The idea of traveling to another country and offering your assistance to an underserved community may be exactly what you’d like to do on your next vacation. But before you take off and offer your goodwill, there are some things you should think about.
Why travel across the globe to offer your service?
Ask yourself: why do I want to travel so far away to help others? Perhaps what you are looking for, in addition to giving, is the opportunity to create a relationship with people whose language you may not speak but whose culture you are very interested in learning from. Many people who travel overseas to volunteer find that the time they spend with their host families is the most rewarding. Many volunteer organizations set up fantastic work projects but are sorely lacking in providing opportunities for true cultural interaction. You could find yourself living in a hotel and working all day with little to no communication with the locals.
Crooked Trails believes that what people really want is the best of both worlds. They want to give back and make a difference in the lives of the people they are visiting, but they also want the chance to interact with the community as well. In our programs, the service project provides a means of communication with villagers, so that your days are spent working with the community, not for them. That is why the “homestay” is the integral part of the CT experience.
What are the true needs of the community?
On many of our trips, the service project is staying with the local people who have worked hard to develop a community-based experience for you to learn about their culture firsthand. Just being in the community is one of the greatest benefits you can offer; you will eat their food, stay in their accommodations, purchase their handicrafts and allow them to be your guides. Your stay gives locals the opportunity to be the tour operator, and as representatives of their culture you will meet them on their own terms. This may not be the bricks and mortar volunteer experience you originally envisioned, but it is just as valuable. It’s called Community-based Tourism; the idea is that the community decides where they would like your support.
Remember that you are there for the experience; to enjoy what the locals have to share and to offer your assistance in whatever way you can. That may be just to sit down, share a laugh and enjoy the hot tea set before you.
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