Erin of GoErinGo.com fame is a woman on a mission when it comes to travelling with a conscience. All the more reason we said, to ask her for a First Friday Wild Post! Having recently visited Uganda Erin has an awesome experience to share, plus a few handy tips on volunteering. If that’s what really floats your boat you can always check out our voluntours, or head off on one of our overland expeditions as we’ve got heaps of ways that will help you to give a little of yourself back to Africa. But for now, over to you Erin, and a Big Five thanks =)
Adventure Philanthropists are a budding community of travelers that are looking for a deeper level of engagement with the countries and people we’re visiting. To do this, we Adventure Philanthropists spend a portion of our time while traveling volunteering with local communities.
An Enhanced Travel Experience: The great thing about volunteering abroad is that it actually enhances our overseas experience by:
· Helping us develop a deeper understanding of the issues we care about
· Meeting other individuals who share our interests
· Knowing that our time and talents are being used to help others
For instance, while I was in East Africa several years ago, I volunteered with an organization in Uganda. Their mission is to support the needs of and protect women and children affected by domestic violence and physical abuse.
The two-day volunteer experience turned out to be one of the highlights of my seven-week trip to the region because I:
· Met the founder, and her family. They invited me into their home for lunch and were expert guides showing me the bustling town of Tororo. We are still friends today.
· Developed a greater understanding of the abuse suffered by women and girls in East Africa generally and Uganda in particular. I now realize the lack of resources available for victims and the limited recourse within the state court and healthcare systems. Community support for the women is also in short supply.
· Traveled to Tororo, which wasn’t on my original itinerary. Tororo is a medium-sized town on the Uganda-Kenya border. It took me an entire day of planes, buses, taxis to get there and I barely made it before the border closed for the night.
How to Volunteer while Traveling: There are several ways to volunteer while you’re on the road:
1) Choose a tour company that provides voluntours. This not only simplifies the logistics of finding a nonprofit organization, but also helps to know that the local nonprofit is a legitimate organization with quality standards of care and service.
2) Look for volunteer opportunities that are advertised. One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new city is head to a café to get my bearings and read a local paper to see what’s going on. You’ll be surprised how many volunteer gigs are advertised, particularly for travelers wishing to help students learn English.
3) Do some research before leaving home. There are a plethora of websites offering volunteering experience abroad. A simple online search will provide you with an array of choices.We can all be Adventure Philanthropists!
I invite you to become an Adventure Philanthropist on your next trip to Africa. All you need is a desire to help the communities you’re visiting and an awareness of all you have to offer. I promise, your travel adventures will never be the same again!
Erin Michelson is a social entrepreneur and world traveler. The original Adventure Philanthropist, Erin has embarked on a 2-year global giving adventure called Erin Goes Global. Starting in Fiji on New Year’s Day 2011, Erin Michelson is traveling to more than 70 counties and all 7 continents during 2011-2012. Along the way, Erin will be volunteering with global non-profit organizations, including building wells in Uganda and tutoring young girls in Bangladeshi boat villages. She’s donated $25,000 and is holding monthly polls to see which worthy global nonprofits receive the grants. You can follow Erin’s living and giving adventures at GoErinGo.com.