choice PHILOSOPHY FOR expeditions
CHOICE Humanitarian is an international development organization whose purpose is to reduce the many dimensions of poverty in rural communities. We are not a travel company, and this is not poverty tourism. With over 30 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 be a part of the poverty solutions fueling and accelerating 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:
Cultural exchange is one of the most important aspects of CHOICE expeditions. When people of different backgrounds come together to exchange ideas, experiences, perspectives, and knowledge, the world becomes a more connected place. These authentic and meaningful interactions can generate empathy and foster open-mindedness.
CHOICE’s goal is that each expeditioner and each community member can expand their view of what it means to be a global citizen.
Sometimes, well-intentioned travelers participate in humanitarian service trips offered by organizations without understanding the true needs of the communities they serve. This can end up doing more harm than good.
CHOICE employs qualified local country staff who work with community members to organize and lead projects designed specifically for the needs of their community. These community-managed projects go on whether or not an expedition comes to the village, and they do so under CHOICE's implementation of theory of change.
Before entering any area, CHOICE’s country team executes a needs assessment in order to understand the community according to the multidimensional poverty index (MPI). The MPI considers health, standard of living, and education, along with specific subfactors for each category. Once CHOICE has an in-depth understanding of the systemic and deep-rooted causes of poverty in that area, we begin planning a project.
By focusing on the causes rather than the symptoms, our projects can create multidimensional, long-lasting solutions which increase the community’s capacity to build a path out of rural poverty.
Direction from Local Teams
Under our community-led approach, our country teams build leadership capacity across hundreds of communities at a time, training and organizing communities to identify their priorities, design sustainable and appropriate solutions, and execute projects that are community-owned and managed.
As locals to their respective countries, our country teams are able to understand and address their country’s needs as they listen to community leaders. The country teams, along with Certified Expedition Leaders (CEL), help to ensure the authenticity and appropriateness of each CHOICE expedition.
Expeditions are Not Voluntourism
“Voluntourism” often refers to individuals who do humanitarian work to boost their own image. CHOICE expeditions are not photos ops. These are life-changing experiences of education, inspiration, impact, and connection.
For example, before an expedition, Certified Expedition Leaders (CEL) educate participants on how to be culturally competent. This requires an awareness of different norms and perspectives, an attitude of open-mindedness toward other ways of living, and an appreciation for connection and communication even when languages aren't shared.
The protagonists of every CHOICE story are the community members who work hard to overcome their lack of opportunities and expand their range of options.