By WAHEEDA HARRIS
“Voluntourism” has become a popular buzzword for those travellers seeking a way to make a holiday memory more than just photos for the Facebook page. This trend has tapped into a national habit, as 12.5 million Canadians—more than a third of the population—regularly make time to volunteer.
Go Voluntouring, a Canadian company acquired by global travel agency Flight Centre in February 2012, has focused its efforts on a list of voluntourism possibilities for Canadians to seek opportunities to share their skills and knowledge and help others, while taking part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience themselves.
Although many voluntourism opportunities are fixated on far-flung parts of the planet such as South America, Asia or Africa, you can do some good in your own “backyard.” too.
Search the Go Voluntouring site with parameters such as region, program type, program duration, cost, age, fitness level and religious affiliation to find a volunteer vacation that resonates with you. It might be documenting porcupine, deer and bear with the Earthwatch Institute in Nova Scotia, working with CRIS to assist travellers with disabilities with hiking, paddling or cycling in BC or heading to Churchill, Manitoba, to aid Dr. Peter Kershaw and his team on collecting data on the influence of global warming on the Arctic.
Other ways to “voluntour”:
BikeHike Aventures, based in Vancouver, pairs adrenaline-pumping activities (biking, hiking, zip lining, white-water rafting) with volunteering time. (Read our interview with the founder of BikeHike Adventures.)
G Adventures, based in Toronto, organizes group, individual and family tours to destinations around the world with a volunteer portion and time set aside for experiences like an African wildlife safari or touring Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) places volunteers in weeklong jobs on organic farms in every province and territory of Canada.