There are ample opportunities to do good and give back to society while you are on holiday locally and overseas, depending on your interests and talents.
For those who are interested in helping the unfortunate in our cities – urban poor, the homeless, refugees – check out Kuala Lumpur-based NGO Yellow House (yellowhousekl.com). Proceeds go towards sustaining their community projects.
Travellers who join their voluntourism project also get to go on walking tours with Unseen Tours KL. The unique thing about these tours is that they are run by former street people who will show you the side of KL that a regular tourist wouldn’t have access to. Voluntourists can also learn how to make local dishes like nasi kerabu.
If you care for nature and the natural world, check out Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures (ecoteer.com). While “having a holiday of a lifetime”, you can help out at voluntourism projects such as marine and rainforest conservation, or caring for rescued animals such as orangutans and sun bears, in Malaysia. They also have wildlife rescue and rehabilitation projects in Indonesia. You can also be involved in eco education projects.
There are also opportunities for travellers who love animals to be involved in wildlife care and conservation. You can explore Borneo while helping at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (bsbcc.org.my) in Sandakan, Sabah where you get to be involved in animal husbandry (cleaning cages, feeding the bears, and daily maintenance work), enrichment (interacting with the animals and improving their living conditions), construction (building and refurbishment of dens, enclosures and exhibits) and education (learning and teaching school children about the animals).
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (sabahtourism.com/destination/sepilok-orangutan-rehabilitation-centre) in Sepilok, Sabah, cares for orphaned and injured orangutans before returning them to the forest. Those who have the required skill set can help out with baby and juvenile orangutans, conducting field surveys, and others, to improve the day-to-day life of the animals. Travellers Worldwide offers an eight week programme.
In Kuala Lumpur, you can help out at Zoo Negara (zoonegaramalaysia.my). Voluntourists can assist with the care of bears, great apes, birds, reptiles, monkeys, big cats, and the aquarium. They can also help in areas such as research, photography, education and more.
Doing good abroad
If you’re keen to volunteer overseas, you can check out ME to WE (metowe.com), which offers youth trips, university trips, as well as adult and family trips where travellers can embark on a journey to explore new destinations and cultures, while helping a local community with their projects. Areas covered include Amazon, India, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ecuador. Proceeds go to WE Charity and go back into the community to ensure sustainability.
For those who want to do good while travelling but may not have time to go on a full voluntourism programme that might take up a day or more, you can also do good by supporting organisations such as Tree Alliance (www.tree-alliance.org) which takes street youth and marginalised people off the streets and trains them to work in restaurants so that they can carve out a living for themselves. It just takes an hour, maybe less, to dine at one of its restaurants. Profits are invested back into the people who train and work there, as well as the social programmes that help them to become a skilled and productive young person with a good future. There are Tree restaurants in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in Cambodia, Vientiane and Luang Prabang in Laos, and Yangon in Myanmar.