This year was nothing any of us could have predicted or expected. This existential global crisis has reached and affected us all. Sadly, thousands of lives have been lost, massive disruption to businesses and jobs and most people’s everyday lives disrupted. It’s pretty hard to be positive about 2020. Lost travel can feel like the least of our worries right now and in many ways that’s correct, but we like to think that African Impact provide more than just a travel experience. Our journeys are a two way learning and uplifting process and we are devastated that this was not possible in 2020. We have been forced to make some hard choices. There is no sugar coating this, it has been a rough year!
The loss of impact, from having no volunteers, on our projects is plain to see. In a normal year, what would be thousands of hours of dedicated organised volunteers, has just not happened. We have tried, where possible, to mitigate the effect of this via our Foundation, who have done an amazing job under the circumstances to keep projects going (you can read more here), but much of the core of impact from volunteering is the actual interaction of people volunteering which simply has not happened.
We have all been through a reflective journey over the past few months. African Impact is no different. And as the year draws to a close we would like to share a few of these reflections whilst looking forwards to what we hope will be a very positive 2021:
- We are a volunteer company at heart who passionately below in the power of volunteering. When looking at the impact made by no volunteering for most of 2020, we realised just how important volunteering to us and the level of impact it makes. We have never taken volunteering and volunteers for granted, but this reality check of a pandemic has shown us how much good volunteering can do. So, as a company, we have recommitted ourselves to doing volunteering better than ever. Volunteering and the impact it creates is at the core of African Impact’s reason for being. It is what gets us up in the morning and it is what make us who we are.
- We will use this time to make our volunteering product better for the future. We have introduce the sustainability fund which you can read more about here, We have changed structure on the ground to be more focused getting the best possible experiences whilst getting the best possible impacts on the project. We have focused our projects with this in mind.
- Our partners and relationships are invaluable. There has been so much opportunity for strain on relationships over the past few months, yet we are blessed to have some of the most amazing partner organisations ever. Sharing feedback, ideas, solution-focused and forward-thinking, reaffirms that our partners are part of our family, and we want to do what we can to continue and build on these relationships in the future.
- Our people are our company. Our dedicated teams have, with massive uncertainty, given it their all and are the rock of our company. We don’t produce a physical product and people don’t come on our projects because of our physical assets. Our product is a combination of people efforts, skills and knowledge and guidance. This is all delivered by people who work for or with African Impact. We are so unbelievably grateful to all our people.
- We have used this time to re-evaluate our values and what type of company we want to be going forward. I am pleased to share with you our newly refined company values:
We are passionate about changing people lives for the better. It is the essence of our culture and the driving force behind everything we do.
Create impact through connections and relationships
We invest in creating honest, trustworthy, and happy relationships with our travellers, employees, and communities we serve to foster sustainable change and benefit for them.
Courageously lead the way
We are always learning, stretching ourselves beyond the familiar to gain new insights. We embrace change, so that we are always improving.
Embrace the journey
We approach our mission positively, with resilience and make achieving our Vision a fun experience.
umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu
Translated simply, this means that “a person is a person because of other people”. I am because you are, and you are because we are. This is the essence of ‘Ubuntu. This is our way of life, characterised by values such as compassion, caring, sharing and tolerance.
We hope these values resonate with you, as much as they do with us. We are working hard on making them more than just words and build them in to the fabric of who we are, how we behave and how African Impact operates.
Volunteering done well is such a positive thing. This sounds obvious, but for the past few years our industry (often quite rightly) has been bombarded with bad press, and questions about the ethics or moral standards of what we do are questioned. Many of the questions asked or concerns raised have been correctly done, many bad apples have been exposed (some have not) and slowly regulation is creeping in. However, in the absence of volunteering, one can clearly see the impact that is lost. This has revitalised my enthusiasm for the power of volunteering. Whilst it has been correct to expose bad practice, I feel strongly that the positives have not been exposed enough, and that is something we are going to work on going forward.
I am very excited for the future of African Impact and the volunteer industry. Every booking will be appreciated, every volunteer celebrated, and every possible impact will be harnessed. We thank you for your support and look forward to working with you again very soon. We look forward to welcoming you in 2021.