Over recent years, voluntourism has had a lot of negative press. Which is unfortunate, considering the good that you can do, giving up a few weeks of your holiday to help the betterment of others and the environment. You only need to do a quick Google search, in order to find horror stories about voluntourism, but if you choose the right company and pick the perfect project, you can really help impoverished areas of the world.
Choose Your Project Wisely
Rule number one of voluntourism: choose your project with care. Some projects are created without the permission of the community, in order to cater for voluntourists. Many of these well-meaning travellers leave feeling cynical and disappointed by being placed in a poor project that has very little impact.
Assess your skills. Don’t just choose whatever you’re offered, because you think that every little helps. Unless you are skilled at brick-laying, don’t go and build a library. Unless you have some sort of teaching experience or qualification, don’t go into a school to educate children. You’re doing more harm than good. Ask yourself: what can I offer as a voluntourist? You may find that staying in the UK is your best bet.
Save Money Where You Can
Try to go to your area of choice for a reasonable amount of time, to make a stronger impact. In order to do this, you will have to be clever with how and when you book your flights – try following Bravofly on Twitter to find out about travel discounts. You can also save money on your accommodation, if you live like the locals, instead of opting for a hotel outside of the area you’ll be working in.
Look For The Lesser-Known Charities
If you stumble upon an organisation that has flashy advertising, this should be your first red flag. Usually, it’s the quiet charities – doing good work on the ground – that are your best bet. If organisations are spending a load of donated money on heavyweight promotion, you may want to look elsewhere. Obviously, steer clear of any for-profit businesses. You may be able to ask-around to find recommendations for great charities to work with.
Always do your research before you make your decision. Voluntourism can be expensive to do, so it’s important to make it count, for you and for the people you are helping.
We all go on holidays to escape the monotony of our daily lives. You may be surprised at how relaxing and life-enriching it is to work hard for others, in a climate and country that you are unfamiliar with. If you are someone who is a spa/beach addict, this may not be the adventure for you. But if you’re not afraid of going back to basics, and getting your hands dirty, you could make memories that will last forever.
Would you consider giving up your holiday for others? Let us know in the comments below.