A few weeks ago, I wrote about an organization called Go Overseas. They work to help match travelers with volunteer opportunities all over the world. My article focused on the great intuitive setup of their website. I love how they feature reviews from volunteers who’ve had experience in the field and was curious to learn more about how the organization works. I was fortunate to have a chance to speak with Katie Boyer, the Volunteer Director at Go Overseas. Katie explained how the organization works, how they choose their featured opportunities, and what they plan for the future. Enjoy!
David Clemmons is passionate about VolunTourism. He is the founder of VolunTourism.org, a rich online resource for people on all sides of the voluntourism industry: travelers, voluntour organizations, host communities, educators, and academics. VolunTourism.org is a public service, offering a multiplicity of perspectives in a space that has traditionally lacked comprehensive and thoughtful information. As the industry grows, Voluntourism.org continues to explore the intersection between volunteerism and tourism: successes, failures, and implications. Mr. Clemmons was kind enough to speak with us here at Journeys, to share his unique perspective on this vast and swiftly evolving industry.
This is part one of a two-part interview. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow.
Here at Journeys for Good, we’re in the business of learning about the connections between volunteers and volunteer organizations. How do organizations find people who are willing to give their time, and their physical and emotional energy for a cause? How do people find the organizations that speak to their hearts? We are also interested in the business side of this equation: how does an aid organization get noticed? This week I was reading about a powerful international organization that manages to facilitate these connections spectacularly well: International Animal Rescue.
In my research over the past few months, I’ve come across an astonishingly wide variety of volunteering organizations. Many of them have a specific demographic target: college students, established professionals, the under 18 crowd, or retirees. From a business perspective, it makes good sense to choose a niche. It’s easier to plan for the needs of a specific group than for the needs of all. It’s also easier to market to one demographic—you can focus your efforts on a narrower field of publications, television programs, social media platforms or events. This strategy is ideal for the volunteer looking to find a group of similarly situated people with which to travel and work, but what about the volunteer who wants a more diverse experience?
For children without resources, travel feels like an unattainable dream. Millions of kids in America have never set foot outside their home state, let alone in another country. How can anyone respect the vastness of the planet, the differences between cultures, the biodiversity of our oceans, the preciousness of a desert rain, if she hasn’t seen more than a concrete strip, a local deli, and her own backyard? In a world where our actions—our use of fossil fuels, water, and food; our waste; our elected officials; and our rabid patriotism—deeply and dramatically affects the global citizenry, we must educate our children to understand and respect their planetary kin. Learning AFAR, the flagship program of the AFAR Foundation, meets this desperate need.