Bringing awareness to the benefits of service travel

Volunteer Travel

Journeys for Good: Cambodia airs on KQED-TV, San Francisco

December was a busy month here at Journeys for Good as we completed our half-hour program on the Cambodia trip we took with Globe Aware last year. Hope you enjoy the program and please let us know what you think.

Barbados Holidays with Heart

This post is contributed by

Most travel-lovers are likely to have a holiday in Barbados on their bucket lists – its fine white-sand beaches, delicious local food and delightful rum punch will wash your cares away (but be careful with that last one!).

Here’s the heart-felt twist: whether you’re a budget traveller, family, or five-star resort-er, one sure way to enrich your vacation is to really get to know the place – and yourself – by volunteering while you’re there. You’ll find a range of options to help out, so look for one that suits your personality and your travel plans.

In between shifts, you can always kick back with a cold drink on the beach. If you’re keen to explore the Caribbean island, there are plenty of themed tours ranging from adventure trips and ocean excursions to home and garden tours and cultural walk-and-talks.

Sea Turtle Watch

Turtles in Barbados

Barbados’s tourism infrastructure and population influxes can take their toll on local wildlife; enjoy some hands-on wildlife experience by helping make sure the island’s magical sea turtles are protected. As a volunteer, your job is to collect scientific data, interact with nesting females (without disturbing them, of course), investigate reports of turtle activity and answer turtle-hotline emergency calls.  Oh, and you may also get to rescue disoriented hatchlings and adult turtles. Both you and the turtle will have a story to tell!

Contact The Barbados Sea Turtle Project to learn more.

Help the Homeless

The Barbados Vagrant and Homeless Society is “taking homelessness and vagrancy by storm,” and they always need an extra hand or ten. Get in touch to see how you can contribute to their noble mission to provide food, clothing, shelter, and life skills programs to homeless fellow humans.

Service in Style

If you’re not up for slumming it in island hostels, book at the glittering Fairmont Royal Pavilion and ask about the “range of community services” they organize for guests who would like to give back… after asking the concierge to point you towards the best shopping, restaurants, and activities in Barbados. Now that’s service.

Help Beautiful Women Change the World

From October 13th to the 23rd, Bridgetown is hosting the Miss Humanity International Pageant, with the winner picked based on her contribution to fashion, education, entertainment and culture throughout the world. Read the gorgeous contestants’ resumes – they’re inspiring, and this do-gooder pageant needs volunteer ushers.

Of course, there’s always more ways to contribute: community development, women’s shelters, technology projects, wildlife preservation and more. Before you leave for your Barbados getaway, pick a volunteer project close to your heart and make your vacation a truly memorable one.

Image by jurvetson.


Hands Up Holidays – Luxury voluntourism

It may seem like a bit of an oxymoron — luxury voluntourism. The volunteer trips we have experienced would most certainly not qualify as luxury. Comfortable, safe? Yes. But luxurious? Um,no.  It certainly sounds intriguing and a great way to balance a desire to give back while also enjoying a luxury vacation.

Hands Up Holidays offers just that and is a unique hybrid in the volunteer travel industry. They combine tailor-made luxury travel experiences with philanthropic opportunities to interact with the local people of a destination in meaningful ways.  They have trips for singles, couples and families.  They also have a separate division for corporate incentive travel.

Recently, we had a chance to interview Hands Up founder Christopher Hill

 So first up — what makes Hands Up Holidays a “luxury” volunteer travel experience?

The main way our trips are luxury is the obvious way: in terms of accommodation. We focus on eco-luxury hotels, e.g. those luxury hotels that have high standards of environmental and social responsibility wherever possible.  Also, the fact that all our trips are tailor-made in order to ensure that the trip perfectly fits our clients’ requirements adds to the luxury feel.  Last, but not least, our personal, highly qualified guides for the sightseeing portion of the trip also make for a premium experience.

Could you tell us a little bit about how HandsUp got started?

