Tim Evans has hopes that some day his humanitarian outreach project will be considered the program of choice for "international exotic travel."
That is, "international exotic travel" with a twist. Travelers would be paying to join the program to work as volunteers in primitive locations throughout the world on projects such as building wells, schools and solar greenhouses that will help provide better lives for the people there.Evans, a Salt Lake City dentist, is founder and president of the Center for Humanitarian Outreach and Inter-Cultural Exchange (CHOICE), a non-profit agency that has been involved in humanitarian and development efforts in poor countries for the past several years.
Evans launched CHOICE after recognizing a link was needed between trained, knowledgeable and willing volunteers and humanitarian projects. He researched what was available in the way of volunteer experiences and discovered four trends.
"First, people in the United States and Europe want to have an international service experience but they can't afford a long-term commitment," Evans said. "I found an interest there, but no outlet."
Second, he discovered that travelers want a more in-depth intercultural experience. They are interested not just in seeing sites but in interacting more closely with the people and their culture.
Evans also learned that agencies conducting international humanitarian projects are ill-equipped to handle the logistics of volunteer participation in their field operations.
"Agencies like the Andean Children's Foundation (another humanitarian organization founded by Evans) feel that voluntary participation is more of a hindrance than a help because they are not equipped to handle volunteers logistically," Evans said. That sentiment has been expressed by others, including the charitable organization headed by Mother Teresa.
But in recent years voluntarism has surged, and Evans felt that with a good organization coordinating willing volunteers, needy villages and public charities working in international aid, problems in working with volunteers could be overcome.
The answer, Evans believes, is CHOICE. This year, CHOICE has plans for four project trips, including an expedition to Lake Titicaca. During March, a CHOICE expedition has been working in the Ouelessebougou region in Mali, Africa. Other trips are planned for Egypt, Sri Lanka, and, in the future, the Philippines and the Yucatan.
"I hope to have people coming to us with proposals to get grants of money and manpower to do projects in areas they are working in," Evans said. "I hope to develop a core of members interested in this kind of thing, willing and able to travel that we could call on."