NAFSA Poster Session Deadline is this Friday!

I received this from Paul Joss and thought anyone not on his email list might like a friendly reminder about NAFSA’s poster session deadline – this Friday! Not sure what NAFSA is? You should, its a great way to interact with college advisors. Click here for conference details.


Here’s a last reminder for submitting a Poster Session for the 2009 Poster Fair on Work, Internships and Volunteering Abroad (WIVA) at the NAFSA national conference, which will take place in Los Angeles. 

The primary audience for this event is NAFSA conference attendees who advise students about education abroad.  Previous WIVA poster fairs have attracted over 500 attendees and have featured over 60 presenting organizations.  (See and search using WIVA).

To submit your Poster Session, go to NAFSA’s website:

Background Checks

When sending volunteers into developing countries, where often they are working by themselves with children, isn’t it our responsibility to do a background check first?

Even for volunteers who are building but staying in homestays – don’t those families deserve the security of knowing they are not housing a pedophile?

A background check costs about $20, i think its well worth the investment to protect the communities we want to help. Sentry Link offers a national criminal background and sex offender check for $19.95. I’m sure there are a ton of companies that run checks but here’s one site that does so affordably if you’re looking for a place to start.

More best practice thoughts coming soon from Tom Griffiths of, Michelle Gran of Global Volunteers, Neil Patel from Healthcare Volunteers, Sally Brown of Ambassadors for Children and Chris Hill from Hands Up Holidays. If you’d like to share please feel free to email me.

Best Practices from PEPY Tours Founder Daniela Papi

The first guest blogger that offered to share her best practices is Daniela Papi from PEPY Tours, I have a bunch of you lined up to contribute but anyone who hasn’t contacted me yet and would like to guest blog or contribute a best practice please feel free!


Before Giving “Things” – We need to ask!

At PEPY, we have learned from past failures, that giving things without having the community ask for them, or having community input and support can often equate to failed projects.  When it comes to giving, here are some of the things we have learned to help guide us in making sustainable choices:

– By asking for a needs assessment from the communities we are working with and asking for their support for the project as well, we can better ensure that the items being “given” will be taken care of and used

         If the operator does not have a long-term presence in the area, working through a local organization or a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) partner to conduct the research and follow up that will produce better and more reliable research information

         If items (such as wells, electronics, etc) are being introduced which are new to the area, repair costs and logistics should be taken into account before any giving of these items is considered.

      In Cambodia, we have seen many organizations, ourselves included, donate items which are not used as they are broken, stolen, or not needed in the first place.  An example of a problem of unmatched needs is high-tech wells in rural Cambodia.  Some of these wells have an internal ball bearing mechanism which breaks after 2-3 years on average.  As the system is closed and the product is made from parts foreign to the rural areas, there is usually no one in the village who knows how to fix it.  Further, it costs more to fix it than it does to dig a new shallow well.  Therefore, the thousands invested in the deep well end up being wasted funds after a few short years.

Research, ask, get community buy in, and follow up. This is what we have learned from our mistakes.

“Best Practices” – Do We Need Them?

When I talk with a lot of you I feel like ‘best practices’ is a dirty word, there’s a lot of eye rolling and a ‘not another one’ vibe. So what does that mean for the industry? Will we just ignore best practices and all do what we think is right, or is there a way we can work together in some fashion?


Below are a list of all the best practice guidelines I could find as well as what the BBC’s Effective Practices workgroup is planning to create. Just as an FYI, maybe you’ll find it useful.


What I’m suggesting is companies share their best practices on the blog, a few have already volunteered and we’ll start on Thursday. Basically a company will say what their best practice is and why, folks can choose to adapt, ignore or delete but at least the idea has been put out there. If you dont know me and want to contribute please just shoot me an email, this is open to everyone.


IVPA has identified a set of best practices (  


The Year Out Group in the UK has a set of guidelines (


A group of Christian mission organizations has identified their standards for short term mission (


InterAction, the American Council on Voluntary International Action has a set (


Unite for Sight

Here are the goals of the Building Bridges Coalition Effective Practices workgroup:


Identify a group of guidelines and practices for operating effective, high quality international volunteering programs

    Collect the collective wisdom from the field of international volunteering including:

  •     Ideas, approaches and practices that have worked well
  •     Things to consider before making a decision or taking action for growth, program initiation or expansion, organizational changes, etc.
  •     Lessons learned from previous experience that have not worked well
  •     Pitfalls to avoid in various situations:
  •     starting an organization
  •     creating programs in new countries/regions
  •     recruiting & preparing volunteers
  •     selecting partner organizations


    Synthesize collected data into organized set of practices & guidelines

    Publish the resulting collection of wisdom in a manner accessible to all BBC members (with help from technology advisory workgroup)


    Challenge all BBC members – whether they are a brand new organization or one with decades of history – to review the resulting body of work and reflect on their own practices to seek opportunities to improve their quality and effectiveness