Voluntourism is travel that involves volunteering for a charitable cause. This weekend, I attended Go Global Expo in Toronto, an event that welcomes you to explore the possibilities for working, studying, or volunteering abroad.
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It was a completely free event that allowed visitors to discuss the options for traveling overseas with numerous representatives of various organizations. I really like the idea of voluntourism. You get to experience the wonders of visiting a new place, and help an important cause while you’re there.
It isn’t the typical definition of a vacation where you simply relax as you’ll be working really hard at your chosen project. However, volunteering abroad and donating your time to a charity is incredibly valuable to those who are in need, and you can gain some perspective and purpose in a foreign place whose citizens may not enjoy the same luxuries or freedoms as you do at home.
I’m going to share all of the info that I gathered over the weekend so you can do some research of your own online. I did not gather information for teaching or studying overseas as this was geared primarily to university students, and I don’t have any current plans to study or teach abroad. I did speak directly to many representatives at booths for volunteering overseas, and I could feel strong senses of passion for their projects.
Animal Experience International (AEI)
Animal Experience International, or AEI, is one that I’m particularly interested in. It involves traveling abroad to volunteer for animal organizations around the world. AEI arranges all-inclusive placements at various animal charities or sanctuaries around the world.
Representatives from the company have personally visited and volunteered at each spot, so you can be guaranteed that they are reputable animal charities. Some causes are looking for those with direct experience in helping animals, and some are looking for anyone who has an interest in helping animals. Some of their experiences involve assisting sea turtles in Greece, elephants in Thailand, and orangutans in Sumatra.
Since writing this article, I’ve volunteered twice now with AEI! I traveled with them on their group volunteer trip to Kenya and another small group trip to Guatemala. I hope to travel and volunteer many more times in the future with Animal Experience International and cannot say enough good things about my trips with them.
African Conservation Experience
African Conservation Experience, or ACE, is a reputable organizer of conservation placements in southern Africa. Their main objective is to allow enthusiastic people to experience wildlife in Africa while financing conservation projects through self-funded volunteers.
There are opportunities to monitor whale and dolphin behaviour in the ocean, volunteer on a rhino recovery program, track wildlife behaviours and movements (lions, cheetahs, leopards, and elephants), and work with local communities.
Go Global Expo: Cross-Cultural Solutions
Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) is an organization that is focused on bringing about change through personal acts of kindness and selflessness, and through the spreading of tolerance and understanding between people and cultures. There are volunteer opportunities in Ghana, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, India, Thailand, Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru.
These experiences include improving education for children, assisting with the care of infants and children, improving health and the sense of dignity among the elderly, improving the quality of care for people with disabilities, supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS, and enhancing the quality of healthcare. You will be able to connect with local people and truly change their lives.
Cuso International is an international development organization that works to reduce poverty and inequality through the efforts of skilled volunteers. It is one of North America’s leading international development agencies. I was happy to stop by their booth at Go Global Expo to learn more.
People of all ages are welcome to volunteer in efforts throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Cuso International recruits skilled individuals from a variety of professional backgrounds, including business, health, communications, education, social work, and many more.
Developing World Connections
Developing World Connections believes in providing long-term service, not short-term aid. Their trips connect you with a host community to work on sustainable projects across the developing world. Most of these volunteer experiences are two weeks in duration, which allows you to volunteer on a short-term basis even if you have a full-time job at home.
Some examples of their upcoming 2015 projects are: Building irrigation systems for families in Cambodia, constructing a health care centre or classrooms that will benefit girls freed from bonded labour in Nepal, and building water tanks and laying pipes for a water project that will benefit 10,000 community members in Kenya.
Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders is an international, independent, medical humanitarian relief organization. They provide emergency care to people affected by disaster, conflict, epidemics, and those excluded from healthcare. I was really happy to see them represented at Go Global Expo.
They work independently of political, religious, or military agendas, delivering medical assistance based on human need. You can volunteer in the field in medical and non-medical roles, work in their offices, or even donate or help raise money for them.
Friends of the Orphans Canada
Friends of the Orphans Canada is a non-profit organization affiliated with “Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos” network of orphanages in Latin America and the Caribbean who care for orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children in a loving and nurturing environment.
Volunteers spend between one to four weeks living and working within the orphanage with the opportunity to make a tangible impact in the lives of these wonderful children. The countries include Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.
Give A Heart To Africa
Give A Heart To Africa is located in Moshi, Tanzania, and they are a 100% volunteer NGO working to improve the lives of women through education and entrepreneurship. The minimum stay for volunteers is 2 weeks, but many volunteers stay for up to 3 months or longer. You can volunteer based on your own schedule as there are no official start dates, and the program runs all year long.
You will be teaching English as a Second Language, Vocational Skills (basic math, sales skills, etc.), Business Classes; participating in home visits of local women and their families; and assisting women in starting their own businesses and working with local children in their after school program.
Global Citizens Network
Global Citizens Network seeks to create a network of people committed to the shared values of peace, justice, respect, cross-cultural understanding, and global cooperation; the preservation of indigenous cultures, traditions and ecologies; and the enhancement of the quality of life around the world.
They have established strong ties with host communities, and participants can experience journeys deep into the indigenous way of life. Their volunteer programs in communities all over the world run for two weeks in length, making it a great choice for a volunteer vacation from your regular day job.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a program by Global Village that provides domestic and international travel opportunities for compassionate volunteers to experience Habitat’s mission firsthand. Teams of 8-20 volunteers spend a week or more building houses in partnership with families in need of a simple, decent place to live.
Itineraries are balanced with plenty of work, rest, and free time. Most trips include 2-3 days of recreational activities that could include cultural tours or outdoor exploration. Get ready to work up a sweat, challenge the muscles, and develop lasting friendships!
Operation Groundswell is a student run non-profit organization that is dedicated tobackpacking with a purpose. Their philosophy revolves around ethical travel: working with local communities and minimizing our carbon footprint. Their booth at Go Global Expo was excellent!
Their trips are all about experiencing local life, volunteering, and sparking a movement of globally active and socially conscious backpacktivists. They have volunteer trips in East Africa, West Africa, Guatemala, Peru, Haiti, Middle East, Southeast Asia, and India.
The Power To Be International
The Power To Be International is a registered Canadian charity dedicated to the development and maintenance of positive youth communities around the world. As a volunteer, you will be working in developing nations providing educational resources, civic engagement, employment training, literacy programs, leadership programs, and service leading
. There are upcoming opportunities to volunteer in Jamaica for 19 days for childhood educational or leadership camps, or in St. Lucia for 21 days for schools and youth education.
Shamwari Conservation Experience
Shamwari, meaning “my friend” in Shona, is the pinnacle of game reserves and home to the coveted Big Five on one of the largest privately owned and run conservation initiatives in Southern Africa. The Shamwari Conservation Experience is a once in a lifetime chance to get behind the scenes and involved with the conservation efforts of the world renowned Shamwari Game Reserve. A minimum volunteer stay is 2 weeks, although you can volunteer for a much longer length of time if you’d like.
As you can see, there are so many wonderful voluntourism experiences out there and I’m sure that one will be just right for your interests and needs! I learned so much at Go Global Expo, and it’s great to learn about all of the different organizations in one place.