Vol­un­tourism en­cour­ages us to leave a good im­pres­sion

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - MERRY KIRK­WOOD

AUS­TRALIANS are slow to put their hands in their pock­ets when it comes to do­nat­ing money but have a grow­ing in­ter­est in vol­un­teer­ing. About one-third of the ap­prox­i­mately 8000 Aus­tralians earn­ing more than $1 mil­lion a year typ­i­cally ‘‘make no gift to char­ity,’’ says Si­mon McKeon, Aus­tralian of the Year 2011, who works part-time for the Global Poverty Pro­ject.

But grass­roots vol­un­teer­ing is on the rise. Thirty-four per cent of adult Aus­tralians con­trib­ute their time each year, ac­cord­ing to Vol­un­teer­ing Aus­tralia.

The con­cept broadly known as vol­un­tourism in­volves a di­verse ar­ray of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Aus­tralian Vol­un­teers for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment was launched last month by For­eign Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd.

It is linked to a web por­tal (au­said­vol­un­teers.gov.au), pro­vid­ing a one-stop prac­ti­cal guide to how to make a dif­fer­ence abroad. Projects are scat­tered through Asia-Pa­cific, Africa, Latin Amer­ica and the Mid­dle East. A goal of find­ing more than 1000 new ‘‘as­sign­ments’’ in 43 coun­tries has been set for 2013.

Non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions and travel com­pa­nies cre­ate myr­iad short and medium-term vol­un­teer­ing get­aways for tourists. Gap Ad­ven­tures, An­tipodeans and STA Travel (through Plan­eterra, i-to-i, Global Vi­sion and Con­ser­va­tion Vol­un­teers Aus­tralia) are just some of the op­er­a­tors in­spir­ing Aus­tralians to ex­tend a help­ing hand across the globe.

For ex­am­ple, Aus­tralians on vol­un­tourism hol­i­days have built houses in Cam­bo­dian vil­lages, taught English in South Amer­i­can schools and of­fered emer­gency sup­port dur­ing re­cent nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in New Zealand and Ja­pan.

On a broader front, the UN World Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion recog­nises that all tourism, when well-struc­tured and eth­i­cal, brings ben­e­fits to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. Its vol­un­teer­ing web­site (unv.org) uses the tag ‘‘inspiration in ac­tion’’.

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