Painting a wall or cleaning a graveyard is
not your typical vacation activity. But New Orleans is not your
typical American metropolis.
Some travelers are
willing, even eager, to lift a paintbrush, rake or hammer, or
whatever it takes to leave something behind.
The New Orleans
Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau is catering to the
voluntourism market because two years after Hurricane Katrina,
sections of the city still need lots of tender loving care -- and
The CVB now has a
voluntourism button among its choices at www.neworleanscvb.com. Clicking that button leads to a
list of eight organizations that are responsive to the needs of a
recovering New Orleans, said Mary Beth Romig, the CVB's director of
communications and public relations.
Romig said she recently
updated the list to include information that a prospective
volunteer or volunteering group would need to know.
For example, Habitat
for Humanity volunteers are expected to work a full day (or more
days, if they wish), find their own transportation to the site and
provide their own lunches.
Other organizations ask
for contributions to help cover the costs of repair work. Some ask
that volunteers bring their tools. Some seek volunteers with
specific areas of expertise.
Part of Romig's job
these days is matching volunteers with appropriate projects and
With enough advance
notice, a travel agent sending a group to New Orleans "could tailor
a nice activity for the visitors," she said. "We could pair the
group, for example, with a school that needs to be painted. And the
CVB is glad to help."
It's a new world when
voluntourism appears on a CVB Web site alongside the more typical
subjects that draw visitors. In addition, Romig said, the leaders
at some volunteer organizations are becoming event planners. For
example, City Year, a division of AmeriCorps, is hiring an
individual who organizes group activities. City Year is an
organization of volunteers ages 17 to 24 who commit to a year of
community service in their hometowns or elsewhere.
Tourism Cares has
facilitated travel industry participation, most recently in concert
with members of Vacation.com during the group's annual conference
this summer in New Orleans.
Maritz was among the
first in the industry to lend a hand in an organized way, Romig
said. The company staged its staff meeting in New Orleans in May
2006 and used part of that visit for volunteer work.
Romig said more than
half a million people have done volunteer work in the state, based
on information from the lieutenant governor's office.
"We hope people feel
they've made a difference," Romig said. "They are making a
tremendous difference with the simplest things," whether that is
completing a new house, painting a library or cleaning New Orleans'
City Park. She said the park is "so important, so many people use
contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine
Godwin at [email protected].