Part two of my interview with Kimberly Haley-Coleman is focused on volunteer feedback, building a volunteer community, and the voluntourism industry as a whole. Enjoy!
I know you work hard to respond to volunteer feedback. Could you give me an example of a time when volunteer feedback made Globe Aware better?
It’s our main source of change and improvement. We are grateful and greedy for feedback. Everything from small items (such as putting mosquito screens in new accommodations; pack hand sanitizer, etc.) to larger program details (the local school could REALLY use a new source, or this particular community member is really involved and would love to help organize programs, etc.) has often originated from volunteer feedback.
As a follow-up to that question, what role (if any) do you think your online volunteer community plays in the development of program policy or in the recruitment of new volunteers?
We have a very high percentage of return volunteers, close to 20%. That says a tremendous amount on its own, especially in the area of word of mouth recruitment. With social media like Facebook and Twitter, volunteers are able to share their experience and opinions and make it visible to those in their social circles. In terms of policy, well it is an organic thing. As a forum of interaction, our online community does provide interaction that gets people talking and helps us to consider new aspects of a program or issue that we may not have considered. It is important.
Have you noticed any emerging trends in the voluntourism industry? What do you imagine the future of voluntourism will look like?
Families and corporations are getting into international volunteering in increasing numbers. Volunteer vacations offer such a huge spectrum – short term to long term (we’ve even seen luxury outfitters) and every kind of project imaginable. There will always be criticism (such as recently over medical volunteers not being able to provide follow up care.) But continuing discussion and awareness will help refine and address risks and weaknesses. I suspect people will be able to contribute their time in even more laser specific ways as time goes on.
What advice would you give to an emerging voluntourism organization?
Tough! Be clear on your mission and how you will ensure sensitivity to the local culture. Also, there are so many organizations out there right now that it’s vitally important to distinguish how you differ from others. If you don’t offer something unique, chances are it will be difficult to survive. There are tens of thousands in the field right now (compare to 20 years ago, it’s astounding!)
Globe Aware offers trips to two Peru locations (Andes & Cusco/Machu Picchu), Costa Rica, Thailand, Cuba, Nepal, Brazil, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, India, Jamaica, Romania, Ghana, Mexico, and China. Please visit their website to learn more about their programs and to get involved.