GoVoluntouring - from Vancouver to all corners of the world

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Credit - Globe Aware. Cambodia

All travellers have great stories, and we’ve heard some great ones. But how about snorkeling to protect reefs in the Bahamas, saving sea turtles in El Salvador, restoring ancient Christian frescoes in Italy, supporting lion rehabilitation or saving monkeys in Africa, and uncovering the mysteries of the Angkor Empire?

These are just a few (amazing, awe-inspiring, one-of-a-kind)  stories you hear from local company GoVoluntouring who has created a new travel concept that has really resonated with travellers from around the globe.

The concept is simple: Pick your own adventure, do some good in the world and gain some amazing travel experiences. CEO Aaron Smith simply calls it the ‘EHarmony of the volunteer travel space’. Read more about our chat with him to learn more about GoVoluntouring.

What is GoVoluntouring and what travel experience does it offer?

GoVoluntouring, is an online community for volunteers, overseas teachers and learners abroad. It offers travellers a forum to match projects to their own unique needs and interests by way of search filters that draw from a huge database of vetted projects and programmes in 100+ countries around the world. Additionally, it facilitates crowd-funding, to help volunteers manage some of the hard costs in travelling abroad.

What inspired you to conceptualize GoVoluntouring?

It was by way of recognizing a need for more ‘on-the-ground’ help, and by feeling the benefits (personally) of a deeper travel experience. I spent time in Costa Rica with my father, we built a portion of a home for a single mom and her kids. It was an amazing bonding experience, and possibly the best trip of my life. What I recognized however, was that some volunteers weren’t prepared for the hard work, the climate, and the cultural differences. Because of that, they didn’t finish their terms. It was then that I felt there needed to be a better way of managing expectations. The solution was a model that could match people to projects based on age appropriateness, fitness level, destination, project type, duration, all with the goal being an ‘E-harmony (of sorts) for the volunteer travel space’.

What is the most unique program available at GoVoluntouring?

Personally, I like projects that touch on local empowerment while staying true to the principals of environmental stewardship. At the same time, I want a ‘holiday alternative’ that is culturally rich and in a beautiful part of the world. There are many that fit this bill, but one that I am especially fond of is a solar-power install project in Nicaragua. Here volunteers are helping fund and install solar power services in off-grid communities near Grenada, a beautiful colonial city in the southern portion of the country. In under one week, participants help communities off their reliance on diesel generators, while encouraging greater use of electricity, in turn improving health, wellness, education and productivity. You can find this program here.

What is the most popular type of programs at GoVoluntouring?

Wildlife Conservation projects, such as Rescue Centres (either related to illegal trafficking, poaching, or rehabilitation), Elephant and Dolphin Conservation projects, or working with Sea Turtle hatchery’s are by far and away the most popular program types.

What are the things someone should consider when choosing a program?

Understand why you are leaning towards volunteering abroad. Is it because you are looking for a ‘holiday alternative’, to deepen your skill set, to enhance your resume, or to give back. Also, be prepared for challenges. Things are not always as convenient and comfortable in the developing world. A good philosophy to live by when travelling, is that ‘things are never any better, never any worse, they are just different’.

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Crystal Kwon Crystal Kwon is the Life Editor of Vancity Buzz and is at the helm of lifestyle content including travel, beauty, fashion, events and whatever else she fancies. Crystal also pens a weekly article in The Province. crystal[at]vancitybuzz[dot]com
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