You have probably heard that Madonna has been given Malawi’s High Court permission to adopt 4-year old Mercy James…I do not want to enter into the rights and wrongs of this now, and am certainly not emailing you about how to adopt a child, but want to give you the opportunity to make a real, meaningful difference in Malawi in a hands-on way through voluntourism.
Malawi is one of Africa’s hidden gems, and we offer two scheduled trips to Malawi, and can tailor-make a trip to your exact requirements.
All of our trips in Malawi enable you to have authentic interaction with the Malawian people through your volunteer adventure.
You can assist in a fulfilling way at a registered charity in villages around Lilongwe, with:
· Orphan and other vulnerable children care (OVC) – help feed children under six, as well as give them basic education. You can help cook for the children and serve them;
· Home Based Care (HBC) – our Volunteer Project partner takes care of patients and people living with AIDS. You can go into the communities and help care for the patients, such as cleaning their homes, fetching water, and generally making their lives easier;
· Community Development Construction – you can help build Community Child Care Centers (provided your stay coincides with the timing of building work);
· Other teaching opportunities at all levels, including academic level;
· Gardening, planting and maintaining vegetable gardens and trees;
· Maintenance and renovation in the school buildings and sometimes in the huts of elderly or vulnerable people who can’t do the repairs themselves.
For scheduled trips, we offer:
1. A luxury adventure (“Malawi Magic“) that counts that combines the volunteering with sailing on Lake Malawi, relaxing on gorgeous Likoma Island, exploring wildlife in Mvuu Wilderness Safari Lodge in Liwonde National Park, and canoeing in Mumbo Island.
You can read more about this inspiring luxury trip by clicking here.
2. A budget camping adventure (“Malawi, Parks and Falls“) that takes you to Zambia, where you can enjoy game drives in search of the ‘Big 5’ in Luanda National Park, be in awe of the Victoria Falls, and visit tribal textiles workshops.
You can read more about this enriching camping trip by clicking here.
As noted above, you can also tailor-make your own Adventure That Counts to meet your exact requirements – just reply back to me and I will be glad to be of assistance.
Today we left the city and headed to Tigre, a neighbouring city with a delta and myriad small islands, together with our volunteer project – a home for disabled females, run by Catholic nuns. Sister Maria is the sort of woman you would love to have as a grandmother, and the children are clearly well loved and looked after.
Sister Maria informed us that there are always things for volunteers to do, from helping the permanent caregivers with their daily tasks such as cleaning, meal preparation and serving, through to helping in the garden, taking the ladies on a picnic excursion to one of the islands, or, what I am hoping we can persuade a corporate to do for an incentive trip, is to fund the costs to finish the construction of a new building that has been sporadic over the last 4 years due to lack of funds. This new building will provide a lot more space for the ladies, and enable the sisters to care for more women.
An incentive trip here could be blended with fabulous sightseeing in B.A, and even include some relaxation time on an estancia a couple of hours away.
A new story from Canada’s Globe and Mail about luxury voluntourism. (for the full story: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081217.wvolunteer17/BNStory/specialTravel/home). I like it, especially as it refers to Hands Up Holidays!
“At the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, luxury is the order of the day. Here on Maui’s northwest shore, between two championship golf courses, most guests are lounging poolside reading Malcolm Gladwell or slowly sipping tropical cocktails.
But some of us are choosing to spend the day digging out weeds. It’s not even 9 a.m. and here I am, covered in bug spray and ready for a morning of weed-whacking at the nearby Maunalei Arboretum. The mission: to dig out non-native plants and gather native seeds for replanting to renew Hawaii’s largest private nature preserve.
“This is a very special place with some rare and endangered species,” says Megan Webster, stewardship coordinator of the Pu’u KuKui Watershed Preserve. “We have a crew of six people and we manage 8,000 acres.” And now, Ritz-Carlton guests can help too.
