Welcome to our next Discover Corps profile! This time, we’re introducing you to the man himself: Andrew Motiwalla. He’s our fearless leader here at Discover Corps, constantly inspiring us with his adventurous spirit and passion for service. In this profile, he’ll tell you all about his experience with the Peace Corps, which had a profound impact on him — eventually leading to his founding Discover Corps!
Category: Volunteer Vacations Page 10 of 10
The holiday season is here! Which means decorations, desserts, family get-togethers… and presents.
If you’re stumped on what to get your family this year — or are simply sick of spending money on toys that go unused — we’ve got an awesome gift idea: a volunteer vacation.
Take your husband and kids on a trip, plan an inter-generational reunion, or surprise your grandchild with some special “grandma and me” bonding time.
The possibilities abound, and the rewards are endless. We think a volunteer vacation would make the perfect family gift, and here’s why:
You’ve probably heard of a “volunteer vacation” before. And you might have wondered if they really do any good.
After all, what impact can an unskilled person have on a week or two during their holidays? What does some couple from suburban America know about community development?
This video highlights many of the challenges of international volunteerism. It boils down to what is your intention and what is the intention of the organization you’re traveling with. For Discover Corps, we are quite clear that our travelers are not going to be “development experts” in a week or two.
Recall the days when you were a child, questioning everything around you and developing your sense of self. “Those were the days” many people like to say. But imagine if you had the opportunity to travel with your family to a far-flung corner of the world, coming face to face with the local communities. How would that have changed your outlook?
In a recent article in Conde Nast Traveler, Claire Shipman describes the importance of exposing children to the outside world. Turn off the technology, open up their eyes and unveil the world around them, argues Claire. Volunteering abroad together as a family allowed her to take her children outside of their suburban “bubble” and engage with a community of people in a culture unlike their own. Volunteer vacations for families raise questions that are great conversation starters.
- “Why do people eat with their hands here?”
- “How do locals get water from the well to their house”
- “Why don’t all students have pens and notebooks in this school?”
These are all questions a child might ask that may seem quite simple from a distance, but have much deeper roots. Travelling as a family opens up these conversations and creates a unique opportunity to share in the curiosity of your children.
A family volunteer abroad trip is also the perfect way to combine much needed time off with a strong educational component. Claire talks about the valuable life lessons that her children took away from even a short volunteer stint. These include empathizing with others and learning about the value of simplicity. Seeing the other side of the coin, as many put it, truly changes one’s outlook.
If you are looking for your next family vacation, why not combine relaxation with a fun and meaningful experience? Discover Corps offers family friendly volunteer vacations in Asia, Africa and Latin America, just look for the “FF” next to the dates. Who knows, your kids may thank you for this someday.
In our last post, we discussed the key points to take into consideration when planning a volunteer vacation. These include the long term development plan of projects, the stakeholders involved and ongoing involvement of the local communities.
The debate over voluntourism continues. The primary question that is typically raised remains a simple one- how much of a difference can I really make in such a short period of time?
But the answer is not that simple. Don’t consult the community and accompany an organization that blindly implements projects? You’re probably not making a huge difference. Work closely with trusted partners and people who have strong relationships with the community? You’re contributing towards a larger goal that is in the interest of the community.
This is one of the reasons we partner with the National Peace Corps Association. Connections with returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs) throughout the developing world help us identify projects that are both highly impactful on the communities and have long-term development plans. These are people that intimately know the members of the towns and villages we volunteer in.
We return to the same communities and make incremental, sustainable progress on the projects with each group that joins us. Whether it’s the classes we teach in Guatemala, the sustainable bottle schools we build in the Dominican Republic or the women’s shelter we visit in Thailand, these projects are carried out gradually by members of our groups.
The result is a productive volunteer travel experience that connects you, the traveler, with the communities while producing meaningful change.
Inspiring the community. Developing lasting friendships. Leaving a positive footprint behind. This is voluntourism done right.
Recently, the radio program “Here And Now” on NPR ran this thought-provoking story about voluntourism. In it, they described the debate that has encircled volunteer travel ever since it started – how to balance the experience provided by the travel company with the well-being of the community.
Discover Corps doesn’t think it’s a balancing act – it’s not either / or. It’s both. In our years of running volunteer abroad trips, we’ve learned that the best travel experiences are actually facilitated when the volunteer work is truly benefiting the community. Our travelers are smart and can quickly detect if a volunteer project is just busy work. The local communities also detects whether the group is working on something meaningful or if they’re just a fly-by-night group.
So, how do we provide these quality projects on an ongoing basis? Our secret is that we invest a lot of time in finding NGOs, non-profits, or community organizations that run meaningful projects year-round. We work in consultation with them to see how we can plug in our groups in a way that catalyzes their work and propels it forward.
The questions raised by the NPR story are great ones to ask whenever you talk to a volunteer travel organization.
- What’s the long term development plan?
- Which local stakeholders are involved in the planning of the service projects?
- How do you facilitate ongoing involvement after the trip?
- How long have you been working with this community?
Have you had any negative international volunteer abroad experiences? If so, please share in the comments so others can be aware.