If you’re a traveler looking for a new and different way to see the world while also giving back, you’re not alone. Today, voluntourism (volunteer and humanitarian-based vacations) has become a popular trend amongst contemporary travelers, with trip types that fit any budget, skill-set or interest!
So, why opt for a volunteer-vacation? For starters, it offers travelers the opportunity to engage with a local community or setting directly, giving perspective and insight into the food, culture, sites, and people of their travel destinations without the rose-colored tourist lenses to taint their view. Not to mention that traveling for a noble cause can be tremendously rewarding (and exciting)! But where to start?
If you’re new to volunteer-based travel and need some help finding the right program for you, look no further! Whether you want to help restore an ecosystem, teach children in a local school, or provide medical care for the underprivileged, here’s a look at some of the voluntourism options for travelers of every kind. Check it out!
If you’re an animal lover, volunteer vacations in wildlife conservatories, national park, animal sanctuaries, and research centers might just be the best experience you can ask for. Websites like BiosphereExpeditions.org and goeco.org offer a plethora of options to interact and help care for endangered animals ranging anywhere from furry friends (lions, tigers, and giant pandas– oh my!), to baby elephants and butterflies, all the way down to marine and coral reef dwellers.
In many global communities, women and girls still lack access to education, employment, and proper healthcare. Me to We — a social enterprise, and Global Vision International — a family-run volunteer abroad organization, provide a vast number of opportunities that focus specifically on women empowerment. Whether you want to work for gender-equality initiatives, or you’re more interested in teaching English and computer skills to women of all ages, or if you want to use your entrepreneurial spirit to help women create small businesses with a global reach, there’s a way to employ your skills and help the women and girls of these communities empower themselves and others around them.
Environmental-based programs cover a wide range of options. Have a green thumb? How about organic farming or reforestation? Organizations like WWOF allow you to work on a local farm to both lend a helping hand and teach farmers how to better their agricultural practices, while others like United Planet allow you to try your hand at creating cloud forest trails and cultivating medicinal plants to restore Costa Rica’s ecosystem and providing insight on how to make communities more environmentally sustainable.
Are conservation or construction more your thing? GoVolunteering provides opportunities to aid in projects like rebuilding homes post-natural disaster or educating the community on the benefits of sustainable development and going green in the midst of climate change — all while learning, traveling and eating your way through a new destination and culture.
Help distribute proper medication and care to HIV/AIDS patients in Kenya, or work with local institutions in Costa Rica to promote healthy habits and proper hygiene practices, or work in a mobile field clinic to serve and treat remote populations in Haiti … just to name a few options. WHO (World Health Organization), FIMRC (Foundation for International Relief for Children) and IVHQ (International Volunteer Headquarters) are just three of many organizations that offer participants a chance to make a difference in the field of healthcare in local communities.
Whether it’s English or how to sew a button, you can find organizations across the globe that offer opportunities to teach in underprivileged communities. From young children to senior citizens, you can share your skills and knowledge with many different demographics, all while exploring a locale. Organizations like WorldTeach and African Impact have built-in training and travel excursions, so you don’t even have to worry about creating an itinerary or honing in on teaching skills and methods on your own.
Have you done any goodwill globetrotting? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!