What’s better, a nonprofit volunteer vacation or a for profit volunteer vacation? Without a doubt one of the biggest problems in “voluntourism” today is the rise of numerous smaller, fly by night for profit volunteer vacations that are taking advantage of the growing demand for impact travel. Many of the worst horror stories involve travel companies that market trips to help but lack ties to reputable nonprofits overseas.
But it would be wrong to conclude for-profit is better than nonprofit. It’s more a question of how the structure of the organization advances or harms the impact of the volunteering. Sometimes nonprofit status can help because of the increased transparency and accountability involved in countries with good laws and regulations like the USA. In other countries with few development NGOs, “nonprofits” like orphanages have been linked to the worst kind of financial abuses that also put children in danger, like this ABC story: The Dark Side of Orphanage 'Voluntourism' in Nepal. BeachCorps personally knows of an orphanage in the Dominican Republic where the director was soliciting multiple donations of food and then selling the extra food to pad his/her paycheck. (Note: this is NOT an orphanage associated with any great nonprofits like the Charles Decker Foundation, which does amazing work helping kids who otherwise would fall through the cracks).
Some great organizations with a strong nonprofit leaning have chosen for-profits as partners in service and impact travel. Americorps Alums is the only national network that connects the nearly one million alumni of all AmeriCorps programs who have served since 1994. Americorps Alums has a partnership with the for-profit volunteer vacation Discover Corps when they just as easily could have chosen a reputable nonprofit volunteer vacations like Cross-Cultural Solutions or Global Brigades.
Show Me the Money!
One of the most important examples of a great private (i.e. “for-profit”) volunteer vacation firm is Pepy Tours, led by impact travel Ted Talk expert and practitioner Daniela Papi. Papi and Pepy Tours advocate and practice what few other volunteer vacation firms do in practice: separating the vacation from the donation to a worthy cause. Most volunteer vacations bury a small donation to the cause in the overall price they charge you, but if you ask them how much of your money actually went to the cause, they either can’t tell you or won’t tell you because it's so little. Separating the vacation costs from the donation helps increase transparency and accountability so that any part of the experience can be improved and monitored. Pepi co-founded Learning Info, where you can find the outstanding guide on volunteer vacations called the “The Volunteer Charter.” They also do excellent informational videos like Learning Service: Finding a Responsible Volunteer Placement.
Think about it: if a vacation firm is 100% nonprofit, then one of two things are true. One possibility is that the nonprofit firm handles or helps with all your logistics AND it also tries to set up not just your volunteer work, but your volunteer cause and its long-term results. Which means the nonprofit is trying to do vastly different things at once. That’s not easy. The other possibility is that the nonprofit is setting up or helping on all your travel AND it is connecting you to other nonprofit causes. In that case, it is a nonprofit with an inherent conflict of interest with the nonprofits it is supporting, since both nonprofits need direct donation support from volunteers and others to exist.
So in the end, it matters less whether your firm is for-profit or nonprofit. It matters more whether your firm gives you a great experience and, more important, actually makes the world a better place. And often that means combining the best qualities of a for-profit company (agility, innovation and customer service) with the best qualities of a nonprofit (integrity, social impact, long-term focus). It often means teamwork between for-profits and nonprofits! If you can do that, you’ve got the best situation of all!
#Recycling #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment #VolunteerVacation #DominicanRepublic #Sustainable #Voluntourism #Voluntourist #FaithBased #Nonprofit #SustainableTourism #SustainableTravel
Does your volunteer vacation follow the Buckeroo Banzai philosophy? Buckeroo Banzai was the 1984 cult classic that crossed the action/adventure and sci-fi film genres, including elements of comedy, satire, and romance. The most famous line in the film was Buckeroo offering a deep sounding but hilariously meaningless pseudo-philosophy: “No matter where you go… there you are.”
Too many volunteer vacations follow the Buckeroo Banzai philosophy. They seem to promise the volunteer that their program will help some cause, but when pressed they are unable to say how or why. They seem deep but are meaningless.
Let’s take a typical volunteer vacation. The bus pulls up to the school in a third world country. A bunch of tourists pile out. They go to a classroom where happy children perform a welcome song. The tourists clap and then present the teacher with a bag of notebooks and pencils, taking multiple selfies of the tourists with teacher and donated items. Then all the tourists pile into the bus and leaves. Sounds like you are helping kids, right?
