Volunteers for Prosperity – Call for Action

Just got this from Paul Joss with a plea to pass it around so…

This past weekend Congress sent legislation to the President requesting formal consultation on the Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP) program within the next 60 days. This review will affect the rules and scope of the program as well as future funding level.

Now is the time for us to act, since many key factors have come together at this time:

1.    VfP Legislative history was established with the passage of the Volunteers for Prosperity Title V of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act late last spring.

2.    The relevant Obama Administration policy appointees are now in place. A new Administrator for USAID has been nominated and has been briefed on the interest of Congress in expanding the VfP program.  Obama White House officials have also expressed interest in this program.

3.    Congress has set a deadline for action by the Obama Administration. The 60 day deadline for will insure that action is taken to either enhance the VfP program in future appropriations, or ignore it in favor of other priorities.

What do you need to do now?  The BBC has an opportunity to influence this process, and help build the case for expansion and full funding of this program, but we must act quickly.

1.    Become more familiar with the VfP program. If your volunteers need financial support, please see the VfP Website at http://www.volunteersforprosperity.gov/ to determine how you can participate or what problems they may encounter.  It will be most helpful if you can do this within the next few days, or as soon as possible.

2.    Give us your opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the VfP program. Every member and friend of the BBC should be able to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the VfP program from the perspective of the mission, priorities, and processes of their individual organization.

a.    Based on your experience in international volunteer work, what do you see as the overriding national interest in expanding the VfP program?

b.    If you have participated in the program previously, please cite successes which will show the benefit of expanding this program as currently designed.

c.    Can this program be improved?  In your view, what works and what does not?

d.    If you have not participated in this program previously, why not?  What needs to change in order to allow you to participate?

I have attached some VfP Review Examples of policy issues you may have, to give you some idea of items to consider.  In the interest of time, please send your comments and questions to me at jameswswiderski@yahoo.com on or before December 31, 2009.

3.    Provide financial support to BBC Advocacy efforts. The BBC is representing your interests and the interests of the international volunteer community at large at this critical time.  You have a responsibility to support the cost of this effort.  I urge that your organization send a minimum contribution of $250 for BBC advocacy as quickly as possible.  For instructions on how to submit your contribution please contact Steve Rosenthal, BBC Chair, at steve@crossculturalsolutions.org, or Paul Joss, BBC Managing Director at pauljoss@engedi-enterprises.com.   Also, please feel free to contact me at jameswswiderski@yahoo.com, or call me at 612-296-2828 with any questions, comments or advice as well.

4.    Consider joining the BBC Advocacy Work Group. To help with the BBC advocacy efforts, please go to http://buildingbridgescoalition.ning.com/group/advocacy2.  We will focus on not only the VfP program, but also on future legislation including the Global Service Fellowship, the omnibus Service World initiative, FY 2011 Appropriations, and other legislative and administrative priorities as they arise.

Can You Trust Your In Country Operators?

Phew, finally back from 4 lovely weeks in Nepal! Time to dust off my laptop and start blogging again…

While trekking I saw all the usual adventure travel suspects passing by with their hordes of clients – Intrepid, GAP Adventures, Exodus, Imaginative Traveller, etc. Most of their porters were carrying acceptable loads but one company’s porters were carrying loads way past the norm. When I inquired among the porter community they all groaned and called out this one company as always making them carry packs that are more than the acceptable limit. This got me thinking…

Each and every one of those companies has a responsible travel statement somewhere on their site and I’m sure they honestly believe they are being responsible, but the in country partner must feel some sort of pressure not to disappoint so they have their porters carry brutal amounts of weight.

So how is your company not falling into the same trap? Can you ever not fall into that trap unless you’re actually based in country like PEPY Ride is for example? How can you be sure that the promises made to you by the in country NGOs are being fulfilled? I’m not saying the NGOs are being deceptive, it’s just how much can the will to please over shadow what is truly responsible travel?

Just a thought, would love to hear some ideas on how companies are working through this issue?