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
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