The tourism scene in Nigeria is still evolving so it won’t come as a surprise if Nigerians consider Voluntourism new.
A lot of foreigners come to Africa as voluntourists because it is a fast-growing trend. But even in Nigeria, we have a few people who engage in this tourism.
For example, Tourmate by Ada the explorer held a Voluntourism event on the 28th of October, Row for Makoko, to mark their one-year anniversary in the tourism industry. They received donations in form of cash, toys, clothes, sanitary towels, food, shoes, etc. for the community.
So what is voluntourism?
It is the combination of tourism with volunteer work. This is when tourists use their vacation to do a community project in an area other than where they live.
The term originated in the 90s when people partnered with charity organisations going to disadvantaged-communities to take on projects. These trips are not free; often the volunteer has to pay to be a part of it either by the contribution of funds or handling their travel costs on their own like flight fares.
Voluntourism activities include construction projects, painting buildings, teaching, providing medical aid, beach cleanup, cooking for a rehabilitation centre, lending your voice to any women empowerment cause, etc. While it is easy to donate to these causes from the comfort of one’s home, voluntourists delight in sightseeing the community they are impacting for themselves. Voluntourism is an admirable way to spend your money and time during a vacation if you enjoy travelling. You end up leaving with some sense of fulfilment and satisfaction you have touched at least one life.
However, there are sometimes downsides to this venture; like scam companies who just make money off the voluntourism industry by not executing the project or embarking on poorly executed projects. Sometimes, the challenge comes from the voluntourists being inexperienced in the activity they sign up for with organisations. But that shouldn’t deter you from exploring this tourism.
How to become a voluntourist?
- Have the right mindset – You are not a messiah going to fix issues that existed long before your visit within your two weeks vacation. See yourself as a visitor going to that community for a mutual exchange. A social impact travel trip is one that allows the traveler to be served by the community and in return contributes to the economy of the place. Be ready to empower those in the community more equipped than you to handle the projects in their community and pay for the services rendered by the locality like tours, feeding, fun activities, etc.
- Choose the right organisation – Before committing to any organisation with a voluntourism package, research the company and the mission of the project properly. Ensure they reinvest the proceeds in the community and the project is beneficial to the community. E.g. the Kids Beach Garden clean up project organised by Social Prefect. Be sure the cause is best suited to a skill you possess otherwise, just send the travel cash to the organisation and rest.
- Enjoy your stay – Don’t get so caught up in the cause that you forget to enjoy the vicinity you are visiting. Have a meaningful and memorable connection with the people in the town. This you can well when you give your skill and time to ventures in that community. Go on adventures like water sports or hiking if the scenery encourages it. Go on city tours, visit their museum, find ways to immerse yourself in that community.
Next time you are on vacation, consider hitting the road to save the world!