ResponsibleTravel.com Temporarily Removes Orphanage Volunteering from Listings

Just saw this post fly by–ResponsibleTravel.com has temporarily removed orphanage travel programs from its listings. From their blog:

The removal of trips is a temporary measure, whilst, over the coming weeks we work with industry leaders to develop best practice guidelines and criteria for the child-focussed volunteer trips we offer via responsibletravel.com.

We want to ensure we only market volunteer trips that we have 100% trust in and that, as a community of responsible operators, we are leading the way and raising standards around best practice in this industry. We hope that by being independently created, the new criteria will help sustain the exemplary operators while removing those that may potentially tarnish the sector.

You can read more about the decision here. Be sure to scroll down to the comments as well, where there’s some lively discussion going on.

To our volunteer trip provider friends—whether you send volunteers overseas or host them in your own community—and especially those who offer orphanage programs, what steps have you taken to continually evaluate those placements? Have your practices changed in recent years or months?

And to those of you who receive requests for partnership from orphanages, how do you respond?

The Tourism Authority of Thailand Joins Forces with Global Voluntourism Agencies

With the intention of promoting volunteer tourism in this fascinating country, Tourism Authority of Thailand has joined forces with a number of voluntourism agencies to raise awareness of the many exciting and rewarding opportunities that Thailand has to offer. TAT’s commitment to promoting voluntourism is certainly no gimmick with a view to merely boosting the tourist industry. In fact, by working in unison with new partners who specialise in volunteer tourism, TAT is helping to ensure that Thailand’s worthwhile causes receive much deserved exposure.

Check out the press release here.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/tat/thailand/prweb10964068.htm

Have You Changed Your Program Offerings Due to the Economy?

From our state of the volunteer travel survey responses, to LinkedIn discussion groups, to forums and beyond, I’ve noticed volunteer travel providers worldwide becoming frustrated with their recruitment rates, which appear to be dropping from recent years. A few alternatives some have been developing—particularly smaller, niche ones that can’t quite compete monetarily with the behemoth ones we all know:

  • Internships abroad with a volunteer component
  • Longer-term volunteering
  • Service-learning (or learning service, as the case may be)
  • Career- or degree-based placements (e.g., veterinary training abroad for degree fulfillment)

Before I left my own volunteer travel company last year, I had the chance to start recruiting volunteers and interns for some new partnership programs in Central America; every single person who signed on during my time there wanted a semester-long placement or a career- or degree-related one (e.g., medical placement abroad for professionals in the field). In my interviews with potential volunteers and interns, all of them noted they very much wanted to travel, but as they had tiny, tiny budgets, they had to make sure it was absolutely worth their while: a longer-term placement abroad that satisfied degree requirements or helped build their careers was a two-for one deal in their book.

In speaking with other providers lately, many have noticed the same thing—short-term “volunteer vacation”-type projects just aren’t cutting it lately.

So friends: what have you noticed? Have you felt the need to change your volunteer placements to accommodate this new(ish) wave of travelers? How do your short-term programs stack up against your long-term ones, if you offer both? And if you have skills-based or unskilled programs, is one doing better than the other?

Check out Hopify, a New Platform for Volunteering – Or a Scam???

Below is the initial post and then I realized that half of this video was stolen from Daniela Papi and PEPY Ride’s work. So clearly, like many things voluntourism, Hopify is not what it appears to be. They also have no contact information anywhere. So let’s all stay away.

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Hopify’s aim is to create an independent platform, not connected to project or tourist operators, to link potential voluntourists to meaningful projects.

Check out their presentation video http://youtu.be/hC9H9K1otaA

Watch this space! These guys seem to have a good grasp of what’s needed.