I‰Ûªve recently noticed the term ‰ÛÏVoluntourism‰Û has cropped up regularly in the press. Although it‰Ûªs a term that has been used within the travel industry for some years it has recently been misappropriated by the media, partly in response to a report by the Human Sciences Research Council which questioned the act of tourists taking part in short term volunteer activities during the course of their travels. I personally don‰Ûªt like the term ‰ÛÏVoluntoursim‰Û and I doubt any of our volunteers past or present would consider themselves in any way tourists. However, looking further afield it‰Ûªs hard to deny that there are organisations out there that take advantage of the fact that travellers may have a desire to ‰ÛÏgive something back‰Û and that some NGOs are willing to accept the short term benefits (mainly financial) of accepting such volunteers. And it‰Ûªs easy to question who gains the most benefit from programmes that simply add a few days of voluntary work into an otherwise sightseeing based tour. Certainly there is more than a little self-fulfilment in what should be seen as a selfless and commendable act; to give of your time and money to do good for others. But then, few examples of voluntary acts are entirely selfless. Even our volunteers often arrive home saying ‰ÛÏI gained far more than I could ever give.‰Û In an effective programme each individual does add profound benefit, yet we would never shy away from the fact that the experience will in most cases stay with them for the rest of their life; make them more aware of the world around them or even be that oft-claimed ‰ÛÏlife changing‰Û experience. But it would be sad to think reports like the one mentioned above may deter volunteers from signing up for organised and ethically managed programmes. Fortunately I believe the long term, sustainable and ethical nature of our own programmes puts us in a position to attract people who not only want to experience something beyond a normal overseas trip, but also make a long lasting, definable and necessary benefit to the communities that they work alongside. Because all of our programmes are based in communities that we have taken the time to get to know, we understand their needs and can assess the impact of our presence and we know that the projects undertaken are of real benefit. We commit to live and work with the communities where our camps are based for the long term, leasing the land off local people to build our camps, using local workmen and resources to construct them and employing local people to manage them, at every step of the process providing alternative and much needed sources of income for not just individuals but families and indeed the entire village. All of our projects are proposed by the communities themselves and are undertaken with long-term, clearly defined objectives in mind, which means we can address real needs and priorities year on year. We don‰Ûªt run projects that don‰Ûªt have long term, tangible and necessary benefits. Unfortunately this can put us at odds with the demands of our own potential clients. Whilst offering 2 days of feeding lion cubs or cuddling orphans may be attractive to some, we don‰Ûªt see the benefit of such activities for the environmental projects we support or communities we work alongside. Someone once told me the aim of every charity should be to eventually put themselves out of business. I agree… whilst comforting an orphan may have a temporary effect on that child and a much longer one on the volunteer, isn‰Ûªt it better to help the family find alternative sources of income that means the child does not need to be placed in an orphanage to begin with? Our company strap line is ‰ÛÏEthical journeys without compromise‰Û. This is not a marketing tool, this is a company mantra. We won‰Ûªt compromise our ethics in order to make money. The results of our programmes over the past 8 years speak for themselves. One of our volunteers may only spend 3 months in our camps in Kenya, but they could be working on projects that have been ongoing for a number of years, contributing to a bigger picture. Some question the merits of sending ‰Û÷unqualified‰Ûª volunteers to developing countries. Our year round community and environmental development programmes encompass an ever-changing array of projects to fit with what the community need. These projects don‰Ûªt require volunteers to have specific skills in order for them to deliver benefit. Being enthusiastic and willing to work hard will ensure they play a key part in all our projects. The vast majority of our volunteers are intelligent people who know they are making a positive impact ‰ÛÒ they understand they are not voluntourists. Camps International volunteers can rest assured that they play a small part in something that‰Ûªs having a much larger and very positive impact. In most of the countries in which we work there is a variant on the saying, ‰ÛÏlots of littles make a big‰Û… A Big Impact, a Big Difference, a Big Picture.