By Barb Mattson
Did you ever consider taking a personal vacation for
humanitarian reasons? Or consider offering your
administrative skills to help set up an orphanage in Chile?
Every day, more and more of us are starting to ask ourselves how we can make a difference whether it be for cultural, ecological, or for environmental reasons. We want to expand our personal, mental, and educational borders and grow so we can become more aware of the world around us. Travel helps us do just that. Rather than the yearly trip to Cancun or the Caribbean, we’re trying something entirely different which makes a change in someone’s life for the better.
What is Volunteer Tourism?
I was introduced to the concept of volunteer tourism about 10 years ago when my daughter was in middle school. One of her teachers had a dream to build a small lending library for a community of children in the country she would regularly vacation in. She wanted to make a difference. That year, my daughter signed up to be part of the group of students which would travel to San Juan Del Sur, in the country of Nicaragua. They would spend a week at the school and assist with the set up of the library while also visiting with children in the area. They collected clothes to donate before they left the states and each student filled up an extra suitcase and brought it down to give to the needy families. Both the students and the children were changed inside and out. Visiting another country gave them a different perspective. It allowed them to grow into young adults who desire to make a difference and who are unafraid to color outside the accepted lines of society.
There are so many different volunteering opportunities available and there is no age limit. You can volunteer on an organic farm in New Zealand or learn about the special care of elephants in a sanctuary designed for just that purpose in Indonesia. The most important thing is to decide what you would like to do as there are so many opportunities and needs for volunteer work. There are many businesses which send their staff overseas in an effort to expand their life experience and create a deeper sense of fulfillment in their given careers. Volunteer tourism isn’t just travel, it’s the opportunity for creating a new purpose for yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone and making a difference in someone else’s life … someone in desperate need of what you can give.
Before you commit your time and intention to a company, it is important to do some research. Find out everything you can about them in an effort to be sure they are not totally self interest. In other words, they are not in it for the money and nothing else.
Finding The Right Company
Most companies which do this on a regular basis will provide help through the entire process. Some will have fees which cover the initial costs of research and the application. However, the experience is all worth it for them so they may help you through it.
For those with limited funds, there are national organizations which can give you a similar experience by allowing you to volunteer in programs such as Habitat for Humanity, which I have personally participated in.
I challenge you to travel differently. Make an impact on someone’s life. It will enrich your own. Travel is an adventure of the soul which opens your mind and heart to a new world around you.
Barb Mattson is a Project Manager who has worked in the field of Information Technology for over 20 years. Her interests are in travel, writing, and expanding her knowledge of ancient spirituality and religions. With excitement, she is writing her first book of fiction! Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.