I called this blog ’Lessons I Learned’, but really it would be better titled ’Lessons I’m Learning’. I believe in sharing what we learn to help others avoid our same mistakes and also exposing ourselves to the criticism and questions which might help us improve. I am skeptical of the popular approaches to both voluntourism and development work, though those are both areas in which I have worked as I’d love to be part of learning how we can do them both better. I think we need to learn before we can help, so I believe “service learning” should be “learning service”. I feel like I am learning more every day about how to help create the world I want to see my future kids and their future kids living in, and sometimes what I learn contradicts what I thought I knew was true. I have learned that good intentions are not enough and that the only person you can “improve” in the world is yourself, so I had better start improving the world by starting there. I hope the dialogue generated through this site will give me more chances to do that and to share the lessons I am learning with others who could benefit from avoiding my mistakes.

12 June 2009 ~ 0 Comments

Making a positve impact

Yet another set of thoughts on a voluntourism blog:

My comments on this post: http://www.travelanthropist.com/2009/06/how-are-travel-and-voluntee…
I very much agree! As the founder of PEPY Tours (www.pepytours.com) I believe we share the same values as Hands Up Holidays and agree that the hybrid-model of NGO work and tourism adds value to the tourism industry.
Continue Reading

02 June 2009 ~ 0 Comments

Micro-Credit and open discussions

I added my thoughts to this very heated discussion on micro-credit


my post copied below:

Wow… so sorry Tori, in my opinion, you do not deserve an attack, questions and dialogue and criticism of course, which is what I think you were looking to spark when you started this, but not an attack. If and where your facts are wrong, I think it is important for people to point those out, but I applaud you for taking this project on and providing a critical eye on development with a goal of sparking debate. I think one of the best features of your site is that you encourage discussion and comments after each piece.
Continue Reading

30 May 2009 ~ 0 Comments

Love love love this quote!

This cover of the Economist is fabulous because of this amazing quote. “But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change.” I think that is my new favorite quote…. how true indeed.

“Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one.

[…] Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked — that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction. Such fatalism is a deadly adversary, for if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.

[…] So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change.”



29 May 2009 ~ 1 Comment

Lessons Learned: Common “Metrics for Success” are not successful metrics at all

Building on the last “Lesson Learned” I wrote about with regards to partnering to make changes, this article is about is another lesson we are continuing to learn: how can we rate the success of the partnerships and programs we implement?

One of the dangerous myths about NGOs is that their success can be rated on their “Program to Overhead Ratio”. Not only is this wrong, as in this ratio does not help distinguish good from bad NGOs, but relying on this ratio is actually harmful to the NGO world. Why? Two reasons: Continue Reading

29 May 2009 ~ 0 Comments

Flat Stanley (and Flat Channeang, and Thavry, and Sela) at the PEPY School!

If you haven’t read this yet, nor signed up to receive your own flat friend in the mail, PLEASE DO!


26 May 2009 ~ 0 Comments

My thoughts on Data Entry

… as a means of supporting development, helping people “follow their dreams”, and Digital Divide Data.

(in the comments section)


26 May 2009 ~ 2 Comments

“Volunteering” or “Voluntourism” – who cares! It’s how you design it!

There is a discussion about volunteering/voluntourism going on here, Part 1 and here, Part 2.

I decided to add my long-winded and opinionated post obviously tainted by working in Cambodia and being passionate about the responsibility implicit in these issues.


As someone who has worked in Cambodia for almost five years, this is a debate I often find myself in, especially since I run what could be considered a “voluntourism” organization.

Due to the fact that “volunteer” is a word people are utilizing in their internet searches, much more than “service learning” or “experiential education”, I have allowed the word to stay on our website, but I don’t like our guests thinking of themselves as “volunteers”, as that highlights the “giving”, and what I want to highlight for them is the “learning”. Continue Reading