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Participant Stories

Black Hole Tourism Or Volunteering To Teach Abroad In The Desert?

Posted by Randy LeGrant | Sep 5, 2012 2:05:00 PM

Dry River Bed in FeynanTake a look at this photo.  What do you see?

Let me ask a better question.  What DON'T you see?

The obvious answer here is that you don't see buildings, streets, cars, animals or people.  You also don't see smiling volunteers with shovels who have just pretended to save the world through volunteering.

You are looking at a dry riverbed in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, which covers 300km of land, making it the largest reserve in Jordan.

Hard to imagine, by looking at this lonely dry river bed, Dana Biosphere Reserve hosts a wide array of flora and fauna.  Over 800 plant species thrive within the reserve, three of which are unique to Dana.  449 different animals have been recorded, including threatened species such as the sand cat, Syrian wolf and spiny-tailed lizard.

AGeoVisions volunteer in Dana Reservend because everyone likes to rely upon photos of happy volunteers doing great work, we don't want to be left out.  So here you go.  This is a photo of one of our happy volunteers doing great work in Feynan.  No...really.  It's one of our volunteers on the program caught doing his work.  Welcome to the GeoVisions' Conversation Partner at an Eco-Lodge program in Jordan.

Before you read further, this is where we put in the fine print.  You can't go as a group and maybe you can go as a couple. That depends on a lot of factors.  You can take your laptop and your mobile phone.  But it will be a rare occurrence if they work.

Still interested?

We hope so.  We need to keep a full rotation of GeoVisions' tutors at the Feynan Ecolodge.  The hotel staff and local Bedouin community are relying upon GeoVisions to bring volunteers (and only 1 or 2 at a time) to the Ecolodge to tutor the hotel staff in English and to tutor the local Budouin youth in English as well.

Constructed in 2005, the Feynan Ecolodge lies at the western edge of the Dana Biosphere Reserve.  The ecolodge is owned by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and is the first of its kind in Jordan.

On this GeoVisions program the volunteer you see above has an unparalleled opportunity to experience Jodan's wilderness, teach its native people English, which they have requested to learn, explore its ancient history side by side with the locals, with a minimal impact on the environment.

Road to Feynan LodgeFly to Jordan and get picked up by our staff.  We will drive you to Amman where you will stay at a hotel.  During your 2 or 3 days in Amman you will have a tour and receive a formal orientation about Jordan, the Middle East and your volunteer project at Feynan Ecolodge.  Oh...more fine print.  You won't fly to Feynan.  You won't go by luxurious motor coach.  This is your ride to the desert and Feynan Ecolodge--your GeoVisions volunteer project for 1, 2 or 3 months.  And the photo below is the prize at the end of this road.

Nested in the hills of Feynan lies the EcolodgeDo you see it?  Right there on the far left side of this incredible photo.  The Ecolodge.  Your home and your volunteer project.

Hailed as one of the top fifty ecolodges in the world by National Geographic Adventure Magazine, the solar-powered Feynan Ecolodge offers the most developed eco-experience in Jordan; an experience made possible by a unique partnership between EcoHotels and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, a Jordanian NGO devoted to the protection of the Kingdom’s finest natural landscapes.

Feynan EcolodgeWhat will you do at Feynan on GeoVisions' Conversation Partner program? Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to share your language with the staff of Feynan Ecolodge on a daily basis.  Your primary reason for being there is to provide English conversation. The staff likes to have six, 2-hour sessions each week of English instruction.

GeoVisions’ Conversation Partners going out to Feynan go to a location without Internet or cell service. The primary reason for going is to teach English to the local artisans, the staff of the ecolodge and to volunteer in the local Bedouin school.  If these people learn English, the drivers can earn more tips to take care of their families, the room cleaners can be promoted to other positions...even the front desk.  Guides can have English conversations with guests and earn more tips.  The artisan women can converse in English, explain their crafts, and earn a better living. The work these volunteer tutors do improves the lives of hundreds of people, forever.

Not only do these volunteers give their time and their money, they give up their iPhones and laptops for 1 to 3 months and volunteer to disconnect from the world for the privilege to connect to these local people for no other reason but to improve life and strengthen families in Feynan.

Enjoy this great 4 minute video shot by the staff at Feynan.



Written by Randy LeGrant

Randy is the Executive Director of the GeoVisions Foundation. He has spent the last 44 years managing organizations that send people abroad on cultural and educational exchanges.

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