via email) and I called her back. Within 30-minutes. And what makes this remarkable … or at least from Alias Sally’s perspective … I’m in London.

“Hello, Sally?” (“Hello, Real Name?”)


“My name is Randy LeGrant. I work at GeoVisions. I just heard your message all the way from London.”


“Yes. And it was important enough for me to call you back and give you the holiday weekend plus 2 more days for your ‘buyers remorse policy.’


“Yes … I’m in London. I listen to all our messages. I knew our US office is closed for the holiday weekend and I wanted to call you from London and give you extra time. You need to be absolutely sure you’re doing the right thing with the right organization.”

And I'm proud to say even on the 4th, two staff from Connecticut got in touch with Alias Sally to reassure her.  We do make errors, and we do what it takes to make you feel comfortable about traveling with us.  

So … How Do I See You?

When I read your emails and when I listen to your messages and sometimes talk to you on the telephone, this is what I imagine:

  • How I See Our ApplicantsYou are giving up a lot of your time to go abroad to make a difference in people’s lives.
  • You are spending a lot of your money to go abroad to make a difference in people’s lives.
    • Lets add spending money and airfare.
  • You think more about the people you are going to teach or work with than you do yourself.
  • You don’t consider this a tour … it’s an opportunity to give back.
  • This isn’t the cheapest option you found … you are investing in solving problems.
  • You’re flexible. You want to leverage your time and money to make the biggest difference.
  • You’re not “” It’s not about you. Rather, it simply involves you.
  • You trust us so you deserve the very best service we can possibly provide.
  • More than service, you want to make sure you’re always safe.
    • Safety is the number one priority at GeoVisions.
  • You really want to exchange your culture with another person’s culture.
  • You want to teach your language and learn your host’s language. (Or brush up on it.)
  • You like kids.
  • You don’t mind living in someone’s home as a guest.
  • You’re a pleasant guest … you help clear the table, you don’t sit in your room on the Internet and you keep your room tidy.

Admittedly, I could make a much longer list. But you have other things to do with your day.

Why Do I See You This Way?

We ask people after they have been in-country for a month, two months, three months and so on how things are going. Here’s what some of them have told us this week:

  • I have been to a couple of soccer parties. Spaniards love their futbol and going to these parties was a great way to meet new people.
  • My initial goal was to perfect my Spanish. Learning a language is a slow process, but I think that I have made significant strides. I am now able to have conversations with just about everyone and I am excited to see how much I will progress by the end of my trip.
  • The internship is beyond any expectations. I have learned more than I could ever have hoped, and my supervisor has really helped me immerse in the culture.
  • I came over with the goals to
    • 1. Help My host family improve their English.
    • 2. Try to learn a little German.
    • 3. learn about another culture/lifestyle.
    • 4. Go out of my comfort zone to experience new things.
    • I have accomplished all of these goals, though in different ways and to different stages. I was not able to learn as much German as I hoped, as it was difficult without any formal instruction at all. It would've been nice to have just a small background on the language. However, the English of my host family has improved, so that has been rewarding to watch. Through lots of activities and great, long conversations with all different people here I have gained a great appreciation for their culture and lifestyles while also stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying lots of new things.
  • I have had an amazing time so far. I was paired with a wonderful family who are very welcoming.
  • Yes, thanks to my host family, I have traveled a lot. I have also done some weekend trips with other Au Pairs.
  • Say yes to everything, try to speak to everyone in the native tongue, and don't get frustrated by inconveniences, learn from everything.

Coming For All The Wrong ReasonsWhere The Rubber Meets The Road

We do have people who have managed to go abroad with us for all the wrong reasons. They end up unhappy. And unhappy people want to write to the BBB and complain, write a negative review "to pay us back", and write a multitude of nasty emails, which takes up time since we want to reply to each one.

Writing this on 5 July, 2014 I can honestly write that these people I’ve just described comprise 0.64% of our annual participants. And we move 4,000 people each year all around the world. That’s 25 travelers out of 4,000 total travelers. Our goal is to keep getting that down to 20, then 15 and then 10. Ideally, in a perfect world, we’d like it to be zero.

But I can also honestly write here that if you match “how I see you” in the list above … you will be one of the many GeoVisions travelers writing kudos, like the ones above. And if you don’t match “how I see you” in the list above … all of us promise to do all we can to help you, support you and try our best to turn the experience around.


