Today I’m interviewing Jessica Hansen, Global Engagement Manager for Kiva (the world’s largest microfinance non-profit) and a lifelong traveler who is deeply committed to doing good in the world. I recently had the opportunity to hear her speak at the fantastic 2018 Women in Travel Summit in Québec City. I immediately wanted to invite her on my podcast to share about her extensive travel and in-country work experiences, as well as her insights into voluntourism and social impact travel.
It is difficult to know what impact our jet-setting has and how much money is actually going into the local economy rather than benefiting other parts of the tourism industry. It’s also hard to know which voluntourism organizations are actually helping, versus those that (while well-intentioned) are actually hurting people or the environment in the areas they seek to serve. In this episode, Jessica talks about what to look for when seeking to do good while traveling, what could be red flags, and which organizations are doing incredible work connecting travel to positive social impact. She also shares some of her own personal travel journeys, and what led her to embark on a life of international service. Our conversation left me not only inspired, but also deeply motivated to dedicate my future travel to doing good.
More about Jessica Hansen: Through her work with Kiva, Jessica builds partnerships and community to alleviate poverty and create opportunity worldwide. She is passionate about helping people unleash their capacity to impact the world positively and to think critically about the best and most sustainable ways to do so. Prior to Kiva, she worked in rural Kenya with Nuru International, co-creating programs to raise literacy levels in rural primary schools. She also spent over a decade working with refugees through organizations including UNHCR, the International Rescue Committee, and Mercy Corps. Her career has focused on the protection and empowerment of women and girls, increased access to education, and the rights and safety of refugees and immigrants, with fieldwork primarily in East Africa and Southeast Asia. She holds a BA of International Politics from the University of Central Oklahoma/University of Leicester and an MSW in International Social Development from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
Check out Jessica Hansen’s TEDx Talk: The Power of ‘We’ and how Technology Connects Us for Good
What you’ll learn
- What led Jessica to embark on a life of travel and international service
- How she navigates fears that still sometimes come with solo traveling
- How good intentions can sometimes end up inadvertently doing harm in low-resource countries
- The career path that led her to Kiva, a non-profit international micro-financing organization
- Information about Kiva and how they provide loans through crowdsource funding
- How her current work is leading her to new, diverse travel experiences
- How “voluntourism” isn’t always what it appears to be, and can sometimes do harm
- Things to look for when researching voluntourism experiences
- Things to ask yourself, and be thoughtful about, in general when traveling
- Organizations that provide immersive travel experiences that also make a positive impact
- Kiva – Loans that Change Lives
- Lokal – Book immersive local experience and sustainable lodges around the world
- Local Alike – Good Traveling, Lasting Impact
- Visit.Org – Travel for the 21st Century: Every experience is for a cause
- Global Sustainable Tourism Council – The Global Baseline Standards for Sustainable Travel and Tourism
- Indosole – Shoes that help prevent tires from polluting the environment