My background was a degree in law and in finance, and after university I spent 6 years working in Corporate Finance here in London. I learned a lot of skills, but continually felt like there was more to life, and on a trip to South Africa in 2002 I found my calling! On that trip, I indulged in all the usual aspects of a luxury trip to Africa: incredible safari experiences, and enjoying all that gorgeous Cape Town and surrounds have to offer. But what was pivotal was the time I spent helping build a house for a family in Khayaletsha township, just outside Cape Town. This enriched the whole experience, as I got to interact meaningfully with the local people, gain insights into their lives, share stories, and also ,make a positive difference in their lives, tangibly, with a house they can call their own.  For me it was the perfect vacation: luxury hotels, amazing sights, and time to give back and go deeper. And I reasoned that I was not alone, that other people would like to travel this way, so I decided to leave my career and start up Hands Up Holidays to enable others to have similar experiences to me.


 How did you develop your mission?  

After South Africa, and leaving my job and deciding to set up a luxury voluntourism company, I spent the next 2.5 years travelling the world, building relationships with communities and local partners, before we were ready to launch in early 2006.

What are some of your signature trips?  Our most popular destinations are:

– India (sights such as Taj Mahal, Rajasthan, Kerala, combined with teaching or renovation work in the slums of Delhi)

– Costa Rica (sights such as Arenal vacation, nature reserves, gorgeous beaches, combined with wildlife conservation)

– South Africa (sights such as safari, Cape Town, Cape peninsula, winelands, combined with orphanage renovation)

– Belize (sights such as Mayan ruins, waterfalls, chocolate making, diving and snorkeling, combined with installing energy efficient stoves in the homes of those who can’t afford them)

– Guatemala (sights such as Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Tikal, combined with building a house for an impoverished family)

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I’m curious about how you build relationships within the communities you serve. Do you have guidelines for how that’s done or is it more of an organic case-by-case process?

It is more the latter, but the guiding principle is consultation, asking lots of questions, and never imposing what we think should be done.

Have you noticed any emerging trends in the voluntourism industry?

There is a trend for companies to get involved, either as part of an off-site meeting, an incentive trip, or as a dedicated team building event. For this we have opened a separate division Hands Up Incentives

South Africa 2

What do you imagine the future of voluntourism will look like?

I imagine it will be more “niched” in that there will be organizations specializing in a particular voluntourist, such as retirees, or particular type of volunteering, such as archeology.

What have been “the ripple effects” (or positive lasting effects) that have resulted both personally and in general?

I would say this varies with each client, and the most dramatic ripple effects would be cases where our clients have been so impacted by their voluntourism experience that they have relocated to live in that destination and give back on a permanent/long-term basis. This happens more with retirees, but has also happened with families.

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Journeys for Good: Cambodia – Voluntourism series for public television

Check out these images from our recent volunteer trip to Cambodia with Globe Aware.

Journeys for Good volunteer travels with generous spirits and ready hands to this Kingdom of Wonder. Building wheelchairs, teaching English and offering assistance, we bring our good will across the miles.  Our goals are not lofty, just to connect and to make life a bit better for these indomitable people who never allow their hardship to define them.

Jakera offers voluntourism in Venezuela

Jakera is an innovative hybrid voluntour provider, combining Spanish language immersion opportunities for students, along with adventure travel and volunteer projects.  Recently, we had a chance to interview Jakera’s founder, Chris Patterson.  Originally from Scotland, Chris fell in love with Venezuela and it was there that his dream for an innovative adventure volunteer travel company began. 

Could you tell me a little bit about how Jakera got started? How did you develop your mission?

