The volunteer industry is growing at an astounding rate. More students are choosing to spend gap years overseas. More adults are taking career breaks to volunteer. Honeymooning couples are choosing to spend their time giving back together, cementing their love by sharing their time and happiness. Empty nesters are finding new purpose and energy by sharing their experience, skills, and wisdom. It is a wonderful thing to see, especially in a world where economic crises seem to crop up everywhere you look, where poverty has reached record levels, and where the Internet joins us virtually, something that I think could keep people physically apart, if people let it. Instead, people are coming together across vast distances, bridging racial and socioeconomic divides, laughing in the face of ageism and sexism, and standing up to inequality and injustice.
I’ve been speaking with a lot of people in the voluntour industry lately and they all agree: voluntourism is an expanding industry. It’s an exponential equation: after people participate, they share their experiences with friends and family. Volunteering is infectious. We are inspired by the good deeds of others. I believe, deep inside, we all want to improve the world around us, even if we don’t know it or understand how. Seeing the effects of volunteering on the people we care about is transformative. It demonstrates the power and importance of something that might at first glance seem onerous or unappealing (like Paul Rudd in My Idiot Brother). I’ve been watching the industry grow. Every week it seems like there are more organizations popping up, and more volunteers are asking how to get involved. It’s very exciting to see the numbers reflecting my hunch… that more and more traditional tourism companies are incorporating volunteering into their programs.