Travel isn’t just about a place, it’s about the people you meet along the way, and volunteering can be a wonderful way to connect. Not only will you learn more about the community, their culture, their struggles and their celebrations, you can help in a meaningful way — perhaps even leave a lasting impact.
But as a traveler, you have responsibility. You have responsibility for the choices you make, the businesses you support, the money you bring into a country and spend. For this reason, “voluntourism” programs are on the rise, hoping to capitalize on the hearts and checkbooks of do-gooders.
How do you find the right organization to volunteer with? Don’t be afraid of asking questions: what you’ll be doing, how you’ll be providing support, where your fees go. Be realistic about your skills and abilities and be open to the many different experiences that come along with entering a new culture. You may find yourself in potentially uncomfortable situations. Yes, pack your essentials and bring a few comforts to remind you of home, but don’t make comfort your first priority.
In travel and in business, put people first and be willing to step beyond the familiar.