Q: When was the business founded?
A: people and places was founded in 2005, and our first volunteer placement was in April 2006
Q: What inspired you to run the business?
A: That’s easy: because of our years of work in responsible travel and tourism, we (myself and co-founders Sallie Grayson and Harold Goodwin) were familiar with volunteer travel as a rapidly growing part of the travel industry. We were also well aware of its potential – for harm as well as good. Volunteers and local communities and projects need to be properly prepared, well-informed and well-matched. When this isn’t the case, the results can be disappointing at best and downright harmful at worst. We initially thought that ‘naming and shaming’ would be the thing to do … but then what? That’s hardly an effective means of bringing about long-term change … so we decided to found our own volunteering company to prove that volunteering can and must be a ‘win-win’ experience, for volunteers and local communities alike.
Q: What did you do before?
A: The three of us together had differing and complimentary skills and experience in travel and in business:
I have over 20 years of experience in the travel industry, including the development of cultural immersion tours for specialist UK travel companies. I have always placed particular emphasis on matching travelers’ cultural experience to the need for sustainable and empowering experiences for their hosts. I firmly believe in the inherent ability of individual people to achieve great things, and I’m a true ‘people person’!
Harold Goodwin is an acknowledged expert in responsible and sustainable tourism – having years of experience in working with local communities, governments, international funding agencies and within the tourism industry to advance responsible, sustainable and pro-poor tourism. (His ‘little black book’ was an invaluable resource for people and places from the very beginning!)
Sallie Grayson ran a niche marketing company for 20 years, and has served as a non-executive director and consultant in industries as varied as retail, finance, health and tourism. Sallie’s own experiences as a volunteer, as well as the shared experiences of other volunteers and the communities in which they worked, left her frustrated and cynical about the volunteer industry, but also inspired by the potential benefits for volunteers and local communities … and determined to do something!
Read the whole interview first published by Kutoa Travel here