Welcome to the newest trend in luxury travel: upscale voluntourism. At a time when many travellers are choosing budget trips, guests at four- and five-star destinations are increasingly interested in worthy causes – from doing ecological work to rebuilding houses in New Orleans. And high-end hotels are responding, bringing carefully curated do-gooding into their guest offerings.
Though voluntourism began in the 1960s, it has broadened in popularity in the past decade; a recent survey suggested that more than three million Americans did some long-distance volunteering last year. And while it has been associated with longer stays in developing countries – away from the trappings of tourism – in the past year, volunteering has become an activity of choice for many luxury vacationers.
David Clemmons, founder of voluntourism.org, suggests two things are inspiring high-end travellers: economic strife and a number of big names doing high-profile charity work. “Extremely wealthy individuals like Bono, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates are putting humongous sums of money into social causes,” he says. That’s translating into a “consumer consciousness” around social responsibility, he adds, “and a movement within the luxury market to [create] social purpose within their offerings.”
Tour companies, too, have discovered there’s a market for combining luxury in exotic destinations with a dollop of social conscience. California-based Exquisite Safaris, for example, creates custom itineraries for places such as Kenya and Vietnam that include a humanitarian element. For example, between watching lions and gnus on the grasslands of the Serengeti, eating gourmet meals and being pampered with spa treatments, guests may spend a morning teaching local children how to read.
Similarly, a 10-day trip to India from U.K.-based tour operator Hands Up Holidays incorporates multi-day projects such as renovation work in a New Delhi slum or a stint in a school helping to teach “India’s poorest children.” Accommodation, however, is in a five-star hotel throughout. This, says the company, allows travellers to experience the “two extremes of India.”
These hotels and tour operators are meeting a new and clear customer demand. “If you want to maintain your relationship with your consumers, which is what the luxury market relies upon,” Clemmons says, “then it is imperative to be developing products and services with a social purpose.”
This sort of contribution – eco-conscious volunteering in attractive settings – has proved to be especially popular among luxury guests. Ritz-Carlton’s options include feeding and tracking rare iguanas on Grand Cayman. Likewise, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts’ Community Conscious Vacations program has guests planting cedars in Bermuda and restoring turtle habitats in Mexico. “Many guests share our commitment to the community and planet and are looking for ways to volunteer,” says Fairmont spokesperson Mike Taylor.
But do they need to stay in comfortable resorts to do so? There is an irony in this juxtaposition, especially in developing countries, says Nancy Gard McGehee, an associate professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
On the other hand, she suggests that good work is good work. “If this type of experience exposes high-end travellers to volunteer tourism when they otherwise might not have done anything,” she says, “then there is great value in these kinds of experiences.”
In New Orleans, Tusa says Habitat for Humanity is benefiting from that dynamic. The local organization “has received tremendous support” from its partnership with Marriott, Tusa says, and such connections “give the traveller the option to volunteer without having to do a lot of the groundwork of setting things up.”
“These programs,” she says, “are doing a lot of good.”
Pack your bags
EXQUISITE SAFARIS http://www.exquisitesafaris.com. The California-based company offers custom itineraries to 36 countries (expect to pay about $2,000 a person a day).
HANDS UP HOLIDAYS http://www.handsupholidays.com. The U.K.-based company offers tours with volunteer components in a dozen countries around the world.”
Melissa Biggs Bradley has reported back from the Cannes Luxury Travel Fair, and has written a fascinating article that closely follows our own vision for meaningful travel experiences, including voluntourism:
The luxury travel industry has gathered in Cannes this week for the International Luxury Travel Market, its premier annual conference–and to take stock. For the past five years, the travel and tourism business has grown at a rate of 10 percent a year. That bubble has burst. In fact, at the opening forum, Guy Gillon, director of corporate finance for hospitality and leisure at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, predicted severe decline for the next two to three years–with no rise in growth until the first quarter of 2012. Audible gasps greeted the gloomy prediction but when bubbles burst, the collapse is painful. Proof of the industry’s bubble: how about the fact that there are 52 high-end hotels in the Maldives alone? A year ago, when Americans started cutting back on European travel because of the weak dollar, many five-star hoteliers shrugged and replied, “Well, now we have the Russians.” Well, yesterday Standard and Poor downgraded Russia’s credit rating (the first G8 member to have it done) so that delusion has been banished.
