Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

How an Overlooked Cause Became Clear

How an Overlooked Cause Became ClearRoughly 45 million American children and students have the opportunity to go on travel, exchange, adventure, and volunteer or study abroad programs every year. Despite student travel status as a $17+ billion industry in the United States, this industry lacks appropriate federal regulations to prevent abuse, abandonment, and even deaths among children and students traveling abroad in the care of third parties.

Although it can be an exotic and exciting experience, many parents and students don’t realize that no one is setting the bar for youth and student abroad programs on a state or federal level. Anyone can create a program, and anything can happen overseas; no qualifications, minimum standards or public reporting exists. This gave ClearCause™ their mission: Keep kids and students safe on abroad programs. The Cause is Clear.

How an Overlooked Cause Became Clear

Tyler Hill

ClearCause was founded by Allen and Sheryl Hill, parents of Tyler Hill. Tyler was just 16 when he died a preventable death on a People to People Student Ambassador trip to Japan in 2007. Over the next 2½ years they lobbied for Traveling Youth & Students Standards of Safety – TYS SOS. Their eyes were opened to the serious lack of regulation and information within the student travel industry. Foreign students in America have more protections than American students abroad. With Sheryl’s background in Wide Area Communications, Diabetes Advocacy and Philanthropy, she and Allen decided to do something.

Originally, Sheryl and Allen launched TylerHill.org. Through Tyler’s site they began to receive pleas for help from families whose children were in similar at-risk or fatal situations abroad. They realized more needed to be done. ClearCause was launched on June 6, 2011, the day Tyler would have turned 20 years old.

ClearCause is two separate nonprofit organizations both aiming to create a safety net to inform parents and keeps students safe abroad while holding the industry to the highest standards possible at the federal level:

  • ClearCause Foundation (www.clearcausefoundation.org), a 501c3 nonprofit, focuses on public awareness, safety advice, cross industry collaboration, student and youth travel –cultural exchange, adventure trips, voluntourism and study abroad- providers, lawmakers, vendors et al. ClearCause is developing a plan to create a SafeTy App and Families in Crisis fund. ClearCause 501c3 is working to keep American children and students safe through:
    • Cross industry collaboration on federal guidelines and minimum standards of the youth travel, student exchange and study abroad industry to help protect young Americans from injury, being scammed, denied health care, mistreatment, abandonment, abuse, rape or death while abroad et al.
    • An easy-access crisis response mechanism instantly connecting young travelers with their families, emergency contacts, US consular, timely police or FBI protection, appropriate medical care and legal representation before being expatriated.
    • A federally mandated, user-friendly database of ethics, tragedies, casualties and illnesses on youth and student abroad programs so Americans can make informed decisions about the safety of a program.
    • An engaging and fun app to qualify and train students on program selection and safe practices abroad – Traveling Youth & Students Standards of Safety, TYS SOS App or the SafeTY app – Safe Traveling Youth.
    • The SimpleTruth campaign – Remembering America’s children who died or were incomprehensibly damaged abroad.
    • Recognitions of stellar performers within the Industry.
  • ClearCause Coalition (www.clearcausecoalition.org) is a 501c4 public policy nonprofit working for oversight, minimum qualification and standards of practice, investigations and sanctions as needed, and transparent mandated public reporting. ClearCause Coalition is working on state and federal levels with like-minded organizations and individuals to pursue the following goals:
    • Federal lobbying for oversight & guidelines perform an important role in gathering information on the function of travel abroad programs and ensuring, through oversight and questioning of management officials, that corrupt practices do not take place; insure efficient use of resources while maximizing benefits towards the intended goals or services of youth & student abroad programs.
    • Funding for a federal statute-mandated, independent, user-friendly database of incident and casualty information naming the responsible agency, similar to information now available regarding hospital and nursing home safety.
    • Clear, uniform rules, qualifications, regulations and standards of best practices and conduct for the industry with severe penalties (consistent with current and future state and federal laws) for violations. No minimum standards exist today.
    • A ‘911’-like emergency response mechanism instantly connecting young travelers, families, industry chaperones, local medical providers, local authorities and national/international agencies when the safety of a young traveler is threatened.
    • A universal Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for young travelers, families, chaperones, host families, educators and others principally involved in global educational experiences.

What’s the most important advice for students (or parents of students) who want to go abroad? Because there is no federal or state oversight, or qualifications, or protections, or guidelines governing youth and student programs, make sure you do a thorough investigation before you go. Buy travel insurance, think about what you would do in an emergency situation and become familiar with local laws & the U.S. Embassy. Check out ClearCause ‘Stay Safe’ Guide – created from experiences that went wrong.

Getting involved with either organization is easy. ClearCause Foundation’s StaySafe Guide is free. Supporters can weigh-in by joining their community and signing their petition, donating a latte a month - $3-$5 (or more) and stay informed by signing up for their newsletter and following them on Facebook,

YouTube:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQG5usVPL3A&feature=channel_video_title

 

and Twitter. Keep an eye out for the SafeTY App they’re planning – be an angel investor – help youth & students on abroad programs Stay Safe!

ClearCause has about 40 people working to support their organizations, including board members, independent contractors and volunteers. They’ve foundmadvancing public awareness through Our Simple Truth campaign and Search Engine Optimization is powerful. They formed a prestigious board of directors to create ClearCause and advance protections and accountability for programs taking our next American generation abroad.

The biggest transition for the organization would be time and patience. It takes a lot of time and patience to create awareness and engage American youth and their families as active participants in ClearCause’s efforts. The hardest words ClearCause hears are, “Why didn’t we know about ClearCause before?”

How an Overlooked Cause Became ClearAdvice for other social entrepreneurs who want to make a difference is to create the big idea when you form your cause. Remember to consider the 5 Ps: the people, problem, purpose, process and pay-off. Think about what success looks like for your community of interest, and perform industry research to gain facts and evidence of need. Also look for similar nonprofits to partner with and seek professional help from legal, insurance and accounting professionals.

What’s on the must-read list? The Dragonfly Effect – 4 Wings of Engagement for Social Media by Andy Smith, The Power of People by Dr. Verna Price and Dr. Shannon Reece’s Blogs along with newsletters from the Alliance for Nonprofits, Minnesota for Nonprofits and Guidestar.

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