Tag Archives: volunteer holiday

26% of Brits would like to help overseas; Bob Geldof leading social entrepreneur

Researchers found almost a quarter (22%) of Brits said they may consider having a voluntourism experience in a poor community overseas, according to a new survey, commissioned by ICM.

The ICM poll questioned 2,005 people across different ages and backgrounds and found taking a year out is not just a pursuit for younger generations. This is reflected in Hands Up’s finding that family volunteer trips and honeymoon volunteer trips as well as seniors volunteering holidays are our most popular adventures that count.

The ITM study revealed 31% of 55 to 64-year-olds might consider taking a UK-based gap year and 22% would think about one overseas. Only 10% of all participants think age is a barrier.

Pollsters found the public think Bob Geldof is the UK-based entrepreneur who has done most to make the world a better place, with 22% of votes, ahead of Sir Richard Branson (13%) and Jamie Oliver (9%).

The people, questioned between November 3 and 5, said volunteer gap years are beneficial to personal development (49%) and a valuable way of giving something back to poorer communities (37%).

I founded Hands Up Holidays to give you the opportunity to not only see amazing sights, but also to have authentic interaction with local people and give something back in a “hands on” way to local communities through a taste of volunteering.

In my life I have been blessed to have had some incredible travel experiences in over 50 countries, from African sunsets on safari, to swimming with dolphins, to hiking up volcanoes and even gasping for breath in the Himalayas.

But as amazing as those experiences are, my most enduring memories are the times when I have engaged in meaningful ways with the local people: becoming the official photographer at a village wedding in a remote section of North-East Vietnam, sharing chai with Indian farmers, sheeshah with Touareg nomads or copious brandies with gracious Serbian hosts are memories I cherish.

Moreover, when these interactions are overlaid with giving back through volunteering, they became incredibly fulfilling, inspiring…and life changing. Experiences such as helping build a house in South Africa and teaching English to my host family in a home-stay in Guatemala are great examples, and the lifelong friends I have made as a result and the lives changed were the catalyst for leaving my job in the City in London and setting up Hands Up Holidays.

Through volunteering, and the consequent meaningful interaction with local people, I gained an insight into peoples’ lives, and was blown away by how whilst they had little materially but were incredibly rich culturally and socially.
I was both challenged and inspired by this, and I decided to adopt a simpler, more contented attitude to life – being grateful for what I have, rather than striving for more and more possessions.

I started working on Hands Up Holidays in 2003 to make it easy for you, fellow travellers, to have incredible voluntourism experiences and dig a little deeper into a community and give back in ways that enable you to make a positive impact in 3-5 days with a taste of volunteering.

I am passionate about you having amazing travel experiences through Hands Up Holidays. Expect to have a meaningful holiday with us, while at the same time being challenged to look at the world in a new light.”


Voluntourism in South Africa with TOMS Shoes – Day 4

Day 4 of our voluntourism adventure with TOMS Shoes:

We left the Hluhwewe Game Park in north-east Kwa Zulu Natal and had a big drive back past Durban, down the South Coast, for our first shoe drop of the day at Saphinda Primary School in Umlazi.

We were greeted by the whole school singing Zulu songs, which sounded angelic – simply incredible voices.

Some of the children wore Zulu outfits as they danced according to their traditions – their arts teacher should be proud.

We then got down to the fun business of fitting the shoes on the children’s feet…there were a lot to get through, but we are a well-oiled machine by now, and we were encouraged on by the continued singing of the children.

Not content with having extraordinary musical talent, some of the children were great acrobats as well, performing somersaults from a standing start.

Somersault at Saphinda Primary

Somersault at Saphinda Primary

This particular shoe drop was done in partnership with Peace Players International, a phenomonal, “innovative global organization that uses sport to unite and educate young people in divided communities. PeacePlayers International was founded in 2001 by Sean Tuohey, on the premise that “children who play together can learn to live together.” PeacePlayers International currently operates programs in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus, and the Middle East that bring together thousands of children to form positive relationships, develop leadership skills, and improve their futures. Over the past six years, the organization has worked with over 45,000 children. PeacePlayers International is led by global network of youth leaders who work together as coaches, mentors and facilitators.”

Skateboarding, surfing, and now basketball – it is awesome how sport is being used to change lives.

Being from New Zealand, I performed the haka for some of the lads, who loved it.

We shared lunch with the teachers which was a special time as well, before jumping back in the bus for 90 minutes to get to our next shoe drop at the Sacred Heart Primary School, where we worked in with the Thanda after-school program.

The children came into the hall according to their age, and the fun and games started up again!

We spent the evening at Pumula Beach Resort in Hibberdene, had a super buffet dinner, and slept well to the sound of waves crashing on the beach. An epic day!

