Angel Bernal Robles is a business professional who enjoys traveling with his family and immersing himself in new cultures. As a frequent volunteer, Angel Bernal Robles discusses below the act of volunteering while traveling.
Volunteer tourism, also known as voluntourism, goes beyond the traditional concept of travel by allowing individuals to make a meaningful difference in the world while exploring new destinations. This unique form of travel not only immerses the individual within a new culture, but also offers personal growth, skill acquisition, and even health benefits, making it a truly transformative experience for both the volunteers and the communities they serve.
Angel Bernal Robles Provides a Few Examples
Volunteer tourism is when one or more volunteers travel to a destination specifically to volunteer for a short time. These individuals may also combine their volunteering with traditional tourism activities.
Examples of voluntourism include:
- Teaching one’s native language or another subject at schools or community centers
- Construction projects
- Environmental conservation projects, like beach cleanups or sustainable farming
- Assisting in orphanages or childcare centers
- Disaster relief efforts
- Community development initiatives
- Social welfare programs
- Cultural exchange programs
The Elements of Voluntourism
Angel Bernal Robles says that just like traditional forms of volunteering, voluntourism includes the elements of contributing, fulfillment, and connection, but it also provides a host of other aspects that broaden the experience.
Contributing to a Host Country
For years, travel and tourism have played a significant role in economies across the globe. However, in many countries such as Thailand, Mexico, and China, much of the tourism income seems to bypass the local workers, flowing directly to those at the top. Angel Bernal Robles explains that the blue-collar workers who host, feed, and assist the tourists rarely experience a large positive change in their own lives or communities, even during the busy season.
When a person opts for volunteer tourism instead, they leave behind more than cash for the bill – they leave behind a lasting contribution, forge new connections, and create a positive impact. Whether they’re teaching their native language or helping to build a new community structure, their decision to volunteer abroad has the power to touch and transform lives, both in the present and the future.
Angel Bernal Robles says that this type of volunteering could occur within one’s home country, but it’s best associated with volunteering abroad. For those who are curious or adventurous and want to travel in a sustainable, positive, and influential way, consider a new location to donate valuable time in.
Volunteer tourism allows one to actively engage with a new community by participating in meaningful projects. Many of these positions facilitate homestays, shared accommodations, or communal living arrangements that also bring one closer to natives from the area.
Angel Bernal Robles reports that volunteers can interact with locals and learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life. These opportunities allow volunteers to develop an intimate understanding of cultural nuances, values, and challenges.
The Benefits of Volunteer Tourism
Apart from the positive impact on the host community, volunteer tourism packs in many additional benefits for the volunteers themselves.
Cultural Knowledge and Appreciation
Angel Bernal Robles says that getting stuck in tourist traps makes for decent photos but subpar cultural experiences. Instead of blending in with the crowd, break free through voluntourism to learn more about the culture and day-to-day of a host country.
From learning a new language to using common gestures and appropriate body language, immersing oneself in a new locale will create sensitivity and an appreciation for things one would otherwise overlook between sights.
These interactions create a genuine respect for the host country and its inhabitants, and they can also reinforce a volunteer’s appreciation of their own culture and home.
Volunteer tourism will not only mix volunteers with locals but different volunteers from varying backgrounds and origins. By working together as a team, volunteers are presented with an excellent opportunity to form long-lasting friendships. This creates the ultimate mixing pot to create personal and professional connections for time to come.
The professional benefits of these connections don’t stop abroad; a study by the Corporation of National and Community Service found that on the job front, someone who volunteered was 27% more likely to be hired than someone with no volunteer experience!
Acquiring or Refining Skills
Angel Bernal Robles notes that volunteering abroad can help someone acquire or refine various skills that are highly sought-after on the job market. These include:
• Teamwork and team-building skills
• Management skills
• Language skills
• Effective communication
• Adaptability and thinking on one’s feet
• Cultural competency
Angel Bernal Roble reports that instead of booking an all-inclusive stay through an agency, voluntourism pushes an individual to structure their traveling in a meaningful and thoughtful way. Travel choices will depend on the person’s interests and available projects, and travel plans may be flexible or change depending on the needs at the destination.
Various scientific studies have shown that volunteering has a strong correlation with positive health outcomes. Plan the next trip with a helpful project in mind to experience:
- Enhanced mental well-being
- Higher levels of happiness
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower stress levels
- Increased physical activity
- A longer lifespan
Voluntourism has the potential to create meaningful and impactful experiences for both volunteers and local communities. However, it is crucial to approach voluntourism with mindfulness, responsibility, and a genuine desire to make a sustainable difference.
By critically evaluating the programs, engaging in respectful partnerships, prioritizing community needs, and embracing long-term commitments, we can ensure that voluntourism becomes a force for positive change.
We should all strive for ethical and sustainable voluntourism practices that empower communities, foster cultural exchange, and leave a lasting legacy of compassion and understanding. Together, we can create a world where voluntourism serves as a powerful tool for building bridges, fostering mutual growth, and creating a brighter future for all.