Over 10 years was Ward Reekmans already active as Chairman & Volunteer Coordinator in 2018 for Let Laos Learn when he decided to establish Volunteer Abroad Alliance.
Ward was active as a volunteer in Laos for 3,5 years and gained a wealth of experience during this period. He became acquainted with the opportunities that volunteers can offer to communities that were not given the same opportunities as communities in Western countries. Unfortunately, he was also introduced to a form of tourism that uses volunteerism to attract customers for financial gain and not for the purpose of helping a community.
This foundation was not an impulsive idea but came about after he received a question from other organizations about how to organize volunteer work abroad. Candidate volunteers also wondered whether they could find work elsewhere outside of Laos.
Because of the experience that ward had gained, and all the questions from other organizations, conversations with candidate volunteers, it became clear that the landscape was extremely fragmented and far from transparent. On one hand you have “voluntourism”, where the volunteer is regarded more as a consumer and on the other side NGOs & private initiatives that are looking for volunteers to help them in their mission and that is a better future for the communities which they help.
Ward wanted, with an alliance of non-profit organizations, small-scale & private initiatives, to offer the large group of potential volunteers at least an option for transparent volunteer work with a view towards a win win situation for all parties, both for the volunteer but primarily the target groups in the south.
Ward also wanted an alternative to “voluntourism”, a form of tourism in which it is not exactly clear where the funds end up, let alone how they create a positive impact for the local population. Volunteer Abroad Alliance has a clear vision on volunteering abroad.
By working together in an alliance across national and organizational boundaries, volunteers are assured to end up in fair projects rather than profit-based initiatives.