Probably not. That little pitstop has violated just about rule about successful volunteer work. First, the project interrupted a classroom to please tourists in a way that had no educational value. Worse, it taught the kids to beg from foreigners. The project was a classic one-off project with no real plan to make a difference over the long-term or follow up, even if just to see that one week later the teacher hadn’t sold all the notebooks and pencils to buy supplies for their own weekend party.
RoadMap For Success. What that volunteer vacation project was missing was a roadmap for success. A roadmap implies many things. First, it implies you have a goal worth achieving, a destination worth going to. Was dumping a bunch of notebook and pencils off at the school a goal worth achieving with a volunteer vacation? Not really. The volunteers could just have easily sent them in a truck with no volunteers for less. But most short-term volunteer vacations with unskilled workers find it impossible to set goals that make a difference because the causes they are supporting have no strategy for change, no real goals.
A second feature of roadmaps are mile markers. Mile markers you tell you how close you are to your objective and whether you are making sufficient progress in achieving your objectives. So great causes are able to show you records for results. The first kind of results great nonprofits can show are outputs: houses built, kids who learned English, plastic trash recycled and kept out of landfills and water supplies. The second, more difficult mile marker are outcomes, or fundamental changes in attitude or structure or behavior that has long-lasting impact.
That’s why BeachCorps works to support FECOTUR, an up and coming nonprofit in the Dominican Republic that promotes recycling education and community empowerment. FECOTUR is backed by the sustainability leader in the eastern Dominican Republic, Ecoservices Dominicana. These guys are whizzes at planning, logistics, and numbers. They have a roadmap for success for FECOTUR, and BeachCorps aims to add a little gas to their tank and help them pick the final destination. They will avoid giving out free handouts to comments and instead will develop programs that help communities address their own needs, including in recycling and anti-littering. FECOTUR has embraced the philosophy of the great work on volunteering “Toxic Charity,” which shows how well intentioned volunteer work can often get locals to depend of foreigners to solve their problems. FECOTUR will show strong output data that their projects aren’t just reducing dumping into landfills and carbon emissions; they will show that their projects are changing a culture of dependency and littering into a culture of empowerment and clean communities. Both outcomes and outputs.
Avoid the Buckeroo Banzai philosophy if you aren't making an awesome and hilarious sci-fi/action movie. Make sure your volunteer vacation isn’t deep sounding but ultimately meaningless. Get a roadmap and plan your goal or goals. Such a philosophy is great for a fictional action/comedy hero. It’s not good for ensuring that your vacation helps real people. Because in the end, No matter where you go… make sure you want to be there.
#Recycling #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment #VolunteerVacation #DominicanRepublic #Sustainable #Voluntourism #Voluntourist #FaithBased #BuckerooBanzai #Recycling #PlasticRecycling
What is the cardinal sin of most volunteer vacations? Focusing too much on the volunteer and not the cause. Organized volunteer trips make this mistake in the pre-trip marketing to get volunteers to sign up, during the volunteer work, and then in evaluating the impact of the trip. As the classic work on sustainable development “Toxic Charity” showed, this cardinal sin isn’t limited to organized volunteer vacation firms (both for-profit and non-profit). Toxic Charity showed that many faith-based volunteer projects or other projects organized by universities or individuals or groups commit the cardinal sin in focusing on the volunteers, not the cause.
First, let’s look at the pre-trip marketing. It’s simply unrealistic that a short term volunteer project involving unskilled volunteers can have a major impact in promoting sustainable development. And yet the hype of many volunteer vacation firms would make you think that in one week, two weeks, or even a month the efforts of an unskilled local volunteer will significantly change a community, particularly when the volunteer doesn’t speak the local language or have a strong understanding of local culture. So often volunteers are encouraged to believe that their short time volunteering will have a significant long term impact. Volunteers think they will be greeted like Mother Teresa as they wade into a sea of grateful faces, with rose petals thrown in the path before them.
Volunteers are encouraged to see locals as helpless and in need because this view makes the volunteer feel generous and powerful. Even the tendency to “slum it” with mediocre to abysmal room and board gives volunteers the short-term rush of poverty themselves, relieving years of guilt in lives of privilege. “I will know the suffering of the poor by sleeping in a shack on a cot for a week.”
During the volunteer work, volunteers often want to take the lead, to leave their mark in the form of sharing great ideas and wisdom with locals. Instead of working with locals to help them implement and improve their own sustainable development plans, volunteers believe they will shine the light of civilization on backward people. Volunteers will take charge of the project, often overlooking or ignoring the wants and needs of locals. Most important, volunteers will often do the work that locals should have done themselves, thus perpetuating a culture of dependency where locals look to foreigners for solutions to their own problems. Often volunteers steal jobs that would have gone to locals, thus destroying jobs and businesses and the economic pillar of all sustainable development. Years ago, Conde Nast looked at the pitfalls of volunteer vacations in an article regarding volunteering in Haiti that still rings true.
