Donna Laveriere (India)

Donna Laverdiere (Butterflies, India): Donna grew up in a small town in Maine and received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Tufts University. After college, she spent three years in the publishing industry, and then worked for AT&T and Cadillac. During this time Donna was heavily involved in political organizing on women’s issues and helped found a nonprofit privacy rights organization. At the time of her fellowship, Donna was pursuing her Master of Public Policy at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, with a focus in global policy.



Tough Questions

29 Jun

One of the biggest challenges Butterflies faces is not just to provide education to children living on the street, but to find a way to empower them so that as they get older, they have a means to provide for themselves. Butterflies aims to empower youth so they can become independent individuals with skills and a means to succeed.

My role here at Butterflies is to design and develop a new program that aims to do just that: empower youth through providing valuable vocational training and assistance in setting up a business cooperative. The project will focus on tourism and will consist of an involved training module that will teach a few adolescent boys about the tourism business, and train them on providing guided tours.

Over the last two weeks, I have been drafting lesson plans and marketing materials for this new program. It is a challenge to brush up on Indian history and distill complex facts into modules that can be understood by children.

However, the most challenging aspect of this program so far has been answering the marketing questions. As part of this effort I sent out a short web survey asking how likely people would be to take tours led by adolescents. On a scale of 1 to 5, consensus was a 3. This is the biggest question I must answer: how do you create legitimacy and credibility for a small group of adolescent boys trained to provide tours of historical monuments to foreign tourists?

I think the answers may be in the presentation of the product, as well as the target audience. These children will need to appear official, as ambassadors of Butterflies, perhaps with T-shirts and brochures and a phone number to call for more information. And the most likely tourists to be interested in these guided tours are students, backpackers, and the socially-minded.

As the program expands, these issues will hopefully become less important. More press coverage and perhaps listings in popular guidebooks will lend greater legitimacy to the children’s tours. For now, however, as we begin, we need to ask ourselves these hard questions that may make us a bit uncomfortable. In reality, tourists are often skeptical of children selling goods, especially in India. But what is the broader meaning behind this belief, and what can we do to overcome it?

Posted By Donna Laveriere (India)

Posted Jun 29th, 2006

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