The primary aim of a trip like this is how participants and host communities learn and collaborate, not purely about how the visitors can change their host communities. Some overseas and volunteering trips are oversold which leads to unmet expectations. For example 'You cannot not change the world' sounds great but it is clearly a clever marketing line. We have to be realistic and honest, especially when talking about people's aspirations and the lives of developing communities.
Our overseas trips are not about us going out to change the world into a better place through our western economic advantage. The benefits of this type of tourism are much more sophisticated, and these issues are not easily quantifiable. Fundamentally the trip has to exist as part of a long term commitment by the company to achieve a development goal which is shared and driven by the communities you are visiting.
The benefits of short term volunteering trips are passionately debated, partly because a group of unskilled young people going abroad for a limited time, often sent to oversaturated areas with low quality control, is bound to attract a negative view of international development, which employs highly skilled people and requires great experience and knowledge and cultural sensitivity.
For example, what is poverty? Poverty is many things, certainly not just a lack of money. The structural determinants of poverty encompass inequality, social justice, global health and human rights, to name but a few.
It is important that you recognise what it is that your trip is aiming to achieve so that you can help maximise its potential to you and the people you will be visiting. The programme has been designed so that a broad range of benefits may be offered to all those involved. Some of these benefits are very obvious and tangible but some are more subtle and harder to define and quantify.
For example, we promote a belief in 'reciprocity relationships' whereby the connectivity of returning clients is vital to the success of the programme, keeping them engaged with each other and with their in-country counterparts long after their trip.
You will only be involved with meaningful targets that are determined by the development body (Moving Mountains), which are aspirational but do not ignore particular groups. The sustainability of the project is paramount, which we achieve through continued communications and an accountable process of monitoring and feedback, which you will become a part of. The projects will have consistency and a clear structure of staffing and responsibility, which again you will see, as well as a good relationship between client, beneficiary and facilitator.
We aim to educate, act and advocate, which is a common phrase but has been achieved in the case of Moving Mountains and Adventure Alternative by giving power and voice and influence to the companies, co-operatives and communities we work with. This has been an underpinning principle of the business model that Gavin Bate started in the beginning.
An overarching theme will be that what you are doing and experiencing is part of an ongoing process rather than an isolated "flash in the pan" event. For example we do not want a rural African village to be awash with smiling faces, helping hands and revenue for a week and then to be deserted again for the rest of the year. Equally, we do not want you to have an experience of a lifetime and then to return to your previous life unchanged and without building upon those experiences. You will see that your visit is a cog which is keeping a big machine running.
A much over-used word these days is "sustainability". We are not referring to attaching a wind turbine to your house or buying an electric car. In this context we are talking about the ability of our programmes to sustain themselves in the long term, without us being around to continually supply funds and resources. For example, delivering a lorry load of maize flour to a school may help them to feed the pupils for a year or so but the short term benefits are not able to sustain themselves. In contrast, helping to educate students, train adults and provide loans for enterprise can help to create a community that has the ability to sustain its self through its own work, skills and income generation. The key is to empower the communities themselves and provide a kick-start to the potential within it.
Benefits to the Communities and individuals
Exposure to overseas cultures, inclusion in the wider world, improvement of spoken English, improvement of literacy, direct community revenue, direct improvement of infrastructure, sense of 'belonging' to a community and as a global citizen, promotion of equality and social justice, learning about communication through social media and the net, creating ethical supply chains, providing a 'route to market' where it might not have existed previously, upholding people's human rights and developing democratic structures, giving young people self-esteem and a positive fun environment in which to feel inspired and encouraged to achieve.
Benefits to You
Exposure to overseas cultures, global cultural awareness, widening of perspective, personal development, improved independence, enhanced employability, improved self-reliance, discipline, sense of achievement, knowledge of international development, learning Swahili, fundraising for a worthwile charity.