You love traveling for pleasure, and at the same time, wish to do something purposeful. Why not consider travel for charity? It can be called voluntourism that has some elements of volunteerism along with vacationing. It can be a donation or offering some charitable services benefitting the planet and mankind.
Volunteering abroad with a non-profit agency is gaining popularity as travelers are keen for more authentic and unique experiences. You can say travel and volunteerism are going hand in hand. There are many ways by which you can become a traveler with purpose.
The best opportunities for voluntourism involve engaging travelers more in volunteer services with prearrangements with the local community. This enables delivering help ethically and in a culturally sensitive manner. If you have the spirit, it would be more than a holiday.
Travel for charity- Will it suit you?
Voluntourism may appeal you – but do you have the right mindset? The work involved may be way different from your expectations. You may feel it exciting, but a majority of volunteering projects involves tremendous hard work. If you are eager for volunteerism:
- Start with a local volunteering project before committing to international volunteerism.
- Among countless volunteering opportunities, identify your areas of interest.
- Check if you have any special professional skill and how your skill can support the volunteering cause?
How to prepare yourself?
Travel for charity allows you to see different places, meet different people and explore varied cultures. It also means getting deep into the real world where you get exposed to so many things not visible from outside. In the process, you gain a new meaning to your life as well as do the same to others. Therefore, preparation is an important phase before travel. More you prepare yourself, more you will be fulfilling your cause for charity.
Where you prefer to go to? Where to seek information and help? How much time you would like to devote? These are the basic questions you need to be sure about. Travel for charity needs to be more planned and organized than conventional travel as your aim would be to maximize the impact of your volunteering efforts.
Research, research and research:
Give enough time for this. Traveling overseas needs lots of preparing and adding volunteerism needs more preparation time. Destination and project selection should match your interest. Starting from researching on projects and programs available to packing, budgeting and itinerary fixing, everything demands a thorough study.
Few websites that would help you find your niche volunteering projects:
- Grassroots volunteering
- Go Overseas
- Pro World
- Volunteer HQ
Be prepared for expenses:
Travel for charity may be quite expensive beyond your consideration especially, when it comes to volunteering abroad. One big question shoots – What you are supposed to pay for? Hosting volunteers involves cost. A volunteer project needs money to pool resources for volunteers. You can never volunteer abroad free of cost. It is not even bad to pay for a cause. However, it is important to understand the nature of cash flow. You can fundraise or apply for volunteer abroad scholarships.
Find the best-fit volunteering:
There are many ways of volunteering. You can choose from anyone:
- Independent volunteering- Ideal for long-duration travelers with a flexible attitude. But you will have to make your own arrangements related to booking flights, accommodation and food.
- Placement companies – You can go through a middleman who will select specific projects matching your interest. Ideal for niche volunteers.
- Voluntours: You get a high level of facilitation. Naturally, more expensive. Ideal for short-duration travelers keen to pack up lots of sites integrated with some volunteering service.
Select the organization with the right intentions:
Sadly enough, not all volunteer organizations have right intentions. Exploitation of marginalized areas is common. Many volunteer organizations do good fund raising, train volunteers well and run good programs but fail to make a real impact. It often causes more harm than good.
Apply your researching skills here too to ensure you join a reliable organization having goals for long-term change. It is important to discern ethical organizations and learn about their practices. Even if you select a non-profit agency, make sure to do a thorough checking. You can have a word with other volunteers with a prior experience with the organization.
Asking the right questions:
Travel for charity involves money and time which should go to the right place and the right people. If you are not curious enough, you may face heartbreaking outcomes for the projects not being sensitive to the local people and place. Your queries should be but not confined to:
- Where is the money going?
- How the organization is working with the community?
- Is it following ethical standards?
- As a volunteer, what you are expected to do?
- How your volunteering effort will impact in the long run?
- What is the procedure of volunteer selection?
- What support you are likely to get?
- To what extent you would be held responsible if the project doesn’t head in the right direction?
Be ready to face hardships:
Reviews of volunteering in a foreign land may portray a rosy picture of exotic locations and mixing with locals creating long-lasting friendships. In reality, it may not be that glossy! Travel for charity itself is rewarding from both the giver’s and taker’s perspective, but in a foreign land, among the unknown community, things can be tough.
This type of travel can be frustrating too! There might be problems with acceptance and minor altercations with people having vested interests (not to mention of bug bites, bruises and blisters that you are likely to carry home).
It may take more time than you have thought:
While traveling for charity, you need to prioritize charity if you wish to make a meaningful impact. It may take a longer time than your arranged schedule. If you have thought that the project would be over by 3 weeks, it might get extended for another two weeks for some good reasons.
Committing a longer time has other advantages too. It allows you to settle, get accustomed to the locals and its culture. You get to learn more about the organization and its objective to align your skills accordingly. But what if you have only 1 or 2 weeks to spare? Make an in-depth study of the organization, its resources and project-plan so that you can start running as soon as you hit the ground.
Do you have the right skills?
Never sign up for a medical-assistance program if you have zero knowledge in it. Although voluntourism gives exposure to experiential learning, you need to have few basic skills related to the program.
A majority of volunteering projects include teaching, environment conservation, construction, community development or medical support. You need to assess the best opportunities for you.
Do not assume yourself a savior:
Be it teaching or community development program, your goal is not to save locals from their old culture and practice. This conception fosters closed-mindedness. You must respect the local culture and its value system. You are likely to experience different perspectives on life which you should respect. Instead of imposing something, help locals to help themselves in unique ways.
Few useful tips:
- Make sure you know the proper route to reach the destination.
- Be proactive
- Take time to know the local people and community.
- Make judicious time planning. You never know when it will slip away.
- Never hesitate to step out of your comfort zone to try new things.
- Carry proper clothes and gear.
- Do not be afraid to talk about your problems.
- Pick up the local language if possible. A planned study before the travel would help.
- Devote weekends on site-seeing by seeking help from locals.
- Lastly, be in touch with everybody after the project is over.