Finally, too many volunteer trips measure their success in the enjoyment and impact on the volunteer, not local sustainable development. The trip is deemed a success if the volunteer “feels” good about what they did, if they got to meet some friendly locals, if they left their little physical mark in the form of some nails in a roof or paint on a wall. The trip is deemed successful if the volunteer was safely exposed to people in need before getting back onto the jet back home, where they can proudly post dozens of selfies of the volunteer with sad and/or helpless locals (as this hysterical video from SAIH shows). SAIH is the Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund that fights stereotypes in aid and development. All too often, volunteers work on one-off projects with no long-term plan or measurement of success and no effort to gauge whether well-intentioned efforts to help might have produced unintended consequences.
How do you avoid committing the Cardinal Sin of volunteer vacations? Focus on local heroes. Remember that on good volunteer vacations, the heroes are not the volunteers. Instead, the heroes are local leaders who fight for a worthy cause and remain on site after the temporary volunteers fly back home.
So in your volunteer vacations, support and empower local heroes in all three stages of the volunteer experience. Stress the focus on supporting and empowering local leaders in pre-trip marketing, making sure that volunteers understand that locals are in charge. During the volunteer work, make sure that local leaders are directing and approving work and priorities. Exercise judicious humility in trying to get locals to “do it another way,” realizing that locals might know something you don’t. Make sure that clear and appropriate economic support goes into local priorities, and not just into making the trip more fun and rewarding for volunteers. Finally, measure success in how projects impacted locals and helped locals. If possible, try to set up both short-term measurable goals and medium to long-term goals. Get real feedback from locals, including areas for improvement next time.
If you’ve successfully avoided the volunteer vacation Cardinal Sin, your thoughts and your photos that you share back home with your 500 Facebook friends will reflect your focus on local heroes. You shine as a volunteer when local heroes shine. In helping local leaders to shine, you might encourage some of your Facebook friends to come and support your favorite local hero!
#Recycling #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment #VolunteerVacation #DominicanRepublic #Sustainable #Voluntourism #Voluntourist #FaithBased
(Photo of Cristobal Rijo, Community Leader in Monte Verde, Dominican Republic promoting recycling and anti-littering)
BeachCorps is different from other volunteer vacations because we don't invent the nonprofit cause to please the tourist—or worse, create a for-profit “cause” designed to fleece the volunteer. Instead, we find nonprofit causes that are worth supporting and then bring the tourists to the cause. It's easy to understand that volunteer vacations should support worthy nonprofit causes. But how do you know if a donation to a nonprofit cause is well used or not? That's not so easy. But here are some ideas to guide you.
An Open Book, A Straight Shooter: Transparency and Accountability
Major US nonprofits have official IRS 501c3 status that requires them to report income and use of funds. For large, well-established nonprofits there are several online sites that help you gauge transparency and accountability. Mike Montali, CEO of Harbor Compliance, shared some ideas in The Huffington Post:
1. The IRS Nonprofit Charities Database has a tool called “The Exempt Organizations Select Check Tool”. Check to see if your donation is tax-deductible.
2. Charity Navigator rates charities based on their financial health, accountability, and transparency to help donors make informed decisions about their contributions.
3. GuideStar maintains information on 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Financial documents, such as the 990, help you evaluate the legitimacy of an organization. The 990 discloses where and how an organization’s donations are spent, including the earnings of top officers.
Helping the Little Guy: Help Little Nonprofits Grow
But not all nonprofits make full use of these online platforms, and many are good causes. In particular, causes that are focused overseas often don't appear on these major platforms. Furthermore, big nonprofits with lots of donors have the ability to fill out all the forms and show donors exactly how they spend money and the results achieved. But if we only support big nonprofits, then the innovations of small nonprofits will disappear. It’s critical to support worthy up and coming nonprofits grow and mature to the point where they have the institutional capacity to become more transparent and accountable in their reporting.
Eye in the Sky; Eyes on the Ground
So helping little nonprofits is important, but which ones? Which nonprofits can you trust if they aren’t on major online platforms? The fact of the matter is that if you are volunteering in a far-off land you don’t know well (which is part of the fun and learning) you need to find a trusted partner to help you find the good nonprofits. You need someone who is willing to stake their good name on a nonprofit. You need someone that has both an Eye in the Sky to see the big development picture to know what causes need support. You also need someone with eyes on the ground to know if the nonprofits are run by people worth trusting.
