The VolunTourist™ is a premium Newsletter for the Travel Trade. For those interested in dis-covering what is happening in the world of VolunTourism and seeking emerging practices, general information, and case studies, this is your Source.
Riding Beyond Good Intentions
For those who focus their efforts on direct and charitable aid to destination residents, Relief Riders International is a VolunTourism Model worth copying.
On the cover panel of the Relief Riders International (RRI) brochure, appear the following words:
“Relief Riders International is a humanitarian-based adventure travel company. We offer horseback journeys through developing countries, bringing important relief supplies to communities in need.”
If one takes the time to review the various articles written about RRI Founder, Alexander Souri, you will soon realize that his very life has been an adventure. RRI, quite possibly, serves as both a metaphor of his personal journey and the fulfillment of a desire to expose others to a similar trek.
Whether you are intrigued by his family roots – Indian and French, or are impressed by his contributions to the Matrix and X-Men films, you may discover that he has articulated his creative ambition most dramatically through RRI. It is his vision that has combined voluntary service with the wonders of tourism in the unruffled and untamed interior of India.
Through partnerships with such organizations as the Indian Red Cross, Souri has created a unique approach to VolunTourism. In fact, the February 2005 Outside magazine named RRI its winner of “Best Trips 2005” for Asia, and included 46 other trips on its list of “Amazing Journeys & Dream Escapes,” but none quite as compelling.
The fifteen-day relief effort/adventure starts well before VolunTourists arrive in Delhi. Souri and his team determine a route through select villages in a given region. The next step is to conduct assessments of the resident communities to establish what supplies and materials will assist them in fulfilling their needs. Wherever and whenever sustainability can be infused into villages, Souri identifies such options and incorporates them into the overall plan for an RRI trip - creating dependency is not a viable option as he sees it.
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VolunTourists serve in a variety of capacities based upon skill sets and experience including: caravan organizing, medical team support, and supply distribution. The medical team that accompanies the group administers direct services to villagers in addition to the relief supplies. Residents are educated on rural medical challenges like HIV/AIDS through “street theatre” performances in conjunction with the medical camps that they set up in each village. Supplies may also include food when drought ravages the area.
If you have questions regarding the company you keep, make certain that animals are on your “acceptance” list. Goats, camels, and horses will be your daily companions in addition to your “two-legged” fellow VolunTourists. (Do not get too attached to the goats, however, they will eventually find their new abodes with villagers.) Nights, primarily, are spent under the stars while your days will pass straddling the back of a horse for an average of 20 – 25 miles daily. Due to enthusiastic response and demand from non-equestrians, RRI has created options that include traveling via jeep, camel cart, and elephant-back.
RRI is planning to expand its operations to other continents. Souri hopes to develop rides for South America and Africa utilizing the same format as the ones he has crafted for India. Thus, partnerships with other tour operators and NGO’s may significantly enhance the development of such initiatives in areas that can truly benefit from this VolunTourism model.
For more information on RRI, please visit:
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