This blog has been created to write about volunteering and tourism. I will be sharing information, news and articles about overseas volunteering and what is increasingly referred to as voluntourism.  I will also address some of the issues and debates surrounding this often controversial type of travel.

I have worked for VSO, Earthwatch and Thomson Holidays and specialise in best practice in overseas volunteering programmes and identifying the right placements for volunteers. I developed an interest in responsible tourism whilst working at Thomson Holidays as a Product Manager for long-haul destinations. After 6 years with VSO’s volunteering team, I decided to combine my experience in tour operations and international development and pursue a career in responsible travel. I am currently studying for a Masters in Responsible Tourism Management at the International Centre for Responsible Tourism.


3 Responses to About

  1. Mary26 says:

    Hello Natasha! did you receive my comment on your most recent post about the need for more research? For some reason I’m not able to access the comments. I have recently written a post which you might find interesting; do let me know. http://blog.travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk/?p=3947

    • natashastein says:

      Hi Mary, I did receive your comment and I’ve read your post about your volunteering experience. It is great that you have been so honest and open about your time in Sri Lanka and that you are able to reflect on the experience and give a critical but fair perspective. What you’ve said about the orphanage and the access volunteers have to babies and toddlers but without the relevant professional experience is really worrying and the way they are allowed to form long term attachments to a particular child.
      I think it is good you have highlighted the relationships between the local women working in the orphanage and the volunteers and the resentments caused. This is unfortunately the reality of many volunteering placements, and it is one of the reasons that a responsible volunteer-sending organisation should spend time preparing volunteers for the local context and that in places like orphanages, perhaps it is more appropriate for long term, skilled volunteers who can spend time getting to know the staff and who have a specific role and can empower local people.
      I’m curious to know how much preparation and induction you were given by Plan My Gap Year and / or Volunteer Sri Lanka. And did you have a selection interview to determine what skills you have to offer and how they could be utilised?

  2. Mary26 says:

    Hi Natasha, I personally didn’t go through Plan My Gap Year as I’m over 60:-) I went direct though the Volunteer Sri Lanka website. I don’t know about PMGY, only that they ask for a CRB check from their volunteers, but to be honest, if you’re 18-21 this is by no means a useful exercise. The manager Janaka de Silva is based in Galle so no – no interviews! Just an application form and then emails back and forth to him to discuss plans and how skills might be utilized at the various projects.
    It was all quite vague. Janaka wanted me to work with teenagers in a care home, and I was keen to do this but wanted to know exactly how to prepare. That was when I hit a brick wall. The message that came back was that it was all going to be fine, anything I could do would be great. English, literacy, sewing, social skills, crafts ….. (This ties in with my point about the ‘magic ingredient’ we are supposed to have:-) I’m a pretty tenacious person so I didn’t give up – I tried emailing other volunteers. Still nothing much came back which was of help. It’s pretty impossible designing lesson plans without understanding what they would want to make! I ended up preparing some simple projects using motifs I thought would appeal like butterflies etc. Once there, I learnt a new collage technique from a local teacher at a kids’ project – creating mosaic type work with tiny pieces of fabric or ‘tailor scraps’ and the teenagers took to to it straight away.
    Interestingly, and sadly, word has reached me that volunteers are no longer able to go into this particular secure institution at all – due to a possible theft, which the matrons are saying is to down to the volunteers’ influence. This is hearsay, but if true, it adds weight to my argument that without the proper frameworks in place, volunteers can do more harm than good. Mary

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