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Giving Back on your Holiday

A few years ago, volunteering holidays were all the rage: the chance to combine some volunteer activity with your holiday, making you a “voluntourist”. You could, make a difference by, for example, helping out for a few days in an orphanage.
Nowadays responsible tour companies have been rethinking the concept of voluntourism and shifting the emphasis away from children and even from short term projects. Children became attached to the fleeting volunteer, and project organizers found out that it took almost as long to explain the project to (sometimes clumsy, inexperienced) volunteers as the allocated day or two lasted.
Open Your Heart Torn PaperEnter the concept of Community Projects. These schemes provide the opportunity for the traveller to made a difference on their vacation, but do so in a way that doesn’t take a job from a local person. More popular now are rebuilding projects, planting initiatives and wildlife counting.
Exodus, for example, now offers a rebuilding project in Morocco and a project along the Zambezi River. World Expeditions has a whole category of Community Project Travel options including to Australia (to help establish a traditional Aboriginal garden) and Vietnam (classroom renovation). In order to combine a reasonable amount of vacation with the work effort, World Expedition trips are a little longer e.g. a 26 day trip to the Lura School & Everest Base Camp includes five working days. Like a lot of the sustainable tourism companies, they are encouraging clients to consider contributing to rebuilding in Nepal and they are cooperating with local communities to rebuild two schools.
We’d like to also suggest that if you wish to be a voluntourist, find something where you can showcase your skills. If you hate house- painting at home, chances are you won’t find it any more fun on the other side of the world. Some tasks which may not be “glamorous” such as clerical work may be better suited to your talents and need less supervision by your local hosts.
If you wish to incorporate some goodwill into your holiday, don’t discount donating money. Operators such as Intrepid Travel will double your contribution to their well-established foundation (you have a choice of several categories such as wildlife and children, and you don’t have to be an Intrepid client to donate). Other operators may ask you to contribute to local causes during your trip (such as Avalon Waterways’ Myanmar river cruises).