9 Great Ideas for Voluntourism ...

If you ever thought you might like to try something different for a vacation, what about taking an eco-trip or doing some voluntourism? So it might mean giving up the lazy days on the beach but a volunteer trip will undoubtedly be to some exotic place you’ve never considered before and it will be full of wonderful sights and experiences and what else, that feel-good factor that you actually might also be doing some good. Here are some ideas for your consideration.

1. Indonesia - Rhinos

There are only 200 odd Sumatran Rhinos left in the world and there’s a sanctuary at Way Kambas National Park on the Island of Sumatra. A trip here would be a fantastic opportunity to get up close to these endangered and secretive creatures in what is proving to be a successful conservation project.

2. Peru – Community Work

Many traditional Andean villages still follow a subsistence lifestyle, often lacking what we would consider the most basic of amenities. A volunteering trip to the Andes Mountains of Peru is a chance to put yourself to work building, painting and gardening alongside villagers.

3. Moldova - Orphans

Moldova was one of the new countries formed when the Soviet Union broke up. Its main borders are with the Ukraine and Romania. Moldova is Europe’s poorest country and many families are unable to look after their children who are consequently placed in orphanages. These places are poorly equipped and understaffed and if you love children you’ll find more than plenty ways of helping out. I would imagine you need to be pretty mentally tough for this sort of trip, especially at going home time.

4. Belize - Various

A bit closer to home, Belize offers lots of opportunities to voluntourism. In 2010 American airlines was offering round trip tickets for $149, great if they do something similar this year.

It’s a beautiful tropical country and volunteering might include working in Aids education or on a sustainable agriculture project.

5. Mississippi - Katrina

Even closer to home still, the Mississippi delta is still suffering greatly from Hurricane Katrina and you will certainly be welcomed by volunteer projects along the Mississippi/Gulf coast.

6. India – Street Kids

It would be hard to pin down any specific location because all India’s cities face problems of street kids – no permanent homes, disowned by families or orphaned, no schooling and subject to abuse, lack of food and basic needs. Not exactly the life you’d want for a child so volunteering in a centre for these poor kids is usually incredibly rewarding, if not a little heartbreaking.

7. Iceland - Photography

If you enjoy photography, Iceland uses amateur snappers to photograph the North Western Fjords. When you think of Iceland you might just think of volcanoes and ash that brought the trans-Atlantic to a halt for a few days but it is also an incredibly beautiful country and this photography trip is not just the opportunity to be involved in a study of the fjords but you’d get involved in coastal cleaning and other environmental activities too.

8. Costa Rica - Biodiversity

This small country has an amazingly rich varied flora and fauna and needs help with maintaining it’s biological and ecological balance. You might get involved with repairing wildlife shelters or planting seedlings for reforestation.

9. Malaysia - Turtles

South East Asia is a major tourist destination and one of the off shoot problems of this is that beaches previously populated by valued indigenous animals have been taken over by sun worshippers leaving animals without safe homes. Take a trip to Redang Island to work with hawksbill and green turtles. It is also a trip to a tropical paradise with fantastic beaches as an added benefit.

The choice really is quite massive all around the world from Mongolia to Missouri, from ragamuffins to red panda, from Aids to Agent Orange and from bird tagging to bridge repair. If you have the heart, there’s a trip to meet every budget.

Top Photo Credit: Lana Cuk