‘The rise of Voluntourism’ in Malawi and Swaziland

 

National Volunteer Week (1-7 June, 2012) is bringing into focus the increasing number of opportunities to volunteer through travel internationally, with approximately 1.6 million tourists combining travel and volunteering every year.

Volunteering was once mainly the realm of gap year students, however lodges in Malawi and Swaziland offer short-term volunteering projects, which can be built into a two-week holiday, which are becoming increasingly popular especially with families.

The legacy of successful ‘voluntourism’ in Malawi can be seen first-hand in the villages surrounding Luwawa Forest Lodge, which have benefitted from numerous sustainable tourism projects led by volunteers. Directly improving the livelihoods of these local communities, projects have included setting up a bakery, fishpond and chicken farm, as well as equipping Luwawa women with skills to produce and sell their own wine, honey, soap and peanut butter to generate an income allowing them to financially support their families. 

In Swaziland, the ‘All Out Africa’ foundation aims to engage people from around the world in volunteer projects to conserve Swaziland’s biodiversity and assist it’s orphaned and vulnerable children, the experience combines volunteering with visiting some of the region’s most exciting wildlife and cultural areas.

Volunteers can expect to participate in ‘hands on’ wildlife research with projects including carrying out ecological surveys, tracking reptiles and monitoring nests of threatened bird species such as vultures and marabou storks. Volunteers may also help teach and care for orphaned children, coach sports or build homes for needy families.

Being based in either the Lubombo Conservancy (including Hlane Royal National Park), where volunteers are sure to have regular big game sightings and enjoy game drives or the Ezulwini valley, where volunteers are immersed into community life in the cultural heart of Swaziland, a real exposure to life in this fascinating Kingdom is guaranteed all while contributing to an important long-term project.

At Ntchisi Forest Lodge in Malawi, projects are very community focused and include teaching members of their youth club English language and culture, IT skills, cooking, bicycle repair, sewing and how to apply for jobs.   To ensure long-term benefits for the region they also train parents and local teaching volunteers the skills to engage and educate children.