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Voluntourism Foundation Asks 6 Big Questions,

CuzcoWeaving project sponsored by Planeterra foundation

Planeterra Foundation, the global non-profit organisation dedicated to sustainable community development through travel has set voluntourists a challenge.

Richard Edwards, the organisation’s director, has asked those involved in voluntourism to look closely at  a series of questions  and share their concerns:
•    When is my need to ‘do good’ potentially a selfish act on my part?
•    Am I helping or hindering by taking time and resources away from the community and project managers just so I have a ‘feel good’ project to work on?
•    Are valuable time, effort and resources being wasted and misappropriated just to prepare for and accommodate a voluntourist?
•    Can I really make a contribution in a lasting, significant way in the short time I’m there?
•    What is the optimum duration for a meaningful voluntourism stay?
•    Is the project just a ‘front’ for fundraising or attempt to generate exposure, creating contrived situations for my benefit and not really the benefit of the community?

This is how Planeterra think the growing voluntourism industry needs to address these concerns:

•    Programs must be set up to engage the voluntourist in task-specific scenarios so people can see the tangible results of their contributions.
•    Voluntourism programs are ideally no shorter than five days and optimally 14 days.
•    It’s vital to have a designated tour leader or guide who helps facilitate the volunteer experience so that project staff aren’t taken away from running their regular programs. 
•    Designated projects are ongoing and sustainable; they are not simply there just to entertain‚ travelers. This being said, many of the activities would be taking place without travelers present, but it is because of the voluntourists that these tasks are able to be completed.
•    It‚s important for voluntourists to have realistic expectations; while they won’t change the world by volunteering for a few days, they will open themselves up to learn more about a local community that can be shared with others when returning home.
•    There’s an overall need in the voluntourism travel sector to shift the focus toward sustainability. This enables projects to be taken over eventually by a community, thus minimizing dependence on outside help. 
•    Everyone needs to recognize that the end game is total community control and quite possibly the disappearance and solution of issues and conditions that brought the original need for the project ˆ and voluntourists -- in the first place.

Says Mr Edwards “Here at Planeterra, where there is a need, we recognize it, and we act quickly to meet it. Whatever the voluntour project Planeterra has the insight, agility and technical and financial wherewithal to successfully see it through. Our goal is to empower local people and communities to strengthen their well being while promoting long-term, environmentally responsible growth.”

Planeterra was founded in 2003 by G.A.P Adventures, the largest independent adventure travel company in the world. Edwards is also a member of G.A.P‚s executive management team, where he helps oversee the company‚s rapid growth. Planeterra evolved out of a long history of travelers committed to finding ways to give back to the people and places they visit. Planeterra selects the projects and works with G.A.P Adventures to arrange voluntour travel programs, including for the six-million-person Student Travel Association (STA).

Valere Tjolle



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Categories: Voluntourism,Sustainable Tourism


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