Core Principles

I recently stumbled upon Hug It Forward, an organization that works in Guatemala building schools and there was one thing that caught my eye on the site, ‘core principles.’ I thought it was a great list and a good idea for everyone else to outline their principles like this. Sometimes what your goals/principles are might be obvious to the organization but not the traveler.

  1. Frugality – Knowing how far just one dollar can go in some parts of the world, we work hard to minimize expenditure in all aspects of our activities.
  2. Integrity – We are honest and transparent in what we do and say, and accept responsibility for our collective and individual actions.
  3. Accountability – We communicate openly and energetically, and actively encourage our supporters to hold us accountable.
  4. Transparency – With Hug It Forward, what you see is what you get. 100% of your donations go directly to projects, to be spent in the local economy. Not one penny is spent on salaries, administration, or any other expenses. Profits from for-profit businesses donated to Hug It Forward cover our daily expenses (such as this web site).
  5. Community – We believe that spontaneous selfless interactions between a group of people generate far more beneficial outcomes for everyone than individuals acting selfishly.
  6. Sustainability – We avoid “quick fix” solutions and instead invest in projects with long-term objectives that create perpetual benefits for humanity.
  7. Mutuality – We form win/win relationships where everyone benefits. Our volunteers get as much from their experience working with communities in developing countries as they give.
  8. Empowerment – Handouts do not help poor people around the world. We help people develop the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
  9. Participation – Hug It Forward is an organization powered by YOU: without your hugs and your support we could not exist. We encourage the whole world to join this movement.
  10. Global Solidarity – We stand shoulder to shoulder with oppressed groups around the world. Working together we can overcome problems that would be impossible to solve apart.

New WSJ Article Out

In case you missed it, a new WSJ article came out today on voluntourism, “Best Volunteer Options for Any Budget” – it outlines the different price ranges that are out there and different volunteering/giving levels. Brings up the point, as a company when was the last time you reviewed your pricing? How much does pricing effect the number of volunteers you recruit?

If you are a potential volunteer reading this as a result of the WSJ article and have questions feel free to ask me.

If You Can’t Take the Heat…

I recently read a blog post by another voluntourism blogger claiming that The Observer article hurt the industry and I just wanted to make a comment on that and start a debate. I can’t reference the blog post because the last time I did he threatened to sue me.

Yes, I have been interviewed a lot recently about work in orphanages and I will stand by all of my comments. I have never said not to volunteer in orphanages, just to make sure the operator travelers go through acts responsibly, as I have seen quite a lot of bad examples (and the feedback came directly from the orphanage leaders not me making it up).

So I have to question what is better for the industry? Putting up a post as he did about some Tanzanian woman wanting to start a voluntourism organization, great intentions but does one woman’s decision to help make her an expert in the field? Nobody has started any of these projects with bad intentions, it is exactly people like this woman with all the best intentions but not the development experience that create projects that only seem beneficial to children (as was proven in the recent study).

I think what helps this industry more is challenging our preconceived notions and making companies take a hard look at their projects to ensure they are truly sustainable. Anyone can post a Dear John letter, but not everyone is brave enough to challenge the industry to make itself better. That is what this blog is all about and I hope all that read it benefit in that way.

And for the record you can always quote me or reference my blog, even if it’s not in a positive manner – the more we’re challenged the more we learn.