How to choose a reputable volunteering program and really make a difference

The rise in millenial volunteering programs has been rapid in recent years, as has the profile of international development as a discipline. Many young people are becoming more aware of the impact they can help to drive change - for the lives of others, for the environment and for wildlife. Mainstream media and social media are both vehicles for drawing attention to communities in crisis, or perhaps areas under environmental threat. These factors have contributed to create a robust volunteer travel industry, with many options ranging from short tours helping specific regions, to broader educational programs that teach methodologies around sustainable practice, management and logistics crucial to drive progression and economic growth. 

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The question of how these visitors from more developed nations should engage with the less developed world is an incredibly complex one. One that requires perspective from both sides.

If you are scrolling the web looking for a constructive experience - both for yourself and for a community -  what things should you be aware of when considering an overseas ‘service learning’ tour?

 

Make sure it’s a two-way street

Too often we focus on the material concerns in a community project. What we will give or what we will build. The focus of a constructive tour should be to ensure participants improve their knowledge of the world through a shared experience with a community. A a participant you should be encouraged to learn new skills from your hosts as well as sharing some of your home culture. Adventure education is a two-way street.

 

Respect the locals

You want to make sure that the local communities you are visiting are treated well, and that the project will benefit them in the long term. Some volunteer organisations run repetitive tours to villages or orphanages where their presence - and coming and going - can be very unsettling and confusing for young local children. It is important that the organisation you travel with have multi-year plans in place to provide support, that local community leaders have been involved in the creation of these, and that constant dialogue is in place to assess effectiveness and any negative impacts that might arise. At the end of the day this type of travel is about helping first and foremost. 

 

Gain key skills to make you a more valuable contributor

Even though as a participant you may lack the skills of tradesmen, you can help on projects of the communities with whom you work. Keep an eye out for programs that offer a range of skill based learning within the program itself - this can range from basic building skills such as laying foundations and concrete, to needs assessment of local communities, logistics training in developing world situations, and other such essential experience that will stand you in good stead to not only complete your tour with great effectiveness but also have gained key skills for the future.

 

Learn about the place you are going to

Through your ‘service learning’ program, you should be encouraged to learn about particular issues faced by the countries to which you travel. Many programs such as the International Educator Program from Pure Exploration incorporate and introduction to each region as the tour progresses, so you have an understanding of what local people are dealing with on a daily basis, what cultural nuances affect how they live, what the economic or political environment is like. The more you learn the more you can understand of the developing world, as well as (hopefully) breaking down assumptions or prejudices about the people these issues affect. This will in turn affect how you communicate with locals and hopefully become more effective at helping them.

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There’s no such thing as a short term project

Participants visit for only a short time so the work you do must be driven by the community to ensure it will be beneficial in the long term. Working hand in hand with local development organisations should be high priority for the program you choose, this relationship will help ensure any projects completed are worthwhile and future focused.

 

Making a difference

As a participant in a service program, you should feel proud of your input into these enduring developmental projects, a key cog in the wheel to drive change. Always keep this in mind when choosing your program - is this organisation looking to drive long-term change in a region, and would I be proud to be part of that? 

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Along with numerous other global adventure travel programs, Pure Exploration have a fantastic 12 week global International Expeditions Program that helps participants build confidence in their global travelling skills, their ability to plan, develop and execute effective community engagement projects, environmental service and volunteer programs, and ready to tackle any new venture they may be planning. 

If you'd like to check out the detailed trip itinerary for the International Educator Program, pop in your details below!

 


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2020-09-02

Exactly one year ago today, a group of 10 strangers embarked on a journey they'll never forget! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ While currently separated over 3 different continents, some of the group still live together, some have reunion plans on hold, some are glad to never, ever, see a long drop again, and others are living that rad van life! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We caught up with program Alumni, Summar, to get her take one year on...

2020-08-11

Over the weekend New Zealand did a thing! 👏👏 One step closer to the return of adventure travel!

2020-07-07

Our Outdoor Instructor Training & Industry Experience is the true zero to hero program, for those with the determination, drive and aptitude to explore, grow and succeed! It is an accelerated, practical immersion program, which offers a unique pathway from training to employment in the outdoor industry. It offers an unparalleled combination of training, qualifications and mentored transition from practitioner, to leader, and then to instructor, with quality industry experience. Pure Exploration Director, Zach Johnston, gives us the inside scoop on the Outdoor Instructor Program! Watch to find out more...

