Is Volunteering Really for Everyone?

There are some religions, creeds, and ways of life that can make it quite tough to step beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone. But certainly not impossible!

Isaak and his brother wanted to come to Portugal to take part in a construction and renovation program because they had heard that responsible travel was worthwhile and Lisbon a fantastic city to visit. But there was a little problem…! The brothers practiced a kosher diet, a very specific Jewish diet with various restrictions and rituals, which only allowed them to eat kosher food. In societies where the Jewish religion is not commonly practiced, as it is the case in Portugal, it is difficult to find kosher food. But thankfully, that didn’t stop those two great guys from coming and having a lot of fun while helping the people in need. And as for the food issue: the kosher community was contacted and quickly found a great solution for them!

Emma, an up-and-coming Broadway actress, spent her 30th birthday in Portugal and came to Lisbon to dive and clean the bottom of the ocean. Contrary to stereotypes that may circulate in our heads around American Broadway stars, the beautiful and talented Emma didn’t want to enjoy her holidays surrounded by friends on a paradise island. Instead, she preferred to come and get to know Europe, to volunteer and to meet different people. Emma made friends easily, strolled around her surroundings, picked up trash from the seabed during her daily dives (even on Sundays), and even reenacted a small role of Frozen in a little role-play, especially for a “little big” movie fan. In the end, she returned to her musicals with a full heart and the desire to return to Portugal and Europe.

The pilot Jason came with his girlfriend and some friends to take part in two very interesting but very physically-demanding programs. For four weeks, he helped to take care of the habitat of the Iberian Wolf in Mafra – maintaining dry forest that could provoke fires – and diving into the Algarve seas where he collected many kilograms of garbage. He also compiled a sustainability report aimed at alerting the community for the importance of preserving the marine fauna and flora.

Aisha is 20 years old, comes from a wealthy Muslim family and is studying to be a plastic surgeon. Although her personal situation allows her great luxuries, Aisha decided to come and volunteer in an institution that helps fighting food waste in Lisbon. She came with her mother who dropped her off at the accommodation and moved to another hotel, to give her daughter the freedom to visit the city and meet new people. Neither her financial nor religious condition affected Aisha’s relationship with the other solidary tourists in any way, nor did her commitment to the volunteer project that she embraced for a week. She returned home much richer and full of stories to tell and friends for life.

Responsible Tourism is full of surprises. People of all religions, social classes, academic degrees and lifestyles regard this form of tourism as a great way of discovering countries like locals and give a little of themselves to others. This different kind of traveling allows travelers to really leave an impact on the places they visit!