Voluntourism & The Millenium Development Goals – Part 5

The summit is over and we will wait five more years for them to reconvene and realize many countries have fallen short and people are still in dire need.  The same solution will be reached: more money from larger governments and the cycle will continue.

UNLESS: we all take personal responsibility.

I learned a long time ago that no one can make decisions for me, and in turn, I am not able to make decisions for anyone else…so, here is what I am going to do.  I hope you join me.

Together with a growing support group we are going to fine tune and expand the International Villages (IV) prototype to create a mix of non profit and for profit sustainable ventures.  By May 2011 the income of the International Village will be at profitable levels without tourists, allowing more tourist dollars to go towards local projects.

We are also looking at many sites for expansion both within Kenya and throughout the world, and screening partners to make that happen.  Everything we have done in the prototype can be duplicated elsewhere with concern for culture and local laws.  Each IV site will be unique to its area but hold true to its purpose to provide opportunities and support for local people and a sustainable authentic experience for world travelers at a budget price.

Dream with me for a moment: picture a network of safe and trusted IVs throughout the globe where travelers can stay, make a measured difference, and create connections that last.  It will be a true global community.  In a community we not only care about our neighbors but are willing to help them whenever necessary.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

-President Harry S. Truman

Let’s not worry about who created the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or who takes credit for them.  As the voluntourism industry, let’s do what we do, make connections, make a difference, and create a global community that achieves the MDGs.

By Phill Klamm
Co-Founder Wrestling the World www.wrestlingtheworld.org
Founder International Villages www.internationalvillages.org
Facebook www.facebook.com/klamm

Voluntourism & The Millenium Development Goals – Part 4

“Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” –M. Mead

Have you read that quote before?  We all have and its so overused that we still continue to doubt that small groups of people are indeed what causes change.

History proves that change comes from a small passionate group.  Here are a few notable instances: American Revolution, air travel, American Civil Rights movement, sea exploration, etc.

So it can be with poverty, education, health, etc.  There are already small groups of dedicated people positioned throughout the world making a difference.  What id we all worked towards a set group of goals (MDGs) and documented both our success and failures

Let’s go back to the six travelers in Kenya in 2006.  Remember four years later over 60 people have traveled there and over 600 are currently connected in some way.  Here is a breakdown of some of the projects and how they align with the MDGs; please remember there are other groups working in this area as well.  The projects listed are a sample of the ones connected to the original six travelers.

MDG 1            Extreme Poverty

  • Jobs, hundreds of short term and many long term
  • Agriculture to provide jobs, food, and profit opportunities
  • Food distribution

MDG 2            Education

  • Books
  • Water project to bring water to elementary school
  • School fees for needy students

MDG 3            Gender Equality

  • Hire a higher percentage of women than men
  • Freedom for Girls sanitary pads project (provided over 6,000 women a yearly supply of pads and underwear)
  • Dialog between guests and friends on cultural gender differences including correct statistics (in face and online)

MDG 4            Child Mortality

  • Local dispensary

MDG 5            Maternal Health

  • Local dispensary
  • Future plans for mother groups

MDG 6            HIV/AIDS/Malaria

  • Purchased mosquito nets
  • Dialog and awareness

MDG 7            Environmental Sustainability

  • Reforestation (planting and distribution of tens of thousands of trees)
  • Planting of indigenous fruit trees for fruit and profit
  • Rain water harvesting at schools and in community
  • Improved water filtration in community
  • Improved toilet block at school

MDG 8            Global Partnerships

  • Increased internet use in area (Facebook, Email, etc)
  • Rotary partnerships
  • Small businesses both in the US and in Kenya
  • Personal (each relationship is in fact a partnership)

These are just a small example of how one trip in 2006 has expanded and provided opportunities.  There are thousands of groups and organizations doing the same thing.

More gets done with a little effort from many people than a lot of effort from a few.

By Phill Klamm
Co-Founder Wrestling the World www.wrestlingtheworld.org
Founder International Villages www.internationalvillages.org
Facebook www.facebook.com/klamm

Voluntourism & The Millenium Development Goals – Part 3

“I didn’t have much money but I knew my friends would come.”

Four years later over 60 people have been to Kenya, all stemming from the original six. In addition, over 600 people are supporting this area in varied projects running the gamut from school sponsorships to water projects. (More on this later) Five of the original six people are still actively involved in Kenya and their ideas and efforts aren’t anywhere near identical. Don and his wife Mary started an organization called SOAR-Kenya and help with projects from piping water to sponsoring school fees. Steve works with Rotary, matching grants on water and sanitation while his wife Pat coordinates her friends in the Freedom for Girls project which distributes sanitary pads and underwear to thousands of local school girls. Joanne works closely with a self help group (SHG) to train locals on profit making skills such as sewing. Matt is doing everything he can to go back and is dead set on working in emerging economies, which is his full time passion. Phill has stuck with the idea of bringing more people to help.

