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