This is only the tip of the iceberg with AMAIDI; I encourage you to visit their website to learn about AMAIDI’s mission and vision as they relate to responsible tourism, financial investment, and much more.
Camille is one of the most fascinating, dedicated people I’ve had the opportunity to work with; his reach is global, and he tirelessly endeavors not only to improve the sustainable travel industry, but also to encourage individuals, companies, and nonprofits to actively do some good in the world.
What drew you to the volunteer travel world? Is your reason for staying different from what initially interested you?
To be honest, I first wanted to be in India, a country I had come to love ever since I set foot on it in 1990. And when I found myself coming to India for the third time, this time to stay, I was thinking to myself: “So now what?”
I had a single contact in the Netherlands that promised me to send some people over who could then stay in my home and from there explore India. Those first “homestay guests” pointed out to me that they were interested in the work I had just taken up as a program director of an NGO in Cuddalore, called Bless, who would later become my first project partner receiving the first 20 or so volunteers.
Guests traveled with me in the jeep to Bless and started to work in various departments (livelihood, craft, microfinance, women development and IT). What had started as a “homestay arrangement,” became a “volunteer facilitation center,” which was called AMAIDI, which means “silence” or “peace,” as we lived in a peaceful dead-end road close to a palmgrove and had renamed our home, turned into a guest house, “AMAIDI Guest House.” The house is still there, but we sold it two years ago before embarking on a long journey with my family through India and post-that settling down first in Bangalore and now in Chennai.
Can you tell us what the AMAIDI team does today?
As for what my team does, it’s several teams actually that we work with or work through rather: AMAIDI is like an inverted pyramid, with at the top-base our Local Teams taking care of the volunteers and interns’ every need post-arrival in the country they work in.
Supporting them are our Country Teams in the capitals of the 15 countries we work in; these Country Teams are coached by our Continental Desks for Africa, Asia and the Americas who in turn are guided by AMAIDI Management Team of which I am the Managing Director/CEO.
Side by side with the Local Teams, our Volunteer Coordinators in the Country Teams work tirelessly to ensure that the volunteers and interns are getting connected with a project that needs them and that makes sense looking at their CVs and other requirements; they take care of all the information that every volunteer needs pre-departure and stays in the loop when the volunteer has started working in Africa, Asia or the Americas as a trusted friend, in case needed.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far with AMAIDI?
I am proud that AMAIDI has been recognized by the European Commission through its Youth-in-Action program as a partner for their sponsored volunteer exchange programs.
As a result AMAIDI Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Nepal and El Salvador will be sending local volunteers to Europe and partner organizations in Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, Spain, Latvia and Italy will sending their volunteers to our destinations just mentioned. This brings us one step closer to our vision of a world where human and financial resource flow freely from place of plenty to places of scarcity to help supporting local communities in their struggle for sustainable development and self-reliance.
What’s next for AMAIDI?
Next will be the development of the other two pillars that uphold the roof of the AMAIDI house: responsible tourism and social impact investing. We’re busy getting teams together that will finally coordinate with our Country- and Local Teams to implement the vision behind it.
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