Voluntourism: 7 ways to make the world a better place

volunteer with young children while on vacation in China

Voluntourism, or volunteering while on holiday, is an opportunity many travellers seek out when visiting another country. It first gained popularity in the early 1960s, when the United States Peace Corps was formed, and according to recent data from the the Travel Industry Association of America, more than 55 million Americans have included volunteer experiences in their vacation. From contributing specialized skills like medical care to helping serve meals to children, there are opportunities for travellers of all ages and abilities to help make the world a better place. At Nature Expeditions International, we are proud to include optional volunteer service projects in many of our itineraries. Here are seven opportunities to lend a hand to others.

Ecuador/Galapagos

On our 12-day From Forests to Finches tour, there are three voluntourism projects to choose from. One option would be to spend the day helping one of the Otavalo women with her work, including cooking, harvesting, handicraft making and other chores. In Quito, you may wish to teach basic English to schoolchildren or to help prepare and serve them lunch. A third option is to help prepare and serve lunch to the parents of child patients at the Baca Ortiz Children’s Hospital in Quito. The parents get little or no attention so your efforts will help make sure they get at least one good meal that day. (Note: These activities are also available on our 11-day In the Wake of Darwin tour.)

Peru

On our Peru Discovery tour, four volunteer opportunities can further enrich your holiday experience. One option is to prepare and serve a healthy breakfast to local schoolkids. Helped by your guide, you’ll purchase the ingredients at Ollantaytambo market, prepare the nutritious breakfast and then serve it to the students. A second option is to work on a door-to-door hygiene project, providing remote villagers with soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste and teaching them how to use them. A third option is to work on a native tree project in which you will plant native trees and also ensure the irrigation of the trees as part of a larger reforestation project. A fourth option is to help build the water irrigation system that will help sustain the reforestation project. (Note: These activities are also available on our 8-day Heart of the Inca World tour.)

Brazil

On our 15-day Salvador, Samba and Saudade, tour, travellers have the chance to volunteer for a service project in Rio DE JANEIRO. You would spend the morning helping out in the community garden of the Coroa favela in Santa Teresa. In the afternoon, after watching dance, music and language lessons at the ballet of Santa Teresa, you would help prepare and serve an afternoon snack break for the children. The panoramic views from Santa Teresa are beautiful.

Guatemala

A wide variety of volunteer activities are available to travellers on our Land of the Living Maya tour. Many service projects are ongoing in this country, so you may have the opportunity to help to paint (or build) a house or school, teach English to schoolchildren, collect coffee from the fields or collect turtle eggs.

Chile

Helping with construction of sustainable homes is an ongoing project that you may choose to help with on our 15-day Chile Land of Extremes Tour.  You would spend a half or full day helping out with the Un Techo para Chile home construction project that helps poor people move into a quality home in a sustainable community. Depending on your interests, you can help with the construction of the house (no technical experience or heavy lifting required), meet the family that will move into the house, or attend a lecture on how social labor helps families with no means of support. (Note: These activities are also available on our 15 day THE SOUTHERN CONE TOUR AND 14 DAY PATAGONIA WILDERNESS TOUR.)

South Africa

On our 13-day New South Africa tour, there are many ways to contribute to the community. One option is to help Operation Hunger’s workers to prepare and serve food to needy residents, including children, in townships near Cape Town. A second option is to help foster children in the Home to Home program by taking them on fun outings, or by taking a foster mother and child to a medical clinic for an appointment or, if you have specialized skills, by providing counseling, physiotherapy or occupational therapy. A third option is to participate in several of the activities sponsored by the Amy Biehl Trust, named after a young American Fulbright Scholar who was killed while helping in the struggle against apartheid. You may read books to children at the Youth Reading Role Models program, take (or teach) a class in music theory and practice at the Amy Biehl Music Program, drive golf balls with youth at Khayelitsha Golf Club, the “Driving Range for the People”, and/or take a class in block making, sewing, and aluminum window-frame making at the Buthisizwe Training Centre. Cost will depend on which project you select, the number of travelers and on whether the project will replace or supplement other activities in the itinerary. (Note: These activities are also available on our 10-day Cape to Kruger tour.)

China

On our 15-day From Lijiang to Huang Shan tour in China, travellers to have the opportunity to volunteer for one of two service projects. One option in Xian would be to volunteer at the Children’s Village, part of the Shaanxi Emancipist Research Association. This village helps the children of criminals serving prison sentences to get schooling, psychological counseling, love and attention, and job training, so that they can more easily be accepted by a society that has spurned them. Depending on your interests and on the season, you may teach an English or drawing class to schoolchildren, help water plants or weed the garden, prepare and serve a meal and/or help harvest the wheat or corn. A second option would be to work at a nursing home in Shanghai for a half day. With the help of your guide, you would help prepare and serve food, chat with older people and help clean the hallways.

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