Voluntourism, creating family memories.

Voluntourism is one of the new reasons for travel. As an Australian we are some of the most affluent people in the world. There is little wonder we seek out a higher purpose or the desperate desire to do some good. Regardless of whether it makes you look good or you feel less spoilt by doing so in my opinion any volunteering is valued. Read on to ensure you understand the negative side to organised volunteering and how to avoid creating a negative effect.

What is voluntourism?

Voluntourism is a type of travel in which travellers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity.

At its core, voluntourism is the desire to help. The industry is worth billions of dollars and unfortunately run in countries where the money is desperately needed for survival. Ensuring you carefully research the companies offering volunteering programs and ensuring they are not using the funds for large admin costs but for creating good is the key to a successful adventure.

Types of volunteering.

Many programs will have strict restrictions re age of children and length of stay. For many programs, the explanation and sharing of information of how to conduct daily tasks is great and the various leaders need to ensure they are not over loaded by constantly training up new people.

There are environmental programs, animal welfare programs and welfare and care packaging for people. I would suggest as a family you consider what it is you hope to get out of a volunteer program as the first question. Once you have an idea of the goal you can go back and find a program to suit your family.

Questions to ask for selecting a program.

Is the organisation’s work sustainable?

Don’t take the organisations word for it, check various websites and even ask questions in forums. Make sure you are working with a reputable company.

What support is provided during the program?

You most definitely do not want to put your family in a remote or destitute area without the necessary support if something goes wrong.

What kind of skills do you need before applying?

What skill sets do they assume you already have or are prepared to do.

What kind of training is provided for you to complete your tasks?

There are dreadful stories of organisations getting volunteers to build a building but locals come in at the end of the day and redo their work. The volunteer money is worth so much it is worth doing twice.

What have previous attendees had to say about the program?

What are the feedback and comments from people who have already completed the program.

Do we work as a team or alone?

Will we work with locals or only other volunteers? What language skills do we need if you are alone?

Are there any safety concerns?

As a family your role as a parent is to ensure your children are safe from harm and disease so you need to ensure you are not putting them in any danger. 

What are the accommodation arrangements?

There may need to bring sleeping bags or cushions. Kids are fairly adaptable but you don’t want a week of no sleep as a result of careless planning.

Volunteerism to solve the world’s problems

As a mother, the one reason I will engage my family in any volunteer program is simply the power of giving. We volunteer at home and we will volunteer once our littlest is old enough abroad. I want them to understand how fortunate and lucky they are to have all that they have. We may not have everything but we have an abundance of a great number of things. We have opportunity. If volunteering cannot teach them simply that, I am not sure how else to expose them to the wrongs of the world where we have so much and others have so little.

The UN as an organisation would have to be one of the world’s leading aid and welfare organisations. They recognise the power of the volunteer at all stages. They recognise the power of people helping abroad and at home. If a leader sees the opportunity there will be followers. Voluntourism has the power to solve some complex and broad issues simply through exposure and education of an experience. Click here for more information on UN Volunteering.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2015)

Firsthand experience tends to grab people and continue a relationship beyond the volunteering activity. People often help for years and donate money for a long period of time.

Next time you book a resort perhaps give some thought to volunteer programs nearby and what you could do to help whilst you are in the area. We have the power to make changes and yes small changes do make a difference.

Family Volunteer opportunities

Please use the links below to find some family appropriate and styled programs to help you find one that fits your next travel intinerary.

International Volunteer Headquarters

Projects Abroad


Responsible Travel 


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