It’s evident that the post-Covid era, whenever that may be, will change the face of global travel forever. As things fall into a new normal it will be more vital than ever for those who provide a lifeline of support to local communities and conservation projects around the world to stay afloat.
Voluntourism is nothing new; GVI for example has been running projects since 1998 covering everything from teaching and volunteering with children to wildlife and marine conservation and global health & women’s empowerment and Raleigh International has more than 30 years of expertise in working through, for and with young people to create lasting change.
As global explorers increasingly look for more meaningful experiences, however, it’s no longer just the preserve of gap year backpackers, with resorts worldwide stepping up their game and offering guests not only holiday memories of beaches and cocktails, but hands-on experience in doing their bit to save the world.
Booking.com published a list of travel predictions for 2019, and according to the website, “68% of global travellers would consider participating in cultural exchanges to learn a new skill, followed by a volunteering trip (54%) and international work placements (52%).” But if you want to make a difference, look for organisations which focus on mutual learning and understanding, and fostering self-sufficiency and empowerment rather than promising that individuals can make a difference in just a couple of weeks. Ensure that you are not destroying jobs of the locals by offering free, unqualified work when qualified locals do not have the opportunity to be employed themselves.
From reforestation projects in Brazil to rhino conservation in South Africa and educating women and girls in Ghana on reproductive health, there are hundreds of projects around the globe. We’ve chosen just a few of our favourites; we hope they’ll be something you consider once we all get our wings back.
Hatch Turtles in Costa Rica
The verdant scenery of Costa Rica has lured many a backpacking adventurer, looking for the feel good factor, but Responsible Travel’s week long programme contributing to a turtle conservation project will undoubtedly leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling.
Working with an established marine research organisation, you’ll discover the country’s stunning beaches whilst patrolling beaches in search of nesting turtles, protecting new hatchlings and recording observations for the charity’s research project, to be used to help form campaigns to change regulations that endanger the species in Costa Rica. Turtles might be not be your only encounter with wildlife; with it being a natural habitat for whales, dolphins, crocodiles, macaws, toucans, monkeys and butterflies it’s a thrilling trip for animal lovers.
Reintroduce Orangutans in Borneo
STA Travel might by synonymous with gap year backpacking, but they’re not just a travel company for the 18-30 crowd; with over 50 projects in nearly 40 countries they are making waves in the voluntourism industry. One of their most recent partnerships is with Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), which has been working with the Indonesian government since 1991 to provide the crucial support to protect orangutans and their habitat.
Volunteers to the 10 day project will get stuck in to the production of enrichment items for the orangutans and sun bears, to help improve the living conditions and to stimulate natural behaviours in captive animals, as well as husbandry work, maintenance and construction and reforestation activities. With nearly 550 orangutans in the foundation’s care, it’s vital work in the protection of these beautiful primates.
Women Empowering Women
Grand dame of volunteerism GVI has been running programmes since 1998 and now has volunteer projects in 21 locations in 13 countries around the world, each manned by their own staff and aligned to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs as well as the objectives of local partners. Join a team of permanent staff members, long-term interns and short-term women’s empowerment volunteers, to learn about and support ongoing gender equality programs in India, working with a range of organisations including schools, women’s groups, and other community-based organisations.
You might lead conversational English lessons, supporting local women in learning English phrases that are useful for communicating with international English speakers, as well as facilitating computer skills classes and help in developing professional skills, like creating a CV and interviewing for a job. These practical skills will not only help in women’s economic development in India, but help to demolish the gender inequality which is still so rife.
The Wolf Sanctuary in Portugal
While one wouldn’t necessarily think they were in particular danger given their status in the food chain, there are only an estimated 300 Iberian wolves left in the wild. While we wouldn’t recommend going out to look for those ones, you can get up close and personal to them in their natural habitat with two weeks at a wolf sanctuary just 40 minutes outside of Lisbon.
It’s physical work, clearing vegetation, planting native plants around the 17 hectare site, preparing food, feeding them and monitoring them for the sanctuary. In summer, volunteers take night shifts on fire-watch in guard towers, while free time can be spent at nearby surfing beaches, a national park, and the magical town of Sintra.
Game Census in South Africa
The Ant Collection’s horseback safaris are so much more than just riding holidays. Located in the Limpopo province three hours north of Johannesburg at 4,500m above sea level, guests will find horses ranging from thoroughbreds to tough African Boerperd and exciting crossbreeds at this 12,500 acre private game reserve. The lodge owners are the founders of ‘Save The Waterberg Rhino,’ a charity dedicated to the conservation of these majestic beasts, and the price of each holiday includes a rhino conservation fee.
For those who really want to get their teeth in to animal conservation, the annual game census allows visitors to play a hands-on role verifying the number of browsers (leaf-eating), selective grazers (short grass eaters) and bulk grazers (long grass eaters) located in the 12,500-acre private reserve. The census is a vital tool to ensure balance in the environment, and with activities including game-counting, darting and even relocating the reserve’s wildlife to establish new populations elsewhere, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.