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Doing Good, But Not Continuously

Cindy Loose

Ever thought you'd like to do some voluntourism -- volunteering on your travel vacation -- but don't have a strong enough back to, say, build houses under a hot sun? Or maybe you'd like your vacation to be meaningful and you'd like to see something outside tourist areas, but still want it to be a vacation.

Collette Vacations might have the answer that fits your style. The tour operator in August put $2 million into a foundation to help children at what will eventually be 20 projects around the world, and 150 of the company's employees have already volunteered to provide manpower to the projects.

If you, the traveler, choose a trip to a destination where a project is located, you'll be offered the option of a tour to the project.

For example, the foundation is helping an orphanage in Peru. You can visit and interact with the children. If you're moved to make some donation or start some project for the orphanage on your own, so much the better.

In Mexico, Collette is funding a math teacher for an impoverished school that can't afford one. You can visit the school, and maybe be among those who decide to help finance the longer-term goal of remodeling the kitchen and the health clinic.

I'm thinking this might be a popular idea -- whaddaya think?

By Cindy Loose |  September 5, 2007; 11:20 AM ET  | Category:  Cindy Loose
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I've come across a few other companies that do the same- GAP Adventures has a similar foundation and also does tours that include small volunteer components, as does the Imaginative Traveller.
There a probably lots of good reasons to be cynical about tourists jetting in for a few days of trail-clearing or school-visiting between visits to the beach, but it seems to me like a realistic and effective way for companies to become involved in the places where they make money and for tourists to get a different perspective on the places they visit.

Posted by: Tabitha | September 6, 2007 10:17 AM

Hey, thanks for those leads. I've also just heard that Grand Circle might have a similar program. Thinking maybe I should gather up info on more and do a closer look.

I agree that voluntourism in all its forms raises some questions. Like, wouldn't a poor child in the developing world be better off if you sent him money reflecting the cost of you flying there rather than you flying there and dropping off a few books? Then again, if you're going there anyway it's better to take books than not take books. And, there's no telling what you'll be inspired to do once you start. And, the people-to-people contact is worth something.

Posted by: cindy loose | September 6, 2007 11:07 AM

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