Add to the economic situation the realization that, as marketer Piers Bracher pointed out, the consumer is suffering from luxury fatigue and the depth of the industry’s problems grow. Unfortunately, for the past few years excess has often trumped ingenuity. Attention getting stunts include helicopter picnics, in-room pillow menus, and endless variations on the facial. Yes, people have paid premiums to be slathered in gold flakes, caviar and bird droppings. A little silly when everyone’s a millionaire. But during a week when the Labor Department is expected to announce 525,000 jobless claims, I wager that it won’t just be luxury fatigue but luxury disgust that emerges. Just as a huge CEO bonus has gone from being a badge of honor to being a bull’s eye of shame in only six months, the things that people value with pride and prejudice are being radically reevaluated.
Cannes serves as an apt backdrop for these conversations. On one side of the Croisette, you have wall-to-wall boutiques of bling. Diamonds for day and night dazzle in window displays. Mannequins flaunt fur concoctions and stilettos so steep in heel height and price that they scream “For oligarchs’ eyes only.” Vertu sells solid gold cell phones for $25,000. Across the way, framed by palms and umbrella pines, the beauty is unadorned and costs nothing: a view of Mediterranean sea, sand and the colorful winter sunsets.
It seems clear: irresponsible luxury is out and meaningful engagement is in. People have accepted that the post-modern world has risks, but they know that there are dangers at home (from the toxic toys our children play with to the antiquated bridges we drive over), so they have continued to travel–after the tsunami, the Madrid and London bombings and now Mumbai. And yet in an unsafe, uncertain world, there is a new emphasis on why it is we choose to go or choose to spend. In this climate of deleveraging, every consumer purchase is being reassessed, and the emperor’s new clothes will be called out. Really, a $25,000 cell phone, who needs that? Suddenly, the Financial Time’s glossy Weekend supplement “How To Spend It” seems horribly out-of-date. If there were someone wise and bold in charge, they would rename it “How To Save It.” Bonding time with families or close friends is not an indulgence but an investment. Trips that enrich our understanding of other cultures, protect fragile environments or assist impoverished communities are not extravagant but empowering.
In fact, the emergence of Affluent Activism, which the forecasting company FutureLabs describes as a predicated on the rise of “conscience consumers who are cash-rich, credit-using urbanites who…use credit cards as ballot cards,” is here to stay, even as affluence declines. For individuals have learned that they can reward and punish brands because of their social, ethical and environmental standpoints. This evolution seems a reflection of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The post World War II generation strived to meet basic needs. The baby boomers then focused on meeting their wants, and now a generation will focus on beliefs. There’s already been a boom in spirituality and connecting, bonding trips, yoga retreats and voluntourism.
With the end of excess, there will be a new emphasis on what TrendWatching calls “status stories.” Products that convey status will be replaced by experiences that build credibility. People will no longer be trading up, but trading in material symbols for stories with meaning. “I taught English in Vietnam.” Or “I learned how to scuba dive with my kids in Mexico.” Or “I helped build a school in New Orleans.” These claims have been around but they will gain ground as they have less to do with money and more to do with motivation and values. Now thanks to new media, the special quests that give us our unique identities can be shared too. Technology like social networking and digital scrapbooks allow us to beam these niche sides of our selves to others. As TrendWatching has declared, “Status stories and eco-concerns are a match made in heaven. As consumers’ desire to find out (and tell others) about the origins of a product [it] becomes a given, companies will have to take status stories to the next level…how was the product made? By whom? What effect will it have on the environment?”
A return to more meaningful values and an embrace of more mindful spending will bring pain, but it should also allow us to focus on what we have been taking for granted. Remember the sunlight in the South of France was enough to draw F. Scott Fitzgerald and Picasso years before the fancy boutiques and the red carpet–and it’s still the best part of a visit.