October 21, 2017

Voluntourism Gains Popularity

Voluntourism Gains Popularity - Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

School is almost over and if you’re like me, you are starting to count the days before summer vacation. What constitutes the perfect vacation is as varied as the individuals planning it, but most folks agree that it’s a time devoted to rest, relaxation, recreation, and travel.

Right now my 50-something sister is headed to a motorcycle rally in bright Texas sunshine and 90+ degree heat. Nothing in my wildest dreams would describe three days of limited air conditioning during a national holiday on the back of a motorcycle as a vacation!

So, what’s your definition of a vacation? In the early 90’s, a cause-marketing team thought it would be a good idea to combine service with tourism and invented a new term–voluntourism. This new kind of vacation which includes volunteering for a charitable cause has gained popularity in recent years and a number of websites have sprung up which make it easy for you to find something worthwhile to do during your time off.

GVI offers you once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to combine adventure, culture and the chance to make a lasting difference on long-term projects in over 20 different countries.

Road Monkey believes that happiness lies in “being part of something larger than oneself.” They create adventure philanthropy expeditions that will help you negotiate a new culture and achieve a lot in a short amount of time with people you like.

Journeys for Good promises to provide you with the inspiration and information you need to find the perfect voluntourism experience. Their site offers blog content, videos, resources, links, tour information and travel details to help you plan your vacation.

For example, a recent blog, Journeys for Good highlighted the Sierra Club’s successful Volunteer Vacation program. The Club’s 90-annual service trips team up participants with park personnel to restore wilderness areas, maintain trails, clean up trash and campsites and remove non-native plants in parks throughout the US.

The Sierra Club has set the standard for many of today’s environmental advocacy organizations. Their projects are long-term, sustainable and they have extensive experience managing teams of volunteers. Their trips include plenty of time for recreation: swimming, camping, hiking and visiting local landmarks. Trips are designed to be multigenerational so they are not overly strenuous, even for people with minor leg or foot problems. They provide detailed instructions on what to bring and how to prepare.  For families looking for an exciting, stress-free and rewarding multigenerational voluntour, the Sierra Club is an excellent choice.

For individuals who want to connect their faith with service and travel, there are a number of websites that will coordinate your vacation with mission organizations and agencies throughout the world.

As any savvy traveler knows, not all things are as they seem. Over the years, some volunteer vacationers report that travel companies have exploited the local community and projects, that were intended to help residents, missed the mark and were not sustainable. So, it’s important to ask for references and do your homework before investing your time, energy and financial resources in a volunteer vacation.

As Dr. Seuss said in “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way!

And, have a great vacation whatever you do!


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