What is responsible volunteer tourism?

Volunteer tourism, or “Voluntourism” comes in many shapes and sizes.  Just like any holiday, or travel plan it can be adapted to suit the tourist or traveller.  There’s a lot to think about though, and that’s where the “responsible” bit comes in.

Irresponsible volunteer tourism

You probably don’t want to be volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia right now – Why? Because so many people want to volunteer with orphans in Cambodia, that unscrupulous operators are filling houses with children (that still have parents) just so that wealthy tourists can see and work with them for a few weeks.  Siem Reap, home of the fabulous and beautiful Angkor Wat, has a population of 100,000 and 35 orphanages.  That ratio is wrong, and it’s driven by irresponsible volunteer tourism.   Responsible Travel has stopped offering all orphanage voluntourism packages while it fully investigates the situation.

 Responsible Responsible tourism 

During my recent adventure in Thailand, I was introduced to a responsible volunteer tourism operator.  Set up 11 years ago as a partnership between local Thai Gaweechat Joompaula (known as Toto) and Swedish social entrepreneur Sven Mauleon, Openmind Projects is role model in responsible volunteer tourism.  Now they operate in four countries, in partnership with over 70 grass roots projects.

“The background to a lot of the problems in this world, poverty, pollution, environmental destruction, is knowledge…  Knowledge brings awareness, and a motivation to change. Helping people to learn, Helping people to learn how to learn, and helping people use new technology. That is our mission. That is Openmind Projects”

What experience can volunteers abroad expect? Continue reading

How we got more than a million votes in two weeks, and won the Little Big Project Blogging Challenge

This in-depth article is about how my small team managed to smash all expectations and get more than 600,000 rating votes for our blog in less than two weeks.

**UPDATE – THE OFFICIAL COUNT IS IN – WE GOT 1,078,049 VOTES – OVER ONE MILLION!!**

First of all – a big thank you. Without you, and thousands of others, my team would not have been able to win the Little Big Project. With your help, we were able to win a grant of $5000 for an NGO that specialises in ecotourism and responsible volunteer tourism – Openmind Projects.

Thank you to all of you that voted, shared, liked and participated. My team-mate and I also won $1000 each, and courtesy of Thai Airways, return flights to Thailand for me, and return flights anywhere in Asia for my Thai team-mate.

Here ‘s a quick recap, before we get into how we did it.

From July 3rd to July 17th  myself and nine others were selected by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to promote ecotourism and responsible volunteer tourism in Thailand.  The five international bloggers were paired up with five Thai bloggers, to make five teams – all working with different host organisations around Thailand.

My team’s project was responsible ecotourism and marine conservation in Phuket.  My amazing Thai teammate was Wimalin Chalermporn, known to everyone as Fha.  Our host organisation was Openmind Projects (OMP).  You can still see all our coverage of the two weeks, and the huge number of voting hits we received, at the official competition website. The competition – whichever team gets the most total combined rating votes for all blog posts, wins $5000 for the host organisation.

So how did we win?  Continue reading

Help promote ecotourism in Thailand

Are you a supporter of ecotourism, and responsible volunteer tourism?  Do you want to help protect and preserve marine national parks

I’ve been selected to help the Tourism Authority of Thailand promote these types of activities in Phuket, and I could really do with your help.

I’m working with a great team at Openmind Projects, and together with my Thai team mate Wimalin (Fha), we are trying to help them win $5000.  We’re doing many things, and focusing on the amazing work the Park Rangers are doing to protect and preserve the marine national parks.

Please help out this great organisation by following the steps below. Continue reading