Our Expedition Philosophy
This is NOT poverty tourism
CHOICE Humanitarian is an international development organization whose purpose is to eliminate extreme poverty. We are NOT a travel company, and this is NOT poverty tourism. CHOICE believes in hand-ups, not hand-outs. With over 36 years working in international development, we have learned that for humanitarian expeditions to be sustainable, they MUST be part of a larger, locally driven program that exists long before expeditions arrive and the programs must have commitments from every community that lasts long after the expeditions leave.
At CHOICE, expeditions do not drive our development work; rather, we allow expeditions to fuel and accelerate the community building and development work that is already taking place year round. Of the nearly 1,000 communities that CHOICE supports, very few (around 30 or so every year) will receive an expedition. The following principles help guide our approach:
A native in-country team is crucial
Under our village-led model of leadership development, our in-country teams build leadership capacity across hundreds of communities at a time, training and organizing communities to identify their own priorities, design sustainable and appropriate solutions, and execute projects that are community-owned and managed. As nationals of their respective countries, they are in the best position to understand and address their country’s needs as they listen to the community leaders.
Projects must be community managed
We have six defined focus areas that CHOICE Humanitarian teams work in to help communities improve their own access to health and education; to secure better jobs; ensure gender equality and the preservation of their environment and their culture. Depending on the needs at the time of the expedition, volunteers could be working on one of a wide range of projects such as classroom construction, community water systems, biogas digesters, health clinics, personal hygiene workshops, pit latrines, micro-enterprise training, and other fundamental village needs at various stages of progress. Medical and dental services can be added as components to expeditions on request, but always with a focus on training and local empowerment.
When communities carry out their own development, with the support of resources and relevant technical skills, the progress they make is sustainable and empowering. We only work with committed communities who leverage their own resources, whether through time, talent, or sweat equity. CHOICE is firm about not eliminating poverty FOR people, but rather THROUGH people. This means CHOICE is patient, adaptive, supportive, and inclusive. We are not rushed, forceful, directive, paternalistic, or condescending.
Expeditions are part of a sustainable program
Expeditioners are invited by the communities and plug into a project that was started long before they arrived and will continue long after they are gone. They will support one specific phase of a project that a community is managing. When an expedition leaves, community members, alongside our in-country teams, continue the work. This means communities own the project from start to finish, and that the role that the expeditioner plays remains well-defined in its limited scope.
CHOICE Humanitarian native in-country teams help rural communities become their own agents of change and to create their own paths out of poverty; humanitarian trips are one way to help accelerate that work.
Expeditions promote the concept of global citizenship
Helping people understand what it means to be a global citizen is an essential part of our expedition philosophy. The expedition is the springboard for participants to move forward with a new idea of what it means to be a global citizen and how they can continue to contribute in meaningful ways to global concepts and campaigns.
For us, global citizenship means a few things:
- The awareness of our shared global challenges, as well as our shared global talents.
- The humility of knowing that no one human is better than another, regardless of where they were born.
- The connection we create when we exchange ideas, stories, and laughs without even speaking the same language.
- The partnership felt when people cross borders to work side by side one another with no judgment, no fear, no expectations.
- The responsibility to think and act globally, no matter where our local home may be.
We are motivated by our vision of a world where all people are empowered to achieve their goals. To make this world a reality, our native country teams work year-round empowering communities to take charge of their own development. A CHOICE Humanitarian expedition shows just a glimpse of the work that communities are doing worldwide, and yet expeditioners leave with new friends and a new framework through which to see the world.