Volunteering abroad is becoming increasingly popular and there are now hundreds of programmes readily on offer, from rainforest conservation in South America to community-based projects in East Africa. If you pick a good one, you will find that the benefits of volunteering go far beyond the end of your trip and you will come away with skills, knowledge and memories to last a lifetime.
Responsible tourism really matters so choosing a company that is dedicated to responsible practice is really important – look for the policies and accreditations on their websites for reassurance!
What is responsible tourism?
Responsible tourism means making educated choices when travelling and being accountable for these. It means taking trips which positively impact the place you are visiting and don’t adversely affect its environment, people, culture and wildlife. It involves engaging with local communities and cultural practices, learning about local history and embracing diversity.
What can I gain from travelling responsibly?
Embarking on a volunteering trip abroad gives people from all walks of life the opportunity to grow on a personal level as well as gain a whole new perspective on life. The reason for travelling could be to gain skills for university, to put that something extra special on a CV to get that dream job or simply to be part of a trip that helps to make a difference. When travellers make time to get to know their hosts and immerse themselves in local community culture, they can gain a greater global awareness and understanding than could ever be achieved via textbook or through the media.
Whether you volunteer as an individual or as part of a group, it is important that the experience brings reciprocal benefits for both the host communities involved and the volunteers. Many volunteers return from volunteering filled with inspiration from the people they have met and fuelled with real determination to make a difference and achieve something extraordinary in their lives.
A volunteer’s perspective
Anna Palmer has recently returned from a life-changing trip volunteering in Africa as part of her teaching placement with University of Southampton. She carried out a teaching assistant role at a school project in a deprived area of Kenya. She believes changing her career to become a teacher has been the best thing she has ever done.
“This trip has been life changing in more ways than one. Who knew that signing up to be a teacher would bring so many opportunities my way. Taking a risk paid off and changing my path has been the best thing I have ever done. So excited for what’s to come!”
Do your research
Whichever type of volunteering role you are participating in, whether it be building classrooms, teaching or sports coaching, think about the impact on a wider scale. Volunteering trips are fundamental in generating income to help develop sustainable communities so taking the time to research the best programme is essential in making sure you are participating in meaningful travel.
African Adventures runs ethical volunteer trips for schools, colleges and universities, charity challengers and corporate groups as well as independent travellers. Find out more about their building, teaching and sports coaching programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Zanzibar here.