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: https://www.gooverseas.com/volunteer-abroad/dominican-republic
The bottom line is that there is good and bad voluntourism 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!
SAIH is an organization of students and academics in Norway. SAIH focuses on education in development cooperation and created a wonderful if over-simplified parody of the "White Savior Mentality" that permeates so much voluntourism: "Who Wants to Be a Volunteer?"
So much voluntourism today does focus on glorifying the volunteer and making the beneficiaries seem helpless. But BeachCorps is trying to change that. BeachCorps is a model 9 years in the making that focuses on great causes, not the egos of volunteers. After years of developing our model, we were delighted to learn of the seminal work "Toxic Charity" that talks about the dangers of good intentions doing harm through volunteer work. As we read the book, every single danger was one we had already thought of--we just hadn't expressed it so well. And we were glad to see our model avoids those mistakes. We talk a lot about Toxic Charity on our website. https://www.beachcorps.com/avoiding-toxic-charity.html
So ultimately while we believe a lot of voluntourism is bad, not all of it is. We subscribe to the #MendNotEnd philosophy that says you can indeed do good on short term trips if the focus is the cause, not the ego of the volunteer. Our marketing focus is on the great non-profit and for-profit partners that are working to empower local communities. The folks who are fighting to empower local communities to promote education, community development, protecting the environment/animals are the heroes, not BeachCorps, not our volunteers. Our volunteers are but a "Little Grain of Sand" in our view. A little sand in the wrong place can do harm. Only a lot of sand accumulating and supporting the right causes can help. We are starting in the Dominican Republic this year but hope to expand.
We hope that folks will see if we are keeping our promises!
A major difference between the BeachCorps model of volunteer vacation is a laser beam focus on supporting and developing great causes. Unlike other models, BeachCorps PR outreach is focused not on ourselves, but on our partners, in particular the wonderful work of nonprofit partners. We shine, only by reflection, if they shine. The BeachCorps focus is on creating "local heroes” among Dominicans, not building the ego of volunteers (whom we love). BeachCorps volunteers are just “a little grain of sand.” Over time, BeachCorps volunteers can help build something beautiful, but only if they work to support the cause.
So BeachCorps has a "No-Selfie" rule on volunteer projects that we will ask people to help us support. In fact, we will ask you NOT to bring your cameras or smartphones on the trip without permission (with exceptions, see below) because we also think it's rude (and unwise) to bring a group with a couple dozen expensive smartphones into a poor but determined community where a smartphone is a luxury.
We do encourage volunteers to help us take great photos and video. On a first come, first serve basis, we allow 1) two people to volunteer per project to help capture photos and videos with our cameras and 2) and we allow two people to bring their own cameras or smartphones. We of course take photos and video, too and we offer free photos and a custom-made video of your project that we encourage you to share to promote your cause--if you are convinced it's a worthy cause after your work is done. We do ask, however, that if you are a volunteer photographer that you conform to our rules for photography and videos:
BeachCorps volunteers can contribute to worthy causes in three ways: their time, their donation to the cause, and their social media connections. BeachCorps hopes you will donate generously to your cause in all three areas. In terms of your social media connections, if you like the cause you supported, please, please, please share photos of the cause on all the social media platforms you can.
But please, please, please: No Selfies of you volunteering in the cause. Keep the selfies for the pool, beach or disco!
Hello from the BeachCorps Beach Bum! Today we'd like to introduce a new part of our blog called Beach Bum Basics. BeachCorps is all about getting out of the "gilded cage" of a beautiful resort and out into the real world of the Dominican Republic. Many people are perfectly happy to stay inside the resorts, and who can blame them. But others want to get out and learn what life is like outside the hotel compound. And that's where basic common sense advice comes into play when you want to safely go off the beaten path of the resorts.