Measuring Success: Home Run Tally
Another key question for your volunteer vacation is: does the project describe what results will be achieved? These results can be of two kinds: outputs and outcomes. When you input a donation, any good volunteer project should be able to point to short-term, home run outputs: Hour of English teaching delivered; a home repainted or rebuilt; 100 pounds of recycled plastic recycled. But don’t stop there. Ask yourself this: beyond outputs, what outcomes does the nonprofit hope to achieve? Outcomes are longer-term changes like growing empowerment of local leadership; an expansion of a “pay it forward” ethos in helping others after you’ve been helped; a change in a culture of littering. Those important outcomes aren’t just home runs; they are grand slams in the World Series! And they require patient and a longer-term commitment to achieve. Your BeachCorps “Little Grain of Sand” by itself is not going to make much of a difference. But by supporting nonprofit causes that seek to bring about positive change over time, you can be a little part of something big and beautiful.
Earmark Donations for Great Uses, Like Scholarships
A great way to make sure that your donations to a nonprofit cause are being used wisely is to wisely earmark some or all of the donations to specific purposes that make sense. Wherever possible, donations should be restricted in their use to promote transparency and accountability. For example, many BeachCorps projects are going to limit the use of all or some of the funds to expenses directly related to the execution of the project as well as measurable long-term investments, particularly in scholarships for kids who are supporting the volunteer work. (Photo: Graduation at Puntacana Foundation supported Kheel Politécnico).
Scholarships are awesome. By earmarking funds to scholarships, we help create a virtuous circle where kids are empowered via education to be agents of change in their community, the friends and family of those kids join volunteer operations, and other kids hoping to earn scholarships join volunteer efforts. In addition, scholarship systems have built-in oversight: the institutions supporting the volunteer work, the kids and their families, and the educational institutions where the scholarships are being paid all provide oversight to make sure funds are being properly used. Finally, adding kids who are earning scholarships allows BeachCorps to support nonprofit work that helps the poorest of the poor who may be unable to “give back” in that moment, but we are still promoting local empowerment by giving kids an education and getting them involved in solving the problems of their own community. Win-win!
#VolunteerVacation #Sustainability #SustainableTourism #PuntaCana #DominicanRepublic #Nonprofit #Education #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment #Scholarships
BeachCorps is preparing for our big summer launch in 2018! We've already hired two great college social media specialists, Liza Villanueva and Julianna Carfaro. Now we are going to hire a limited number of campus representatives who will have a combination of social media duties and representational duties on campus!
We see this as a win-win. College students are increasingly interested in new ways to engage and contribute; BeachCorps needs the creative talent and spirit of college kids, so we're hiring!
Working for BeachCorps as a campus representative would be a great opportunity to gain some good experience, resume material, and exposure while also allowing for some creativity in fulfilling your duties and a very long timeline to fulfill and no pressure. Being a BeachCorps Campus Representative would also give someone an inside track on a free trip to the Dominican Republic, as currently any student who was able to get 10 other students to take a BeachCorps trip to the Dominican Republic this summer 2018 or for Spring Break of 2019 would get a free trip (airfare, hotel, volunteer excursion). Obviously being a campus representative who did a great job would also give you an inside track on future BeachCorps openings!
Many companies use campus representatives to market trips to Cancun in this same way. Cancun trips are fun but often involve very poor personal conduct decisions. How great would it be if we could create another option that combined the education, service dedication and camaraderie of college alternative spring breaks with the nice hotels, nightlife and beach fun of Cancun, but with policies that ensured that students, who could legally drink, didn't abuse alcohol? Yes, it could be done by proper education, training and by requiring students to put a deposit down to ensure they don't abuse alcohol while still allowing those who wish to drink legally and responsibly in the Dominican Republic to do so. We plan to have one or two trips this summer and a Spring Break pilot trip in 2019. Any Campus Representative who took the trip would probably support our Recycling for Education program that gives kids school supplies for supporting recycling and trash clean up in their communities.
