Welcome back part two of our Ripple Effect interview with Shannon O’Donnell, a travel blogger, speaker, and author of The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook. She regularly volunteers and in 2011 launched her passion project, a community sourced database of local, sustainable organizations all over the world. She is the founder of the website ALittleAdrift.com and tweets at @ShannonRTW.
Welcome back to our interview series, The Ripple Effect. The Ripple Effect explores the emotional impact of volunteer travel and its lasting effect on people’s lives. Today we’re speaking with Shannon O’Donnell, a travel blogger, speaker, and author of The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook. She regularly volunteers and in 2011 launched her passion project, a community sourced database of local, sustainable organizations all over the world. She is the founder of the website ALittleAdrift.com and tweets at @ShannonRTW. Please check back later this week for part two of our interview with Shannon.
Zoologists call whales and dolphins “charismatic megafauna” and it’s easy to see why. People are fascinated with sea mammals. For thousands of years, they have been the subject of religious myth, worship, and reverence. Their size is certainly part of the fascination. The blue whale is the largest animal on planet Earth. But they are also renowned for an intelligence that is rather unique in the animal kingdom. Whales, dolphins, and elephants are the only non-primate creatures that have this human-like wisdom. They have culture and tradition. They have complex social lives. And yet, for centuries humans have been killing these magnificent creatures. We have used their blubber for candles and their baleen for corsets. We have eaten their meat and gotten rich off of their destruction. Today, we are finally beginning to recognize the importance of these incredible creatures. As our oceans warm up and acidify, poachers still roam the waters, and policy ties the hands of conservationists, people are rallying around a single cause: saving the whales.
In the midst of this volunteering explosion, cooperation is one of the most important things an organization must embrace. As we learned from the Industrial Revolution (and from every single step we’ve made away from direct subsistence) delegating and working together is the key to success for the largest numbers. As a global network is built, each new organization must become part of that network—building on to the best parts by seeking out the people who are doing the most good. Once a working infrastructure is built, there is no reason to start a new one, especially when the early stages of building can be so difficult and can burn up so many precious resources. Instead, new resources can best be utilized in tandem with pre-existing systems. To bring all of this out of the theoretical: a volunteer organization can do the most good by working with other high-quality established organizations overseas.
Wildlife volunteering is incredibly popular and for good reason. Animals are helpless. They can’t argue for their habitats or negotiate to change energy policy. They can’t advocate for their children. Often wildlife volunteers are interested in more than simply saving a single creature. They want to see habitats protected on a global scale. They care about the health and welfare of our planet and want animals to survive for future generations. I happen to be an avid wildlife volunteer. I believe that animals and the environment deserve more attention. Without the food and shelter nature provides, millions of people would find themselves homeless and starving. The problem is multifaceted and complex but however you look at it, our world’s creatures are in peril and they need our help.