Equalizing Voluntourism by Caleb Sheehan


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Equalizing Voluntourism by Caleb Sheehan

  1. 1. Equalizing Voluntourism My work with VOFAIR bringing transparency to the volunteer industry. What we did: What I did: As the voluntourism industry booms, potential volunteers are having a harder and harder time finding safe, meaningful volunteer opportunities. At the same time, small, impactful volunteer organizations are having to compete with for-profit voluntourism agencies to find good volunteers. This is where VOFAIR comes in. As a non-profit intermediary between volunteers and volunteer projects, we help both parties skip the expensive, unreliable voluntourism agencies. My responsibilities at VOFAIR varied throughout the month I was in Chile, but the main theme of my work was technology. Doing final editing of our website as it launched was the main focus for me and a couple of other volunteers. I also worked on moving our database of projects and organizations from Excel spreadsheets to an online, searchable database. One of the more interesting jobs was going out and visiting volunteer projects, taking part in the verification process around which our organization is centered. By screening potential projects in person, we make sure they are safe and worthwhile for the volunteers. After passing a series of requirements, projects are then featured on the VOFAIR website for volunteers to find and contact. Inside the MoviStar Innova Building, which houses the Start-up Chile offices. After leaving the VOFAIR office in the afternoon, I would take the metro to Escuela Bellavista, where I took daily Spanish lessons. Beyond that, I explored the city, made friends with locals and learned their culture, and did a bit of travelling within Chile. What I gained and what is to come: Back in April, VOFAIR was still sponsored by Start-up Chile, a government program that funds and houses start-up companies (for-profit or not) in a shared office space in downtown Santiago. The experience of working in a start-up was great, but even better was being surrounded by other start-up companies on a daily basis. Of course, a number of factors contributed to a huge increase in my Spanish skills. Escuela Bellavista, where I took daily Spanish lessons. With these two experiences, I plan to move forward gaining experience in the entrepreneurial world. With contacts from Start-up Chile and my improved Spanish skills, a return to Chile may be in order. VOFAIR volunteers in the process of certifying a youth development program located in the mountains outside Santiago, Chile.