Duties of BeachCorps Campus Representative (10 hours total to be completed before the summer break 2018):
To learn about this great opportunity:
#VolunteerVacation #HelpWanted #CollegeJobs #CollegeHiring
#Sustainability #SustainableTourism #PuntaCana #DominicanRepublic #Nonprofit #Education #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment #ImpactTravel
There’s no doubt about it. The Dominican Republic was lucky not to get a full blast from Hurricane Irma. There was some damage on the North Coast and people did lose their homes. But it wasn’t the devastation that we’ve seen elsewhere in the Caribbean or the USA. BeachCorps has contributed to help the victims (we believe direct cash donations to reputable organizations like the Red Cross are the best) and urge you to consider doing so. On September 13, the nonprofit volunteer organization of the tourism industry Tourism Cares brought together 12 travel industry associations to develop and support the Destination Disaster Recovery Fund, with the hopes of becoming the primary resource for travel and tourism-related recovery efforts for hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Beyond that, let’s take a step back and ask: how does BeachCorps deal with hurricanes? First, it’s important to realize that while the risk is real the Dominican Republic has over time been relatively less affected by hurricanes and serious storms over the years owing to its geographic placement, compared to other Caribbean countries and even the southeastern USA. The hurricane seasons lasts from June through September each year. Only 11 hurricanes have reached the country in the past 80 years, as the country is naturally protected by Puerto Rico to the east, and the Mona Channel in between the two islands, where temperature variations create a pressure system that (usually) pushes storms towards the sea, as was the case with Irma. No Dominican Republic city appears in this list of the top 50 cities in the Atlantic and Caribbean to be affected by hurricanes and severe storms.
Despite the rarity of severe storms, all areas in the Dominican Republic have seen storm damage at some point. Hotels catering to foreigners are well-versed in hurricane preparedness. On the off chance you happen to be caught in a hurricane in the Dominican Republic while on a BeachCorps vacation, most hotels will provide adequate instructions and have plans and facilities in place. Moreover, since hurricanes that affect the Dominican Republic tend to form along the west coast of Africa, hurricanes are not likely to sneak up on unsuspecting travelers; there is plenty of opportunity to be warned and evacuate, or not come in the first place. BeachCorps will of course warn you if we are aware of any danger and will not put people in harm's way.
In terms of the nonprofit causes that BeachCorps supports, we have a hurricane plan in place. If a hurricane or other disaster affects your travel plans, BeachCorps will refund your excursion payments 100%. The tax deductible donation you will have made will stay with the nonprofit that you were going to support. So you can rest assured that your donation will go directly to hurricane relief exactly when the country needs it, because each nonprofit that BeachCorps supports will have a contractual obligation to have a disaster relief plan in place and to produce expense reports, just like any BeachCorps project.
For example, BeachCorps hopes to support the wonderful Dominican Dream Project, whose work supporting education for underserved communities is focused on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Before Irma hit, the Dream Project announced it had a plan and then after Irma had passed sent a message out to supporters afterwards confirming its intent to follow through on providing hurricane relief.
That’s the kind of effectiveness, transparency, and accountability that BeachCorps will ask for in ALL of our partners!
Despite occasional stormy weather, the Dominican Republic will forever be a special and exquisitely beautiful place in the Caribbean as described by the nation’s poet laureate, Pedro Mir:
“There is a country in the world”
A country in the world
In the same path as the sun,
A native of the night
In an improbable archipelago
of Sugar and rum...
If you like this post, leave your little grain of sand by liking BeachCorps and sharing it with others!
#Hurricane #Irma #HurricaneIrma #HurricaneRelief #DominicanRepublic #HurricaneRisk
1. Be a Hands On Part of a Company that Will Change the World.
Can a great vacation support a great cause? YES! Until now, no one has ever attempted to use volunteers taking traditional fun vacations to support worthy nonprofit causes. BeachCorps is changing that. We are proving that the best and perhaps ONLY way that unskilled, short-term volunteers can make a real, positive difference is with their time for people-to-people engagement, their funding, and their 500 Facebook friends to testify in favor for a great cause. Once we prove that this model succeeds in the Dominican Republic, we will take the model around the world. Join us and change the world “A Little Grain of Sand” at a time!
2. BeachCorps has a Plan to Succeed.
BeachCorps has a plan to be the Expedia (TM) of volunteer vacations, allowing you to choose your hotel, your cause, and your activity. BeachCorps partners with great hotels and tourism experts in the Dominican Republic to support established, worthy nonprofit causes while ensuring volunteer activities support sustainable development. BeachCorps is the only volunteer vacation company of its kind in the world, since other volunteer vacations 1) don’t partner with great hotels, 2) don’t work with worthy, established and independent nonprofit causes, and 3) don’t ensure that a broad and flexible variety of rewarding activities are dedicated to the needs of the cause, not volunteers. Working with us will open up a whole new world of combining great vacations and great causes. BeachCorps has been working with great nonprofits for years because it takes time to develop trust and relationships to create projects that work. This is not the kind of business that potential competitors can duplicate overnight.
