How to Travel AND Make a Difference
Voluntourism…yes, it’s a word; I didn't make it up. It’s the blending of your travel passion with your desire to do good and benefit others. You’ve heard of people who when venturing overseas, fill their bags with school supplies for local children. Sometimes the school is sponsored by the resort, a nearby church, or one local to the traveler. What a nice idea! It's a simple way to help out; and not the only way. Depending on the destination and the need, there are many ways to do this. Today, I will cover three.
1. SUPPORT A LOCAL ORGANIZATION THROUGH YOUR RESORT
This is as simple as asking your hotel prior to arrival. Many beautiful resorts throughout the world are built along beautiful beaches in the midst of a primarily poverty-stricken area. Resort management gives training to and hires locals to give them employment they would not otherwise have, thereby improving their quality of life. They also reach out into the community of which they are a part. Ask if they have a list of school supplies that guests may bring to donate, or whether they offer opportunities to their guests to visit these schools, read to children, or be helpful in general.
2. BUY HANDMADE CRAFTS FROM LOCALS
You contribute to the well-being of locals when you purchase the handmade items from them, rather than buying your keepsakes and souvenirs from the touristy shop down the road. For example, in Mexico, you’ll undoubtedly be offered the opportunity to purchase small woven bracelets and other trinkets made by local women. Support the local artists, wood carvers, weavers etc. with at least some small purchase. For them a purchase is a business transaction and gives people some pride in their work, as well as a few dollars in their pocket. Likely, your few dollars will go a long way.
3. PARTICIPATE IN VOLUNTEER TRAVEL
But what is volunteer travel? Basically, it’s travel where you give something back to the local community you are visiting. You learn about another culture, another country. You give your time, skills and knowledge, which benefits others and helps your heart grow a few sizes – remember the Grinch?? Do you remember cruise line called Fathom? It incorporated hands-on volunteer opportunities into its weekly schedule in the Dominican Republic. Options included teaching English, pouring cement floors into local homes, assisting locals in a factory and re-forestation. Wasn’t that concept a wonderful way to enjoy a new place and make a difference at the same time?
There are many reasons to volunteer while you’re traveling and there are literally thousands of charities and organizations that look for help from passing travelers. For example, the Maui Humane Society has the "Helping Paws" program where visitors can come spend time with the animals. Gotta love that! Some, who are staying on Maui for a longer time, can actually "temporarily adopt" a dog or cat for their whole stay. Many end up taking a pet home permanently, or are inspired to return home and adopt in their own community. Talk about far-reaching effects.
How can you do more? Do a search on “volunteer travel”, and many opportunities will appear. Your own church or synagogue may offer mission trips and encourage members to participate as a group in assisting an international neighbor. We may not have a lot of time to give, but maybe if we each look for some small opportunity, we can all make a difference. The next time you take a vacation, consider asking what you can do to help. I am happy to assist you in learning about these opportunities as you plan your vacations. Have you ever participated in a program that you would like to share? Let me know and I will put it "out there" for all to see!
'til next week...
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Contact: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES - Juliet Weller, Founder