In January, Donna Okell from International Travel Connections (ITC) contacted me (Sallie).
ITC were keen to develop a programme where they and their clients could engage more closely with the people in places they visit. Donna and I , together with the ITC team and our local partners, worked hard to develop a meaningful and sustainable programme to enable ITC Travellers to spend very short periods of time visiting and learning about the initiatives. The ITC Giving programme was born.
This is “voluntourism” at its most responsible. We at people and places are proud of the programme. It supports the ongoing work of the projects we work with and the broader volunteer programme .
ITC Giving travellers will
•be informed and inspired – engage with the project decision makers – learn about the realities and context of their work – engage with beneficiaries – be immersed in the work of the projects
The projects will be able to
•promote their work to engaged visitors – inform and inspire visitors – explain the context and realities of their work – engage with knowledgeable visitors – share the skills of the visitors – gain economic benefit
The programme will operate in South Africa, India, Morocco, Peru, The Caribbean and Thailand.
It has been so exciting to develop this programme with a luxury tour operator – we know there are two very obvious questions:
1. Isn’t there a paradox here? Luxury and ‘giving back’ may be considered as a contradiction. Our answer is absolutely not. It’s irrelevant where travellers come from or how they choose to travel. First class or economy class; luxurious accommodation or a simple homestay; servants or self-service – these are all matters of personal choice. What matters most, to both hosts and guests, is that they share their time and experiences together for their mutual benefit. As Paul from Calabash says – “What is this perception that only the poor can help the poor – where did it come from?”
2. What on earth can be achieved in a week ? We have asked this question too. We have spent 3 years working with some of our partners to identify how “voluntourists” can make meaningful contributions in very short stays – skills transfer as such is practically impossible – all too often short term volunteering to date has involved building something of questionable value or standing in a classroom.
The ITC Giving programme is not simply about “volunteering” – It’s about learning – about the realities and challenges the projects face every day – from local decision makers – all of them experts.
This programme has been designed by local people not us. They have identified how they want to engage with the travellers. The programme will run alongside the traditional volunteer programme – it is part of a sustainable whole. There is a great expression in Xhosa – ‘Ubuntu’ – and it roughly means – ‘I am because you are’ – a shared humanity – that is what this programme is about.
Take a look for yourself at the ITC Giving site for more information about the trips and to order a brochure.