Responsible Drinking on ISV’s Programs

by on Monday, 10 December 2012

ISV volunteers are role models for at-risk youth at Mae Kok Foundation, Thailand © used with permission by ISV

The vast majority of participants who sign up for ISV’s volunteer programs do it for the right reasons: they’re along to make a real difference through their efforts, challenge themselves and leave a positive impact and impression on the local communities both during their volunteer efforts as well as during the adventure tour.  However, some volunteers have their priorities out of order, or make some regrettable mistakes relating to alcohol. We have plenty of blogs about the tremendous positive aspects of our programs on our participants and host communities alike, but this one is more about what “not to do”  during an ISV program for volunteers at least 18 years old.

At ISV, we are very clear that this is NOT a “Spring Break” or “Schoolies” program. ISV offers so much more than that. Of course our programs are over-the-top fun and there’s tons of excitement, laughter and good times, but our programs do not mix well with getting drunk. Here’s why:

  1. Safety. When young people drink to get drunk, there are often very serious consequences, and in a foreign country, double that. People. Get. Hurt. Intoxicated individuals are more likely to get themselves or others into trouble, whether it’s theft, violence, property damage, illness, injury, or going home with people they don’t know. We have seen some grave lapses of judgment.
  2. We are guests as well as ambassadors. In fact, ISV staff and volunteers are honored guestsin the communities where we work. And we each represent our home country, city, university, and ISV. Our hosts, including the local youth and children look up to our volunteers, welcome us into their homes and schools, and want to get to know us and share a part of their own lives. Drinking to get wasted isn’t cool in any circumstance, but doing so under such circumstances, when we are there to make a positive impact is actually pretty shameful.

    Group on hill tribe trek – “challenging hill tribe trek in Mae Tang province, Thailand” © used with permission by ISV

  3. We are all part of a team. When participants choose to over-indulge, they create absolute havoc for their Project or Tour Leaders who are responsible for them, negatively impact their fellow team members, and disappoint our hosts. Police, ambulances, other ISV participants and ISV staff are all involved when one or more persons choose to drink and behave irresponsibly.
  4. We care about our volunteers. We have run programs overseas for tens of thousands of volunteers and we know how hard each person has worked or how long they have waited for this incredible experience. While the vast majority have the absolute time of their lives, we’ve seen some participants make very regrettable decisions, embarrass themselves and their group, get hurt, and in some cases, removed from the program altogether.

So, here is the bottom line.  On some ISV volunteer projects there is a no-alcohol policy for the entire program.  Making a positive social and environmental impact is a vital part of our mission and we cannot have that jeopardized because of irresponsible behavior. On some projects, responsible consumption is permitted during free time (except for the High School Program which has a zero tolerance policy). However, getting drunk or showing up to volunteer hung-over the next day is not acceptable.  The exact policy for each volunteer project is explained in the ISV Project Overview and upon arrival as part of the orientation meeting. The policy must be respected.

ISV having fun in Australia © used with permission by ISV

On tour, responsible consumption of alcohol is permitted (for over 18’s) in accordance with ISV’s guidelines as explained by our Tour Leaders.   However, there are amazing activities planned for each day on tour and in order to participate and enjoy them, participants need to be fit and healthy. Sleeping in or being told you are too hung-over to participate is such a wasted opportunity, and if you’ve ever wondered what an 8-hour bus ride or a 2-hour rough boat ride is like after a “big” night, it’s better to be left wondering…

As participants on our programs, each person must take responsibility for their actions and realize that each person’s behavior and attitude impacts on our program and mission.

We encourage all our participants to be the person who made the most of every opportunity and experience, who was well-liked and respected by their fellow team members and the community, and who can look back on their trip knowing they gave 100% to the volunteer project and to experiencing everything the country had to offer them.

A big thanks to the huge majority of ISV participants who understand all this and know their limits. That’s the way it should be.

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