As we approach the holidays, many people are in the spirit of giving, volunteering, and helping their community. As such, I figured it would be nice to outline some ways that you can give back while you travel. Whether you are interested in volunteering with an established organization or giving back through a local community effort, there is something on this list for you.
1. PACK EXTRA TOILETRIES
When I went to Cuba I was determined to give back, especially since I was going a month after Hurricane Irma hit. I didn’t know where to start, who to give, or what way I could give back, so I went to the dollar store and picked up some toothpaste, soap, deodorant, etc. and organized ziplock bags to hand out. Once I got there, I was able to give these ziplock bags out to those who needed it most. You can also do this with books, school supplies, and other toiletries and donate the supplies once you get there. This also leaves extra space in your luggage heading home, meaning you can fill it with souvenirs for friends, family, but most importantly… yourself.
During my time in Trinidad, I was interested in volunteering, but I didn’t know where to start. I found a list of schools and religious organizations and went around asking if they had any opportunities to help out. The first school I asked needed help, so it didn’t take much searching. If you’re not into searching for an opportunity, there are many organizations you can travel with to go on a service trip. Jelani Women is a great example of that! They are an organization that takes Black women on vacations with a purpose. This experience of their own gives underserved teenage girls the chance to go on an international trip of their own.
WWOOF is a worldwide movement linking volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences. As a volunteer, you live with a host family and help with their daily tasks and experience their life as a farmer. In exchange for your service, you stay with the host family for free. This is also a great way for someone looking to travel who doesn’t have much money or is on a tight budget. Experience the land, experience the life of a local, eat organically grown foods and become part of a sustainable, global community.
4. HIRE LOCALLY
If you’re on that, “listen sis, I’m just tryna go on my nice little Jamaican adventure, I’m not tryna do all that” vibe, I GET IT. It be like that sometimes. For you, my lovely philanthropist wanderer, I would suggesting participating in the local economy. How? Shop at local stores, hire local translators, local tour guides, and go on local excursions. Stay away from the big, corporate shows and figure out how you can support the land you flew hours to get to. Ask what the locals are getting into, what local bars they’re patrons of, and follow them. Trust me, you’ll enjoy yourself and you can feel good about your contribution.
5. FIGURE IT OUT
A lot of times, there is no set path to give back while traveling, so you have to create it on your own. The intention of serving others while abroad is great, but it is not enough. There needs to be more action. So, figure it out. The points above describe my experiences in Cuba and Trinidad. I had the intention, but no directed path, so I created my own path. This is my advice to you. Want to give back, but don’t know how…create a way. People are always looking for assistance, and your intention was the first step, now add just a little more effort and actually change lives. Google shit. Facebook shit. Figure shit out.
Have you ever volunteered while traveling? Where did you volunteer and what was your experience like? Ever wanted to volunteer but didn’t know where to start? Did this help at all? Let me know in the comments below