Giving Back: Voluntourism

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Today, more people are booking vacations where they can also spend time giving back-aka, 'voluntourism.' Let's explore how to book your own volunteer vacation.

Vacations are a time to destress and come back renewed. Many folks today are looking to do good while away from their daily life. The trend of people booking vacations that also include an element of volunteering or community service--or voluntourism--is on the rise.

Travel consultant Courtney Regan, who is one of the original co-founders of Give A Day Global, gave me four pointers for those who are interested in booking their own volunteer vacation.

First, decide where you want to go in the world, and when and for how long you'll be booking. Courtney says that there are opportunities worldwide, and pinpointing exactly how far you’d be willing to travel is key. Farther-flung locales means more travel time. There are projects that fit any schedule, ranging from a one-day commitment to several days of immersion into a culture.  

Next, Courtney recommends considering the type of work are you prepared to do. For instance, if you’re planning a trip for a family, the best opportunities might be helping at local schools, or working on a sustainable farm to help water and care for the land. Courtney’s organization Give a Day Global can arrange for families with younger volunteers to visit schools as literacy helpers. Individual travelers or groups of adults might consider building projects.  The volunteer organization Me To We offers a trip to India where you’ll spend time helping villagers build new classrooms and community structures.  Deciding on the level of physical commitment you're able to provide is key.

Also, do your research. While there are tons of websites all over the internet offering packages geared toward the ‘voluntourism’ traveler, Courtney recommends asking lots of questions before choosing an organization to work with. In addition to Me to We, other reputable organizations include Ubelong--which offers opportunities that last from 1 week to 6 months, Omprakash--which connects individuals directly to social impact organizations in over fifty countries around the world, and Cross Cultural Solutions--an organization dedicated to improving children’s lives all over the world.

Of course Courtney’s own company, Give a Day Global is a wonderful resource that helps volunteers choose the right opportunities, and works with partners in places like Costa Rica, Peru Nicaragua, Thailand, South Africa, and Cuba.

And the last recommendation to help you plan your volunteer getaway is all about being a good global ambassador--by remembering the following rule: don’t assume! After you’ve figured out where you’ll be going, what you’ll be doing, and have booked your opportunity, you may start to pack extra goods and clothing for the locals you’ll meet. Courtney’s advice is...DON'T! Perhaps your organization really doesn't have a need for your extra items and will waste resources and time storing or disposing of them. Resist the urge to bring anything at all. At the very least, ask first.

That’s it for this week’s We Hear! As always, subscribe and follow us on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Travel Savvy and we’ll see you next time!

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