Around the World in a Helpful Way - Inspiration
Help others as you travel the globe.
Help others as you travel the globe.
If you have the gift of the gab and your grammar isn’t too shabby, then become an English tutor to the children of the indigenous Black Hmong tribe as part of an eight-day trekking journey through the rolling hills of Lao Cai province in northern Vietnam. The region is home to some of the country’s most diverse and fascinating ethnic minority groups, most of whom still maintain a traditional agricultural way of life. So after you’ve helped village teachers with English lesson plans and the children with their reading for the day, you can look forward to a steaming bowl of the freshest rice and vegetables in the land. On your days off, explore the villages in the area: Sapa is 1,600m above sea level and boasts imposing views over the Muong Hoa valley, so the scenery can’t be beaten. At the weekend there’s time to haggle for everything from rice wine to handicrafts at the market, where locals don formal blue robes for the occasion.
Rest and relaxation The trip starts and ends in Hanoi, so make time before or after to explore the treasures of the ancient city: the detailed carvings in the Temple of Literature hark back to the area’s Chinese heritage, while the fading colonial architecture in the old French Quarter is home to some of the best baguettes in town. The capital is also a prime departure point for a few days’ cruising through the limestone peaks of Unesco-protected Halong Bay.
Lovers of the cute and cuddly beware – you’ll want to take these fluffy lion cubs home after spending a week nursing them at a South African private game reserve. Located between Port Elizabeth and Victorian-era Grahamstown on the country’s central coast, the reserve is home to lions and elephants, which volunteers will care for with the help of park rangers. If you love the outdoors you won’t be disappointed, as days are spent clearing the bush, tending to animals at the rehabilitation centre, and most rewardingly, even releasing some lions and elephants back into the wild. The volunteer schedule is designed to be flexible, so if in the afternoon you fancy a potter around the local towns or a match on the lodge tennis court, we promise the animals won’t mind.
Rest and relaxation Afterwards, use your convenient location by Port Elizabeth to travel the Garden Route, a picturesque part of the South African coast teeming with green shrubbery, marine reserves and coral reefs. Stop at Jeffreys Bay for a spot of sun and the faultless beach, then off to Cape Town for a look around Kirstenbosch national gardens and a visit to Nelson Mandela’s former prison on Robben Island.
Prepare to muck about in the mud: in La Esperenza, Honduras, that is, as you work to build or renovate homes for the indigenous minority families who live there. You’ll spend several hours a day participating in all aspects of construction, such as painting and decorating and moulding bricks, by squishing huge lumps of mud and straw together in vats using your feet, then shaping them into slabs for the new homes. There is also free time to explore the dramatic western highlands where La Esperenza is located, weaving your way through the steeply planted corn plots and banana trees. rush up on your Spanish with the locals in preparation for the bustling Sunday market, where you can feast on fresh tamalitos (steamed corn wraps filled with meat or cheese) and the region’s superb coffee. Spend your afternoons resting weary muscles in the natural hot springs: every ache is well worth it when you realise that thanks to you, another Honduran family has a place to call home.
Rest and relaxation A week in the mud deserves a good wash-up: visit Lago de Yojoa, Honduras’s biggest lake and volcanic crater, for swimming, boating or fishing. Move west towards the Guatemalan border and the ruins of Copán, a collection of more than 4,000 ancient Mayan carved structures and wondrous architecture.
You’ll have nothing but little smiling faces to greet you as you take your first steps as a big brother or sister to orphans in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Volunteers can spend two weeks in one of the villages scattered across the rugged landscape, mentoring children aged two and up in everything from maths homework to after-school sports activities. Walk the youngsters to school, and on the way join in on a chorus of a favourite song. While the kids are busy learning, you’ll get involved with the day-to-day running of the children’s home, including cooking, gardening and assisting in medical check-ups. In the afternoons, when the children dash back, supervise as they practice sewing and paper-making. Helping them out might just mean that you also walk away with a new talent yourself. Rest and relaxation The Kathmandu Valley has been inhabited since around 300BC, so there is plenty to please even the biggest history buff. Ancient stupas, palaces and temples dot the area and the capital, and there are Unesco World Heritage sites ripe for exploration. Or lace up your boots and get hiking – the area has some of the world’s best high-altitude treks and the cosiest teahouses.
The great British beach is a national treasure, bringing joy to the old and young, the sporty and the sun-worshipping alike. Help ensure they stay spic and span by taking part in a Cornish or Devonshire coastal clean-up scheme. Volunteers can take their pick of various environmental programmes throughout the West Country: beach bums can assist with clearing the coast of rubbish, mud-lovers can lend a hand restoring reed beds on Bodmin Moor, and the green-fingered can get stuck into overgrown rhododendrons on Lundy Island. All the projects aim to maintain the balance of local ecosystems and to ensure struggling plant species make their way in the world. There’s plenty of time in the evenings to enjoy the scenery and blissful quiet of these habitats, and with the gentle whistle of the wind outside your lodging – and an enthusiastic day’s cleaning behind you – you’ll never sleep so well. Volunteering close to home is the ultimate in satisfying working holidays, as you can enjoy the fruits of your labour long after the work is finished.
Rest and relaxation Afterwards, spend a few days soaking up the charm of the Cornish seaside with an ice cream in hand at St Ives, or head to the dramatic stone archway of Devon’s Thurlestone Sands beach. Flowery meadows around the region’s moors and marshes provide settings for lazy picnics, while Lundy Island is a haven for the sporty – try climbing or canoeing.
Save the whales and dolphins one flipper at a time by living and working onboard a 21-metre sailing boat in the Ligurian Sea off the Italian Riviera. Here in the Cetacean Sanctuary – a joint venture created by the French and Italian governments to protect the population of the massive mammals in both countries’ waters – volunteers track the movement of these animals to aid their longterm survival. Volunteers are asked to tally information about the large-fin, sperm and pilot whales they spot, as well as bottlenose, Risso’s and striped dolphins. There’s also the chance to take turns listening in on enchanting dolphin songs on the underwater hydrophone. Would-be sea captains will relish the chance to learn the basics of sailing, including boat-keeping and navigation. And at the end of a long day at sea, there’s the promise of a spectacular Mediterranean sunset.
Rest and relaxation The boat embarks from the Italian port city of San Remo, where you could spend a few days before or after the trip exploring the vibrant restaurant scene or trying your luck at the casino. San Remo is a convenient jumping off point for other destinations along the Italian Riviera of Flowers – so named due to its mild climate and flourishing flora – or the nearby French border. Baking in the sun, just 150km across the sea, is Corsica, while bustling Genoa is only a short jog east along the coast.
Calling all amateur archaeologists – the Cochapata Incan ruins in south-central Peru need tending to, and international volunteers can take part in the initiative. Working closely with professional researchers and the Peruvian National Culture Institute, those taking part will be put to work preserving and re-building ancient Incan walls, terracing systems and roads. Portions of the week-long programme are also spent mapping the ruins and helping out on community projects with the local indigenous people in Patamba. Volunteers are also housed with local families in the village, so be prepared to muck in with harvesting crops, feeding chickens or washing up. Book your trip to coincide with one of the weeks when an overnight trekking trip takes place to seek out new ruins – the excitement of a potential big discovery is unbeatable.
Rest and relaxation Thirsty for more ruins? Huyro is only a stone’s throw from Machu Picchu, the jewel in the crown of Peru’s collection of ancient architecture. The only way to visit it is via the Inca Trail. Afterwards, take a rest in Cusco where you can mingle with the Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incan people and visit the wealth of museums and ancient buildings.
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