3. The Dominican Republic ROCKS!
If you work for BeachCorps, eventually you will get to travel and work in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is perfect for developing this new kind of tourism, with it beautiful beaches and hotels, proximity to the USA, abundant quality volunteer opportunities, and vibrant culture that welcomes tourists. BeachCorps will develop impact travel (sometimes called “voluntourism”) in the Dominican Republic the way ecotourism began in Costa Rica, creating a new tool for helping people everywhere. Business Insider ranked the Dominican Republic as the second best island in the Caribbean. It has both the BEST all-inclusive hotels and wonderful boutique and ecotourism destinations, plus some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet.
4. BeachCorps Empowers People and Fights a Culture of Dependency.
BeachCorps believes in the principles espoused by Robert Lupton in “Toxic Charity”: “Never do for the poor what they can do for themselves” and #2 “Limit one-way giving to emergencies” follow the same logic of local empowerment. The BeachCorps model focuses on empowerment and engagement and avoids activities that create a culture of dependency that is all too common in “voluntourism.” This culture of dependency is perpetuated whenever voluntourism perpetuates what is often referred to as "The White Savior Mentality." Two-way engagement, where locals learn about volunteers and vice-versa, reinforces empowerment by creating relationships of equals. In addition, BeachCorps will only work with worthy causes backed by sustainable, officially recognized 501c3 US charities that build upon local efforts, including the work of the poor. BeachCorps programs will work on creating local leaders who are the true “local heroes” of BeachCorps, along with the hero beneficiaries of these worthy causes.
5. BeachCorps Supports Cross-Sectoral Partnerships to Achieve More.
By working with BeachCorps, you will be part of a model that brings together multiple partners from the private sector, nonprofits, and even the government. Such multi-sectoral partnerships accomplish more because they are able to address sustainable development with a holistic approach. Our model ensures everyone does what they do best: the nonprofit(s) designs a safe and fun project and activities to empower their cause(s); the excursion provider ensures smooth and safe transportation and other support; the hotel supports the project and provides a great hotel experience--and BeachCorps advises and pulls the whole team together.
6. BeachCorps is a Thought Leader in Sustainability.
As the first ever volunteer vacation based on real, independent causes, BeachCorps is charting unknown waters. As such, if you work for BeachCorps you will be making discoveries and adding to the knowledge of BeachCorps and proving that yes, indeed, a great vacation can support a great cause. Come help us explore!
7. Get Your Creative Fireworks Going with BeachCorps
BeachCorps is redefining what it means to volunteer for a worthy cause. It’s not just painting a wall at a nonprofit for the 10th time. We are creating all kinds of innovative programs to allow people to connect as human beings and share cultural insights. If you work for BeachCorps, you will have a change to create and implement exciting new programs in sustainable tourism such as our "Recycling for Education" program that will provide school supplies to kids who promote recycling and trash pick up. IT'S MAGIC!
Want to work for BeachCorps? Find Out About Our Positions as Social Media Intern and Sustainable Tourism Digital Media Manager.
#HelpWanted #Sustainability #SustainableTourism #PuntaCana #DominicanRepublic #Nonprofit #Education #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment
Is it possible to simultaneously support recycling and education while combatting a culture of littering and dependency with a little "magic"? Yes!
Recently BeachCorps was approached by some small, informal community organizations asking for us to help pay for their school supplies. We would love to help turn these organizations into formal nonprofits capable of empowering their communities. We love school and we love education but we also don't like encouraging a culture of dependency via "Toxic Charity" where you ask for something without giving something in return.
So we decided to offer to pay for school supplies in exchange for communities collecting some plastic bottles and other material like cardboard and Tetra Pak for recycling. They loved the idea. We are now partnering with the premiere recycling and sustainability firm in the Eastern Dominican Republic, Ecoservices Dominicana, to create over the next year a program to help increase the amount of school supplies destined for giving underserved communities in exchange for kids and communities helping out by turning in some plastic bottles, cardboard, and Tetra pak for recycling. Tetra Pak is already a partner of Ecoservices and we hope they will be excited about this project too. We will be looking for other partners in the private sector (particularly the producers of the plastic bottles), nonprofits, and the government to support us. We will look for a local supplier of school supplies to help us get more bang for our back and increase the efficiency, transparency, and accountability of the donation process.
