how responsible travellers can give effectively

Geoff Manchester Intrepid co-founder and MDTravelling with Intrepid and want to know how to help the communities you visit? Geoff Manchester, Intrepid’s co-founder & Managing Director helps you work out whether to pack stuff or money for your holiday…

“When Darrell Wade and I set up Intrepid Travel more than two decades ago, the term ‘responsible travel’ had not yet been coined. The vast majority of holidays on offer involved little – if any – interaction with local communities and people were much less aware of the environmental and social impact their holiday had on their destination.

Today, a more authentic style of travel is growing in popularity. More people want to get off the beaten track and discover new places, in a way that enables them to really get under the skin of the destinations that they visit on holiday. They want to meet local people, try local food, take local transport, stay in local accommodation and experience the local way of life. Importantly, they want to do this in a way that is both environmentally and socially responsible. This style of travel can make for a more memorable and meaningful holiday, and can also bring much-needed income and other benefits to local communities.

People who choose to travel in this way often see first-hand the difficulties and needs that communities face, and many want to do something to help. Taking the time to talk to local people, showing respect for their culture and customs, and forming friendships can be the best gift of all. But travellers frequently want to do more, to ‘give something back’ to the people they’ve met and the places that they have experienced. Giving cash or material goods is one way to do this, but it’s important to balance an enthusiasm to help with the needs of the community over the long-term.

While it can be tempting for travellers to give money directly to beggars, children and other people that they meet on their travels, this can promote a ‘begging culture’ where poor individuals rely on foreign visitors to give them what they need. This is not a sustainable way for communities to resolve their problems, which is why Intrepid discourages people from giving directly in this way.

Supporting communities through schools, clinics or development projects can be more constructive, as money or goods can be directed to where they will be of benefit. Giving books, clothing, school supplies or computers can be helpful, but only if they are genuinely required and can be fairly distributed. Care should be taken to ensure that books are culturally appropriate and at a suitable reading level, clothing is clean and proper for the climate and culture, and computer equipment is ready to use and loaded with suitable software.

Rather than donate items brought from home, it can be more effective to purchase items that are made and sold locally, so that the donation helps the community twice over. And of course, the developing world should not be a dumping ground – so donated goods should be decent quality, robust and with a reasonable lifespan. If people are frustrated by their old computer, chances are the community they donate it to will be too!

Giving money to a well managed local charity, community project, or aid organisation can be more effective than donating goods, as they can direct funds to where they are most needed. Travellers can ask their tour operator to suggest local projects or agencies that they can visit or support, either while they are travelling or after they return home from holiday.

Ten years ago, we set up The Intrepid Foundation to make it easier for travellers to give something back to many of the communities they visit on our trips. Although it is independent of Intrepid Travel, the company matches all contributions made by travellers and our staff, and pays all administration costs. Last year, The Intrepid Foundation was proud to donate AU$395,000 to good causes on behalf of thousands of travellers. These funds supported 40 community projects ranging from the education of children in Tanzania, to nutritional support for communities high in the Andes in Peru and promotion of women’s rights in Timor-Leste.

By choosing a more responsible style of holiday, people not only get more from their travels, but you can make a really positive difference to the people and places you encounter.”

The Intrepid Foundation – celebrating 10 years of travellers making a difference & over AU$3 million in donations!
Help support many great organisations via the Intrepid Foundation, plus find out how your donation can be matched* by Intrepid Travel!

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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Thanks for taking the time to write this article. I went to a wedding in Mexico back in May where the bride & groom had arranged for all of us to spend a day helping a local school. We built a playground, cleaned and painted a room, fixed a stairwell for a family down the street and played soccer with the kids. We took one day out of our vacation to help the local community but it’s impact will last for years to come. I thought this was such a neat idea for a destination wedding. Giving back feels so good.

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