Lend a hand around the world

By | Travel
Playing with a baby elephant in Surin, Thailand. Credit@Olivia Lee

Volunteering worldwide today is becoming increasingly common for the modern traveller, integrating both adventure and goodwill. Stripping everything back to take time to connect and help with nature, communities and people around the world may be the ideal example of “putting something back”. From conservation work in Africa to teaching English in South America, there are opportunities for every type of traveller to lend a helping hand.

Meeting new people, helping local communities and experiencing something new, are all things that make volunteering the ultimate feel-good experience, in fields as diverse as conservation, teaching, sport, childcare or construction. Three unique and unusual examples involve coaching rugby in Fiji, caring for children in Southeast Asia and darting lions in South Africa.

Known for their rugby skills and some of the most imaginative play in the sport, the Fijians seem to be unneeded in terms of tuition. Located in the South Pacific Ocean, Fiji’s talent in rugby is incredible, with the national team competing and winning many rugby championships worldwide. Although the nation’s raw talent is undeniable, there is little coaching available at junior level, resulting in many children missing their chance to nurture their natural skills.

Volunteers praying with the children in the children's centre in Surin, Thailand. Credit@Ellie Bullock

Volunteers praying with the children in the children’s centre in Surin, Thailand. Credit@Ellie Bullock

Today, there are opportunities for volunteers to work with these junior children, teaching and coaching them in the nation’s most adored sport. Aged between six and fourteen, volunteers may pass on their knowledge of rules, fitness and tactics. Volunteers usually stay in Lautoka, the second largest town on the island, where they might indulge in classic Fijian pastimes, such as diving and swimming. As well as exploring the stunning island of Fiji, travellers will gain the ultimate price- to see local children improve and blossom.

Southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia and Thailand hold many conservation and childcare volunteering projects. In the east of Thailand is a secluded place in a province called Surin. Its nickname as “Elephant Village” encompasses two of the most common things to see in Surin – elephants and temples. Volunteering in an elephant sanctuary is a unique and interesting experience.

Volunteers riding elephants in Surin, Thailand. Credit@Gemma D'Souza

Volunteers riding elephants in Surin, Thailand. Credit@Gemma D’Souza

Living with local Thai families who speak little English, volunteers usually sleep on a bed, set up on the hard kitchen floor and spend the days chopping sugar canes to feed the elephants, scrubbing, brushing and even riding them to give them exercise. That might get a little hands on however lending a helping hand in Surin’s childcare centres offers something different. Volunteering in a childcare centre is a productive way to help the locals. Changing nappies, teaching English and playing outdoor games are appreciated by the locals and may be very rewarding for the volunteers.

Moving from Asia to Africa, volunteer work here is based around nature and animals. Located in the north east of South Africa, Kwa Madwala Game Reserve is a place to experience the diversity of conservation work. Tracking lions and hyenas on foot, releasing birds of prey or counting antelope populations from a microlight are a few examples of what game rangers do. As well as offering guided tours and safaris, the reserve also encourages volunteers to take part in protecting Africa’s incredible wildlife.

Conservation volunteer work in South Africa. Credit@Twin Work and Volunteer via flickr.com

Conservation volunteer work in South Africa. Credit@Twin Work and Volunteer via flickr.com

Volunteers engaging in this South African conservation project will usually stay at the former farmhouse, looking out over a small lake with resident hippos and crocodiles. The project is an exclusive opportunity, where volunteers may learn a variety of skills far from their everyday normality. Darting lions and rhinos for assessment to sleeping out in the bush under the stars are just a few examples.

With so many different volunteering opportunities across the globe, there is so much more to a holiday today then just “catching a tan”. Lending a helping volunteer hand may increase self-worth and confidence. However for the individual project, it might mean so much more, where the bigger picture is a meaningful, positive impact on the community.

Where in the world would you like to lend a helping hand?

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