Every few months, a new announcement—or at least discussion—about volunteer travel guidelines flies by my inbox.
Proposals of watchdog groups, new ethical and practical standards, and even research reports find their way onto voluntourism discussion boards like clockwork.
A few we’ve seen in just the past few years:
- International Voluntourism Guidelines for Commercial Tour Operators (TIES): A collaborative effort to create guidelines for volunteer sending groups–not necessarily the host groups the volunteers are placed with directly.
- Tourism Concern’s GIVS Volunteering Standards Group: This is (was?) meant to unite volunteer abroad organizations operating to a certain set of standards. Unfortunately due to the number of dead links on this page, I’m not sure it’s still operating.
- Comhlamh’s Code of Good Practice for volunteer sending organizations: A simple overview of some standards volunteer abroad groups could strive to reach.
As many of us know already, there have been rumblings for years about creating a voluntourism umbrella group that would serve to unite providers and neutral parties alike—one that could attempt to pull together the scattered research and varied sets of guidelines set out by the many parties involved or interested in the voluntourism industry. At least from the discussion boards I frequent, I haven’t seen much conversation about this idea actually taking off—but would love to hear feedback from others about whether it’s happening, or whether you think it will or will not happen.
And so with all of that said, my question to you is this: as a volunteer abroad operator, do you adhere to any specific set of guidelines put out by researchers or other providers? From simple guides, to more complex ones, to membership and evaluation groups, have you actively set forth efforts to adhere to any particular set of standards?
And if so, where are you in the process? What have you found to be the most challenging part of following those standards, and what do you do to continually monitor and evaluate them?