We are promoting a concept/movement rather than an organization. You can join us simply by incorporating the idea of “charity travel” in your own journey. In the near future, we will plan a professional tour to empower the poorest communities on this planet with portable techniques and knowledge, but that’s another story.
Here we give you some useful guidelines for successful charity traveling.
0. Be motivated
Everybody has their own motivation to go make the world a better place. This motivation can be instigated by a person, a book, a movie, an article, personal loss, or a travel experience. We have compiled a list of resources that have inspired us in the course of our journey. Of course, we hope you are a little bit inspired by our journey as well. Also, visit our partner initiative joiningthedots.org since they focus on this important aspect.
1. Find the right projects
Use online platforms that profile charitable organizations. Bear in mind that smaller organizations might benefit more from your visit because they will benefit from the publicity you can generate for them. To start, sign up for couchsurfing.org, (or hospitalityclub.org, or bewelcome.org).
Use their “keyword search” to find members that are involved with charitable projects/ngo’s. We use keywords such as: “charity volunteer volunteering ngo environment orphanage street children”
Also become a member of platforms like
www.kindmankind.net (Our very own platform made after Charity Travel)
www.betterplace.org (Berlin-based, has a referencing system/network of trust)
www.idealist.org (American. They are working on a vouching system)
www.causes.com (high tech, facebook-related)
www.wiserearth.org (huge directory, awkward browsing, no referencing)
www.wwoof.org (well-known platform for “willing workers on farms”)
www.beex.org (fascinating social networking initiative)
www.helpx.net (cultural exchange for working holiday, sign-up fee)
www.couchsurfing.org/group.html?gid=9949 (rural couchsurfing in the developing world)
http://andyou.jnj.com/ (&you™, fascinating new platform)
It is essential that you use a platform that has a working system of references/testimonials to generate a network of trust. Feel free to use another platform, and please do suggest it to us. Also, you could browse the projects that we worked with, they are generally open towards volunteers/contributors. If you still don’t feel like you could find a project, don’t hesitate to sign up with the Global Volunteers Network, our lean partner organization offering volunteering packages at very competitive prizes.
Knowing all this, you should be able to find a relevant, deserving, and efficient project.
2. Decide what you want to do
Yes you can! You can teach, translate, build, paint, cook, clean up, sew, make music, repair, dig a well, set up an Internet connection, organize a library, ghostwrite, drive, write, knit, make manure, install a solar panel, introduce rainwater catchment, play with children, make theater, sing, dance, lay bricks, make a bio gas tank, pickle, sensitize people on child abuse, women’s rights, HIV and other issues, teach how to make handicrafts, help someone setting up a micro business, and so on. Browse the Charity Travel projects for examples.
Make sure you behave responsibly and discuss things with the local people whose guest you are.
Even without “professional experience” you often have more resources than you realize or can prove, but once you learn how to use them you can make a valuable contribution. There are many smaller ngo’s (where the decision makers are actually on the ground!) that value this.
You can donate in cash or in kind. If an organization has a convincing program, such as a scholarship program or income generation, then you can simply donate your money, or the money you raised back home, to that program. In other cases, where you work with small startup initiatives, you better donate goods you buy locally or bring with you from home. Examples of things to donate are a sewing machine, a tricycle, tools, paint, stationary, library books, computers, solar panels, clothes, mobile phones, building materials.
But you can also donate something that you get for free: knowledge and ideas. For example, the best practice how to start a small library project at a rural school, how to grow low-maintenance crops on dry soil, or how to do effective HIV sensitizing in a slum, and so on. Bear in mind that donating expertise and ideas can often make a sustainable difference.
For already established ngo’s it doesn’t harm to have some extra connections. But for the really small organizations you support, connections can be vital. Once they are given a chance to present themselves, they will often do a much better job, distinguishing themselves from the scams.
Travelers – even if they don’t want to invest much time or any money – can make a small detour, and visit projects and write references and recommendations for them, thus connecting them to the world.
Only networking is not enough. We advise you to keep an up-to-date travelblog as well. If you use the right keywords, it will be found by others and read by people who take your story as their example. Also make sure to share your audience with other bloggers by exchanging links.
3. Prepare your journey
If you have a limited time frame, it is better to plan your journey. Here is a list of typical preparation steps:
– Booking tickets. Try to avoid flying if possible. If you need to, a round-the-world ticket is an affordable option, and can be booked through STA travel or any other agency. Also consider carbon-offsetting.
– Contacting couchsurfers/organizations in advance. Sometimes it is better to plan ahead at least a month. However, you can also be spontaneous and contact your project on short notice once you are in the country.
– Visa issues. Some countries require you to issue a visa in your country of residence. In our case, India did. Other countries don’t issue visas at the border. For a comprehensive overview of EU visa requirements, see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_visa_lists. Americans can use travel.state.gov.
– Vaccinations. I went to a German doctor specialized in travel medicine. For information on specific countries, browse http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.aspx
– Store your stuff if you don’t keep your apartment. There are plenty of selfstorage companies. Alternatively, you can organize a charity auction of course.
– Pack your bags. We suggest you travel very lightly: only one medium-sized 8 kg backpack is enough. It is accepted as carry-on luggage. Make sure it has a rain pouch. The contents, apart from clothes and hygiene stuff:
- netbook. Any brand would do, however look for the longest battery life. Don’t forget universal adaptors (US, UK, OZ, EU);
- miniprojector. A nifty gadget that allows you to show movies on a large surface, ideal to entertain children in rural areas. We use the tiny samsung mpb200;
- travel medicine. Mosquito repellent, disinfectant, aspirin, plasters, broad-spectrum antibiotics, (Imodium in case of sudden diarrhea), (malaria pills), painkillers (aspirin). Read about toothache relief. Don’t forget international vaccination pass. Use a transparent bag for medications if you fly;
- mobile phone+charger. For international SIM-cards see http://www.onesimcard.com/ or any other provider;
- camera. A handheld camera suffices for us. Don’t forget charger and spare battery;
- light sleeping bag (1.2kg) – just in case. You can buy blankets and warm sweaters along the way and donate them to someone living on the street before flying out ;
- personal cards with your email and blog addresses, to hand out en route. Easy to order online;
- t-shirt with your own logo. Most photocopying shops can print t-shirts from a PDF file;
- plenty of pens and paper – believe us.
– Keep your valuables safe. Best get a strong wallet and sew a strap to it that attaches it to your belt, hidden under your pants. It is invisible and some extra cash (US-dollar or euro) can really save the day.
Once you are on the road, your perspective will change and the new cultural context will give you wings.
To cut down the cost of traveling, we suggest the following:
- go couchsurfing, of course, read their Newschannel-article on budget-traveling;
- hitchhiking. use hitchwiki.org for basic information and the best spots;
- use one of the many ride sharing-platforms if you don’t feel like thumbing;
- buy food in local stores, not in expensive tourist areas;
- read the blogs of experienced travellers such as our affiliate bloggers;
If you are supporting a special project, please let us know so that we can showcase it on our website.
We wish you GOOD travels!