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Don’t Just Volunteer, Fronteer!

Canadian Grizzly

Image source: Fronteering.com

Naturally, the voluntourism industry aims to serve the largest number of people possible. It’s kind of like politics: one party trying to appeal to the largest demographic by riding the middle. As the market grows, more and more organizations are providing streamlined, polished, non-threatening excursions that get people excited without frightening them. This is great because it means more people are deciding to travel and volunteer. But for adventurous volunteers who are looking for something less polished—something challenging, remote, and raw—these voluntours may not be a good fit. These travelers are the third party voters, people who like small organizations that don’t compromise on specific issues (like adventure). For them I suggest Fronteering, an exciting volunteering organization that brings travelers off the beaten path to experience isolated cultures in remote areas.

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Conservation Volunteering with the World Wildlife Fund

WWF Zebra Promotional Image

Image source: Osocio.org

When I was about nine years old, I decided to save the whales. I wrote up a petition and collected over 500 signatures from my neighbors (this was before the Internet, when 500 signatures meant a solid two weeks of canvassing). I sent my petition to my senator and got a hand-written response and an invitation to the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute to learn more about conservation. It was thrilling to feel like I’d done something to help the animals I loved the most, and to be recognized for my passion and desire to help. I’ve mentioned this project here before because it was the first time I ever stood up for something I believed in. It was the moment in my life when I realized that activism is possible for anyone, even for nine-year-old girls, and that every one of us needs to stand up for animals because they can’t stand up for themselves.

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Volunteer with Elephants at Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park

Resident Elephant at Elephant Nature Park

Image source: Phototracs.com

Elephants are some of the world’s most majestic creatures. They’re the largest living land animals on Earth. Known for their memory and intelligence, Elephants are a symbol of wisdom in Asian cultures. When I was a girl living in Kenya, I spent long days by the game preserve’s salt lick, watching the elephants interacting with each other and caring for their young. Once, three hyenas tried to attack one of the babies and the adults surrounded her in a giant circle, trumpeting their furious sounds and rearing up, thrashing their massive tusks in the air. The hyenas skulked back into the underbrush. The baby was safe. Elephants migrate over huge distances, through deserts, to find watering holes. The matriarchs teach the younger females how to find the water, where to find food, how far to march… elephants are some of the only animals besides humans that have culture. They have history. They have communities. They have no natural predators and yet, elephants all over the world are facing possible extinction.

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The Ripple Effect: Helping Children in Brazil with Brian Harley, Part Two

Brian Harley in Brazil

Image source: Brian Harley

Welcome to part two of our Ripple Effect interview with Brian Harley, a veteran and humanitarian who traveled to Salvador, Brazil to make a difference in children’s lives. His story illustrates the ripple effect of volunteering: how a volunteering experience can make a person better.

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The Ripple Effect: Helping Children in Brazil with Brian Harley, Part One

Brian Harley in Brazil

Image source: Brian Harley

Welcome back to our interview series, The Ripple Effect. The Ripple Effect explores the emotional impact of volunteer travel and its lasting effect on people’s lives. Today we’re speaking with Brian Harley, a veteran and humanitarian who traveled to Salvador, Brazil to make a difference in children’s lives. His story illustrates the transformative effect of volunteering: how it can shift a person’s perspective, changing him for the better. Please check back tomorrow for part two of our interview with Brian.

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