Volunteer Travel: The Partnership Approach
The past week has been an exciting one for Spark Ventures, as we announced a Groupon deal for our Partnership Trips to Zambia. With a growing spotlight on these volunteer travel experiences, we want to share our philosophy on Spark’s trips and how they fit into our larger partnership model.
Spark's Partnerships Trips to Zambia are part of our unique strategy of long-term international development. For the past five years Spark has been working alongside partner organization Hope Ministries, which provides nutrition, education and healthcare for children living in extreme poverty. Spark has strengthened Hope Ministries by donating human and financial resources to grow their capacity by 300% and increase their impact exponentially. In order to sustain this impact, Spark invested in a commercial business that Hope owns and manages, generating profit that supports programs for their children. In short, Spark's international development model aims for lasting impact made possible through a holistic long-term partnership.
Spark’s Zambia Trips offer people the opportunity to see and engage with our partnership model up close and personal. Trip participants will spend time learning about the history and culture of the country, as well as seeing the breathtaking natural beauty of Africa. Travelers will also see and learn about the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, which has wiped out a generation and left many children orphaned. Perhaps most inspiring will be the relationships trip participants will develop with both the staff and children of our partner organization. Travelers will participate in volunteer activities that are part of on-going programs, led by phenomenal local Zambian leaders, who greatly appreciate that people take the time to visit, hear their stories and return as advocates. While trip participants will experience no pressure to support Spark’s work financially, many choose to do so upon returning…and that allows us to have even greater impact.
Spark’s Partnership Trips are founded upon the mutual respect and dignity that guides our entire mission. Spark has a role to play in strengthening and sustaining the work of an organization like Hope Ministries, but the people of this organization have much to teach us as well. Our trip participants often begin their journey with the expectation to go and “do good”, but most will find that they receive much more than they are able to give.
Some volunteer travel trips can be irresponsible and do more harm than good, so when planning volunteer travel consider the following questions.
1) Have you been invited?
2) Do the volunteer activities take away jobs from local workers?
3) Will your efforts address a real need, or primarily fulfill your desire to “do good”?
4) Will your contribution be part of a sustainable solution to poverty?
Spark is excited to be part of the creative and challenging landscape of international development. And we believe we’ve found a strategic role for volunteer travel to play in the bigger picture. We hope you agree and will consider joining us on a trip in the future!