Serve America Act – Good or Bad for Voluntourism??


I wanted to wait at least a week before I posted this topic again for discussion. The initial ‘woo hoo’ sentiment is wearing off and I have heard a lot of mumbling about whether the Serve America Act is good or bad for voluntourism. Let’s start the debate – make a comment, share how you feel.

What do you think? Is voluntourism better or worse off as a result of this Act?

2 thoughts on “Serve America Act – Good or Bad for Voluntourism??

  1. What do you think? Is voluntourism better or worse off as a result of this Act?

    First of all, you have to be a member of VFP. Only non-profits can join. The people at VFP are really very nice. They are just playing by the rules. But even if you’re a non-profit and you don’t join VFP…you’re not going to get any money.

    I understand what Dave Clemmons is writing about competition. So after studying the bill and having a few really nice conversations with people at VFP, here is the only way to level that playing field: The more organizations that join VFP and apply for the funds, the better. That, literally, is the only way to squeeze out the company that started this whole thing in the first place. VFP has said one company (a NY firm) has applied for more funds than all the others put together. That cannot come as any surprise. So the only way to combat that is for hundreds and hundreds of non-profits to join VFP and apply for the funds. If you’re a non-profit and you don’t join and then apply for the funds, you can’t complain.

    I am over joyed at the bill. And here’s why. This is a bill ONLY for non-profits. Only non-profits can play. So if one organization hogs the funds, which is currently happening, it is all on the shoulders of the non-profits. If the natural balance of old-fashioned competition is upset because of the bill and the rules, the non-profits have only themselves to blame. For once, all eyes are on the non-profits. Let’s see what they’re made of.

    For profits have nothing to worry about, in my view. For some the inclination will be to let this bill upset the truce between for and not for profits. Or, we can all take care of business. And take care of business we should. For once the non-profits can’t blame the for profits for taking market share. They are now forced to look at themselves.

    Randy LeGrant
    Executive Director
    GeoVisions

  2. Is international voluntourism better or worse off as a result of the Serve America Act?

    Perhaps (as Dave Clemmons points out in the most recent Voluntourism.org newsletter) the first issue that needs to be addressed is the use of the word “voluntourism”.

    Non-profits applying for VFP funds use the terms “volunteer vacation” and “voluntourism” in their marketing literature, and PPC campaigns. They also appear in the media and press as offering these types of trips.

    However, when convenient (to apply for government grants and to justify tax-deductions of the trips they organize to consumers) they distance themselves from these terms. In at least one case, they justify the use of the term “volunteer vacation”, by saying they refer only to the fact that the volunteer work is being done during what might normally be a “vacation”. Not that the experience might result in anything resembling a vacation.

    This seems to contradict the promotional literature, media coverage, and blogs written by participants of these non-profit volunteer travel programs, which describe the sightseeing, dance classes and other tourism related activities they engage in.

    It should also be acknowledged that volunteer travel organizations and participants do not wish to have the fact that they may engage in tourist, adventure, or otherwise fun activities to diminish, overshadow or take away from the volunteer and service work they also do. That is understandable, I sympathize.

    However, I also think it’s time to acknowledge that in these cases, short-term international volunteering is a hybrid experience that also involves tourism.

    I’ve seen little public opposition to the international volunteering component of this bill until now, with one exception which appeared in a Building Bridges Coalition update several months ago:

    “Senator Menendez (NJ) – Spoke To Foreign Affairs staff. There is some reservation with the legislation, mostly centered around the total cost and “quality” issues. (how effective can a short-term assignment be?, how do we make sure people don’t view and use the fellowships to help them pay for an overseas “vacation”, etc.)

    I think Senator Menendez makes a good point.

    As the founder of a for-profit volunteer travel company that fully embraces the term “voluntourism”, I’m left wondering the following:

    Is it possible that rather than allowing international volunteering to grow in a free marketplace the unfair advantages being given to the non-profit sector will actually reduce the growth of international volunteering abroad and concentrate it in the hands of a few privileged non-profit operators?

    Jean-Marc Alberola
    President
    Bridge-Linguatec

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