The idea is if we can have the efforts of a billion people rather than only the efforts of one person with a billion dollars, the world would be a better place. Each of the people who still continue to work in Kenya, the others who have came since, and the peripheral people in the supporting roles often do not agree. They do not agree on principles, on projects, and on decisions; however, they do agree on helping their Kenyan friends. Each of them uses their own skills, experiences, and support to complete projects and empower Kenyans. As each strengthens relationships, grows their support, and completes projects, everyone moves forward, learning from each other and improving lives.

Imagine a network of places around the globe where everyday people could travel and immerse themselves in an authentic experience in a sustainable way. We call these International Villages. International Villages (IV) is a five acre prototype in Nakuru, Kenya. Operated by local people, they grow most of the food tourists eat and
develop relationships that last. Tourists see the sites that a Kenyan visitor should not miss and work on projects like that of Connor, Ann, and Mike.

In the summer of 2010, Connor, 17, of Wisconsin and Ann, 17, of North Carolina traveled to the IV for a total of 30 days. During that time they had fun, went on safari, and created life-long relationships. One of the groups they met is called Burgei. Burgei is a SHG that are trying to create profitable businesses in a rural slum that is
very dry. Previous projects had helped Burgei pipe water to their community land plot and fence it, which is what opened the door for Connor and Ann. “When we heard Burgei wanted to raise fish for profit and food and that they had already taken steps for a fish pond – we knew we could help.” Two 17 year old high school juniors gave the boost that helped a group of 20 families raise approximately $50/month in sustainable profit for months to come.

Mike, 22 and a college senior, went on the same trip and fell in love with hundreds of elementary school students who nicknamed him Twiga, giraffe in Swahili, because Mike is 6’4” and a red-head. Through Mike’s many talks with the students on their way to and from school and in discussions with the headmaster, he learned that the only water this government school had was from rain water harvesting. Many times, because of the dry area, there was simply no water at the school. Mike quickly went to work talking with other Kenyan friends to find an answer and figured out that for $300 USD, water could permanently be piped in. Upon being told this, the headmaster thought it was a great idea and pledged 1/3 of the costs from the parent group. Mike sent an email home that night, posted it on Facebook, and 24 hours later he told the headmaster that the parents could keep their money.

By Phill Klamm
Co-Founder Wrestling the World www.wrestlingtheworld.org
Founder International Villages www.internationalvillages.org
Facebook www.facebook.com/klamm

Voluntourism & The Millenium Development Goals – Part 2

As they flew across the Atlantic each was picturing a slideshow of images in their mind: lions, elephants, cheetahs, tribal children, the snows of Kilimanjaro, and the classrooms they were to build. Farmer Don had been to Kenya 30 years prior in the Peace Corps, had always wanted to return and was excited to see progress.
Matt, the protagonist of this adventure, was eager to see where his roots came from and hopefully meet his biological father. Steve, Matt’s dad and a financial advisor, proud of his son who had already aided a town decimated by a tornado and tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka, was eager to see a new world and meet his beloved
son’s biological father. Joanne, a teacher in the same school as Matt, jumped on the trip late looking for an adventure and place to help with her heart for people. Shelly, Joanne’s teacher’s aide, also joined late looking for an escape from the realities of her life. Phill, a teacher and Matt’s college roommate had never thought of
leaving the country before their Sri Lanka adventure and was quickly realizing that travel was his drug. They each had a different reason, skill set, and expectations.

The Millennium Development Goals are a product of the largest gathering of world leaders in history committing their nations to a new global partnership. Over the past ten years of the project, many countries have done a stand-up job addressing the MDGs. One area of improvement would be to stop focusing on the
governments of the countries and start focusing on the individuals of the world community.

You see, Don, Steve, Matt, Joanne, Shelly, and Phill understand what a community is; after all, they live in the Midwest. Don attends farm auctions and fundraising dinners. Steve is a Rotarian and always volunteers for the community Corn Roast and Brat Fry. Matt has played community sports his entire life and remembers his
neighbor, Olive, reading about him in the paper and congratulating him. Joanne hosts an annual Veterans Day picnic in her classroom for the local Vets. Shelly is a soccer mom that likes to drink coffee at early Saturday soccer games. Phill’s parents have been foster parents for 15 years, so he knows that it takes a community to
raise a child.

As they flew home they realized their trip had gone from being about pictures to being about people. Yes, they saw lions, elephants, and even the snow topped Kili, but once in Kenya it became about the people, their relationships and how brothers and sisters from different fathers and mothers could love each other and unite for
a cause. On the plane things were a bit uncomfortable, not because of the seating but because of the bonds they had just made. It was hard to leave and they needed to help more, but how?

Just then one of them was overheard saying, “I don’t have any more money to help, but I’m pretty sure my friend would want to come.”

By Phill Klamm
Co-Founder Wrestling the World www.wrestlingtheworld.org
Founder International Villages www.internationalvillages.org
Facebook www.facebook.com/klamm

Voluntourism & The Millenium Development Goals – Part 1

This week we’re lucky enough to have Phill Klamm writing a series on Voluntourism and the Millenium Development Goals – great stuff so be sure to tune in M-F this week for more installments! Thanks Phill!

Extreme poverty, universal education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and global
partnerships: sound like a tall order? This is what is on the plate of the UN next week as they address the first 10 years of the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) and rev up for the final 5 years of these measurable and time-bound targets.