If you want to get around safely, the smartest and safest thing is to get a great taxi or bus or van service that caters to foreigners. You will pay extra for a private taxi, probably about the same rates you pay in the USA or other developed countries. If you want to be a Dominican and do as the Dominicans and live a bit dangerously (by US standards), small groups of people can easily and cheaply get around on small Dominican motorcycles (called motoconchos). You pay about $200 pesos/$4 for a 3 mile trip, and the smallest fee is about 50 pesos or $1. And here's the important tip: If you are going to ride on a motoconcho, then look for a driver with a helmet.
Many drivers don't wear any helmet, and that's plain dumb and dangerous. So why would you want to drive with someone who is acting dumb and dangerous? And of course, wear a helmet yourself wherever possible. If you can, sneak a motorcycle helmet or at least a bike helmet into your luggage if you are planning to take motoconchos (you can't rent them easily here). We would add look for a driver who also uses sunglasses, which makes sense for running into bugs, but sadly and inexplicably very few motoconcho riders use sunglasses in the Dominican Republic. It's a cultural thing.
If you want more great advice, the State Department provides a lot of wisdom, based on decades of experience of actually living abroad from thousands of officials, about the do's and don'ts while you are travelling around the world through Country Specific Information (CSI) reports. If you like the idea of learning from other people's mistakes, then check out the CSIs as they include tons of information based on private American citizens and how they've gotten into and out of trouble over the years. If you follow the State Department CSI, the chances are that you will avoid ever being part of another CSI (Crime Scene Investigation). Sorry, we couldn't resist that joke. Here's the CSI for the Dominican Republic.
Let's face it. For many kids, Spring Break is a rite of passage. The BeachCorps Beach Bum had a wonderful Spring Break in the pre-Bum years. Though in retrospect maybe that jump off the motel roof into the pool was a bad idea. (Photo: USA Today)
BeachCorps believes that there is a market for a new kind of Spring Break, one that combines the best of the fun of a traditional Spring Break with the best of the learning, personal growth, and social responsibility of the growing Alternative Spring Break movement. For most of the hundreds of thousands of college students who celebrate Spring Break each year, the fun is undeniable. However, many Spring Breakers engage in excessive drinking, use illegal drugs and make bad personal decisions.
What about the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Movement? An Alternative Spring Break is a trip where a group of college students (usually 10–12 per trip) engage in volunteer service and learning. ASB trips originated with college students in the early 1980s as a counter to traditional Spring Break trips. In 2016, a survey of 168 institutions reported nearly 23,000 students participated in more than 1,600 trips during the 2015-16 school year, according to Break Away, a national nonprofit that provides training and support for the trips. That represented an increase from 16,700 students on 1,300 trips four years before that reported by 130 schools. Even so, the growing ASB movement is still small compared to the more traditional party-based Spring Break and is in no danger of taking over.
BeachCorps Spring Break: The BeachCorps Spring Break in 2018 will combine the best of both worlds:
Who pays for these trips? Parents. And parents will be far more likely to want to send their child to a BeachCorps Spring break, which will stress alcohol and drug abuse prevention. Many students will also prefer the perfect equilibrium point between a typical rustic alternative Spring Break trip organized by universities and the excess of traditional Spring Break, particularly since their volunteer work will be part of a broader trend with real impact.
A while ago when BeachCorps was testing the market for a new kind of volunteer vacation, we contacted the head of marketing for the Catalonia hotel chain. Like many hotels in the Dominican Republic, Catalonia has a "No Spring Breakers" rule that says during the Spring Break high season they won't accept reservations from groups that don't include a person over 21 in every room. Most hotels in the Dominican Republic just don't want the problems associated with Spring Break. But when BeachCorps told Catalonia about our detailed plan to ensure that kids won't abuse drugs or alcohol but would instead focus on helping local communities, they waived their policy for BeachCorps. That's one of the reasons they are a BeachCorps partner hotel. And we promise that if we do a Spring Break with Catalonia, we'll have a lot of fun. And no jumps off the roof into the pool. :-)
#For more info on how BeachCorps will ensure our Spring Break 2018 is safe and fun, email: email@example.com
Photo: Dominican Dream Project, an amazing nonprofit with volunteer programs in the North Coast of the Dominican Republic (where one day BeachCorps will be!)
