Hello everybody, I am happy to be here today. What I want to share with you a concept that I call Charity Travel. It’s actually very simple: the idea is to combine exciting traveling with simply doing something good.
Together with my girlfriend Yeon I set out on a yearlong journey (October 09 til October 10) to 30 countries to demonstrate this concept. We were able to support over forty projects like orphanages, streetkids projects, ecological initiatives, refugees, migrant workers, and in the process we created an amazing network of likeminded people around the world. Today, I hope to explain to you how it works and why this is a good way to go.
First, our Vision statement:
“A world in which social networks empower people to follow their inclination to do something good without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. A world in which charitable work is exciting and effective at the same time. A world in which expertise and knowledge of all kind is shared among the neediest communities everywhere. A world in which young people find professionals responsive to their idealist intentions so that they are sensitized themselves, do a good job and have a rewarding experience.”
So, how to get started?
You need to find a trustworthy, deserving project. Let’s use the Internet. There are many platforms profiling organizations, but they are often – only virtual. And all kinds of people can sign up on those platforms. I saw a lot of commercial and abusive accounts, and you won’t want to rely on that when traveling abroad. Of course a website doesn’t have the resources to visit all the initiatives themselves.
WHO DOES? Travelers! And they are very well connected too, through hospitality websites (free homestay exchange) like couchsurfing with 2 million members and over 99% positive feedback. It is a no-brainer that we should put that to use when we are connecting goodness.
You simply look for a member using keywords like volunteer, ngo, charity, orphanage, find a bunch of people, scrutinize their profiles and references and contact them.
So, once you have your project, what can you do to support it?
You can do more than you think with your western education. Just make sure you behave responsibly and discuss things with the local people. You can teach, translate, build, paint, cook, set up an internet connection, organize a library, and so on.
We have been organizing fun children workshops. We did this with kids in Cambodia, Laos, India, Kenya, Malaysia. We could always apply in the next place what we had learned before.
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.
Don’t worry, this is not gonna make you poor. 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 start up initiatives, you better donate goods you buy locally or bring with you from home.
We like to donate things like a sewing machine, a tricycle, tools, paint, stationary, library books, bags of cement, window frames, buckets, bricks, board, iron sheets…
But you can also donate something that you get for free: knowledge and ideas. You bring them from back home or from the other projects you visit.
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.
Keep in mind: you can give more than you think.
But it doesn’t stop there.
For already established ngo’s it doesn’t harm to have some extra connections.
But for the really small organizations, connections can be vital. 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.
What we need is not a new website, we just need to use the established websites effectively.
Only networking is not enough. We advise you to keep a travel blog as well. If you use the right keywords, it will be found and read by people who take your story as their example.
So, Charity Travel is about independent doing-simply-something-good-out-there. It is exciting and it is a humanly rewarding experience. It is also very effective if you make smart use of social networks in order to identify your deserving projects, and reflect upon what you can do in terms of 1) volunteering, 2) donating, 3) networking.
Thank you very much for your attention.