Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Help Change the World on Your Winter Vacation

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column, Sunday,  October 19 / 08

Zack Gross

The election is over.  Winter is coming!  It’s time to plan that winter vacation!!

Conventional tourism often does little for the working people in the industry, whether it is in Mexico, Thailand or Kenya.  What they are paid to serve your meals, make your bed or carry your luggage – while it is a job – is very minimum wage.  As well, many young women in particular in the tourism industry, are at risk of being pulled, against their will, into the sex trade or being physically and financially abused by their employers.

More and more, vacation and tourism opportunities are available as eco-tourism and reality tours.  In these situations, foreign travelers can enjoy an interesting vacation, not harm the local environment, and contribute directly to the development of a Third World community.

A reality tour is an educational, experiential visit to learn about a part of the world and the issues faced by its people.  Organizations like the Marquis Project in Brandon have in the past led such tours to East Africa and Central America.  The group Global Exchange, based in San Francisco, leads tours to the Middle East, South Africa, Russia, even Iran and Afghanistan, in order to bring a greater understanding to American and Canadian citizens of the complex issues in these countries and to cut through the misinformation that might come from government sources and mainline media.

Reality tour participants meet with community groups, academics, journalists, representatives of the church and artistic communities and others, and have a chance to both learn and connect their own experience with that of likeminded people overseas. 

Brandon’s McPhail Travel has organized numerous such ventures to Cuba in recent years, where days at the beach are interspersed with visits to schools, hospitals, plantations, factories and government offices.

Victoria Safaris is just one of many companies doing African adventure travel, and includes “pro-poor tourism”.  They run a three-day tour in Kenya that takes the traveler to poor communities around Lake Victoria to meet with farmers, fishers, market sellers, health clinics and international development projects.

The Ecotourism Society defines eco-tourism as “responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people”.  As one eco-tourism web site states:  a walk in the rainforest or a whitewater raft trip is not necessarily eco-tourism. 

Adventure tourism is popular today, but may not in any way conserve our natural environment or aid local people.  Eco-tourism with a Brandon-Westman connection exists with UCOTA, the Uganda Community Tourism Association (www.ucota.or.ug).  UCOTA operates eco-tourism sites in many of the national parks in Uganda, where visitors stay in local villages and enjoy an intimate tourism experience as opposed to any multi-star urban hotel.  As well, they create jobs for local people in that tourism industry, guiding people on nature walks and keeping camping and hotel sites organized and clean.  Many UCOTA villagers also produce wonderful basketry and other fair trade handicrafts for sale to tourists as well as for export.

The Marquis Project has worked with UCOTA in the past, funding some of their small projects such as the organic growing of natural dye plants for colouring the baskets.  This effort also brought natural dye plant poaching in the parks, which was depleting natural stocks, to a halt.  As well, Marquis has brought together UCOTA craftspeople, renowned for the quality of their basket-making, with Tanzanian artisans wishing to improve their skills in basketry, as well as in the business side of craft-making, such as record keeping, storage, packing and shipping, and so on. 

UCOTA, which was established ten years ago, now has fifty member groups, involving 1200 individuals, two-thirds of whom are women.  The funds it raises from guiding, crafts, cultural performances, hotels and restaurants go to support clinics, schools, literacy programs and the development of water sources.  This is what is known as the “fair trade premium
.

Many people – from students to professionals – are looking for the opportunity to volunteer their services for short periods of time overseas.  What was once called international volunteerism is now called “voluntourism”.  Many positions are open on environmental and development projects and a real difference can be made by the person willing to use vacation time for this purpose.

Two related, interesting Canadian magazines available at better bookstores, that focus on “travel with a purpose
,” from adventure to eco-tourism to volunteerism, are Outpost and Verge.  These would help the prospective traveler in planning and booking their experience.

This article only scratches the surface of the alternate kinds of vacations available to those looking for an interesting winter getaway in the Global South.

Obviously, these opportunities are not for everybody, but a greater number of tourists worldwide are pushing the envelope, seeking more than sun and booze.

