TAKE A BREAK AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE
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.
Lessons in life: A volunteer teaches youngsters at a remote village in Peru