I arrived in Venezuela in the mid 90’s by sailboat, having previously spent a number of years sailing the Carribean islands. I was eager to see the jungle and meet the indigenous peoples of South America that I had heard so much about, so I bought a trip to the Orinoco Delta with my last $200. I was fascinated with what I saw and the Warao people in particular and when I got back to the marina I told the story of my trip to the other sailors in the bar. To my delight they were equally fascinated and eager to go themselves at the earliest opportunity. The guide who took me was not available the following day to make another trip, so I ended up taking a group of French sailors there myself. I charged them the same as I had paid, paid for the lodge and transport and threw in a few cases of beer, and still had some dollars left over ! I had a fantastic time showing these newcomers what I had learned on my last trip and learned a hell of a lot more from our Warao boat driver and guides.  I realized that these Warao had a lot of knowledge, and that their ancient way of living harmoniously with their surroundings was something really special and worth showing to the world.

Jakera adventurers and volunteers


What are some of your signature trips?

That would have to be the ‘Travelling Classroom’. This program brings together everything we do, a full cultural immersion combining Spanish language tuition, real adventure travel delivered in an eco friendly way and community based volunteering. There is a huge interest and demand for volunteer projects but we feel that volunterism works best as a two way process – the Travelling Classroom is front loaded with Spanish language and adventure travel so students get a feel for where they are and understand the issues and context before they start volunteering. By the time the volunteer phase of the program starts, students are ready to ‘put something back’, and are more comfortable and able to interact with local people.

My favorite is a kayaking emersion deep into the Orinoco Delta with Warao guides. The key to this trip is we enter the Delta and see it from the view point of the locals, traveling slowly by kayak, foraging for food, making  shelter and surviving in this inhospitable jungle. It’s tough, but so is life for the Warao! We also hike to the top of the highest tepui in the Gran Sabana, MountRoraima, with local Pemon guides, learning about their unique and ancient culture along the way.



What kinds of volunteer experiences do your participants engage in?

We have a whole range of volunteer programs, ranging from working with underprivileged kids and poor communities to reforestation and reef conservation programs. They are all very hands on and we encourage students to give there ideas and input as much as possible. Many of our projects are participant inspired.

 Our house ‘Jakera Club’ is based in Playa Colorada. We built a community centre there a few years ago and now pack it with activities – for example, after school activities for local kids such as arts and crafts, sports etc, information sessions and activities for adults. We also have a tree nursery and are planting trees in the surrounding hillside to mitigate against landslides which have caused serious problems in the recent past. We also partner organisations such as Don Bosco (Street Kids project) and Imparque (National Parks). Lots to do!!


I’m curious about how you build relationships with the communities you serve. Do you have guidelines for how that’s done or is it more of an organic case-by-case process?

Organic is best – the most effective and enduring projects require engagement of local communities. It can take time for issues to surface and solutions to emerge. I guess the philosophy is about bringing people together – local people and our student volunteers – a dialogue based on sharing and exchanging. Removing ‘us and them’ distinctions!

It has been a very organic process from the start. We feel that it’s all about sharing experiences and achieving goals together. We try to involve as many locals as possible in our projects, to make them feel part of it and continue the work after we leave. It about sharing, building trust and making friendships.


 Have you noticed any emerging trends in the voluntourism industry? What do you imagine the future of voluntourism will look like?

I guess it becoming more and more popular. People these days want to do something good when they travel, get involved and really get to know the people in the country they are visiting, not just see the sights and take some pictures. If this trend continues it can only be positive for the host countries.

I also think – and hope! – that expectations are becoming more realistic. It’s a process and not an overnight one… A paternalistic approach is finally giving way to the realization that we – the volunteer – are getting as much out of the experience as the community we serve.  Voluntourism gives travelers the opportunity to get closer to people than ever before – this is a privilege and a responsibility.


What have been “the ripple effects” (or positive lasting effects) that have resulted from Jakera both personally and in general? 

We have a base in Playa Colorada, a little fishing village. Over the years we have become a very important part of that community, supporting the school, keeping the beaches and islands clean, hosting community meetings in the community centre that we built… our neighbours come to us on a regular bases now with ideas and requests, or asking for help or advice. I feel that we have a big responsibility now and it would be hard to leave or to move somewhere else.  That said,  I don’t want us to come across as too worthy. We’re having great fun – as we say in Venezuela – viva la vida!