2020-06-08

Such a great day and milestone for New Zealand, our home. An early and tough lockdown meant we now have zero cases and life from midnight tonight is set to look almost normal! We look forward to welcoming you into our bubble soon, as other countries begin their own recovery. 🎉🎉

2020-04-16

We're excited to announce that our Outdoor Essentials online program is now underway! Thanks for all of the support so far, we're pretty pumped to get back in the classroom even if that means indoors! If you're interested in one of our courses, talk to us today! We'd love to hear from you. https://www.pureexploration.nz/online-adventure-training-programs/

2020-04-09

Start preparing for the good times ahead with our Online Adventure Training Programs! Study in your own time with one of our 4 - 8 week programs taught by NZOIA qualified Hiking and Rock Climbing Instructors. Program Topics; 1. Outdoor Essentials 2. Global Citizenship 3. Mindset & Resilience 4. Jungle & Altitude #stayhome but #staylearning and lock in your core skills today! Visit our website for more details: https://www.pureexploration.nz/online-adventure-training-programs/

2020-04-06

2021 ASPIRING OUTDOOR LEADER SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS HAVE NOW CLOSED!⠀ Our team is going to have a hard time choosing a winner among all the amazing applicants!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ But if you missed the deadline no need to worry because we’ve got you covered with some sweet early bird deals for our 2021 programs! Or if you are craving adventure right now, sign up for one of our BRAND NEW ONLINE PROGRAMS. See our website for details.

2020-02-23

Caroline McQuistan has touched down in New Zealand for the Adventure Guide Progam based in Queenstown. Over the next few weeks we will follow the crew with Caroline's updates as they begin their technical climbing and hiking modules and explore our beautiful corner of the world! Learn more about this program here https://hubs.ly/H0n7k1C0

2020-02-21

It's officially the end of an era as we say goodbye to our Sales Account Manager and original member of the Pure Exploration team, Kerie Stewart. Kerie has been a part of the Pure Ex fam since day one, joining the team in the pursuit of setting up a company which was committed to teaching eager participants the skills required to become successful Adventure Guide's here in Queenstown, NZ whilst undertaking some epic missions along the way! Kerie, we'll all miss you immensely but we're looking forward to catching you up the mountain or by the lake for a drink. We're sure our pool of graduates will join us in wishing you the best of luck with your future ventures and thank you for everything you've done to make Pure Exploration the place it is today!

2020-02-14

We are proud to work alongside the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust and are thrilled that our students get to work alongside, and learn from, their deeply passionate and driven team! This excellent charity is committed to helping grow and plant native species within the Wakatipu Basin and would hugely benefit from receiving funding from 2020 Crux/The Hills Charity Gold Day. If you have a spare few minutes please take the time to click on the below and place your vote. 🌲🌲🌲

2020-02-01

We think the biggest benefit of travel is the feeling of reinvigoration and inspiration you feel from surrounding yourself with new things. Shake away the dust, move those limbs, challenge the mind. Our Adventure Guide Programs are an epic way for people to get a foot in the door to a hiking or climbing guiding career, or the perfect option for those looking for a comprehensive course that helps them gain 100% confidence to navigate, hike, climb, guide and survive in the outdoors. This year our scholarships will offer deserving people the chance to join us on one of our Adventure Guide Program intakes in 2021, based in New Zealand and Patagonia. With more than NZ$200,000 in financial aid available, we are super excited to get some motivated and deserving individuals on our programs that are keen to grab this chance to challenge themselves and grow their leadership skills. We are offering one full scholarship worth NZ$13,975 to a deserving individual who embodies the enthusiasm we have for exploring the outdoors, who demonstrates leadership among their peers, and someone understands the importance of looking after our environment as we enter a new decade with heightened ecological challenges. We will also be offering several Partial Scholarships to people who are keen followers of our story. They will be outdoor lovers who are keen to use hiking and climbing as a way to challenge themselves, who understand the impact experiential travel can have in positive change. Applications close 31st March 2020, so don’t miss out! Learn more here: https://hubs.ly/H0mRsmK0