Volunteer Travel: Standing In Solidarity With Women Around The Globe
Strengthen local economies and increase workforce productivity by volunteering in support of girls and women on your next trip.
Women make up an estimated 70 percent of volunteer travelers, and voluntourism is an increasingly popular way of seeing the world. But why work while on vacation?
We travel to explore and experience, and to generate new connections between ourselves and the world around us. Volunteering while traveling offers a meaningful way to pull back the curtain that separates visitors and locals, to make connections with someone outside of hotel and restaurant staff, and to leave something behind in addition to tourist dollars. It’s cultural immersion through service and camaraderie.
This last point is critical. There are volunteers who offer services that aren’t available locally, such as surgeons who perform complex heart surgeries or cleft palate repairs that local doctors aren’t equipped to do. Then there are the rest of us.
We may have a simpler form of service to offer: A craft workshop for kids, design advice for a website, some manual labor. But along with that service, a volunteer offers solidarity. Through volunteering, a traveler has the chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with locals in a dynamic of mutual support toward a common goal.
By selecting a female-focused organization to support, you can ramp up the impact of your efforts. Studies in international development demonstrate that investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on households and communities.
The statistics are dramatic:
To find a good fit, it’s critical to ask lots of questions. Of yourself: What can you bring to the table, what is your comfort level, how much time are you able to commit? And of the organization you will support: How was the need identified, what is the project impact, where does the money go? Even a short-term commitment can make a difference when part of a well-planned, well-executed program or project.
The choices we make when we travel matter. Like a butterfly beating its wings, each positive choice ripples its impact outwards. Bring a refillable bottle to avoid adding to plastic waste. Stay at a hotel that minimizes its eco-footprint. Eat at family-owned restaurants. Look for a volunteer opportunity and take the time to make sure it’s a good one. Choose to volunteer in support of women and girls.
Whether your next trip is taking a safari in Kenya or exploring the Incan ruins of Peru, volunteering can provide the opportunity to deepen your experience.
Empower others and empower yourself.
There are several ways to incorporate volunteering into your next trip:
Use A Volunteer Placement Agency
A Broader View, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Philippines, Tanzania
ABV connects volunteers with projects that support women in activities such as income-generation, farming, midwifery and education.
Cross-Cultural Solutions, Brazil, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Tanzania
CCS’s “Girls and Women’s Empowerment Project” utilizes volunteers to help improve women’s education and access to reproductive health, to support women in small business development, or to teach women English, math and computer skills.
Ubelong, Cambodia and Morocco
In Cambodia, volunteers can support an organization promoting gender equality with outreach, advocacy, bookkeeping, report-writing, or coaching on English and IT skills. In Morocco, French or Arabic-speaking volunteers can do advocacy, research and outreach with an organization promoting women’s rights.
Connect Directly With An Organization
Grassroots Volunteering This website, developed by National Geographic Traveler of the Year Shannon O’Donnell, is a clearing house of effective international volunteer opportunities. At the time of writing, 20 of the listed organizations (distributed across 14 countries) were looking for volunteers to support women in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, vocational training, women’s rights and more.
VoFair This clearing house focuses on trustworthy organizations across Latin America that are in need of volunteers, some of which focus on women’s empowerment.
Stay In Accommodations That Can Arrange A Volunteer Experience
Old Moshi Hostel, Tanzania Hostel guests can combine a safari and visit to Kilimanjaro with volunteer work at a local women’s group.
The Lazy Dog Inn, Peru Volunteers with both skills and time can support women knitters in product design, or teach gardening, nutrition, cooking and restaurant management to members of a community café.
Connect Close To Home (Volunteering In The USA)
Habitat for Humanity has a special Women Build program, where female volunteers are taught how to construct decent, affordable housing, often for households headed by single mothers. There are several women-only builds in the US each year.
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Amy E. Robertson has volunteered in Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Lebanon and the United States, and is the author of Volunteer Vacations in Latin America, a guide that includes many opportunities to volunteer for women’s empowerment, both through volunteer agencies and by connecting directly with local organizations. Follow Amy on Twitter @traveler0603, visit her Pinterest board on volunteering, or read her personal blog.