It’s been a while since I wrote about a volunteer organization on the business side of the volunteering equation. The for-profit volunteer industry is one of the main engines driving our global increase in volunteer travel. These are travel companies that provide a vital service for communities in need while they offer great travel and volunteering adventures to their customers. The links between tourism and volunteering continue to blur as itineraries increasingly include volunteering stints amidst sightseeing and outdoor adventure. Often volunteering opportunities are half-time and include room and board, permitting a much more long-term vacation than would otherwise be possible.
I hope that eventually, we will all feel responsible for the places we visit. Rather than simply visiting a place for a few weeks to enjoy its beauty, we will all feel the need to give back. We owe the world a little of our time and attention, especially when we also get to experience the luxury and majesty of a place. Going on vacation is an incredible privilege. Most people alive today will never get on a plane. They will never have two weeks off to swim, play and explore, spending money on delicious dinners and souvenirs for friends back home. These are the privileges of the global 1%. The more tourists who make the switch from vacation to volunteer, the more progress we make. I think it often starts small and grows until travelers fall firmly on the volunteering side of the tourism-volunteer spectrum. GeoVisions specializes in these travelers.
GeoVisions was founded in 2001 to help connect volunteer travelers with sustainable projects in a variety of countries. They work closely with their volunteers to match goals with experience. They offer a wide range of programs and many of them include opportunities for earning room and board to support longer stays overseas. For example, volunteers can work in Vietnam for 15 hours each week in exchange for room and board and can spend the rest of their time exploring and traveling. GeoVisions also offer some paid positions, including a one-year paid position teaching in Thailand.
They are focused both on the volunteer and on the work/teach abroad traveler. I think this is a particularly accessible organization for the first-time volunteer because they are so focused on the details. They’ve been around long enough to have solid connections to their overseas projects. They carefully plan volunteers’ itineraries and are available in-country to help with any problems that arise. As an organization, they are “young enough to know what’s needed in the twenty-first century, and old enough to have learned what’s not needed.” They’ve got a great blog where volunteers can learn more about real volunteer experiences.