Think you can’t spare the time for volunteering abroad? Think again.
It would be lovely to be able to take off around the world for years, traveling from needy cause to needy cause and helping people all year round, but for most of us this just isn’t affordable, in terms of time or money. That’s why there are charities that run micro-voluntourism breaks – a big mouthful of a name for what are essentially snack-size volunteer experiences.
One company to pioneer one- and two-day volunteer trips is Andaman Discoveries in southern Thailand. People on vacation can stay with families in the village of Ban Talae Nok, on the tsunami-hit Andaman coast, spending their time helping with soap making, fishing and learning about local culture.
Although these mini-trips are still quite rare, more and more charities are realizing the appeal – and the benefit – that shorter introductions to their work have for visitors to developing countries. Many of them will be happy to give you an introduction to their work, if you contact them in advance, and perhaps offer two or three hours of weeding, building or teaching. If you can spare a morning, why not offer your time to a local school or literacy center? Big Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang, Laos, is a drop-in center for kids and young adults who want to improve their English. Come along in the morning and spend 2-3 hours just reading the paper or chatting with the locals.
If there’s no bite-sized volunteer project where you’re going, why not organize one yourself? Take inspiration from the new StuffYourRucksack site, set up by BBC broadcaster Kate Humble, which showcases charities in the developing world that welcome donations of stationery, toys and books. Have a look to see whether your travels will take you near one of these, or why not take an extra suitcase packed with donations and ask at your hotel which local school or hospital would most benefit?
In short, if you’re interesting in volunteering, it doesn’t matter whether you can spare two hours, two weeks, or two years, just that you have the urge to help others. Start small and you’ll soon find that a little goes a long way.
contributed by sarah warwick
photo credits: ban talae nok, bbmouse