[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”5/6″][vc_single_image image=”10115″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]A survey made last year by the Travel Industry Association in the United States revealed that one-quarter of travellers say they are interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation. I don’t know if a similar survey has been done in Canada, but if you enter <Volunteer Vacations> in your search engine you will find this country well-represented. ‘Voluntourists’ can plan entire vacations around a cause they believe in, or they can set aside a short portion of their trip and still make a difference.
i-to-i is a British volunteer adventure company with nearly 14 years’ experience in this field. With offices in the UK, the US, Ireland and Australia, it is an award-winning leader in volunteer adventures and TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) training. But they want everyone to benefit from the experience, so they have some advice. This advice takes the form of a list of questions that potential travel volunteers should ask of the organization planning the volunteer efforts.
* How long has the volunteer organization been operating?
* Is the staff knowledgeable and able to help you select a suitable trip?
* Do they provide pre-departure advice about visas, inoculations and insurance?
* Will you have orientation once you arrive at your destination?
* Do they have support people in-country for daily concerns/questions?
* What emergency measures are in place should anything unforeseen happen?
* Does the fee for the trip include accommodation, food and transfers?
* Is it possible to contact past volunteers?
* Can a partner or friend come with you? If so, are there discounts?
Volunteer projects are almost as varied as human activities themselves. You can help save or care for pandas, lions, elephants or old donkeys. You can hug orphans in Romania or help with youth community services in Brazilian shantytowns. You can help counsel families living with HIV/AIDS. You can teach English almost anywhere. You can clean birds after oil spills or clean-up and help rebuild after natural disasters. You can be a business consultant in an emerging economy. You may decide to fit your volunteering to your profession or work experience – doctor, nurse, construction worker, teacher, home maker – or you may decide to try your hand at something new to you. Jimmy Carter chose the latter course, moving from being President of the United States to helping build homes under the Habitat for Humanity Programme.
i-to-i sends 5,000 people overseas annually to work on community projects in 23 countries, with trips lasting from two to 24 weeks. Their website is www.meaningfultravel.com. Habitat for Humanity has built more than 225,000 houses around the world over the past 31 years, providing more than a million people with “safe, decent, affordable shelter.” Its Canadian site – www.habitat.ca – features a section about Habitat’s Global Village Programme, which organizes short-term trips for volunteer builders. Teams of eight to 20 volunteers work on each project, with a few days devoted to local sightseeing and cultural activities. Cross Cultural Solutions – www.crossculturalsolutions.org – is another long-established organization. The largest volunteer organization in Canada (and one which exists purely by word of mouth, is World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – www.wwoof.ca – an organization which has been mentioned in our pages before. WWOOF offers room and board in exchange for help and information-sharing on organic farms in a variety of countries. And, of course, there are many many more organizations, both large and small. (Their exclusion from this short article does not mean they are not reputable.)
To help potential volunteers, and as testament to this emerging trend, the newest addition to the Lonely Planet library of travel books is Volunteer: A Traveller’s Guide to Making a Difference Around the World. If the idea appeals start to do your homework … good luck … and a big “thank you” from the world.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row]