The Advent of Philanthropic Travel

Posted by on Jun 17, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

In an era of increasing awareness of world issues and global humanitarian needs, there has been a recent surge in philanthropic travel, using travel as a means to give back. 

The problem many people face is that selecting a particular philanthropic travel mission or opportunity can seem overwhelming. Well-intentioned people who truly want to make a difference simply don’t know where to begin, or whether or not their efforts will really have an impact.

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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that if responsible practices are in place,Travel Philanthropy is the natural interlocutor between the wealth and desires of the global traveler and the socio-economic needs of some of the world’s most remote, but heritage-rich communities, natural and cultural sites.”

UNESCO sees responsible and philanthropic travel as a delicate balancing act. Tourism involves a series of trade-offs, but within an agreed framework of goals and limits and a climate of educational and respectful relationships, it is one of the most powerful tools for poverty reduction.

“There’s something in all of us that hungers after the good and true, and when we glimpse it in people, we applaud them for it. Through them we let the world’s pain into our hearts, and we find compassion. When things go wrong or have been terribly wrong for some time, their inspiration reminds us of the tenderness for life that we can all feel.” .-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Often philanthropic advisory organizations facilitate philanthropic travel. They might send a donor or a group of donors to an international project that is a good candidate for major support. The philanthropic traveler is not volunteering his/her service, but establishing trust for himself and the recipient organization so that a donation can be made. The crux of philanthropic travel can be summed up in four C’s: Caring, Confusion, Connection and Challenges, according to a recent post at the HuffPost blog –

philanthropic travel can help Children of Avani

Caring What was once reserved only for the ultra-wealthy, missionaries or members of the Peace Corps has now become a social norm. More and more consumers want to get involved and do something — anything — that will help causes that matter most to them. Rather than simply donating cash, people are beginning to feel compelled to help in a more hands-on way. What better way to do so than by philanthropic travel to areas in need?

Confusion Unfortunately, caring isn’t enough to effect change. Just because you care, doesn’t mean you know how to take that next step. People want to help, but find themselves confused on exactly how, where, how much, what it will demand of them and what kind of commitment they want to make.

Connection Philanthropic travel is becoming more popular because people are becoming more eager to reconnect with humanity. One of the most effective ways to do this is by connecting with and serving others. In a world that has become increasingly competitive, commercial and electronically driven, many people are finding the need to rediscover their own sense of meaning. Vacations are no longer just recreational. Service and other forms of philanthropic vacations offer a remembrance and restoration of a humanity many of us are no longer practicing in our everyday lives.

Challenges  Of course, as with any volunteer-based program, philanthropic travel is not without its challenges. The main challenges that must be overcome include: 

Vetting: With so many volunteer opportunities and organizations and no ranking system or review site like those that exist for hotels, tour operators or other stakeholders in the travel sector, it can be extremely difficult to locate reputable philanthropic travel programs to connect and partner with; 

Follow up – Unfortunately, most philanthropic travel systems are not yet well developed at most international project sites to enable visitors and volunteers to follow up once they return home; 

Complexity – For philanthropic travel participants desiring to make a difference, it can be challenging to become educated about and penetrate the complexity of the issues at hand. It’s important to consider every aspect of the work being done, and the long-term impact it will have. For instance, hiring local Maasai men and sending them to school may seem like a great initiative, however one must also consider the secondary effect of these guides potentially growing wealthy enough to marry more wives. The result of this may be an increase in terrified young brides who were not given equal opportunity.

Philanthropic Travel Is Different Than Volunteerism

While the dedication of volunteer work, like the Peace Corps, is highly commendable, philanthropic travel helps those in need and doesn’t require a two year commitment yet provides individuals with the rewarding experience of participating in a non-profit project.  Across the planet, travelers are increasingly giving financial resources, time, and talent to further the wellbeing of local communities. This emerging movement is helping to support and empower local and indigenous communities by providing jobs, skills, and lasting improvements in health care, education, and environmental stewardship.

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lynnea2 The BoardLynnea Bylund is managing director of Gandhi Legacy Tours, Director of Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, founder of Catalyst House and has nearly three decades of experience in administration, marketing and business development. She was a nationally recognized spokeswoman for the emerging alternative video and information delivery industries. She has a degree in holistic health-nutrition from the legendary and controversial health educator and activist Dr. Kurt Donsbach, she is the founder of two not-for-profit small business-based wireless trade associations and has lobbied on Capitol Hill and at the FCC where she has spoken out strongly against the cable TV monopoly, illegal spectrum warehousing and ill-conceived congressional schemes to auction our nation’s precious airwaves to the highest bidder.

Ms. Bylund is a founder and former CEO of a Washington DC telecommunications consulting and management company with holdings in several operating and developmental wireless communications systems and companies. In 1995 Lynnea became the first female in the world to be awarded a Broadband PCS operating permit – she was one of only 17 winners, along with Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon in the biggest cash auction in world history, raising a whopping $8 billion. Lynnea also spear-headed the successful effort to launch the first cable TV network in the South Pacific islands.
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