Adventure With Purpose and Fair Trade Calgary hosted an event about how to empower local communities while travelling, on Jan. 17 in downtown Calgary.
Tatiana Teevens, the director of Adventure With Purpose, was the main speaker at the event and discussed how travellers can have a positive impact on the places they go.
“As a tour agency, we know how much impact travel can have on the places we visit,” said Teevens.
Teevens has been planning tours for five years and just incorporated Adventure With Purpose last year.
Adventure With Purpose is a travel company that specializes in conservation, education and learning tours in Nepal, Cambodia, Mexico and North America.
“We have to enter a place with this humble ideology that I’m here to learn from you first, rather than I’m here to fix you,” said Teevens.
Teevens said that one of the biggest problems travellers and volunteers create is coming into a country and not understanding the culture and thinking that they know everything and how to fix their hosts’ problems.
“We really need to focus on what is great and empower them in their own communities,” she said.
Some common misconceptions people have about helping other countries are things like donations, and playing with kids in orphanages. In reality these do more harm then good.
“Donations create dependency and a lot of the times donations go towards corrupt institutions,” said Teevens.
“Would we in Canada, let a bunch of volunteers from a foreign country come and take selfies with vulnerable kids in orphanages?” Teevens asked the group.
“No we wouldn’t, so why do we do it in developing countries?”
Teevens said that the people who come and play with the kids often have the best intentions but they need to think of the kids’ feelings first.
Teevens said some steps towards empowerment while travelling are supporting local artisans, helping conservation projects, learning about development, training unskilled workers, staying with host families and supporting communities.
“All the greatest development work comes from the understanding of a culture,” said Teevens.
“As a tour operator, the goal is to ensure all of our travel is learning focused and to ensure all our travellers get an in-depth cultural experience.”
Erin Bird, who is an organizer and leader at Fair Trade Calgary, was also a host for the discussion.
“I do feel a lot of the time we have these misconceptions around what we are doing to help that aren’t necessarily really helping these developing countries at all,” said Bird.
Bird has been involved with Fair Trade Calgary for seven years, and organizes events and fund-raisers around the city.
“I was trying a find a way that I could make an impact by doing something locally, “ said Bird.
“When I found out about Fair Trade it really spoke to me so I decided to dive right into it.”
Bird said she hopes to have more conversations and host more discussions about local involvement and empowering other countries.
“I think we just need to be aware of the best ways to actually help and support these communities and just be more educated on what is going on in developing countries,” she said.