Locally owned means much more than where you were born

One project we support, and consider one of the most trusted and sustainable, in the Dominican Republic is not run by a Dominican. In our commitment to transparency, we believe we should explain how Tim Hall, a Canadian, and the Tubagua Eco Plantation fits our criteria of locally owned and a sustainable part of community development.

The easiest way to see what is important to someone is also language used to govern non-profit boards, ‘time, talent, and treasure.’ If you want to see what people (and organizations) value most, look at where they spend their time, talent, and their money.

Over the four years I have personally been involved with Tubagua, I have witnessed efforts in a variety of areas to improve their local community. Tim invests in his staff,  paying them well above local standards, creating savings accounts and plans, and working with them to provide training on how to become better guides, cooks, and hosts. He has aided as president of a local municipality group to develop Puerto Plata’s community based tourism clusters. Tubagua hosts groups of volunteers, creates customized educational trips in medical, economic development, and cultural studies programs, has worked to grow and educate local farmers on alternative cash crops (such as moringa), and is now discussing the benefits and potential project of providing land for a local community center.

The “Foreign Owned” label is not inherently wrong. Often, foreign owned refers to an individual or company owning and managing a business or property that does not live in the country. All inclusive resorts tend to ship in many of their products, and even book packages abroad with very minimal amounts of money cycling through the local economies where the trips are actually taking place. Locally owned does not necessarily mean to define someone’s ethnicity, but … Read more

We aught to saunter reverently. An idea from the great John Muir

On a Sierra Club Outing, author Albert Palmer tells of a conversation he had with John Muir on the trail. He asked Muir, “someone told me you did not approve of the word “hike.” Is that so?” His blue eyes flashed, and with his Scotch accent he replied:

“I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

Join Onwards for a trip and saunter reverently through mountains, oceans, waterfalls, rainforest, and more.

– John Muir, as quoted by Albert W. Palmer, The Mountain Trail and its Message (1911) pages 27-28 – excerpted in A Parable of Sauntering .… Read more

Stop helping. How you can make a bigger impact in community development

The world needs more passionate, giving, global minded people. But when it comes to community development, your volunteer trip, mission, or donation is likely not going as far as it could.

A trusted friend and former colleague of a missions organization recently told me of a conversation she had with a Youth Director about his summer missions trip. The group was from Arkansas, and serving on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota, one of the most devastating areas of poverty in the United States.

The group of 75 volunteers paid a grand total of $45,000 for their week-long mission trip, or $600 a person. The youth director was surprised, however, to discover that the organization’s construction budget for work projects for their week was $6,500, coming in at under 14% of the total trip budget.

The facts…

This 14%, or $6,500, was spent on construction materials. Bricks, wood, cement, paint etc. purchased from the nearest big city (Rapid City in this case). The volunteer lodging was donated by a local school. The food budget was spent at Costco, also in Rapid City, two hours away. Vans were rented in the volunteer’s home-town for transportation. The rest of the $45,000 not spent on food, transportation, and the 14% on construction materials, was inherently spent on summer staffing (although most staff raised their own support), overall organization staffing and expenses, and other program materials for the organization, such as tools, band equipment, gas/vehicles etc.

Now, I am not one to criticize nonprofits simply for the “demonic label of overhead” as Dan Pallotta calls it in my favorite Ted Talk titled “The way we think about charity is dead wrong.” In order to make true impact, nonprofits need to scale and the percentage of overhead does not relate to the scale … Read more