By Fridah Mlemwa
The two most common things that happen during the December holidays, is one, lots of traveling, and second, it is the time when most people are most generous.
One of the top travel trends of 2019 according to a report by World Tourism Organization(UNWTO),is that most travelers are traveling ‘to change’, live like a local, in a quest for authenticity and transformation.
Volunteerism has actually made me.
It is in this line of thinking that some people choose to travel to volunteer. Giving their time, skills, and energy to an issue or cause to help make a difference in communities around the world as part of their vacation package. Which is popularly known as voluntourism.
While there are those that travel for the sole purpose of volunteering and everything else is a bonus.
“For me voluntourism is not what I would qualify as volunteering, however I know that it has the benefits, for example when we have our friends coming over to visit our tourism sites or you know, so within the process, they want to take some time and support a community project here, a community project there, which is good, but I also want to believe that this can be done in a much more better way, in a much more organized way and gradually again we are realising that some tour companies are organizing themselves in a way that when these tourists come, they also want to allow them time to volunteer.
As a volunteer champion I would clearly tell someone, if you want to come for holiday, if you want to come for safari, just specifically come and do your tour in whichever way you please because we still welcome everyone who wants to come to our country, we still welcome any of our friends who are coming to our continent. But when you want also make sure that you are contributing, then find a best way that would make an impact of your contribution, find the best way you can do it in a more sustainable manner,” said Fredrick Sadia with over 20 years of volunteering and now part of management of the volunteering fraternity in Kenya, said it is important to note the difference
Are African’s really keen on volunteering?The difference between traveling as a tourist and volunteer can be clear cut sometimes. Like the case of Faroe Island when it recently made headlines when it closed to tourists for maintainance but called for volunteers to help it rebuild. According to its website volunteers from 95 countries worldwide including Africans are taking part in the restoration of the north Atlantic nation.
2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report by UN volunteers says that there are 12.1 million full time volunteers in Africa.
“Volunteering in Africa is ripe within the formal sector as much as within the informal sector. So yes, there has been a lot of volunteer work and people are rising, I would tell you not necessarily the ordinary citizens but even the governments working towards assuring that volunteerism is one cross cutting means of implementation that is appreciated across board. For example, in Kenya, we’ve worked on a national volunteering policy which appreciate the efforts made by individual volunteers as well as organizations. And even at the moment we are working on a legislation that is going to anchor efforts that we want to make as a nation in the constitution. In Africa specifically we have countries that have taken a lead step for example we have in Togo, We have in Sierra Leone where they have a network there, something is happening in Malawi, something is initiated in Mozambique, we have volunteer initiatives in South Africa,” said the secretary and national coordinator, volunteer involving organizations society, Fredrick Sadia.
What is the impact of volunteering?
A 2017 Doing Good is Good for you study found that volunteering improves mood, lowers stress and builds self eteem, I would say so does travel. According to go oversees organization more than half the number of people who volunteer abroad have also volunteered in their home country.
Fredrick said that measuring impact can be tricky, saying“There is an attempt we made as Kenya, to determine the contribution of volunteering to the economy. A baseline survey that was conducted comissioned by the ministry and the findings were up to almost 3.5 percent is what the volunteers or the volunteering efforts in Kenya are contributing to the GDP. So whether you want to look at it from the social sector, political sector, the economic sector, volunteerism still fits in. And we are working very closely with a team of researchers globally who are looking at, what would be the best template that we can come up with to help map the contribution of volunteers.
Volunteerism has actually made me.I am a product of committing to serve communities. But what it has done in my life is to be abe to understand really, the need within communities and how, we can together work to achieve best solutions to respond to these challenges. So as an individual you see that it has given me the leverage to be really to understand what is happening around the world, it has also made me visit and travel across the world, and it has also helped me be able to learn how to appreciate the troubles or the challenges that each of us from across this world are facing.”
Volunteering or voluntourism, whatever your cup of tea is. I say go out there and do some good this december. Happy holidays.@fmlemwa