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ISV Mission Statement

ISV's mission is to support sustainable development initiatives around the world through life-changing student volunteer and responsible adventure travel programs designed to positively change our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

Responsible Travel

Responsible Travel ISV  strongly believes in the principles of Responsible Travel and one of our core values is to promote and practice responsible tourism, and to inspire a generation of responsible travellers. Through our programs, we aim to bring about positive economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts, and to construct experiences that reflect the responsible tourism practices we believe in. Our goal is to provide a life-changing, rewarding travel experience and in doing so, enable local communities to enjoy a better quality of life while also conserving their natural environment. Our programs involve Awareness, Action, and Learning. We build awareness, promote action, facilitate learning, and are always striving for best practices to be more sustainable in our program operations. Read this blog to learn more about our philosophy on responsible travel: http://www.isvolunteers.org/blog/responsible-travel/ 

Building Awareness ?

Building Awareness Beginning  with our offices, we help and encourage volunteers to build their awareness of their host country before they depart. ISV has written country-specific documents such as our Country Resource Manuals which we provide to volunteers in advance with information on the country’s history, culture, sustainability issues, geography and much more. In the Participant Travel Manual, ISV lists over 20 suggestions as to how to travel responsibly.

As part of our volunteer projects, our project leaders facilitate discussions that engage volunteers in learning about sustainable development at local, national and global levels. Towards the end of the project, we run an interactive discussion on Responsible Tourism to lay a foundation for responsible practices during the adventure tour that follows.  

Core  ideas on responsible travel include: cultural respect; selecting low impact activities; researching the most sustainable operators; responsible purchasing and reducing consumption; water and energy conservation; benefits to local communities; protection of natural environments; creating awareness; and positive interactions with people and wildlife.

Our Commitment ?

Our Commitment  ISV is committed to actively engaging volunteers in responsible behavior while on ISV's programs. We do this through carefully selecting our activities, accommodations and transport providers, encouragement from our tour leaders, working closely with our operators to improve standards, and always being open to improving and learning. We also achieve this through educating our participants about cultural and environmental impacts of how they can maximize the positives and minimize the negatives. ISV’s Goals for Participants on Tour are to enable them to:

  • Discover and explore natural and cultural environments.
  • Gain an appreciation of natural and cultural environments.
  • Engage in cultural and adventure based activities that challenge and promote personal growth and development.
  • Enjoy positive group interactions in a safe and open environment through teambuilding activities; and
  • Gain an understanding of the principles and practices of responsible tourism.

ISV tours are carefully structured to mix adventure, nature, culture and education. Certain activities are included from an educational standpoint to enable the volunteers to broaden their understanding of important facts about sites that they are visiting. For example, prior to snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, ISV provides a customized 1.5 hour presentation on the reef including marine biology, threats to the coral reef and how to snorkel responsibly.  In Costa Rica, our volunteers participate in the Maleku indigenous tribe’s cultural performance which helps preserve a dying culture and contributes economically to the community while enabling volunteers to learn about the smallest tribes in Central America. 

Our selection of activity operators and hotels is an important part of practicing responsible tourism. We do our best to select responsible operators given the options available, and always encourage volunteers to follow guidelines to minimize waste reduction, and water and energy consumption. For example, our  YHA accommodations in Wellington, New Zealand, has won numerous sustainability awards in the hospitality sector and we request a brief presentation for our groups on their environmental strategies and how volunteers can make their hostel stay as sustainable as possible.  In Thailand, ISV’s hilltribe trek operator East West Siam, and Lisu Lodge, have also been recognized internationally for their role in hiring and training local hilltribe people, providing local employment to the villagers as well as low-impact tourism.  In every ISV adventure tour, there are numerous examples such as these.

Our Tours Leaders ?

Our Tours Leaders ISV tour leaders are passionate about facilitating responsible travel and conveying our organization’s ethics. ISV tour leaders complete a rigorous training that includes a strong focus on the concepts of responsible tourism and how to best communicate to participants which travel tips they should apply when, and why.  Through positive role modeling and engaging information to broaden awareness about responsible travel, we hope our tour leaders can help guide volunteers on a travel experience that sharpens their minds to becoming more responsible travelers now and in the future.

Other Examples of Responsible Travel ?

Other Examples of Responsible  Travel Machu Picchu Leave No Waste Campaign

During a site inspection of the ISV optional excursion to Machu Picchu along the magnificent Salkantay Inca Trail, our staff noticed an incredible amount of trash just off the trail that was left behind by tourists. We met with our guiding company, Ecotrek Peru, and created a plan  for responsible tourism signs to be placed along the trail, and for Ecotrek Peru to meet with other companies and guides with a call to action for improving hiking ethics and behavior.  ISV paid $400 USD to make the signs which were placed along the trail by an ISV group. We sincerely hope that by inspiring hikers, and with support from the local guiding companies, the area can become pristine and given the respect it deserves.

Biodiesel Project

Biodiesel Project ISV staff are constantly thinking outside the box for new things we can do to operate our programs more responsibly.  On one of our community development volunteer projects in Costa Rica, we noticed that the on-site transport for our volunteers was producing a large amount of black smoke. The idea for the use of biofuels was born.  ISV donated over $15,000 to make the idea a reality.  The initiative has since been awarded the entrepreneurial science prize at the University of Costa Rica.  Read more about the idea, the fundamentals behind biofuel and what’s happening next with the project here: http://www.isvolunteers.org/files/isv-wins-award-for-biodiesel.pdf

Responsible Snorkeling

Responsible Snorkeling Coral reefs are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. Tourism plays a crucial role in building awareness of their importance, and protecting the reef while enjoying it. On a site inspection in Fiji, ISV staff noticed that the local standards were very poor and very little guidance was given to snorkelers about how to minimize their impact on the environment while enjoying their activity.  ISV staff were inspired to create a simple Responsible Snorkeling info sheet which is explained to our participants and given to our accommodations and snorkeling activity provider.  Since then, this sheet has been provided to all our host countries that do snorkeling and our accommodations in Fiji and other operators have asked for some more copies! Read more about this issue here: http://www.isvolunteers.org/blog/isv-raising-awareness-coral-reefs/

Organic, Fair Trade Coffee

Organic, Fair Trade Coffee ISV Costa Rica has supported a number of coffee farming communities through our volunteer programs for many years.  A number of years ago, we noticed that many volunteers were buying coffee as gifts prior to returning home; mostly the mass-produced brands available at the airport.  An idea was generated to offer coffee produced by the communities we were supporting and in doing so, contribute to fair trade, organic and great tasting coffee!  To further assist the coffee farmers, ISV agreed to help with the purchase of additional roasting and packaging machinery, and to promote the coffee to volunteers. ISV participants have bought over one ton of organic fair trade coffee! The producers have gained greater autonomy and are earning a fair price for their coffee. Read more about this topic and how ISV is helping with women's empowerment initiatives in Costa Rica in the coffee industry here: http://www.isvolunteers.org/blog/women-empowered-coffee-costa-rica

Fiji Books Initiative

Fiji Books Initiative As part of the Fiji Optional Excursion, ISV volunteers visited a Fijian village and helped with community clean-up activities. They later visited the local school and enjoy some time with the school children. When we asked at the school how we could benefit the children, we received a request for children’s books in English. In response, ISV employees in Australia and New Zealand. as well as, ISV volunteers contributed hundreds of books for donation. Read more about this past initiative here: http://www.isvolunteers.org/blog/isv-participants-bring-big-changes-to-island-schools/ 

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