Here's a lovely Youtube video that shows the enthusiasm of our communities for this project. The first organization showed is the Fundación Caña, Melao y Azucar (the Cane, Molasses and Sugar Foundation) and is centered in the town of San Pedro de Macoris, the capital city of Dominican baseball. Their school supplies project also provided much needed haircuts to make kids neater and lice-free for school. The Fundación Caña, Melao y Azucar is on the verge of obtaining official Dominican nonprofit status and we look forward to working with them. The second organization is even more informal and is centered on the community of Monte Verde (Green Mountain), a community that also has the nickname of Mata Mosquitos (Mosquito Killer). The local community leader Cristobal wants to take a small local trash dump in the middle of the neighborhood and turn it into a childcare center for the hundreds of people who leave the community to work every day and have no other real choice but to let their little kids run the streets. We want to help. BeachCorps asked for one huge bag of bottles and we got a LOT more than we bargained for! At first the big bag didn't fit into the back of the BeachMobile! The kids had to push HARD! And there were many more bags collected that had to be sent for recycling later.
By the summer of 2018, we hope to have full-fledged BeachCorps volunteer vacation programs ready where volunteers can come to local communities and celebrate the donation of more and better school supplies in exchange for recycling and creating cleaner communities. These events will make clear that the real heroes are not the tourists or BeachCorps, but the local community leaders who have developed this program and the kids who have helped make it a reality. This can be a big, yearly event that will constantly help communities and local governments stay on top of the problems of littering and the absence of a strong recycling culture.
Our program will tackle four different issues at once:
1. Promoting recycling: we will educate kids about the importance of recycling and particularly the harm plastic trash in particular does to the environment and even to storm and flood water drainage.
2. Combatting the "Trash Culture": we will help the kids understand why they must be the generation that starts to change the culture of just tossing trash on the ground. This is not as hopeless as it sounds and gives kids the feeling that they are rebels fighting for a wonderful cause, that they "get it" while their parents don't. In America, we had a culture of tossing trash on the ground until we saw the light (who remembers the famous "Crying Indian" video?).
3. Supporting Education: We want to make sure that this program increases the amount and quality of school supplies for kids that need them. Too often there is a push only at the beginning of the year, and the school supplies have run out long before the end of the year. Our program will increase the payment for recycled bottles well beyond the market price, creating a powerful tool for buying school supplies.
4. Supporting Empowerment and Combatting the Dependency Culture: by giving kids the opportunity to pay for a greater number of school supplies, we will show them the value of working towards their own education and give them the pride of earning their school supplies as opposed to getting it for free. Imagine the pride of a kid who comes each year carrying his or her little bag of bottles and other recycling as payment for their school supplies.
Moreover, a program providing school supplies can be the entry point for working with a community to create other, more ambitious projects, such as creating the day care center or even English classes over the summer, the latter a major focus for BeachCorps for the summer of 2018.
We finally did get the back into the back of the BeachMobile. The most important lesson is that working together we can do magic if everyone does a little and does what they do best. We are grateful to Ecoservices Dominicana for all their support! We hope to find other private sector partners, nonprofits, and even government partners with the same vision and dedication for sustainability that Ecoservices has.
It's just a start of course. But do you like this idea? Then follow us on social media and share this blog story! That's leaving your "Little Grain of Sand!"
#Recycling #AntiLittering #Sustainability #SustainableTourism #PuntaCana #DominicanRepublic #Nonprofit #Education #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment #SchoolSupplies #TetraPak
One of the most popular forms of "voluntourism" is orphanage voluntourism. It is also the form of voluntourism that causes the most harm. Multiple studies have shown the damage done by orphanage voluntourism, particularly in places like Cambodia where parents actually “rent” their kids to orphanages, often creating de facto orphans along the way. Even the volunteers frequently feel that short-term orphanage voluntourism is doomed to failure, as this video by Al Jazeera shows. The other great harm of course is the psychological impact of kids who’ve lost their parents developing attachments to people who are around for a short period of time and then disappear. In addition, having unqualified, unknown volunteers spend long hours of time with children over time creates a potential for child abuse.
The other big problem is that most orphanages lack the administrative capacity to show how funds are being used. It's important to have that accountability in volunteer vacations. One kind-hearted BeachCorps friend in the travel industry stopped giving to an orphanage after she learned that someone else had given funding to purchase food for a certain period, and then met another person who’d made the exact same donation. Here's a nice list of "10 Reasons Why Orphanage Voluntourism Must Stop" by @MumsDoTravel.
Because of these problems, BeachCorps currently does not engage in orphanage volunteer vacations and supports the #StopOrphanTrips campaign. To sign an online petition urging that orphanage voluntourism end, click HERE.
