Volunteer Holidays and Volunteer Travel
Volunteer holidays provide a wonderful chance to really get under the skin of a place and experience it as the locals do whilst contributing to the preservation of its identity, community and environment.
There is a wide variety of volunteering holidays and pretty much anyone can embark on volunteer travel as there are many projects which are crying out for manpower. Volunteering holidays can include community projects, wildlife conservation, habitat repair and preservation, internships abroad, skill sharing and working with animals and children. Whether you go on a volunteer holiday on your own or with a group of friends or your family, the experience will hopefully be rewarding and often volunteers the opportunity to develop lifetime connections with the people and places they work with.
Choosing volunteer work abroad is a great way to experience different places overseas. Trips can last from 1 week to 1 year and you can choose from a range of projects based all over the world. Regardless of your professional experience, there will be volunteer work abroad that is right for you and contributing to a good cause will give you more skills and greater confidence as well as adding depth to your CV.
It is worth doing a bit of research into your chosen volunteering holiday. We recommend that travellers ask volunteer companies the following 8 questions when enquiring:
1. Is the project based on a real local need and run jointly with local people? (This transfers skills and ensures longevity.)
2. Was the project suggested by local people rather than invented by a marketing department?
3. Can you see an independent report on the benefits (both short-term and long-term) of the project to local people/environment?
4. Can you speak to a previous volunteer?
5. What pre-trip briefing and training is needed or available?
6. Can you see their policy for responsible tourism?
7. Is there transparent information around cost and where the money goes?
8. Does the organisation take steps to match your skills to the needs of the project?
Conservation Holidays and Conservation Volunteering
Conservations holidays should benefit the host country and make a valuable contribution to protecting wildlife, habitats and natural resources. Effective conservation is organised by scientists and specialist experts who need to collect data, research and analysis to make positive change. The conservation projects they set up rely heavily on volunteers who have time to spare. A conservation volunteer doesn’t need to have any qualifications but simply needs enthusiasm and a strong commitment to the environment.
There are many different conservation projects to choose from, you can investigate climate change in the Arctic, build dry stone walls in England, collect biological data in the Amazon or monitor endangered species in African reserves. Conservation volunteering has become very popular, which is hardly surprising considering the high demand for projects that deal directly with the increasing threats to the environment.
A conservation volunteer will have the wonderful opportunity to experience beautiful landscapes and unbeatable wildlife encounters, as well as learn new skills and environmental awareness.
Wildlife Volunteering and Wildlife Conservation
If you are a wildlife lover, wildlife volunteering is one of the most rewarding holidays you can take. There are many biologists and scientists working on different wildlife conservation projects all over the world who are working with endangered species and trying to inspire people with how beautiful, important and remarkable these creatures are and what a shame it’d be to lose them.
Animal conservation needs a joined-up approach i.e. there is no chance of saving a species and its habitat if you do not first see its country as a political and social entity and harness local human populations to engage with the plight of their native species – to learn to love and be proud of their country’s creatures.
Wildlife conservation projects can contribute directly to the continuing existence of certain species, for example, the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest: Western visitors pay the wages of the rangers who work hard to protect the remaining gorillas and, without their money, the forests would be pulled down and all would be lost.
If you are considering volunteering for animal conservation it is worth bearing in mind that there are some occasions where the dictum: ‘look but don’t touch’ should be considered, particularly when it comes to wildlife and sentient creatures. The irony is that the more you love something, the closer you want to get – yet your very proximity can bring it more harm than good. Many animals should not be forced into human interaction as they are wild, not domestic. Often, watching animals living freely in their natural habitat can be a lot more rewarding than giving them a cuddle.
There is a great range of wildlife conservation holidays on offer, as well as working with endangered species, you can help preserve entire ecosystems. You may find yourself as a jungle volunteer, monitoring endangered Macaw's, digging seed beds in the bio garden, carrying and planting seedlings as part of the reforestation and carbon sequestration programme or working with local children in the ecology club. Or you could be a rainforest volunteer - rainforests are critically important to their region’s biodiversity, providing essential soil stabilization and carbon storage. But they are under constant threat from unsustainable logging practices and climate change.
Whether you choose to help on animal conservation projects, volunteer in the jungle or volunteer in the rainforest, the work you do will be invaluable and you will be uplifted by how constructive human intervention can be, in the wake of our careless destruction.
Marine Conservation and Diving Volunteering
Marine conservation is a particular type of conservation holiday that is dedicated to the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas as well as protecting vulnerable marine species. Marine conservation research is a relatively new discipline and relies on scientific principles derived from marine biology, oceanography and fisheries science.
Volunteers in marine conservation may find themselves helping protect endangered sea turtles, monitoring dolphin behaviour or studying diverse coral reefs and fish. Much marine conservation research involves diving volunteering which allows you to collect valuable data and participate fully in the conservation work. A diving volunteer in marine conservation will have the added bonus of becoming more skilled in the fundamental theoretical and practical aspects of diving.
Volunteering With Children
Volunteering with children is often a life-changing experience; you can work with underprivileged and disadvantaged kids to help make a difference to their future. You do not need particular skills to volunteer with children, just plenty of time and attention to give them and put a smile on their faces.
If you are naturally affectionate toward children then you can find plenty of projects that involve volunteering with children all over the world. You can help in their development and learning through teaching language and sports and helping with community projects.
Want to know more about volunteer holidays before you go?
Find out more about volunteer travel by reading these volunteering articles.
If you’re planning a volunteering trip, whether it’s a 3 month volunteer placement in a remote corner of the world or a weekend somewhere closer to home, it’s always good to know what to expect and the best way to do things. Our friends at people & places have helped us to write this guide on responsible volunteering. Read their advice in this volunteer travel article