Over the past 10 years conservation and community projects have boomed, you can find projects looking after tarsiers or even looking after sheep in Andes. So why? And how to pick the right one?
There are more projects now due to 2 main reasons
- As grants and other traditional sources of funding dry up more and more NGO’s are turning to voluntourism as way to make ends meet and pay their bills.
- Voluntourism projects are quite easy to set up – many people join projects as volunteers and then want to set up their own projects. That is true for me as well.
- First of all be clear with yourself what you want from the experience. Is it more important for you to be with similar people no matter what you do? Or perhaps you want to start a career in ecotourism and learning is more important to you? Perhaps you want a different type of holiday, one that gives back to the environment.
- Once you have decided what you want to get out of your experience then it’s time to think about budgets and durations. If you want this experience to help you in your career then you will need to stay for at least 6 months at one project to really benefit.
- Different websites offer different types of experiences, so explore the right websites.
a) Gap360 – they offer programmes for youths to connect with one another whilst doing a few days volunteering. The most important thing here is building friendships with like minded people.
b) Responsibletravel.com – they provide hundreds of voluntourism programmes which cater more towards a responsible holiday / short term volunteering
c) Ecoteer.com – this provides long term internships perfect for people looking for career related experiences
4. Check for reviews, reviews is everything these days – check out www.gooverseas.com or tripadvisor
5. Facebook! Check to see how active their FB page is, from this you can better gauge if the experience is for you.
6. Ask as many questions as possible. For real good projects the person on the other end of the emails will love to answer your questions. Even give them a call, which is quite rare these days!
7. No matter how good a project is, sometimes things go wrong or the project has evolved and changed.
Don’t see your experience as a tour and a set itinerary has to be followed, because believe me, on projects, things change, normally for the good but sometimes things have to change and adapt. So take all in your stride and enjoy the moment.