Raf Dionisio co-founder of MAD Travel and Sophie Methler community and tours development manager at MAD Travel, a company that is made to Make A Difference in the lives of each of the guests and the Filipino communities they partner with. They inspire people from all over the world to discover the very best of the Philippines: 7,107 islands rich in culture, natural beauty, and heartwarming communities.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
Communities have so many visions and dreams, they know they can implement things, they have already entrepreneurial attitude, which is a huge success. Also youth, children, their visions, dreams, who they want to become in future, jobs they want to have, their English… it’s an amazing improvement compare to their parents. Another indicator of success is the level of accommodation and food for guests, it’s much better than it was. And with that comes the concept of healthy nutritious which is not common in the Philippines, most Filipino hate vegetables. Next indicator would be speaking English. Speaking English gives confidence, it’s the language of the rich here. Then also the number of kids in school. And health. Bigger houses. Roof which doesn’t leek. Electricity.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
Consistency. It’s important to be in a community, when guests are there, to monitor, to check. For example, when we came to an indigenous community with guests the first time, they were very excited, the host was crying, she was so touched. The second time she was not crying but she was still prepared with food and everything. The third time nothing was prepared. I asked why and she said there was no budget. And she didn’t let me know before. We have to be consistent, we have to be there before guests arrive, check, stay in touch. The problem is also connected with NGOs which from time to time donate something, but there is no consistency. Indigenous people actually don’t have consistency in their life, never. They are not used to it. We teach them about that by personal example.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
Leaders coming from the communities for the particular program we are doing. Someone who has interest, skills and will to do it. From experience perspective, the most important positions are community development and marketing.
Would you like to add something more?
Make a difference travel, MAD travel is a travel agency, we offer tours which are fun and fulfilling. Fun is easy. Fulfilling is the hard part, we work with Gawad Kalinga in terms of going to communities which really have value. If they don’t we build it with them, we work to discover their talents and create together interesting hubs. We want to open the door for the community to learn skills and develop products, have access to education. We start our work with a community from getting to know their stories, figuring out who is confident and speaks English and is able to share those stories. We make a profile of the community and then we divide it into possible actions, what they can propose. Maybe they gather together in the evening with guests, tell stories, sing, dance. So we try to find out who is good in dancing, singing. There is always someone. We are also figuring out activities, like cooking, who has skills and facilities for it. Also who can guide around. It’s important to identify key talents, confident people who can speak English. Once you see talents, you also see gaps and you see what capacity building we have to bring in. That’s the second question, what skills we need to give them. We believe in empowering communities, we don’t want to impose anything.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Bulacan, Philippines, 25th February 2016