Voluntourism – Why don’t we focus more on the success stories?

Dan Mew

This is a request, a plea, for people to start celebrating success stories, to acknowledge commitment, drive, achievements and love; love for others and love for the work that is done in the volunteer travel community. Cheesy? Perhaps. Honest? Yes. Maybe it is just the way that I am feeling today but I feel it is an important message and I would like it to be heard.

Volunteerism - Rachel Northover
Rachel Northover

I work for African Adventures. Why do I work for this organisation? Because they are ethical, they care and they make a real difference. I acknowledge that these are all words that get banded about a lot but in this instance, they really mean something… I will tell you why, so please read on. African Adventures is the ‘brainchild’ (he would really hate me saying that!) of Dan Mew, a young man from Southampton who travelled to Kenya and subsequently decided that he could not just stand by and watch those less fortunate than himself living without opportunity; he wanted – no, he needed – to play his part to help.

Volunteerism - Alex Maina, Dan Mew & Patricia Maina
Alex Maina, Dan Mew & Patricia Maina

He partnered with an incredible man he met in Kenya, Alex Maina, who ran a project called The Walk Centre, and set up African Adventures with just a few quid and a desire to change lives. (Today, Dan and Alex remain very close friends; their partnership – a key word for us in terms of the ethical nature of our business – across continents has impacted the lives of many.) The organisation provides opportunities for people from the UK to volunteer at educational projects in Ghana, Kenya and Zanzibar; the volunteering trips enhance the projects’ development, essentially allowing them to provide an education for more people. This is it in a nutshell – so much more is involved, but an education being provided for children who would otherwise go without, is surely impressive in itself.

Dan makes this happen. To say he is an inspiration is an understatement. Whilst his friends were out being ‘normal’ 20-something year olds, Dan was literally dedicating his life to building a business that would change lives. Still only 28, he is realising his dream and the company has come a long way since 2009; a long way but not far enough – the organisation has changed many lives but there is always more to be done. However, let’s take time to acknowledge the difference that has been made already…

Volunteerism - Eric Mwangi
Eric Mwangi

The organisation’s flagship partner project, The Walk Centre, saw a big dream realised when one of its students enrolled at university recently. This would not be an impressive story in the UK but it is important to understand just what it means for someone who came from the slum areas of Nakuru. Eric Mwangi received an education and a daily meal thank you only to the existence of The Walk Centre; without this project he would have spent his days trying to survive through scavenging on a rubbish dump. Eric acknowledges the impact had on his life by The Walk Centre;

“Thanks to Alex and Patricia and The Walk Centre, I received a full education. I now study engineering at Nairobi University. They have given me a life.”

Volunteerism - Fred Egesa
Fred Egesa

Fred Egesa, from Kenya, became night watchman at The Walk Centre in 2006, having previously sold newspapers on the street – the project gave him secure employment and the opportunity to make a better life for his family. Now, just a few years later, Fred is the main Trip Host for African Adventures in Kenya. Through sheer commitment and hard work, and a love for his work, Fred elevated himself to a role which he never thought was possible; a worthy achievement made possible through promoting from within. You would struggle to find someone more popular than Fred; he is loved by all our volunteers.

Volunteerism - Siva Vordzorgbe
Siva Vordzorgbe

Siva Vordzorgbe, our Ghana In-country Director, was a street child from a young age. After becoming homeless, he began working on a farm at the age of 11 in order to pay for his school fees. He first went to school when he was 13 years of age; something that just would not be allowed to happen in England. He grew up knowing that there was so little opportunity for children in his community; he decided to try and change this by setting up an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) that provides grants for young people hoping to better themselves. Siva is an example of how someone can change their life if they care enough; it is impossible not to have massive respect for what he has achieved from almost nothing. African Adventures provides volunteers to work with Siva and enhance the work that his NGO is able to do. Siva is able to achieve so much more due to this additional support and funding, allowing him to realise his dreams.

Volunteerism - Lisa Humphries
Lisa Humphries

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the other side of the coin. We firmly believe that our work impacts our volunteers as much, in many ways, as our partner projects; this is important to us. There are some incredible accounts of how volunteers’ lives have been changed through travelling with us and it is hard to choose just one, but I have selected an undeniably impressive woman. Lisa Humphries first travelled to Kenya in early 2012 and she has since returned a further six times, each time with a large group of students – is more information needed as to the impact had on her?! It is fair to say that African Adventures has become a big part of Lisa’s life. Lisa lives and breathes Chichester College’s support of the partner projects in Kenya; Lisa counts Fred and the Kenya team amongst her close friends and she devotes much of her time to fundraising for the development of The Walk Centre. Lisa inspires and motivates those around her and has managed to create an amazing volunteering and entrepreneurial culture throughout the college.

These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to African Adventures’ support, many of its’ partner projects have doubled in size, meaning that access to an education has almost doubled – this should be celebrated. Things we take for granted in the UK – food, an education – are out of reach for many in Africa but the work of African Adventures is making them accessible for more and more people. Please just take a minute to consider what this means…

There is no way that I can get across to you, in a short piece of writing, the ethos and commitment of African Adventures but I would ask that you take a look at our website to find out more about us…I think you will like what you see. This is not a desperate plea for business; this is a request for you to appreciate the good that is being done in the world. Though it may be a small contribution, it is a very important one. So, please remove your cynical hat for just a moment and realise and acknowledge the meaning of this.