Volunteering/voluntourism/volunteering, however you refer to it, when undertaken correctly with well run programs provides a huge mechanism for change and huge benefits to areas in dire need of support and structure – truly the greatest form of ‘eco-tourism’!

Take a local school here in one of South Africa’s townships – generally massively underfunded, overcrowded and serious lacking in the resources available to deliver the quality of education much needed by its children to provide them with the tools to take charge of their future lives.

On the initiation of a volunteer program by this same school, not only does the school receive additional funding to provide its learners with books, learning materials, a safe environment and help with the long term development of its infrastructure, through the visit of volunteers, the school also receives keen, qualified and motivated people to help and enhance its day to day running – a real win/win scenario providing all round benefit.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Nelson Mandela

This model can be applied to each and every one of VWIs programs, be they based in the community or conservation – ie, a long term goal of sustainable development and change is in place with volunteers helping greatly to achieve these goals. This is a key part of our ethical beliefs and why we go to such great lengths to carefully select and vet all of our projects prior to offering them to potential volunteers.

Why though do people volunteer? The exact reasons vary greatly from person to person but common threads do remain – many volunteers have the belief that change can happen

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

and simply wish to play a part in this, benefit their chosen cause and in the process have the vacation of a lifetime amongst like minded, energised people! Indeed, many volunteers return home after their trips stating categorically that they feel they have “received much more than they have given” during the course of their stay. Generally though, it goes without saying that all volunteers are looking for a great vacation doing and being associated with something they really enjoy and will remember forever!

Whatever your reasons, the positive benefits of volunteering are far reaching and for the volunteer, as a bare minimum provide all who visit with memories and friends that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.