Voluntourism with TOMS Shoes in South Africa – Day 3

Day 3

Today is our “day off” from shoe distribution, with the emphasis on the ‘tourism’ part of ‘voluntourism‘: we experienced one of Africa’s highlights: spotting wild animals whilst on safari!

We were roused around 5:15am in order to be on the road by 5:45am, and we were rewarded by a huge herd of elephant, including tiny baby ones, and then Godfrey fulfilled his promise from yesterday by finding two white rhinos for us.


Elephant in Africa

Elephant in Africa




Godfrey also treated us to large herds of buffalo, zebra, and antelope.

We relaxed by the pool afterwards, and some of us went shopping for local handicrafts, whilst others luxuriated in spa treatment, and others visited a wild cat rehabilitation center (and were thrilled to encounter a cheetah!).

I went on safari again in the afternoon, where we encountered more majestic creatures.

For dinner we were transported in our game vehicles into the bush, and then walked along a candle-lit path to our open air dinner (“boma”), a simply extraordinary setting, around a roaring fire.

The food was delicious too!

Voluntourism in South Africa with TOMS Shoes – Day 2

Day 2 of our volunteer travel adventure with TOMS Shoes and Element Skateboards in South Africa

Today we headed to downtown Durban, to a shelter for streetkids called Umthombo. From Umthombo’s website (www.umthombo.org):

“Umthombo is a voice from the streets. It is a unique South African street children organisation led predominantly by former street children. Umthombo aims to change the way that society perceives and treats street children through educating society as to the realities of the street child experience and through developing and implementing informed, working strategies to address the issue in South African cities. Umthombo believes that Durban is fast becoming the “Rio” of this decade, when it comes to issue of street children. Umthombo is based in Durban and focuses on the eastern seaboard of South Africa. It also has offices in East London in the Eastern Cape.”

It is an amazing place, a bit like yesterday’s Indigo Skate Camp, although here the focus is on surfing more than skateboards, although they LOVED the TOMS/Element Skatebaords that we gave to them!

TOMS Shoe fitting in South Africa

TOMS Shoe fitting in South Africa

After a shoe fitting blitz with these beautiful young men and women, we followed them down to the beach, where they were really in their ‘element’: in the waves.

They carved them up to perfection – it was a joy to behold, and the waves were big!

After saying our goodbyes to these courageous children, we embarked on the long drive to Hluhluhwe Umfolozi Game Park.

We had a ‘cultural’ lunch en route, consisting of samosas, rotis, and the uniquely Durban ‘dish’ called a Bunny, which is a curry inside a half-loaf of bread that has had some of its interior removed to accommodate the curry.

Durban has the world’s largest Indian population outside of India, so it was only appropriate that we sampled their cuisine, and it was so tasty!

We arrived at our lodge in time for the afternoon game drive, which was a lot of fun – three vehicles worth of us piled in, and we got to see zebra, kudu, impala, and all but our vehicle saw rhino, although Godrey, our hilarious guide, promised us rhino tomorrow.

A little more on Umthombo:

Their Programs and Goals

Umthombo’s ultimate goal is to change the way that society perceives and treats street children in South Africa. It has two main programs (and a number of other smaller ones), one focusing on grass roots action, the other on strategy development:

1. The Durban Street Team (DST): This is a street based outreach team operating in Durban that identifies children on the streets, builds relationships of trust with them, assists them and empowers them to be able to be able to leave the streets and become reintegrated with their families and/or communities. It also has an extensive aftercare and monitoring program for those children who have left the streets. Many of the DST staff are also former street children. There are four specific service areas that the DST operates:

  • Street-based Outreach
  • Street-based Drop-in Centre
  • Street-based Health (mobile health clinic)
  • Community-based Aftercare

2. The Street-child Consciousness Team (SCT): SCT is a think tank consisting of and led by former street children which educates society as to the realities of the street child experience and develops city-wide strategies and other strategy and policy proposals around the the issue. It is the advocacy and policy wing of Umthombo and a powerful voice from the streets.

Through these programs and others Umthombo’s goals are:

  • Implementing and supporting strategic and pioneering grass-roots programs relating to street children in Durban and beyond.
  • Developing holistic and informed city-wide strategies to address the changing context of street children in South Africa.
  • Engaging in advanced and informed advocacy on behalf of street children as well as providing strategy advice and consultancy through workshops, presentations and road-shows on the issue of street children for all sectors of society including municipalities, government departments, key policy makers, service providers, national street children related alliances and forums as well as institutions such as school, churches and local community groups.
  • Facilitating research and explaining the issue of street children in light of the HIV/AIDS crisis within South Africa providing an accessible information base.
  • Empowering street children and former street children to think philosophically, politically and theologically about their situation and to develop critical consciousness as to the importance of “street children” as a social justice issue.

