Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC
“Imagine making a meaningful difference in the lives of others, while discovering amazing cultures, people and places!”
These are the words that greet you when you fire up the website of Wellington, New Zealand based Global Volunteer Network (GVN). That’s right; today’s spotlight on volunteering takes a unique perspective. What if you could combine your interest in traveling with your passion for volunteering? Well, that is just what GVN has done.
Founded in 2000 by Colin Salisbury after he volunteered in Ghana,West Africa, GVN has placed more than 14,000 individuals to about two dozen countries around the world. Although I couldn’t find a concrete answer on their website, it appears that most volunteer opportunities last for about a week or two.
I like this concept that many people refer to as voluntourism or humanitarian tourism. Having traveled to 30+ countries and lived in four, I have often seen how tourists to developing countries are perceived. “They come and open their wallets,” a restaurant owner in Brazil once shared with me, “but they don’t necessarily open their hearts to the local challenges that we face every day.”
A few years ago my friend Kim spent her vacation in New Orleans helping rebuild a community that was devastated by Katrina. She found the experience to be fun and really rewarding.
One of the program’s that I like most that GVN provides is their Youth Tour which gives 15-17 year olds the chance to explore a new part of the world while learning a life-long lesson of service. This year their trip is to Vietnam. Click here for more details.
A recent post on the New York Times blog by Heidi Mitchell focuses on Voluntourism. If you are considering your volunteer trip, I recommend checking her article out to familiarize yourself with GVN and other groups providing similar services.