We would love to have you comment!

Tags: The Well Prepared Traveler, Working For A Better World, Why You Matter

At GeoVisions We Don't Save Lives

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Wed, Jun 04, 2014

Clinic Medical School Brigade1 resized 600Our CEO, Kevin Morgan, sometimes has to remind us that, "We're not saving lives here."  And this typically comes up when someone is taking what we do too seriously.

Now, there isn't anything wrong with taking travel and cultural exchange seriously.  In fact, that's a good thing.

But sometimes we obsess on why someone we've been talking to for 3 months decides not to take the jump and do a GeoVisions program ... or, chooses another organization.  sometimes we get grouchy when a participant calls from overseas and is having an issue with a host parent ... but they end the call with, "Please don't tell them I called you."  Well, how can we help, then?

GeoVisions was founded, ultimately, as a place where people can have fun.  We try to create an atmosphere where staff can come to work (no matter how busy or stressed they are) and have fun doing good work.  We create programs where our participants can have fun meeting and exceeding their goals.  We always try to provide home stay exchanges whereby a host family in another country will have fun with a GeoVisions volunteer living with them.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with savings lives.  It's just that we're not doing it here.  And that isn't why we exist.

I am attending a conference in Berkeley, CA for two-days at the offices.  One of the speakers today asked one of the founders of GoOverseas why he founded the search engine.  Mitch replied quickly and definitively ... "I wanted GoOverseas to be the Yelp for overseas programs."  It's the first time I ever heard Mitch put it that way.  I liked it.

We started GeoVisions to have fun exchanging our culture with other cultures.  It never came up that we'd save lives or save the world.  And honestly?  We don't exist to change the world.  That kind of presumes we know how the world should be.  And we don't.  We are happy taking responsibility for making sure we give all of our participants a platform in which they can meet and exceed their goals, exchange their culture with other cultures, meet and live like locals and have fun doing it.  Period.  Full stop.

Is it hard teaching or tutoring English?  Sure.  Can you laugh out loud teaching "four," "fore," and "for?"  We hope so.

Smiles do not need translation.

Tags: Travel Is Transforming, Working For A Better World, Why You Matter

Doctor Who And Volunteer Abroad

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Jul 08, 2013

I need to publicly thank my daughter, Molly, who provided background for this post.

I assume you chose to take a look at this Post because you're a Whovian?

As if things could not get more weird with this Blog these days, I'm actually writing about volunteers going abroad who come home and say, "I thought I'd have more of an impact on the world by volunteering abroad."  And I'm doing it via an episode of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who's TARDISDoctor Who is a long-running, British science fiction show that follows The Doctor, a time-traveling alien who is actually a Time Lord.  He travels in his TARDIS that looks like a British Police Box from the 1960s.  You'll see it in the video clip below as well as on the right.

People, (like my daughter Molly), who memorize each episode of 50 years the show has been aired are called "whovians."  People like me who watch only to make their son or daughter happy (but secretly like the show) I call "whosters."  We really haven't made it to "whovian" status.

But, back to those volunteers abroad...

Most of the volunteers we send abroad choose a project where they have an interest, but where they also will have a huge impact.  An impact on the community where they are volunteering, or on the people who live there, or both.  They want to make a positive impact on the level of health care, they want to dig another water well, they want to do research on endangered wildlife or clean up a beach.  Whatever it is they want to do, they have paid money to do it and have taken time from their lives to make it happen.  So it goes with volunteering abroad.

But some return from their project disappointed.  Not in the cultural exchange.  Not in the trip itself.  But feeling like they made only a very small difference.  They had expected to show up with a group, dig a well and paint houses, and they returned feeling as though their work had hardly begun.  Not always.  But much of the time we hear these things from returnees.

Watching an episode of Doctor Who with my daughter, (Vincent and The Doctor) made me think about these returnees.  Because truth be told, if you only spend a day're going to make a difference.  You won't find a cure for a disease, but you'll quiet a small child, make a worried parent smile, clean a supply closet that has been unused and dirty for years.

"Vincent and the Doctor" is the tenth episode in the fifth series of BBC One's, Doctor Who.  The episode was first broadcast on June 5, 2010.  (If you're a fan or care, this episode featured an uncredited guest appearance from actor Bill Nighy.)

I digress again.

