Meaningful Travel

The first time I heard about volunteer vacations was when I was a studying massage therapy. The student clinic’s part-time receptionist had gone to the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean to volunteer with a group that was working with sea turtles. She spent mornings and part of the afternoon with the sea turtles and the remaining time was hers. It was obvious when she described her experience that she had a great time. Soon thereafter, I saw books and came across websites about “volunteer vacations”. I started thinking that it would be a great way to see some areas and to give back. A good friend also pointed out that it would be very rewarding for me as well. Giving even more meaning to my travels ūüôā So I have decided that I will do that.

Now comes the research into organizations that: 1) I want to give my time to and ¬†2) those that would have me!¬†I have looked into some sites, though the planning of this is still in its infancy. I need to learn more about quality organizations, where to volunteer, types of volunteering I would like to do/be qualified for, etc. ¬†Below are some sites that I have learned a bit about. The one place that I really really really really want to volunteer at is the N/a’an ku se Foundation in Namibia,¬†Africa¬† I first read about it in a edition of Outpost magazine and I was immediately intrigued. They have wildlife and medical volunteer positions. No experience is necessary and you can volunteer anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. Their website has complete information about the foundation, volunteering and what to expect. I am wanting to go for the complete 3 months. I am so drawn to this place. Who wouldn’t be? They work with both people and animals. Although I don’t have an extensive medical background I do have a good understanding. Furthermore, I can get all my First Aid training while¬†completing¬†my continuing education for my work. Having that training would not hurt. So this is on my itinerary (pending they will take me). Wohoo!

Now I need to learn more about other volunteer opportunities. There are plenty out there along with websites/communities that show multiple organizations. Plenty offer room and board in exchange for working on (organic) farms, teaching, etc. Those are all great but I would like to work with girls and women. We are the greatest resource in the world but in many places, sadly, we are not treated equally or with the respect that every person deserves. Education is lacking in more than one sense of the word. Girls are not allowed to go to school or must stay home to care for others. Societally, many people think that girls/women do not need education. How much that needs to change. I would like to be able to volunteer so that I can learn more about life: my life, their life, the life of the world. I do not know what to expect and that is probably a good thing. Nothing like being taken by surprise I suppose. I recently learned about the Half the Sky Movement and I am intrigued. It is a book and now a foundation. I am trying to get a copy of the book from the public library so that I can read a bit more about them in addition to the webpage. If I like what I learn about them I will consider volunteering with them. I want to work with quality organizations and ones that resonate with me.

Now I am going to be honest. We all know volunteering is a great thing to and for a cause. I, however, had selfish reasons for wanting to volunteer. ¬†I though that I could do something helpful like picking produce on farms so that I could save money. Yep…free place to stay and some food in exchange for work. I am also sure that there are others out there with the same idea. It may not be a noble reason but the end result is the same, right? I still may try to do somethings like that with Help Exchange or WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). We’ll see. Though, I can say this for sure. Volunteering with organizations that resonate with me more (like N/a’an Ku se and/or similar to Half the Sky) my desire would be to help, learn and grow.

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