Writing about voluntour organizations all around the world means exploring inspiring projects conceived by inspiring people. It forces me to remember that making the world a better place is a process and that everyone, no matter how experienced or educated or motivated, can step up and change lives. Whilst reading AFAR, my favorite experiential travel magazine, I stumbled upon a voluntour organization that really got my attention: Elevate Destinations.
There are several things that set Elevate Destinations apart. First, they have a deep commitment to eco-friendly traveling, from accommodations to transportation. While many voluntour organizations incorporate sustainability and green-friendliness into their projects, I don’t often see it as a travel focus. This is understandable—running an international aid organization is costly and complex and the attention is on the projects themselves—but focusing on how volunteers get where they’re going and the impact of their travel on the environment means having a positive impact from start to finish.
Second, Elevate Destinations encourages volunteers to canvas their friends and families before the trip, involving their communities in fundraising to contribute to the larger effort. I think that often organizations worry about losing business by involving travelers in the behind-the-scenes money gathering that is so critical for an effective aid project. I think this open and honest approach treats volunteers like aid workers, rather than treating them like tourists.
Third, Elevate Destinations’ Haiti voluntours focus on providing education for displaced children as part of the long-term recovery and rebuilding effort in the region. The schools, like the rest of Elevate Destinations’ projects, incorporate eco-friendly and sustainable infrastructures while the curriculum is focused on environmental education. ED also offers camps to teach children about Haiti’s natural resources, and leadership training to prepare children to be activists in their own communities.
I have a deep attachment to Haiti—I traveled there as a young girl—and I have a deep respect for aid projects with staying power. So often we leap from one disaster to another, providing aid for a short time. This makes sense—the world is a big place and disasters happen all too often—but to leave a region only minimally rebuilt is to doom the population to a lifetime of struggle and heartache as they work for years and years just to get back to baseline, with little hope for progress or betterment. Elevate Destinations has that golden combination—consistency, education, rebuilding, and environmental protection—that makes a voluntour opportunity great.