CAA Manitoba Fall 2018 | Page 23

Maasai guide in Kenya Travel SmarTS Do-GooD Getaways how your volunteer vacation can make the biggest impact by britney hope From building hospitals in Kenya to caring for injured Thai elephants, volunteering is a popular practice for those looking to give back while get- ting away. But you don’t have to lay bricks to make a positive impact. Today’s voluntourism follows the mantra that real, positive change starts with meaningful cultural immersion. Hiring local guides or purchasing arti- sanal handicrafts over factory-made souvenirs supports local communities and boosts economies. “Many of our itineraries include visits to women’s empowerment projects,” says Cris David, president of Lion World Travel, which specializes in tours throughout Africa. “A safari can be even more fulfilling when you also have the opportunity to interact with the community.” Guests on safari with Lion World Travel can choose to stay with its char- itable partner, ME to WE, at Bogani Cottages and Tented Camp in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Guests can participate in volunteer-based and cultural expe- riences like collecting water from the Mara River or attending a traditional beading workshop with women from the nearby village. “Visitors are involved in community development in a sustainable way by fostering an understanding of the locals and how they live,” David says. “In turn, the community sees ME to WE as an asset to their future—and travellers are part of that.” Although the charity’s program focuses more on encouraging cul- tural appreciation than the act of volunteering itself, the effect is no less significant: 50 percent of ME to WE’s net profits are donated back to the community. This idea of furthering a region’s growth by contributing to its income-earning opportunities— while perhaps less physically satisfying than hard labour—allows travellers to enjoy their vacation while still feeling good about their global footprint. “Tourism has the potential to be one of the world’s greatest vehicles for wealth distribution,” says Joanne Fillion, G Adventures’ global pur- pose specialist for Manitoba and Saskatchewan. “It’s all about making people aware of sustainable travel.” As a company that works to strengthen social development and economic welfare wherever it offers tours, G Adventures believes that making positive change in the world is as easy as teaching travellers to spend their money more effectively. “A lot of responsible tourism is about supporting local businesses,” Fillion says, adding that the brand’s tours often feature “G Adventures for Good”—responsible travel activities managed by Planeterra Foundation, its non-profit partner. When touring India, for example, guests get an airport transfer from Women on Wheels, a service that employs drivers from low-income neighbourhoods. Those travelling to Peru’s Sacred Valley dine at the women-run Parwa Community Restaurant, which provides much- needed income to the region’s residents. Another alternative, Local Living Tours, allows guests to immerse themselves in destinations like the Amazon jungle and rural Mongolia while staying with enterprising families. “By travelling with us, guests are contributing to local economies,” Fillion says. “Giving back doesn’t have to mean building a school. It’s about impacting the communities you visit in different ways.” cAA MANITOBA FAll 2018 23