Testimonials from those who participate would indicate that you will see the real world and return home with renewed energy and purpose.
The great complaint about our recent Canadian election is that only an extremely low number of citizens, about 58%, actually cast ballots.  Young people are a demographic group often singled out as not being engaged or conscientious enough to get out and vote.  However, in order to make voting seem worthwhile to youth, our society and government must understand today’s issues from youth’s perspective, and also address youth as valued community members and potential leaders.

Two separate experiences after the election helped me to better understand why young people don’t vote.  The first was a teenaged friend of mine pointing out that there was no discussion of “youth issues” during the televised election debates, which he did make the effort to watch, except where speakers made reference to youth crime.  This negative image of youth, expressed by so many adults, alienates young people from the daily processes that make our society run.

The second came when I was listening to a discussion on CBC Radio between a young person working for an organization that “tries to get out the youth vote” and another young person who doesn’t vote but is very active in his community.  By the end of the time slot, the person promoting youth voting was won over by her “opponent” who was advocating for more youth activism but didn’t see the use in voting.

There are certain demographic trends in the world today that are enhancing the role of youth.  Population is rising quickly.  Africa’s, for instance, is doubling from 295 million to 590 million between the years 2000 and 2020.  China and India have crossed the billion population threshold.  The majority of people, planet-wide, now live in urban environments, and a growing list of cities, in Asia and Latin America particularly, are well past ten million and closing in on 20 million people.

Young people represent close to 20% of the world’s population and this percentage is growing.  In some African countries, people under the age of twenty-five constitute two-thirds of the population.  Around the world, young people are moving to the cities, looking for a better life – employment and educational opportunities being uppermost in their minds.

Children and youth have also been seriously victimized over the past generation by natural disasters, war, HIV/AIDS, child trafficking, slave labour, and more.  While there are many stories of young people’s resilience after living as refugees or child soldiers, it is clear that the difficult lives of young people (poverty, illiteracy) can also lead to involvement in terrorism, to future broken families, crime and addiction.

Youth around the world, across Canada and locally face many similar issues.  In Canada, we may not face war or earthquake on our soil, but other concerns stand out.  They impact differently on youth depending on whether they are situated in an urban or rural/remote environment.   Child poverty in Canada ranges from province to province at 15 to 25%, although regions that rely on seasonal industries can reach higher numbers.  Our on-going economic melt-down will lead to further unemployment and poverty.

Employment concerns youth in a number of ways, such as the prevalence of part-time, service industry work that is neither interesting nor leads to a career, and a minimum wage that doesn’t always keep up with inflationary costs such as of gas and food.  Educational opportunities concern youth, such as in getting the courses and standards they need to pursue their post-secondary or career interest.  In the poorest communities, any sort of positive future may seem out of reach.

Recreational activities are important to young people, as they are to adults.  Where none are available, they may turn to alcohol, drugs, vandalism and crime.  Many communities serve seniors and those with money very well, offering a range of sports, hobby and cultural pursuits.  For the kid with no money or with transportation problems, or suffering a parental deficit, access to programs is at a premium and life is difficult.  Urban aboriginal and immigrant youth are being pulled into gang culture and warfare.

While we can’t make all problems go away, we need to upgrade our efforts to involve all types of youth in building their world of the future.  Whether it is in the planning of mega-cities in Asia, in the fight against HIV/AIDS which is an issue in every region, or in the need to reach out to youth at risk in Manitoba, space needs to be opened up to the young, to harness their knowledge, energy and passion.  Whether it is church and school boards or city councils, youth should be seated at the table and given a leadership role to play. 

