Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Volunteer Travel - A Raw Authentic Experience

Many people are looking for travel opportunities to become more involved with the community and to actually make an impact while they visit. Volunteer travel experiences open new doors for creating amazing experiences for visitors while benefiting the communities that they visit. 

Amanda Huculak, part of the CES team, also is the Co-Founder of Travel Roots, a socially responsible tour operator that designs unique adventures across the globe and is also involved with volunteer travel. She recently returned from leading a group volunteer adventure to the Maldives and this experience demonstrates that you don't need to have much to get started in volunteer travel opportunities. 

In this day and age it’s always a hard task to find untouched travel experiences… as a grassroots tour operator Travel Roots is always looking for those destinations or local partners that offer authentic experiences and something different from the usual travel adventure. Most of their partners are smaller grassroots businesses that really need the support of an outside organization in order to take their business to the next level and they are proud to support these types of initiatives. Using this approach they connected with Huvadhoo Aid, a not-for-profit located in southern Maldives in the Huvadhoo Atoll. They strive to bring peace, prosperity and progress to the local communities and they have opened their doors to accepting international volunteers to help with various community development projects. Sure there are some growing pains and a few hiccups along the way, but with continued organizational development and training there are a lot of great opportunities that lie ahead for Huvadhoo Aid’s volunteer program.
Amanda visited the organization’s home community of Hoadedhdhoo January 2015 and loved the concept of an authentic community-based experience in the Maldives. She then decided to recruit a group of volunteers from around the globe to participate in a 3 week volunteer excursion August 10 – 31, 2015. It ended up being quite an amazing and unique adventure. She was so happy to see the group of volunteers create such a strong bond and kept a very open mind during the trip despite a lot of changes in the itinerary and having to adapt to the local realities.
Upon arrival, they instantly had to adjust into the ‘island’ lifestyle which involved slowing things down – sometimes a little too slow :), changing your diet to mostly fish and rice, dealing with the elements like the heat, the rain, the bugs, and the marine creatures, and dealing with the Maldivians extremely laid back demeanour. A typical saying in the Maldives is ‘no problem… we can arrange…’ and ‘why not!’. They really try to go out of their way to give you the local experience.
Since there is no tourism on the island, everyone is treated like a local and some of her favourite moments were just walking around the community and getting to know the locals. Every day between 4 – 6pm the community would be out playing sports or hanging out at either the jetty or the football field. This is a great time to bond with locals, whether it’s playing volleyball, football, or bashi – a local women’s sport similar to tennis but played a little ‘backwards’.
In addition to experiencing life in the community they got a chance to explore the nearby uninhabited islands and went snorkelling, wakeboarding, fishing, and we even spent the night on an uninhabited island that was managed by Zakir, a kind Bangladesh man that was stationed there to be a guardian for the island and try to earn money to send home to his family. He was such an amazing man and made sure they were always well taken care of while they were on his island.
What made this trip so special, was that it attracted such an amazing group of individuals from around the world! Their wonderful spirit of volunteerism and a willingness to learn about a new lifestyle and culture was so beautiful to experience. So this experience proves that volunteer travel can be a rewarding experience if done responsibly. For advice on how to get involved with volunteer travel contact Amanda at 

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