Please enjoy this guest post from Sarah Andrews, Executive Director at Edge of Seven -- a very worth volunteer travel organization that we are pleased to feature. Building Up Girls in Nepal with Edge of Seven The laughter of students at…
When a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in early 2010, it seemed like the entire world turned its eyes to the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation – and Sean Penn was no exception. In the wake of the disaster, which virtually leveled the tiny country, Penn and fellow philanthropist Diana Jenkins sprung into action and formed the Jenkins/Penn Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO).
Unlike some other celebrity-based charity organizations, the J/P HRO and its namesakes were not only at ground zero immediately following the disaster but, nearly three years later, are still actively involved. Sean Penn’s volunteerism through the J/P HRO is, in fact, so lauded that he was recently named ambassador at large for Haiti.
Back in 2006, the Brookings Institute published a paper by Lex Rieffel entitled, “International Volunteering: Smart Power.” In the paper, Rieffel discusses the many ways that volunteering efforts improve international relations without big overtures, huge expenditures of taxpayer money, or military involvement. Volunteering is a grassroots citizen-lead peace initiative. Rieffel writes: “The face of America that has been welcomed most enthusiastically in the rest of the world for decades has been the face of a volunteer: assisting with disaster relief, building houses for poor families, teaching English to university students, and so much more.”
Recently I wrote about VolunteerMatch.org, a social network style website that matches volunteers with opportunities. This week I found another online network in this niche: GoVoluntourism.com. The two sites share several similarities. Both allow organizations and volunteers to register for free, and both have robust information-rich platforms so organizations can thoroughly detail opportunities. GoVoluntourism also offers access to journalists. This is, understandably, very valuable to voluntour businesses hoping for media attention.
Social media is everywhere. It’s as ubiquitous today as, well… honestly, I can’t think of a single historical precedent for the massive, worldwide interconnectedness we enjoy on the Internet. It’s only natural to see the opportunity in such vast networks, but it’s also problematic. Social networks were designed for people to socialize, not for businesses to advertise. Yes, there have been many attempts at integrating advertising into social media platforms, but often they are met with scorn or aren’t terribly effective. But, voluntour companies are a different breed. For them, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool for outreach and education.