#SpringBreak #AlternativeSpringBreak #SustainableDevelopment #VolunteerVacation #Voluntourism #AllInclusive #Excursion #SustainableTourism #TravelForGood
BeachCorps is a non-denominational company focused on effective volunteer vacations. We welcome people and causes of all faiths, or even no faith. However, we believe that Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) can be particularly effective partners, especially in a country like the Dominican Republic with such a large number of different and thriving faith traditions.
Let's look at the Pro's and Cons in general of FBOs. First the Pro's. Supporters of FBOs believe that they can amass resources unavailable to groups not based on faith. First, they are capable of drawing upon large groups of volunteers with similar beliefs and values who can be easier to direct and lead as a group. Historically, FBOs show less variation in donation levels and are comparatively resistant to large decreases in funds during economic downturns. Consistency is key in planning long-term development, as local communities lose faith in organizations that come and go based on fluctuating economies and donor whims.
But probably the biggest advantage that FBOs have is in connecting with local communities through faith. People who share similar faiths are better able to engage and trust each other. Such trust allows foreign development groups to more quickly devolve responsibility and decision-making to locals, a key plus in any sustainable development plan. FBOs are often thus better placed to develop grass-roots initiatives that truly reflect local communities and not the implanted views of foreign aid givers.
Now the Cons. The most obvious criticism of FBOs is that they sometimes mix proselytizing with their development work. This can be a problem, but BeachCorps will work to ensure this isn't a problem for any partners because BeachCorps will not partner with organizations who openly proselytize to our volunteers as opposed to just showing volunteers "the fruits of faith." Our partners will also be open in sharing their faith but only as part of the overall "Zen" of organizations. Another criticism is that FBOs can sometimes pursue ineffective policies based on faith. BeachCorps will work to ensure these aren't problems because our programs will be targeting a broad array of religious and nonreligious travelers and because we will not be entering into controversial areas like family planning.
Finally, a more serious problem is the "halo effect" where FBOs are just assumed to be doing God's work when in fact there may be serious problems. This can be a serious problem. However, the BeachCorps model will help reduce this potential error by stressing measuring success with independent, verified data. As BeachCorps programs expand, BeachCorps will ensure that partners will give us the data showing their success, and verify that data with independent analysis, as a condition of continuing to work together.
In many cases, BeachCorps will target assistance into easily verifiable areas like scholarships for underserved youth, which creates an easy and publicly viewable monitoring system because universities and schools receive the scholarship funding linked to specific students. Other costs will support projects that ensure that beneficiaries of BeachCorps donations also "pay it forward" by doing their own community development work. Like all nonprofit organizations, FBOs must avoid the "white savior" mentality program and programs that reinforce a culture of dependency and "Toxic Charity." In short, BeachCorps funds will go into projects that are more easily verifiable and which volunteers can rest assured wouldn't occur without their support, their little grain of sand.
So while BeachCorps will continue to work with FBOs and organizations not based on faith, we recognize that in general an organization that can draw on faith is likely to be stronger as a result. The Dominican Republic is a country where faith runs strong, so FBOs can connect effectively in a wide variety of ways. We hope one day to work with many different groups of different faiths, including the historic Jewish presence in the North Coast of the country.
Say a prayer for our Faith Based and Non-Faith Based work! --BBB
#faithbased #SpringBreak #AlternativeSpringBreak #SustainableDevelopment #VolunteerVacation #Voluntourism #AllInclusive #Excursion #SustainableTourism #TravelForGood #ToxicCharity
Years ago, the BeachCorps Beach Bum visited Bahia Las Aguilas. Wow. This hidden treasure of the southern region of Pedernales is nestled in the Jaragua National Park. Many believe Bahia Las Aguilas is the largest and nothing less than the most gorgeous beach in the country. The beach is accessible by motorboat from the fishing village of La Cueva. During the 20-minute boat ride you can admire the deserted landscapes of the Jaragua National Park and watch an impressive variety of migratory and endemic birds. This park is the most protected wildlife and flora reserve on the island. Perhaps because it is part of a national park the Beach is remarkably clean.
