If you have taken a peek at any of our itineraries you may have noticed that our projects are a little different to others you may find. In recent years, voluntourism has become one of the fastest growing areas in the adventure travel market and on the surface it is easy to understand why. A life changing experience and opportunity for participants to help others and really integrate with the community; the chance to bring aid to less developed communities; creating lifelong bonds with local people – the list goes on.
We agree that aiding local communities and environments should always be a core part of any of our adventures overseas, however, we see voluntourism in a different light. Beneath the feel good shine of many projects is the reality that voluntourism doesn't always work. Infrastructure is poorly built by UK volunteers while also taking the opportunity for work away from locals. Children can also become upset when the people they have bonded with disappear again after a week. Once more the list goes on…
Instead we seek out opportunities where locals and students alike share and learn from each other in an environment of mutual respect (check out this trip to Morocco). All of our projects are developed from grass roots level in conjunction with local communities, NGOs and conservation organisations. This ethical collaboration means that our participants develop a long term understanding of the challenges faced by their host communities rather than trying to ‘fix’ long term issues through short term, insubstantial and unsuitable volunteer work.
We would prefer to be honest about whether you can usefully input into a project and if there isn’t something useful to do we’ll tell you. We are seeking to avoid ill-thought through ‘sympathy volunteering’ which has no lasting benefit and may have a negative impact. At the core of this it is also important to consider how qualified you really are to be undertaking any given task. If you would not be allowed to build a school in the UK why should it be any different abroad? Instead we would rather see the work go to local people to truly help their economy and encourage the longevity of any given project.
Activities such as painting murals on buildings in the developing world is not sustainable, useful, wanted by the local community or a good use of your students’ time and money. Instead we would prefer to look into projects such as:
- Rubbish clean up treks (e.g. on Morocco's Atlantic Coast or Mt Kenya). Did you know three guys recently collected almost 500kgs of litter while they hiked the Appalachian Trail?!
- Local village clean-up projects and the creation of incinerator to make the project long term.
- Building vegetable greenhouses with organisations such as NGO Ecosphere in Ladakh.
- Assisting with on-going conservation work at elephant sanctuaries in Thailand.
- Learning the art of batik making with the 'Global Mamas' in Ghana.