Voluntourism has generated a new wave in travel, the growing feel good factor creating opportunities for the everyday traveller and not just the career minded charity worker. But the question remains, can you make a difference when you’re a short-term tourist? The debate appears to be ongoing, however, it’s not essential to be on a three-month sabbatical or longer stint if you want to give something back to the country you are visiting.
The African continent is a good place to start, adventurers in search of the Big Five also helping out on more practical projects.
Building and painting local schools in Uganda is valuable input. Of course, you might be visiting the project for just one day, but you’re still a much needed pair of hands, and non-profit projects with little in the way of budgets will welcome that kind of practical assistance with open arms.
Your first step into the world of vouluntourism – On an overlanding tour you’ll have the opportunity to visit seven or eight countries in Africa, and along the way there are usually various community and conservation based programmes on offer. Whether you decide to participate in an ethical project or simply gain some understanding from the local scheme on a guided tour, you’ll bring back some relevant insight that might help you decide on a more focused voluntour next time you visit. Remember, even on a two-week experience it’s a real commitment, and it’s important to invest your time in something you believe in, making prior hands on knowledge invaluable.
More specific voluntour itineraries will enable you to gain a deeper understanding of the project’s aims and build closer relationships with your fellow travellers and members of the local community who also help to make it happen.
Where to Head?
Zanzibar is often seen as a sun sea and sand destination, but it’s now home to an exciting educational project. Illiteracy affects over 40% of the Spice Island’s population, then again you don’t need to have a teaching qualification to get involved. The activities range from assisting with the education of with primary school classes to adult education, and you will also have the opportunity to be involved in recycling and tree planting programmes; the scheme endeavouring to engineer a more well-rounded approach to the needs of the community, whether its education or conservation.
With the Big Five being central to almost any itinerary in Africa there’s the option to combine game viewing and volunteering on many tours. Undoubtedly, the wildlife is still the main draw for anyone choosing to travel on the continent so organisations involved in the protection of endangered animals are becoming part and parcel of the whole voluntour industry. And, what better place to start than the Masai Mara, host of the annual migration. Volunteers coming on board from July to October will certainly be assured of a little more excitement, and a two-way ethical scheme, there is the opportunity to learn from the Masai tribe, ethical travellers assisting on conflict management programmes and helping to improve educational facilities in the area.
Your Checklist to Voluntouring
* If you’re not sure how to make the best of your skills, look out for one day voluntour experiences within a tour, you’ll gain much needed insight when it comes to taking a longer commitment
* There are plenty of voluntour experiences out there, but quiz the company you are booking with. If the travel advisor is able to give you a detailed description of what’s on offer, it will speak volumes about their involvement
* Check out the options in Africa, as you may well be able to combine a voluntour holiday with some additional sight seeing and game viewing
* Ask about the ratio of local and tourist involvement. In general, voluntour projects that show a strong concern for local labour are rated more highly when it comes to their values and ethics