If we want our young people to vote, to show a commitment to our democratic process, then we have to return that commitment by demonstrating that we understand their issues, that we don’t think they are all punks, and that we want their input.  We don’t want them to just volunteer more, or respect us adults more, or buy into our agendas more – we want them to tell us what they see in the world, how they are affected by it, and what we can all do together to improve the situation.   They can be our leaders of tomorrow, and today.
The great complaint about our recent Canadian election is that only an extremely low number of citizens, about 58%, actually cast ballots.  Young people are a demographic group often singled out as not being engaged or conscientious enough to get out and vote.  However, in order to make voting seem worthwhile to youth, our society and government must understand today’s issues from youth’s perspective, and also address youth as valued community members and potential leaders.

Two separate experiences after the election helped me to better understand why young people don’t vote.  The first was a teenaged friend of mine pointing out that there was no discussion of “youth issues” during the televised election debates, which he did make the effort to watch, except where speakers made reference to youth crime.  This negative image of youth, expressed by so many adults, alienates young people from the daily processes that make our society run.

The second came when I was listening to a discussion on CBC Radio between a young person working for an organization that “tries to get out the youth vote” and another young person who doesn’t vote but is very active in his community.  By the end of the time slot, the person promoting youth voting was won over by her “opponent” who was advocating for more youth activism but didn’t see the use in voting.

There are certain demographic trends in the world today that are enhancing the role of youth.  Population is rising quickly.  Africa’s, for instance, is doubling from 295 million to 590 million between the years 2000 and 2020.  China and India have crossed the billion population threshold.  The majority of people, planet-wide, now live in urban environments, and a growing list of cities, in Asia and Latin America particularly, are well past ten million and closing in on 20 million people.

Young people represent close to 20% of the world’s population and this percentage is growing.  In some African countries, people under the age of twenty-five constitute two-thirds of the population.  Around the world, young people are moving to the cities, looking for a better life – employment and educational opportunities being uppermost in their minds.

Children and youth have also been seriously victimized over the past generation by natural disasters, war, HIV/AIDS, child trafficking, slave labour, and more.  While there are many stories of young people’s resilience after living as refugees or child soldiers, it is clear that the difficult lives of young people (poverty, illiteracy) can also lead to involvement in terrorism, to future broken families, crime and addiction.

Youth around the world, across Canada and locally face many similar issues.  In Canada, we may not face war or earthquake on our soil, but other concerns stand out.  They impact differently on youth depending on whether they are situated in an urban or rural/remote environment.   Child poverty in Canada ranges from province to province at 15 to 25%, although regions that rely on seasonal industries can reach higher numbers.  Our on-going economic melt-down will lead to further unemployment and poverty.

Employment concerns youth in a number of ways, such as the prevalence of part-time, service industry work that is neither interesting nor leads to a career, and a minimum wage that doesn’t always keep up with inflationary costs such as of gas and food.  Educational opportunities concern youth, such as in getting the courses and standards they need to pursue their post-secondary or career interest.  In the poorest communities, any sort of positive future may seem out of reach.

Recreational activities are important to young people, as they are to adults.  Where none are available, they may turn to alcohol, drugs, vandalism and crime.  Many communities serve seniors and those with money very well, offering a range of sports, hobby and cultural pursuits.  For the kid with no money or with transportation problems, or suffering a parental deficit, access to programs is at a premium and life is difficult.  Urban aboriginal and immigrant youth are being pulled into gang culture and warfare.

While we can’t make all problems go away, we need to upgrade our efforts to involve all types of youth in building their world of the future.  Whether it is in the planning of mega-cities in Asia, in the fight against HIV/AIDS which is an issue in every region, or in the need to reach out to youth at risk in Manitoba, space needs to be opened up to the young, to harness their knowledge, energy and passion.  Whether it is church and school boards or city councils, youth should be seated at the table and given a leadership role to play. 

If we want our young people to vote, to show a commitment to our democratic process, then we have to return that commitment by demonstrating that we understand their issues, that we don’t think they are all punks, and that we want their input.  We don’t want them to just volunteer more, or respect us adults more, or buy into our agendas more – we want them to tell us what they see in the world, how they are affected by it, and what we can all do together to improve the situation.   They can be our leaders of tomorrow, and today.
The great complaint about our recent Canadian election is that only an extremely low number of citizens, about 58%, actually cast ballots.  Young people are a demographic group often singled out as not being engaged or conscientious enough to get out and vote.  However, in order to make voting seem worthwhile to youth, our society and government must understand today’s issues from youth’s perspective, and also address youth as valued community members and potential leaders.

