The Weekend Australian - Travel - - One Travel Perfect Day -

AGROWING num­ber of trav­ellers are look­ing for more than just a hol­i­day. They want to give back some­thing, to re­turn home feel­ing they have made a dif­fer­ence, how­ever small.

This has led to the emer­gence of a new word in travel jar­gon, vol­un­tourism: feel­good trips with a prac­ti­cal pur­pose, from build­ing a class­room in Viet­nam to sav­ing ele­phants in Sri Lanka.

Some­times it’s the sole pur­pose of the trip, but with World Ex­pe­di­tions trav­ellers take a break of three to five days in their hol­i­day itin­er­ary to un­der­take a project, then re­sume their trav­els.

Tasks in the pipe­line in­clude re­fur­bish­ing a run-down school in Nepal, sup­ply­ing a vil­lage in Peru with drink­ing wa­ter and, closer to home, clear­ing rub­bish that’s a threat to wildlife in Arn­hem Land.

The com­pany’s not-for-profit Com­mu­nity Project Travel pro­gram started in 2005 and has this year been ex­panded with sup­port from cor­po­ra­tions such as Ko­dak and Lonely Planet. Sue Bad­yari, CEO of World Ex­pe­di­tions, says projects are de­ter­mined in close con­sul­ta­tion with com­mu­ni­ties that do not ben­e­fit from gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

‘‘ Par­tic­i­pants are no longer ob­servers but be­come im­mersed in the cul­ture. They work side by side with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and to­gether re­alise a com­mon goal.’’

She says it’s im­por­tant that projects are com­pleted in a given time frame and that no spe­cialised skills are needed, just a gen­uine de­sire to pitch in. Those join­ing com­mu­nity trips range in age from 18 to 70 and en­com­pass all walks of life, from re­tired en­gi­neers and doc­tors to stu­dents and high earn­ers want­ing to give some­thing back, she says. ‘‘ They are peo­ple who share a con­cern for the wel­fare of oth­ers.’’

World Ex­pe­di­tions is just one of a num­ber of com­pa­nies re­spond­ing to the de­mand for travel with a pur­pose.

Earth­watch has more than 130 vol­un­teer­driven en­vi­ron­men­tal and wildlife projects around the world, last­ing from three days to three weeks. Trips in­clude study­ing glaciers in Ice­land, help­ing save Namibia’s cheetahs and gath­er­ing data on koalas on St Bees Is­land on Queens­land’s Great Bar­rier Reef.

Over­seas Work­ing Hol­i­days also of­fers a range of vol­un­teer-travel op­por­tu­ni­ties. This year’s pro­gram in­cludes ed­u­cat­ing un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren in Kenya (teach­ing ex­peri- ence not re­quired), set­ting up a sew­ing op­er­a­tion for vil­lagers in Ghana and help­ing chil­dren in Africa who have been af­fected by AIDS. Coun­tries in­volved in­clude South Africa, Ecuador, Costa Rica, The Philip­pines, Nepal and In­dia, with some trips last­ing as long as six months.

Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity, a Chris­tian or­gan­i­sa­tion based in the US, claims it sends more than a mil­lion vol­un­teers around the world each year to work along­side lo­cals build­ing af­ford­able hous­ing. Habi­tat says its work­ers have con­structed more than 225,000 houses, pro­vid­ing more than a mil­lion peo­ple with safe shel­ter.

Bri­tain-based i-to-i, which claims to be the world’s lead­ing vol­un­teer travel spe­cial­ist, has more than 500 ways of com­bin­ing a hol­i­day with vol­un­tary work. Projects in­clude work­ing with dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren in Tan­za­nia, as­sist­ing at schools or with com­mu­nity work in Ghana, and help­ing young­sters from low-in­come fam­i­lies in Brazil get jobs. Trips can last from two to 24 weeks.

The com­pany also pro­vides on­line cer­ti­fi­ca­tion cour­ses for paid English-teach­ing place­ments in 13 coun­tries. Barry Oliver www.world­ex­pe­di­tions.com.au www.earth­watch.org.au www.owh.com.au/vol­un­teer.cfm www.habi­tat.org www.i-to-i.com www.lone­ly­planet.com.au www.glob­alex­change.com.au


Cour­tesy of Global Ex­change, we have six copies of Vol­un­teerWorkO­verseas to give away to read­ers. On the back of an en­ve­lope, tell us in 25 words or less why you would like to win a copy. In­clude your name and ad­dress and send to: Vol­un­teer Give­away, PO Box 215, East­ern Sub­urbs MC, NSW 2004.

Pic­ture: World Ex­pe­di­tions

Lessons in life: A vol­un­teer teaches young­sters at a re­mote vil­lage in Peru

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