So we have these volunteers abroad, returning to their home wondering what kind of impact they made when they were at their project.  And we also have this episode of Doctor Who, where Vincent van Gogh wonders if anyone would ever like his paintings.  (van Gogh died, never knowing he would be famous.)

The Doctor travels in the TARDIS with Vincent van Gogh from 1890 to 2010 to the Musée d'Orsay. Van Gogh is stunned at the display of all of his paintings, and becomes emotionally overwhelmed when he overhears art curator Mr. Black, (Bill Nighy) say that van Gogh was "the greatest painter of them all" and "one of the greatest men who ever lived". The Doctor returns an emotionally changed van Gogh back to the past.

Well, go figure.  With all that emotion and the fantastic song "Chances" by the group Athlete (and me hiding some tears) I just naturally thought of all those returnees who might never know the impact their day, their week, their month(s) would have on all those people and communities abroad.  And I was so emotional, I thought if they knew The Doctor...maybe they could get him to use his TARDIS to take them to their project a few years in the future.  I am convinced they would feel exactly like van Gogh from that episode of Doctor Who.  Just bowled over in emotion with the real impact they had from their gift of time and caring.

"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and ... bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant." - The Doctor

If you're at all interested, or if you've ever wondered the impact you have had on others in your this five minute clip from Vincent and The Doctor.  And maybe you'll become a "whoster" for a few minutes.

If we had the chance to go forward, all of us would be impressed with the impact we have had on lives.

Where would you go in the TARDIS?

Tags: Staying Involved, Thank You To Our Volunteers, Working For A Better World, Volunteering Abroad, Randy LeGrant, Connecting

GeoVisions Wins The Work and Travel Video Of The Year

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Wed, Sep 26, 2012

GeoVisions is so very proud of one of our Summer Work and Travel students from Malaysia.  And we were suprised at the WYSTC (World Youth and Student Travel Conference) conference last week in San Diego.  Abby, who hails from Malaysia had just won the Video of the Year award and US $2,000.  Her job was to produce a video along the theme of "Expand Your Horizons."  She did an amazing job.  Her video was judged by people all over the world.

Each year, WYSE Work Abroad, through WYSTC, invites young people to submit a video that shares their unique experience of working or volunteering abroad. One lucky participant can win US $2,000!  So, if you're a great video producer, why not enter for the 2013 award?  It will be awarded in Sydney, Australia in September, 2013.

Kevin Morgan and Randy LeGrant of GeoVisionsThe video must celebrate the many benefits of the work abroad experience through the annual "Expand Your Horizons" video contest.

A GeoVisions student, Wai Kuan Lam (Abby), is this year's winner. Abbey is from Malaysia and worked in Cape May, New Jersey last year.  Randy LeGrant and Kevin Morgan from GeoVisions accepted the award in San Diego on behalf of Abby.  (But Abby gets all the money!)

We hope you will take a look at this 3 minute video that won "Best Video Of The Year" and see why her four months in the United States was so meaningful and you will understand how the Summer Work and Travel experience and going through GeoVisions "expanded Abby's horizons.

Tags: Make Something Happen, Working For A Better World, Volunteer/Work Abroad Industry Updates, Work and Travel

Volunteer and Explore with GeoVisions

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Fri, Aug 24, 2012

Posted by Anni on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at Journeys for Good.  This Blog Post is used with permission.

African Angels
It’s been a while since I wrote about a volunteer organization on the business side of the volunteering equation. The for-profit volunteer industry is one of the main engines driving our global increase in volunteer travel. These are travel companies that provide a vital service for communities in need while they offer great travel and volunteering adventures to their customers. The links between tourism and volunteering continue to blur as itineraries increasingly include volunteering stints amidst sightseeing and outdoor adventure. Often volunteering opportunities are half-time and include room and board, permitting a much more long-term vacation than would otherwise be possible.

I hope that eventually, we will all feel responsible for the places we visit. Rather than simply visiting a place for a few weeks to enjoy its beauty, we will all feel the need to give back. We owe the world a little of our time and attention, especially when we also get to experience the luxury and majesty of a place. Going on vacation is an incredible privilege. Most people alive today will never get on a plane. They will never have two weeks off to swim, play and explore, spending money on delicious dinners and souvenirs for friends back home. These are the privileges of the global 1%. The more tourists who make the switch from vacation to volunteer, the more progress we make. I think it often starts small and grows until travelers fall firmly on the volunteering side of the tourism-volunteer spectrum. GeoVisions specializes in these travelers.

