Sustainable Activity

Tourism With Benefits:
Volunteer Travel

When travelling abroad, do you ever have the desire to help the locals, donate to a charity or contribute with your time to do good in communities? 

“Voluntourism” may not be a familiar term to most travellers. The term itself is a combination of the words ‘volunteer’ and ‘tourism’. In brief, it refers to the act of volunteering during one’s travels to specific destinations which are part of volunteer travel programmes. 

Community-minded kind hearted people around the world have made some truly amazing things happen through their volunteering efforts. Volunteering while travelling is just one way to extend that kindness to persons yet unmet in the destination of choice.

Many travellers are interested in discovering ways to contribute to the communities at their chosen destinations. This not only helps local communities but also leaves the traveller with a positive sense of self and happiness from doing good things for others. This contribution to small local communities at destinations in one way in which voluntourism is a sustainable way to make one’s trip more eco-friendly.

Learn more about other ways to volunteer during travels by clicking here to read about utilising the empty space in a suitcase to bring needed donatable goods.

World Vision Canada defines voluntourism as ‘a form of tourism in which travellers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity…the work they do can be related to agriculture, health care, education and many other areas.’

What kind of volunteer possibilities are there?

There are a variety of options for the volunteer traveller. Programmes such as working to protect animals, agriculture and working on building projects for home, schools or community centres are just a few of the options available. Of course, if the volunteer has special skills, such as being a medical professional, the options could be a bit more focused regarding professional ability if the volunteer so chooses.

Pro’s of volunteer travel

The benefits of volunteer work are universal. When volunteering abroad, one has the additional possibilities to meet interesting people, learn more about the history and culture of the destination and to really establish good friendships with like-minded people around the globe. Learning new skills such as animal care or valuable information regarding agricultural methods, or even carpentry skills are valued life lessons which a person can carry with them and utilise throughout life. These skills enable us in our own lives to be more independent and capable.

The Con’s of volunteer travel

Voluntourism has not been without criticism.  One of the biggest criticisms is that people will find a way to take advantage of the system, and the most notable of these is the taking advantage of children in regard to orphanages. Certain orphanages have been known to take advantage of children or even separate them from families in order to reap the financial benefits from those who wish to help disadvantaged youths. 

Inexperienced volunteers can be considered as another con of the programme. However, as stated earlier in the article, professional skills can be put to good use and volunteers who have previously gained useful skills during volunteer travel programmes, can put those same skills to use in various locations.

Does the volunteer get time for tourism activities?

When initially learning about voluntourism, it is a natural reaction to question if the volunteer efforts will take a large portion of the traveller’s time at the destination. Of course, we all want to visit the cool places and see the sights! 

Voluntourism programmes are specifically set for allowing the volunteer, or traveller, to be able to take time for touring the area, enjoying the sites and having good experiences. Direct volunteer jobs do not offer this flexibility of schedule, and can feel more like working hours, so it is refreshing that the voluntourism programmes are aware that the volunteers want to have some fun touring.

Where to find volunteer travel opportunities?

It is possible to find available options for volunteer travel opportunities via websites such as the ones listed below:

Are you a volunteer-minded person who would be interested in volunteer travel? If you like to meet new people during your travels and contribute to those who are happy for your assistance…why not give it try? You may just find your new favourite form of travel!

Do you enjoy learning about sustainability and eco friendly tourism initiatives?
To receive inspiration direct to your email inbox, please click here and register for the Ecotourism-World newsletter!