Two separate experiences after the election helped me to better understand why young people don’t vote.  The first was a teenaged friend of mine pointing out that there was no discussion of “youth issues” during the televised election debates, which he did make the effort to watch, except where speakers made reference to youth crime.  This negative image of youth, expressed by so many adults, alienates young people from the daily processes that make our society run.

The second came when I was listening to a discussion on CBC Radio between a young person working for an organization that “tries to get out the youth vote” and another young person who doesn’t vote but is very active in his community.  By the end of the time slot, the person promoting youth voting was won over by her “opponent” who was advocating for more youth activism but didn’t see the use in voting.

There are certain demographic trends in the world today that are enhancing the role of youth.  Population is rising quickly.  Africa’s, for instance, is doubling from 295 million to 590 million between the years 2000 and 2020.  China and India have crossed the billion population threshold.  The majority of people, planet-wide, now live in urban environments, and a growing list of cities, in Asia and Latin America particularly, are well past ten million and closing in on 20 million people.

Young people represent close to 20% of the world’s population and this percentage is growing.  In some African countries, people under the age of twenty-five constitute two-thirds of the population.  Around the world, young people are moving to the cities, looking for a better life – employment and educational opportunities being uppermost in their minds.

Children and youth have also been seriously victimized over the past generation by natural disasters, war, HIV/AIDS, child trafficking, slave labour, and more.  While there are many stories of young people’s resilience after living as refugees or child soldiers, it is clear that the difficult lives of young people (poverty, illiteracy) can also lead to involvement in terrorism, to future broken families, crime and addiction.

Youth around the world, across Canada and locally face many similar issues.  In Canada, we may not face war or earthquake on our soil, but other concerns stand out.  They impact differently on youth depending on whether they are situated in an urban or rural/remote environment.   Child poverty in Canada ranges from province to province at 15 to 25%, although regions that rely on seasonal industries can reach higher numbers.  Our on-going economic melt-down will lead to further unemployment and poverty.

Employment concerns youth in a number of ways, such as the prevalence of part-time, service industry work that is neither interesting nor leads to a career, and a minimum wage that doesn’t always keep up with inflationary costs such as of gas and food.  Educational opportunities concern youth, such as in getting the courses and standards they need to pursue their post-secondary or career interest.  In the poorest communities, any sort of positive future may seem out of reach.

Recreational activities are important to young people, as they are to adults.  Where none are available, they may turn to alcohol, drugs, vandalism and crime.  Many communities serve seniors and those with money very well, offering a range of sports, hobby and cultural pursuits.  For the kid with no money or with transportation problems, or suffering a parental deficit, access to programs is at a premium and life is difficult.  Urban aboriginal and immigrant youth are being pulled into gang culture and warfare.

While we can’t make all problems go away, we need to upgrade our efforts to involve all types of youth in building their world of the future.  Whether it is in the planning of mega-cities in Asia, in the fight against HIV/AIDS which is an issue in every region, or in the need to reach out to youth at risk in Manitoba, space needs to be opened up to the young, to harness their knowledge, energy and passion.  Whether it is church and school boards or city councils, youth should be seated at the table and given a leadership role to play. 

If we want our young people to vote, to show a commitment to our democratic process, then we have to return that commitment by demonstrating that we understand their issues, that we don’t think they are all punks, and that we want their input.  We don’t want them to just volunteer more, or respect us adults more, or buy into our agendas more – we want them to tell us what they see in the world, how they are affected by it, and what we can all do together to improve the situation.   They can be our leaders of tomorrow, and today.


Zack Gross coordinates a provincial fair trade outreach program for the 
Manitoba Council for International Co-operation (MCIC), a coalition of 38 international development organizations.
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