Travelling for a cause is one of the best ways to enrich your travel experience, and it can have a profoundly positive effect on your life.
Voluntourism or volunteer tourism, allows socially-conscious travellers to travel to developing countries, and be involved in community projects. Everything from building a well in a village, to helping an animal welfare charity carry out its work, volunteer projects can be environmentally or community focused, aimed at improving systems for local towns and organisations.
The growing popularity of voluntourism has lead to the growth of an industry centred around pairing people to volunteering projects all over the world.
However, it is important to be informed about how your well-intentioned visit to a developing country impacts the local community. When we wrote about orphanages in Cambodia, we discussed the reality of orphanage tourism, which is far more grim than many people realise. Voluntourism on the other hand, is a broad term that provokes a very mixed reaction.
Is voluntourism bad?
While it may receive bad press in some instances, not all volunteering projects abroad are necessarily harmful. Unfortunately, there is no industry regulator to hold them to account for their work or monitor the rising number of new companies involved in organising volunteer trips. Some corporations see it as a way of driving profits for their business, rather than as part of long-term strategy to help communities in need.
However, others say that numerous homes and schools would not have been built had it not been for volunteers and their funding. There are organisations that are running highly impactful volunteer programs that rely on volunteers to carry out their work.
Going about it the right way
In order for volunteering projects to succeed, they should be done in partnership with an organisation that is working toward a solution. Volunteering should be driven by the needs of the local communities, not the consumers’ need to ‘help out’.
Volunteer projects that do succeed are ones that have been carefully planned, utilising the skills and experiences of the volunteers to achieve the organisations’ goals. Volunteers should never take away jobs from the local community.
At Inspired Adventures, we work with our charity partners to create meaningful experiences for our participants and charity supporters. Often we will incorporate project visits into our itineraries, so participants can see firsthand the incredible life-changing work they have made possible through their fundraising.
Giving back directly is one of the best ways to see for yourself the impact you have had on a community in need. Remember, do your research, work with a reputable charity and your travel experience will be an unforgettable one.
Check out our calendar for 2017 and discover how you can give back.
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