Posted by: Bob Fisher | January 2, 2011

Alanna Cluff’s Medical-Volunteer Experience in Northern India

A podcast with Alanna Cluff …

To listen to this podcast, click on the Play button below.

There are many ways to “see the world”

I have often said that travel is the most experiential form of learning. And there is probably no better example of this than Alanna Cluff’s recent experience in Northern India.

Alanna is a medical student at the University of Ottawa in Canada’s national capital. She is also one of those engaged and farsighted young people who have committed themselves to creating a better world through their chosen field of expertise. For Alanna that field is medicine.

Travel and tourism is rarely a one-way street; whether we realize it or not our frame of reference and worldview are constantly shifting. Whether “the destination” is far afield or just around the corner, it is a rare experience when engaged and participatory travellers are not affected in some way by the social and cultural context in which they find themselves — no matter how briefly. This is part of the reason why travel and tourism is the largest industry on the planet, and one of the most multilateral and multidimensional experiences we can engage in.

As Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Travel is indeed the most experiential and lifelong form of learning.

Alanna Cluff is also a person who knows the importance of “giving back.” Through numerous volunteer experiences, whether it be working with children who are experiencing difficult or challenging lives, or children who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or working one-on-one with a mentally challenged young woman, Alanna has already developed a lifetime of experience. And as these examples, indicate, she started her “travels” through human society — close to home.

But it is common knowledge that in the 21st century, real leadership is engendered at the grassroots level by so-called “ordinary” people who see the forest and the trees. These perceptual and conceptual talents are key transferrable skills that in human society are once again recognized as a priority.


Voluntourism is one of the fastest-growing “niche markets” in the global travel and tourism industry. Increasingly, travellers want to experience a destination from the grassroots, and also make a real contribution to their chosen destination. Such a contribution can take many forms, including simply telling others about the experience.

Recently, Alanna participated in a medical-volunteer experience in Northern India through the organization Himalayan Health Exchange which operates near the border of Tibet. As you will see from her photographs (see the link below), her depth of experience of human culture and “the human condition” is outstanding.

Its not surprising therefore to learn that Alanna has chosen to pursue a medical career.

Alanna’s Photographs

To see a sample of her photographic work, click here.


(a) The Himalayan Health Exchange

(b) The Engaging World of Voluntourism, with Joyce Major

(c) A Restoration Project in Altamura, with Stephanie Moreland

All photographs in this story are courtesy of and copyright of Alanna Cluff

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