In the year 2000 the UN Member States issued a Millennium Declaration that announced the MDGs to the world. These goals are, in essence, a
measuring stick in the efforts to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of every global citizen. Up until now this effort has only been pursued
by governments, billionaires, and large non governmental organizations (NGOs). It is time for that to change.

J.P. Getty is quoted as saying, “I would rather have 1% of the effort of 100 people than 100% of the effort of one person.” If Getty is correct we need to stop counting on a few ‘big’ players and instead concentrate on the masses to produce real change.

Einstein said, “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

What if all of the information we need to achieve the MDGs is available now? What if the money that we seek is there and we have been looking in
the wrong places?

I am not implying that there is one solution to the major problems facing our world today. Instead, could I just suggest that the power to help is
in the hands of everyday people like you and I – from every corner of the globe?

Let me tell you a story of a group of people that stumbled on an answer and didn’t know the question.

It was 2005 and two college roommates had just returned from tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka. Riding an emotional high, they were searching for
their next project when one of them researched his biological family (he’s adopted) and learned his father was from Kenya. Over a year later
these two and four others were on a voluntourism trip to Kenya building five stone classrooms, creating strong relationships, and altering their

Who are these six people and what progress have they made towards the MDGs?

Three teachers, a teacher’s aide, a farmer, and a financial advisor…and progress…that can wait until tomorrow.

By Phill Klamm
Co-Founder Wrestling the World www.wrestlingtheworld.org
Founder International Villages www.internationalvillages.org
Facebook www.facebook.com/klamm

How do I know if I’m adding value at my volunteer placement?

A great post from Ms. Daniela Papi on her blog lessonsilearned, she’s asked me to share it with everyone – let’s see if we can start some dialogue.

As for your second question, what can YOU do, a nearly-17-year-old, intelligent, worldly, education-seeking, student?  Well, there is a LOT you can do.  I just don’t think that these “pay to teach English in an orphanage” programs are it.  First off, my advice is:

a) Start off by volunteering at home. There is a quote that says something like “We go abroad to stare at the same people we ignore at home.”  We have homeless shelters at home, big brother/big sister type programs where you can mentor a younger child who might not have someone as loving and intelligent as you to believe in them, refugee service programs where you can be matched with a refugee family coming in from South East Asia (if that is where your interest lies) and you can help show them the compassion and welcoming feelings you received when you were in Cambodia.  There are a LOT of ways to do great things every week at home (libraries to read to young kids in, fundraising projects at school, writing online about the lessons you learned on your travels to share with others, etc).

b) Look into NGOs to volunteer abroad where your skills are needed and/or you can provide support to programs you believe in without going through a profiteering middle-man. At PEPY, we take volunteers for 6 months, but the difference from the typical “Volunteer Abroad” programs is, they usually work in our OFFICE, not with students, not building things, not teaching English in orphanages.  Hence, the work seems a lot more “boring” than the “go abroad and change a child’s life” ads some volunteer programs are using.  BUT, there are indeed things that someone with your skills could help do at PEPY or elsewhere – and they might be similar to things you would do interning at home in an office such as editing copy in English, reading through and sorting data and English information that our Khmer staff might have difficulties with, donor relations and thank yous, etc. No, not glamorous, but yes, a chance to learn. 

When evaluating a volunteer placement I would consider:

1) Do my skills match the stated need? Are you being sent out as a Peace Corps volunteer in “Guatemalan Small Business Development Planning” when you majored in English and have never been to Guatemala?  Hmm…. maybe it’s not a great fit?

2) Does the stated volunteer position seem like I will be adding to the sustainability of the organizations overall work? If the core problem the program claims to be solving is English language education, does your short term visit seem like it is a good long-term solution?  If instead, you are teaching TEACHERS English to improve their native pronunciation so that they can be more effective teachers in the long-term, that would seem to me to be a slightly better fit.

3) Does the job seem like one fit for a short-term outsider? An organization based in a foreign country and working in a different language than your own will hopefully not place you in a program management position in a community.  If they are, you should go back to a) and analyze if your skills match the need.  If they are placing you in an administrative or support position, see if yours is a role that would make sense for an outsider to do.  Could a local person fill your role?  If your role is editing English copy in grant writing proposals, perhaps it is a good fit because you are able to add value through a skill you have, you would have the chance to teach the long-term staff how to improve their work, and if there is no one there to fill your role once you leave it is still possible for the organization to continue on and be successful, with perhaps slightly less editing support.

4) Where is your money going? If you are paying a “fee” to volunteer, whose salaries are you paying?  Are you paying for a UK office of a volunteer sending program?  If so, consider if the value they have provided is worth the fee you are paying.  Do they seem like they are “selling” you something or are they taking the time to honestly answer your questions and guide you to a fit that is best for you?  Is the local partner paying to have you there?  If so, do you think the value you are able to provide is worth the money they are paying to have you, or would their funds be better spent on their programs? These are questions you will need to answer based on each individual case.

I hope this is helpful!  If there are others out there reading this, I’d love to see comments with additional thoughts or other advice you would give a young person looking to volunteer!