Local girl at Feynan
GeoVisions was founded in 2001 to help connect volunteer travelers with sustainable projects in a variety of countries. They work closely with their volunteers to match goals with experience. They offer a wide range of programs and many of them include opportunities for earning room and board to support longer stays overseas. For example, volunteers can work in Vietnam for 15 hours each week in exchange for room and board and can spend the rest of their time exploring and traveling. GeoVisions also offer some paid positions, including a one-year paid position teaching in Thailand.

They are focused both on the volunteer and on the work/teach abroad traveler. I think this is a particularly accessible organization for the first-time volunteer because they are so focused on the details. They’ve been around long enough to have solid connections to their overseas projects. They carefully plan volunteers’ itineraries and are available in-country to help with any problems that arise. As an organization, they are “young enough to know what’s needed in the twenty-first century, and old enough to have learned what’s not needed.” They’ve got a great blog where volunteers can learn more about real volunteer experiences.

Here at Journeys for Good, we are committed to growing a community of global citizens. We celebrate volunteer travel experiences, volunteer heroes, and organizations that make a difference.

Tags: Teach Abroad, Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Working For A Better World, Volunteering Abroad

Teaching With Your Feet

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Thu, Jun 07, 2012

As we send a ton of people to volunteer abroad and teach abroad in the coming weeks, many are asking for ideas on what to teach when they are abroad.  Can you Teach Abroad or Volunteer Abroad with your feet?  Well, you can "walk the talk!"  But this video below is about much more than that.  The principle can be used as you go abroad and meet so many new and exciting people.  Look for the lessons where you least expect them to appear.

My business partner's son, Mark Morgan, is the owner (and camera man, editor and producer) of Open Road Movies.

From the movie, Stools.

His newest film (shorter than 4 minutes) has been selected to appear at a film festival next week in Brooklyn, NY.  Simply named Stools, this movie will leave you spell-bound.  You will watch it multiple times.

Stool maker, Sentayehu Teshale in Ethiopia, will astound you with what he can do with his feet that most of us cannot do with our hands.  This film is amazing and will surely do well in Brooklyn.  "There are people who write or paint with their legs.  Painting with legs is easy.  It only requires mental focus.  This requires physical power." - Sentayehu Teshale.

We have embedded the film below.  We know you're going to enjoy it. 

Tags: Teach Abroad, Make Something Happen, Working For A Better World, Volunteering Abroad

"My Big Dream"-Volunteering Abroad For Six Months

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Tue, Jan 10, 2012

A Fresh Chapter logoTerri Wingham (A Fresh Chapter) is leaving today for Vietnam with GeoVisions on an incredible 6-month journey to volunteer abroad.  I spoke with Terri a few hours ago going over the details of her program for 29 days in Ha Noi, Da Nang and Ho-Chi-Minh City.

Two years ago, Terri found out she had cancer.  I use the past tense because she is a survivor today.  And what Terri is on her way to do is "volunteer on almost every continent as a way to generate awareness of the challenges of survivorship and build partnerships with the best volunteer organizations in the industry."

We are thrilled that the first month of Terri's journey will be with GeoVisions.  We wish her safe travels today, until she lands in Ha Noi and is met by our staff on the ground there.  We have connected her with hospitals and cancer survivor centers to interact with adults and children who have cancer and to talk to survivors.  We have her taking time with Doctors and nurses in the cancer field in Vietnam.  We have her spending time at the Ho-Chi-Minh City Hospital to participate in play sessions with children there who have cancer and spending a lot of time with cancer survivors.

GeoVisions came to the party late.  We normally take about 60-days to put a program like this together for someone.  We did this one in less than a month.  So...Terri knows there are some loose ends.  Not to forget the fact that she's in Vietnam during the Lunar New Year with schools and organizations shut for over a week.  Ugh.

PLEASE watch Terri's 2 minute video below.  You will instantly see why we jumped on board to put something together at the last minute for Terri, and why we believe so strongly in what she is doing.  You will see why we are humbled to be involved in Terri's Big Dream.

I truly hope you enjoy this short video and please join me in wishing Terri a safe flight and a successful month in Vietnam to launch her six months of volunteering abroad.

