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Blue Ventures and Coral Cay Respond to Debate over Gap Year and Volunteer Aid Projects

This following letter was sent to The Times newspaper in response to a front page article published on Tuesday, August 14th, quoting Judith Brodie, director of VSO UK, expressing her concern regarding the regulation of the gap year market, and whether some gap year projects only profit the companies which run them:

 


Sir,

 

Your prominent coverage of the views of Jean Brodie, director of VSO UK, puts into relief a critical need for greater transparency and accountability amongst organisations operating within the UK’s largely unregulated gap year and volunteer travel industry.The proliferation of poorly-planned, spurious and increasingly profit-oriented gap-year schemes poses a growing threat to the legitimacy of reputable UK-based volunteer organisations, large and small, working throughout the sustainable development sector.

We represent two non-profit organisations, dedicated to promoting marine conservation in the world’s tropical oceans. Year-round our teams work in partnership with governments and local NGOs within resource-dependent coastal communities in Africa, southeast Asia, the Caribbean and Pacific, developing research and conservation programmes to safeguard some of the world’s most threatened and biodiverse marine environments.

Amongst other lasting achievements, our projects have trained and employed thousands of scientists, conservationists and volunteers worldwide; empowered local communities in over 10 countries to manage their own natural resources; and succeeded in developing some of the largest networks of community-run marine and coastal protected areas in the world.

Projects initiated and led by our organisations have been recognised by the United Nations, the World Conservation Union, and governments worldwide for their efforts to conserve biodiversity and alleviate poverty.

Our work is heavily dependent on support from gap year students and volunteers of all ages from the UK, and we are proud to be associated with this important sphere of the development movement.

In light of VSO’s remarks, we welcome and encourage closer public scrutiny of all voluntary aid and development projects; such attention is necessary in order that the reputations of truly philanthropic organisations are no longer compromised by projects that claim to benefit communities and environments, but in fact benefit no one other than the travel companies that promote them.

Alasdair Harris, Founder and Research Director, Blue Ventures Conservation
Pete Raines MBE, Founder and CEO, Coral Cay Conservation