Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Volunteering in Nepal | Code of Conduct

Volunteering and Tourism are closely linked all over the world. While developing this Code of Conduct for Volunteering, at socialtours, we protect it with a very humane Value System and the Responsible Travel Guidelines.

We believe that this code of conduct will help the communities we work with, as well as our volunteers, to achieve the mutual objectives premised by the philosophy of Responsible Tourism and linked benefits. The code of conduct serves as a guideline for understanding and overcoming the minefield of cross cultural challenges.

We acknowledge that volunteers want to be responsible but are often not aware of the issues and appropriate codes of conduct. This document is not intended to be exhaustive but it does highlight a number of issues and provide guidelines, which will help you to:

  • Ensure your own personal safety 
  • Show respect to the local communities, customs and value systems

General Guidelines

  • At all times respect your coordinators and/or local hosts advice; they are experienced professionals and are there to ensure you enjoy your experience but not at the expense of others or the wildlife you have come to enjoy
  • If you are unsure or concerned about anything ask your coordinators and/or local hosts
  • Water is a valuable asset in the world. Use water sparingly and wisely. Herewith are some tips to help you:
  • Never leave water taps running (even when brushing your teeth or washing your hands etc) and close them tightly when finished
  • Report dripping taps to hotel staff or home stay owner, as relevant
  • Do not request bath towels to be changed every day unless really necessary.
  • Shower rather than bathe and do not linger longer than necessary (where the choice is available)
  • When bathing use water sparingly
  • In village home stays, water will have be fetched by hand, in some cases a few kilometers away (not applicable in urban townships), you will normally be provided with a bucket of water for washing which is totally sufficient.
  • Never contaminate natural water sources with litter or chemicals such as soap and shampoo etc there are bio-products available on the market, which are suitable. 

Cultural Awareness Guidelines
Remember at all times that in many instances the local culture may differ substantially from your personal views and value systems. Yours are not necessarily right and theirs wrong just different, respect these differences and enjoy the unique opportunity to broaden your knowledge.

  • Do not go uninformed and unprepared into an interactive cultural experience. Find out before hand how you should behave and to show appropriate respect. Here your coordinator or local host is available to you. 
  • Make sure you are aware of relevant social issues, such as HIV/AIDS, poverty and water etc; pertaining to the area or culture you are visiting. This will enable you to gain a better perspective. 
  • Remember culture is dynamic and not all cultural activities are based on the contemporary way of life but may also be based on a traditional way of life of a bygone era. Accept these for what they are by acknowledging the difference and value in celebrating past and present cultural differences. 
  • Your coordinator and/or local hosts will brief you on the cultural sensitivities specific to the area you are visiting and how you can minimise potential negative impacts of your behaviour on the local community (e.g. most appropriate dress code when in local villages, when attending traditional ceremonies etc.)
  • Take special consideration of and respect for gender issues to which you may have a different viewpoint. Without a full understanding of the culture, which you cannot hope to acquire on a short visit, you cannot afford to challenge these. Ask questions in an attempt to get clarity but it is not for you to pass judgment. 
  • It is important to note cultural perspectives surrounding nudity. These differ from area to area in Nepal and between ethnic groups. 
  • Take up opportunities to exchange culture with the local community in authentic settings and with willing participants. There are many cultural tourist traps, which are out of context and for economic exploitation. 
  • Always be polite and respectful to local people and show respect by asking before taking pictures. socialtours strongly discourages payment be made for the privilege. When photographing children ask for their parents’ consent first. 
  • Begging is a major problem in many areas. It is a sensitive issue and touches on the huge divide that exists between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. One thing that we should all agree on is it is a distasteful practice not specifically for the visitor but also for the communities it affects. 
  • If you are able, make a personal contribution to a local community development project in the area you have visited (e.g. local school, clinic, farming project, etc.). Channel this through the coordinator and it will go to the right hands and follow the right process. Do not get excited about how cheap development may look like in this part of the world. Every action has long lasting ramifications, hence due care has to be given to channel funds appropriately. 
  • Although children may ask you for money or sweets, and it may make you feel good to give, please refrain. The giving of cash or sweets does not help in the long term – it only perpetuates an underlying problem. 
  • Remember at all times that most children have parents, and as the family providers, any giving should come from the parents. 
  • Remember at all times that in any cultural exchange / interaction the desired outcome is for you to depart in the knowledge that you have done your best to leave positive impressions with you hosts. Be tourism ambassadors! 

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