Tags: Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Make Something Happen, Working For A Better World, Volunteering Abroad, Conversation Partner-Vietnam

Two Steve Jobs Quotes That Help Us Do Volunteer Abroad Better

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Fri, Oct 07, 2011

The Guilford GreenHere in our Guilford, CT office we look out onto a town Green that was established in 1639.  Same Green, same foot paths for 362 years.  At the North end sits the traditional New England white church with the clock tower and required bell that tolls at Noon.  On the other 3 sides of our Green sit buildings dating back to the 1700s.  Our office is in a building built in 1750.  We are surrounded by rich history.  All of us here are deeply attached to this place and we feel proud to be here.

We have four rooms in our office...and I wish every volunteer and teacher could visit us.  I'll make a video one of these days.  In these four offices are 7 desks and a conference table.  And on top of each and every desk is a stunning Apple iMac.  On 3 of the desks sit iPhones.  1 iPad.  And we have 3 MacBook Pros and 2 MacBook Airs.  We are an all-Apple office.

A photo of the Mac ClassicI bought my first Macintosh computer in 1984.  I drank the kool-aid then, and I've been drinking it ever since.  Our staff loves their Apple devices and some of them have bought Apple for their homes, having used them at GeoVisions.

I'm sorry Steve Jobs died, and at such a young age.  But more than that, I'm glad he lived.

GeoVisions invested in Apple to the point that we only use their equipment.  But we also learned something else from our association with Apple's products.  Their vision.

It is no secret, our global financial condition puts a strain on business growth.  The money people have to spend to volunteer or teach abroad is less each month.  We rely heavily on host families abroad, and times are tough for them also.  They might have an extra room and a desire to host.  But do they have the extra cash to feed another person for 3 months?  It's harder all the time.

I see a few of our competitors try to fix things by lowering their prices.  I was at a meeting in Barcelona, Spain a few weeks ago and talked to some people from volunteer projects in South Africa and in Asia who have been told to lower their fees and accept more volunteeers or these big guys said they would stop sending volunteers to them.  That's shameful.

Photo of an iMacOthers are cutting costs and downsizing to cope with our global economy.  In my opinion, what this does is promote fear at work and has a negative impact on customer service.

At GeoVisions, we have always used Apple technology and Steve Jobs quotes to help guide us to the forefront of creativity.  When Apple was struggling, Steve Jobs remarked, "The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”

We have not cut our prices, we raised them to make sure we can pay all of our bills.  We have not cut our staff.  We hired more so we can deliver stellar customer service.  We also added amazing projects in Israel, Italy and we came up with how to get spending money for some of our Conversation Corps members in Spain, and invented the most unique Conversation Partner program in France...something no one can do without us.

Photo of Steve JobsSteve Jobs was right.  Innovate your way out.  Come up with inspiring ideas that make people say, "Wow!"  We want people to look at what we have to offer the world and try to figure out how they can be a part of it.  Do we strong-arm our overseas partners?  No!  We provide them better service, screened applicants, on-time payments, excited and committed volunteers.  We deliver remarkable volunteers and teachers.  We offer innovative and unique programming.  We will continue to invest in Apple products, and we will continue to innovate our way to number one.

In a May 25, 1993 Wall Street Journal interview, Steve Jobs said something I'll never forget. It has stayed with me and guided me each day.  "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

Tags: Make Something Happen, Working For A Better World, Volunteer/Work Abroad Industry Updates, Randy LeGrant

Volunteer Abroad--Fad Or Function?

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Jul 18, 2011

Vancouver Sun LogoToday I noticed an article from The Vancouver Sun entitled The give and take of Voluntourism.
Tourists are increasingly likely to look for opportunities to do volunteer work while traveling abroad. Win-win? Perhaps. But some argue it’s become more fad than function.  Janet Steffenhagen of the Vancouver Sun did a great job at explaining what Voluntourism is, and raising some well-deserved flags about this method of travel.

The first question Janet raised was "whether voluntourism has become more fad than function."  It's an important question.

