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VOLUNTOURISM – saving the world while travelling?

What you should know before you volunteer.

Travelling and spending a few days working for a social or environmental project at the destination. More and more tour operators offer such holidays. But how, when and where does it make sense to volunteer while on holiday? Naturfriends International – respect and ECPAT Austria produced a short video in which they take a closer look at the most common clichés and misconceptions regarding Voluntourism. 

On holiday, you do not only want to go sightseeing but also take a look behind the scenes and help to improve living conditions for the local people? However, before you go and try to save the world while travelling, you should consider how, when and where it makes sense to volunteer. In order to provide useful help at the destination, you need time, adequate knowledge and special skills - as well as the right partner to organise your stay. It might be a trend to go on short volunteering trips for only for a few days, but those offers most often do more harm than good.

Appropriate alternatives
If a meaningful volunteer option is not feasible, being sensible during your holidays can also help sustainable development and the fight against poverty. Stay at privately owned and/or certified accommodations, try to find local suppliers, use environmentally friendly transportation and enjoy regional food. That way you can get to know your destination better and get in touch with the local people much easier.

Last but not least, consider our climate: Is it worth it to fly to a far away nature conservation project and only stay for a few days? Long-distance flights can cause more environmental damage than you could offset with volunteering for the project. And: There are plenty of social or environmental projects back at home, who would be happy about more volunteers.

The new video by Naturefriends International – respect and ECPAT Austria takes a closer look at the most common clichés and misconceptions regarding Voluntourism. The video is available in German, with English and French subtitles and can be found here: 

The production of this video was supported by WeltWegWeiser ( and  the Austrian Ecolabel (
Cornelia Kühhas
Naturefriends International, Public relations 
Tel.: +43 (0)1 89 23 877-41