At the same time, it would be wrong to just turn our backs on orphans and orphanages. In addition, Cambodia is not the Dominican Republic. Says one orphanage expert friend of BeachCorps: "the topic is a strawman in the Dominican Republic. Orphanage voluntourism does not exist in the Dominican Republic. An afternoon visit by a family, playing, with the children, is not a 'working visit'." According to this expert, the only orphanage voluntourism program that existed in the Dominican Republic ended more than five years ago, and that organization now does community outreach.
Orphanages are a sad and seemingly permanent reality in many countries that lack the resources or culture to develop foster care systems supported by the government, civil society, and the private sector. They deserve our effective support, especially in the Dominican Republic. If you want to know about good organizations that support orphanages in the Dominican Republic, email: email@example.com.
One day we hope to work with some worthy orphanage organization, to fund scholarships for some of the kids. A small number of orphans in any orphanage could qualify for these scholarships by doing well in school and giving back to their communities and their orphanages, including by being mentors to younger orphans. These kids would be the ones that work on BeachCorps projects, learning skills about public speaking and doing outreach to their communities so their scholarship is given with the “pay it forward” concept.
A scholarship program could help turn kids from objects of pity into empowered leaders, opening paths for improving conditions in orphanages without encouraging the creation of more orphans. Orphans in reputable orphanages who qualify for scholarships could be great helpers within the orphanages themselves, helping to encourage a culture of empowerment as model leaders. Tourists would never have the kind of exposure to kids that could be harmful to the kids psychological development. Moreover, the funding would be managed by a reputable local school or university to ensure transparency and accountability.
Short-term volunteering with kid orphan leaders who are earning scholarships could work. The short-term exposure would lend itself well to introducing volunteers to really great, empowered orphan kids earning scholarships, which could encourage the volunteers to then contribute more towards the education of those kid orphan leaders and the next generation of leaders. This could all be achieved without encouraging the creation of more orphans, and could even be linked to a public awareness campaign to move towards systems relying more on foster families.
It’s a long term dream of BeachCorps. We’ll first develop scholarship programs in less problematic areas, making our mistakes and learning and improving first before working in the problematic area of orphanages.
Wish us luck.
#Voluntourism #SustainableDevelopment #SustainableTourism #SustainableTravel #DominicanRepublic #VolunteerVacation #ImpactTravel #OrphanageVoluntourism #Orphanage
Is a BeachCorps volunteer vacation a good deal? We think so. A BeachCorps excursion will seem expensive compared to other excursions like bungee jumping and horseback riding. That is because you are not only paying a regular excursion fee (provided by the top-rated Runners Adventures), you are also paying a separate one-time fee to BeachCorps for coordinating the team and advising on the project and a separate donation directly to the cause (BeachCorps does not collect any commission on the donation but gives 100% to the cause).
But BeachCorps actually is an amazing value. The proper comparison of BeachCorps is not to another simple excursion, but to other volunteer vacations. In that case, BeachCorps is a GREAT deal. Unless you stay in a luxury hotel, you will pay less and more of your funds will actually reach the cause. Moreover, you will enjoy the big three BeachCorps difference: 1) you stay in a nice hotel that you pick (which will often be a partner in the project), 2) you support a REAL cause (not one invented by a volunteer vacation) that is backed in most cases by a registered 501c3 US official charity, and 3) we make sure that your volunteer activities (whether work or play) support and don't hurt the cause or sustainable development.
Most volunteer vacations in the Dominican Republic cost about $2200-$3000 for 8 days (5 days of volunteering, 1 day of rest/fun, and 2 travel days). Compare BeachCorps to other volunteer vacations in terms of price here:
The bottom line is that there are good and bad volunteer vacations out there, but NO ONE is using the BeachCorps model. We do it better, and we do it for less. We ensure more funding goes directly to great causes and we insist on transparency, accountability, and a strategic plan for creating a positive difference. Ultimately, no other model of volunteer vacations has the BeachCorps potential for truly making a difference in sustainable development, because unlike other models we don't try to do it all alone. We lead a team effort of private sector companies, nonprofits, local communities, and even sometimes government organizations. And we make sure that the focus of our efforts is primarily on supporting great causes, rather than the hopes and desires (and egos) of volunteers. We know that in the end that will make our volunteer clients happy: if we actually make a difference, and they know that they are a little grain of sand in that effort!
#Voluntourism #SustainableDevelopment #SustainableTourism #SustainableTravel #DominicanRepublic #VolunteerVacation #ImpactTravel
The BeachCorps Beach Bum!
The BeachCorps Beach Bum loves great vacations and great volunteer work!