It surprised me the other day when I noticed I’d been involved with the travel/volunteer/adventure industry for over 10 years. How did that happen!
One issue that has always bubbled away in my mind – and was one of my lead motivations for setting up Tribewanted as community rather than volunteer tourism – was the problem of getting volunteering projects right. Right for the volunteer. Right for those the volunteering is supposed to be helping. Too often from what I’ve read, watched and witnessed, the balance has been in favour of the volunteer and not those it has supposed to be set-up for.
I’ve always assumed that volunteering projects should be set-up because help/sustainable development is needed – whether that’s in health, education, infrastructure or conservation – the need should come first. Right? Then you go find the funding and volunteers. But this hasn’t become the case. Too often volunteering projects have been set-up based on volunteers interests, timeframes, recreation choices first etc… if the egg comes before the chicken, the volunteers have been the egg.
This, of course, has led in some cases to mismanagement of volunteer projects and also confusing potential volunteers as to what they are fundraising for. And although it’s fantastic that there is a now a sense amongst our generation that global citizenship is part of how we live, it’s important, as in other industries that we track, to measure and make fair this growth.
Making volunteer projects fair for all involved as the norm for the industry and not the exception makes perfect sense to me. So when Tom Griffiths from gapyear.com, Jon Cassidy from Quest Overseas, and Gavin Bate from Adventure Alternative got in touch to ask if I’d like to help contribute to a new standard in fairness in volunteering that wasn’t heavy going, political or based on trade – I jumped at the chance.
The result is fair trade volunteering. Let me know your thoughts.
Member organisations must meet the following 5 criteria:
1. MINIMUM “LOCAL INVESTMENT” LEVEL
Organisations provide investment into the project itself above and beyond the volunteer’s time and work. This can be in the form of finance, resources or training.
2. LONG TERM COMMITMENT TO THE PROJECT (MINIMUM 3 YEARS)
Organisations have a direct relationship with the host project or community, and develop the project in joint communication with their project partners.
3. CLEAR AND HONEST PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND THOROUGH VOLUNTEER PREPARATION
Organisations give clear, comprehensive and honest descriptions of their projects. They also have an appropriate pre-departure selection, preparation and training programme.
4. IN-COUNTRY SUPPORT AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Volunteers receive constant support and regular communication while on site at their project.
5. 100% VOLUNTEER EXPENSES COVERED BY THE VOLUNTEER, NOT THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
Organisations ensure that 100% of volunteer expenses on site (food, accommodation, transport) are covered by their placement fee.