Voluntourism with TOMS Shoes in South Africa – Day 1

Day 1 of the Voluntourism Adventure That Counts in South Africa

We headed out with the TOMS Shoes and Element crew to the Valley of 1,000 Hills just outside Durban, and made our way to the Indigo Skate Camp, an incredible initiative by Dallas Oberholzer, who was inspired to build a skate camp while traveling overland from Canada to Argentina. Through experiencing warm hospitality and friendship from fellow board riders, Dallas set out to build a village for skateboarders. A place where one could always be sure to meet like minded people who live to ride. The Valley of 1000 Hills is rich in culture and natural beauty. All the elements were there for the location of a permanent skate camp.

And what a setting – truly spectacular!

TOMS Shoe drop

A happy recipient and giver

The guys that ride there are impressive – some as young as 6, who have no fear, and admirable skills on a half-pipe.

Our trip was also in conjunction with Element Skateboards, for whom TOMS Shoes designed a board, and for each one of those that were sold, one is given to a child who cannot afford one.

So today was a special day where we got to give not only shoes to children in need, but also skateboards to guys who, I am sure will ride them until the wheels wear out, and some of whom may well go on to earn a living from their art.

Awesome rider

Skateboarding in the Valley of 1000 Hills

Adios Mapuches, hola Bariloche

We said our farewells to the Mapuche community that we have gotten to know and love through voluntourism, and to the wonderful staff of Tipiliuke (luxury volunteer travel par excellence!) and to our fellow guests  and Kevin drove us the 30 minutes to town for our bus to Villa la Angostura. Every second store seemed to be a chocolate shop, from the Swiss and Austrian influence, Kevin tells us.

It is a gorgeous coach ride alongside seven lakes to Villa la Angostura, where our accommodation was looking over the lake, some  distance form town which was not on the lake at all as I had thought. We discovered we were too late for Angostura’s primary attraction: a walk through the Arruyanes Forest, a type of tree only found in this area – the last ferry out to the starting point was at 2pm at this time of year, and the earliest the following morning was at 1115 but we had just booked our onward ride at 1030am.

Audrey’s sunglasses had broken so we began our odyssey in search of new ones, but no joy in this town. No one in the tourist office spoke English, and we were told that Angostura is ‘muy tranquillo’…he was right, although the view from our hotel was spectacular, only to be surpassed the following day by the sublime Llao Llao hotel in Bariloche.

You can make a difference in the aftermath of Cyclone Aila

You can help in a hands-on way through volunteer travel to improve the lives of the survivors of May’s Cyclone Aila – at least 500,000 people have been made homeless in the Sunderbans (shared by India and Bangladesh).

It is a very very hard work.

And the monsoon is in full force.

Areas where you can volunteer:

1.Helping doctors and medical volunteers in the medical camps that have been running since 25th May, and on mobile camps on boats which can support remote villages where there is no medical centre.

2.De-watering of ponds

3.Reconstructing dikes and repairing villages
4.Checking damage to wildlife and take part in rescue as and when needed
5.Helping local people in repairing their wells and hand pumps
6.Reaching relief materials and keeping a complete database of the same, making reports and updates, monitoring the progress, preparing a list of beneficiaries

7.Planting mangroves where the damage was severe.

We have assembled a meaningful 8-day voluntourism itinerary for you:

Sunday – Day 1: Arrive at Calcutta International Airport.Transfer to hotel.

Monday – Day 2: Morning drive to Sonakhali and transfer to boat.Cruise to Bali Island.Briefing meeting

Tuesday- Day 3:Visit the affected villages and check relief and reconstruction activities to get a complete orientation of the situation and also to establish rapport with the affected villagers and relief teams.

Wed,Thurs,Fri,Sat – Day 4, 5, 6, 7: Volunteering (medical, dewatering of ponds, helping farmers, distribution of relief materials to other affected islands, rebuilding village houses, quick visit inside the national park to take stock of the situation, reconstruction of embankments wherever needed)

Sunday – Day 8: Transfer back to Calcutta Airport.
The price is US$990 per person, based on twin-share accommodation, excluding flights to and from Calcutta. This trip can go anytime, with just two people. The price is US$1,450 to run this trip for one person.

This includes:
-01 night accommodation in Fairlawn Hotel, Calcutta on a half board basis
-06 nights accommodation with all meals in Sunderbans Jungle Camp
-airport transfers
-boat transfers
-all boat journeys
-carbon offsets for your flights
-US$100 donation.

If you would like to book this, please email me directly. You can read about our ‘standard’ trip to the Sunderbans here.

Of course, if you cannot make it, you can help with a financial donation. If you would like to help in this way, please let me know (chris@handsupholidays.com) and I will send you the bank account details.