I'm going to raise the ire of my friendly competitors and I'm going to say that in all honesty, I think Voluntourism is more fad than function.  That doesn't mean I don't like Voluntourism and it certainly doesn't mean I don't think it's a viable way to travel.  GeoVisions offers 100+ programs, all under the heading of Voluntourism.  But no one here has any delusions of grandeur in thinking we provide Aid to any country or community.

volunteer crossingIf you check out the travel section of the Sunday NY Times today, you will see that hotels and crusie lines are in the act now.  Even vacation resorts are providing a 2-hour experience, teaching kids to read, and labeling that "Voluntourism."  If you have an honest bone in your body, you know that isn't Voluntourism.  It's "cashing in" on what they think is something new.  And Voluntourism has been around since 1915...easily.

You can pound me all you want.  At least I'm being honest.  After doing this for 36 years, I come from a far different perspective than many others.  You can skew the numbers, you can phrase the survey questions anyway you like.  When you boil off all that fluff, this industry as a whole, provides an amazing first-class cultural exchange experience.  Do our Voluntourists help people and make life better for others and change lives?  Absolutely.  We value our Voluntourists and we are proud of them.  I'm just trying to put things into perspective.

I listened to a lot of people a few days ago talk about how they measure the "impact on the community" from their volunteers.  I heard about a dozen different ways.  And I'm thinking...if we have to work this hard to measure an obvious impact, and run it through another dozen filters at the University research level...I don't want any part of that.  And if we have to work that hard to measure it, maybe we're trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

So Janet:  Well done on that first question.

group of volunteersQuestion Two:  Doesn't voluntourism benefit everyone?  "Western tourists feel good about helping people in under-privileged countries and develop a better understanding of global connections, while communities in under-developed countries receive much-needed services."

Janet quotes Daniela Papi, of The Education Abroad Network, who argues that in many cases they do not — "voluntourists just don’t stick around long enough to find that out.  Daniela recalled, for example, being part of a school group years ago that went to Cambodia to build a school, not knowing it would never be used because the community had no teachers.  You have to learn before you can help, so go abroad to learn.”

Later in the article, Janet quotes me.  But she says I disagree with Daniela.  I know Daniela...and I don't disagree.  OK...we disagree on some things, but I agree with Daniela that as Voluntourism providers, we have to provide an opportunity to exchange cultures...we have to learn about the people and community and project mission...before we can help in any sustainable way.

Having read the article again, I really want to meet Ruby Peppard and Don Warthe of the Quest for Community academy at Mount Sentinel secondary school.

"While Warthe and Peppard were pleased with the connections that students developed during these trips, they were troubled by the attitude among some that their lives were better than those they were serving and, hence, they could provide help. Those students were surprised to find at the end of the trip they had gained more than they had given."

Peppard described it as Western arrogance, adding: “We really wanted to combat that in a big way so we designed the program to teach the kids that the service they do isn’t about helping others. It’s about them, as young teenagers, being able to offer something for the opportunity to learn from others.”

If you are an Aid or Development organization, you can very easily measure the impact your organization is having on a community.  If you provide Voluntourism trips, stop deluding yourselves.  Focus on your volunteers and see what's going on with them.  It is THERE you will find sustainable and very positive outcomes.  If you're going to offer a 2 hour experience when people get off the cruise ship, or a 2 hour experience helping people read and that is the extent of most certainly are not impacting ANYONE or ANYTHING other than the traveler.  You are calling it Voluntourism.  It isn't.  It's cultural exchange.  No more.  No less.

What do you think?  Use the comments section below to weigh in on your thoughts.  Voluntourism:  Function or Fad?

Tags: Working For A Better World, Volunteering Abroad, Volunteer/Work Abroad Industry Updates

Volunteer Musicians Playing For Change

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Fri, Jun 03, 2011

Playing for change logoPlaying For Change is 150 volunteer musicians in 25 countries, putting together 47 videos.  None of them have ever met.

Since 2007, the Playing For Change Foundation has helped promote peace across borders by bringing music education programs and instruments to children in communities around the globe.

The newest in the series of videos is the one below.  Singing "Gimme Shelter", this group of musicians hails from Sierra Leone, Japan, Italy, USA, Jamaica, India, Brazil, Mali and Senegal.  And yeah, they've never met.  But with the power of editing, it sounds exactly like they all got into the studio at the same time and laid down this track.

It's easy to get involved with the Playing For Change Foundation, and we hope you will check out their website.

For now, enjoy the video.  We thought this would be a great way to usher in the weekend!  (If your system supports HD, manually change the slider to 720i and turn up those speakers!)

Tags: Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Working For A Better World