So it is with heavy heart we read that there are plans to build 15,000 rooms there. Run to see Bahia de las Aguilas before they build 15,000 hotel rooms! And yet, in truth, we have to say we're not too surprised. The Pedernales region desperately needs jobs as one of the poorest areas of the country. It's easy for foreigners to sit back and say "Don't develop" when we may visit once or twice in a lifetime. It's quite another situation for locals who see their young people leaving or even falling into the dangers of the drug trade.
So if it's likely that a hotel will be built, it's important that it be done right. It's important that the hotel be built to be sustainable given the lack of water resources in the area. It's critical that a proper solid waste and sewer system be developed before the first hotel A/C unit is turned on. It's critical that the hotel support, not undermine, the rest of the national park. Look at the bottom photo. If they build a nice hotel away from the beach on the little cliff that encircles the pristine beach, they will have created one of the most beautiful beach resorts in the world. When you are on the beach, you really can't see what is on top of the cliffs, so a hotel that doesn't rise too high would still give you a feeling of isolation. Make those fat tourists walk the extra 100 yards! It will be good for them!
So nice to meet you! I'm the BeachCorps Beach Bum. Welcome to my blog. Every now and then, I"m going to try to share some thoughts on sustainable tourism I hope you find interesting. We're going to look at both private sector issues and how nonprofits handle sustainable tourism and sustainable development in general.
We're going to focus mostly on how to combine a great vacation with a great cause. Now I know there are going to be some haters out there who say: "No way. Can't be done. You can't combine short-term volunteering with sustainable causes. That's just 'voluntourism' and all voluntourism is bad." And I'm going to prove you wrong. I'm going to blow your mind. I'm going to show you that it is INDEED possible to combine short-term vacation volunteering with great causes in a way that strengthens and reinforces the cause. The trick is being laid back about certain things (like letting the cause decide the volunteer activity, not the volunteer) while being very strict on other things, like making sure that all projects make people who receive benefits "pay it forward" by doing good for others. We're going to have some fun with all of this and I will very much welcome your thoughts. So let's get going! We're not going to move fast. We're on beach time. We're going to move forward one little grain of sand at a time. --BBB
#sustainabletourism #travelforgood #dominicanrepublic #volunteervacation #voluntourism #allinclusivevacation
So happy to have done our first project to link traditional tourism to projects helping local communities in the Dominican Republic! On Tuesday, February 14, 2017 Valentine’s Day became “A Valentine for the Environment” for BeachCorps and two other partners:
FECOTUR (the Foundation for Responsible Ecotourism): FECOTUR is a Dominican nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that tourism promotes sustainable development in the Dominican Republic.
GFDD (The Global Foundation for Democracy and Development: GFDD is an official US 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to the social, economic, and democratic development of the Dominican Republic and the region, the sister organization of the prestigious Dominican foundation FUNGLODE, and the creative mind behind the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival.
Each partner described their environmental protection efforts in a classroom FECOTUR selected at the Centro Educativo Nazaret in Hoyo de Friusa to highlight 2017 as the UN’s International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development.
The children watched 17 minute GFDD Movie “Garbage or Resource” as part of the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF) series of programs. The children designed Valentine cards dedicated to the environment: what they love most about nature and how they want to protect it. Chic, Royalton and Memories Hotel Punta Cana donated some treats!
#voluntourism #dominicanrepublic #sustainabletourism
Carnival Tried but Failed to Advance Service Travel on a Great Vacation
The BeachCorps Beach Bum!
The BeachCorps Beach Bum loves great vacations and great volunteer work!