For a growing number of travellers, volunteering in a remote corner of the world is the trip of a lifetime.
For a growing number of travellers, volunteering in a remote corner of the world is the trip of a lifetime. It can be an excellent way for individuals to learn about a different culture and explore a country while helping those in need. Much of the rise in voluntourism has come from trips that emphasize social work, many run by relatively young organisations but it’s important that those looking to get involved, make sure that they choose the right organisation with many commercial tour operators have moved into the space, acknowledging its money-making potential.
With this in mind, #TeamCoco has spent time looking into some of the best options out there, including award-winning programs that really make a difference and are recognised for using short-term volunteers to assist in long-term gain.
Global Vision International UK has been offering award-winning volunteer and intern programs abroad since 1994. They not only offer life-changing experiences but they are also designed to help participants increase employability. Other than developing covetable skills such as cross-cultural communication and leadership, many of the programs also carry internationally recognised qualifications certified by academic partners. The programs on offer are wide-reaching and range from marine and wildlife conservation to teaching and female empowerment in local communities around the world.
Pack for a Purpose takes a new slant on backpacking and is something that I would encourage all those looking to travel to a far-flung destination to check that you can get involved. Pack for a Purpose is a nonprofit organization based in Raleigh, North Carolina, that provides travelers with up-to-date information about needed supplies for community-based projects supported by accommodations around the globe. Travelers use their luggage to take school, medical and other supplies to the communities they visit. Since 2010 Pack for Purpose travellers has taken over 153,327kgs of supplies meeting essential needs in over 60 countries. The website makes it easy to select a destination and purpose, choosing from education, health, child welfare, animal welfare and socio-economic development. There are plenty of other ways to participate and donate.
Planeterra Foundation was established in 2003 and is a non-profit organisation that has contributed millions of dollars towards projects in areas of social enterprise, healthcare, conservation and emergency response. The organisation gives short-term volunteers the opportunity to work with long-term volunteers to help towards long-term change in some of the most under-developed regions in the world or places that have been torn apart by natural disasters or war. Not only that, they work with small communities across projects that promote female empowerment by providing life-changing access to education and job-training; forge new paths for youths in many parts of the world that don’t have access to formal education and have few opportunities for jobs, helping them to develop skills to work in tourism and hospitality; and environmental protection helping to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism on the natural environment through their Ocean Health Fund and supporting social enterprises that give back to the environment. Importantly, they also help conserve cultures by recognising the unique offerings of that indigenous and rural communities have for tourism. They do this by creating meaningful connections between travellers and indigenous people through social enterprise.
WAVES International is a program that helps teach local disadvantaged children in Peru, Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua to surf. They believe that surf travel should benefit the people and the communities where it happens, connecting the dots between volunteering, travelling to surf, community-based tourism and grassroots initiatives. WAVES originated in 2004 when a group of local and international surfers shared the desire to help local youths with little resources to enjoy surfing. Their mission is to inspire world travel and cultural exchange through surf experiences with an emphasis on sustainability, education, adventure and voluntourism.
FRONTEERING’s volunteer abroad projects are either existing local projects of projects that are built from the ground up by Fronteering. Their mission is to offer projects and help where the need is greatest with focus on helping local communities, wildlife, indigenous people and the environment in cooperation with the local and indigenous communities where combined efforts really make a difference. Uniquely, Fronteering also arranges one-of-a-kind, exciting and in some cases extreme adventure travel trip to experience the last frontiers on the planet for those looking to combine the two.
And remember: the thing your host community needs and wants is your money. Where will yours be going? Do not be afraid to ask the organisers. Also, look to well-established organisations like the ones above or https://www.unv.org and https://ecotourism.org for advice and news on volunteering around the world.