I get a bunch of press releases sent to me, and 99% get ditched as they are not that interesting to me, but this piqued my interest! With a small family of my own the idea of using our holiday time to help others is appealing, and if the boys can learn about other people, cultures, and countries then it’s got to be a good thing!
‘Volunteering Journeys’ gives families a holiday with a difference
Volunteering Journeys has introduced a collection of family friendly volunteering holidays, perfect for groups with under 18s who want to enjoy an immersive experience of local life and culture in the destinations they visit.
Family trips are available in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand and South Africa and are planned with durations of one to three weeks, perfect for school holidays. The itineraries are suitable for all ages, including young children and have been designed so that there is easy access to the popular tourist sites to enjoy during free time in the evenings and weekends.
Volunteering Journeys offers two family programmes in South Africa – a conservation project and a community project. The community volunteering project is in Fobeni Village near the Kruger National Park, helping a local organisation with education, sports or women’s empowerment projects. The weekend is free to enjoy guided family camping trips in the Kruger National Park, looking for ‘Big Five’.
The conservation program is based in the Kruger National Park itself and suitable for families with children aged over 14. It is designed for groups with an adventurous spirit who want to gain a greater understanding of nature and the environment while experiencing the excitement of the bush. Volunteers drive a 4×4 vehicle, identify birds, plants and trees and learn how to track animals.
Families volunteering in India will be based in the beautiful and historic area of Fort Kochi in Kerala (South India). Projects include childcare, education, sports coaching and school renovations. Weekend travel is available to tea plantations or families can spend a relaxing few days on a traditional houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala. Projects are also available in Kolkata in West Bengal and volunteers can add on a trip to the Taj Mahal, Delhi and Jaipur after their project finishes in both locations.
Projects in Nepal include helping host families with farm work such as milking cows and planting crops, as well as volunteering in local schools teaching English or helping the local teachers run music and art classes. Spare time is spent hiking, enjoying city tours, visiting waterfalls and lakes, caving, paragliding, zip lining and mountain biking.
In Thailand, volunteers work in an elephant sanctuary caring for the majestic animals. The project is committed to responsible tourism and the welfare of the animals is paramount with no visitors allowed to ride the elephants.
In Sri Lanka, families work on a conservation project monitoring sea turtle activity and conserving the local nesting sites in the Kosgoda region. Volunteers dedicate much of their time to building the hatchery which allows rescued eggs to hatch safely away from predators, before being released into the sea at night-time.
Volunteering Journeys provides all transfers from the airport and within the destination, as well as accommodation. The company encourages real community living, so in Kerala (India) and South Africa volunteers will stay in a volunteer house and in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Kolkata (India) accommodation is provided in home stays. In Thailand volunteers stay on site at the project to get a real experience of life at the elephant sanctuary. Meals are always provided and are generally local food and most accommodation offer free WiFi.
All of the programmes are recommended by Responsible Travel and are also approved as residential trips for the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, meaning teenagers over the age of 16 can use their holiday experience to count towards their award.
Ridhi Patel, founder of Volunteering Journeys, is committed to making the experience as worthwhile as possible for both communities and volunteers. Each trip will build on what a previous group achieves, making a real and tangible change for the community. Similarly, she believes that volunteers will get the most out of programmes by learning about and developing a real awareness of the local people and the community they live in.
Ridhi explains what families can expect from the trips she organises: “Volunteering holidays give families the best of both worlds – they spend time together experiencing the ‘must see’ sights of a destination at the same time as learning about the importance of responsible tourism and giving back to the communities they visit. Working together in this way strengthens family bonds as well as creating memories that will last a lifetime.”
Bob Macauley travelled to India to volunteer with his family on a trial project in February this year. He says: “It was the perfect balance – making a contribution as a family but still having time to relax. I was also impressed that at no point did anyone suggest that we were going to be changing the world in a week – I knew that we would be the ones most changed by the experience.”
Volunteering holidays cost from £499 per person (inclusive of accommodation, food and local transfers). For more information, see https://volunteeringjourneys.com