Learning Service on KEEN Blog!

A big thank you to KEEN for featuring our contest on their blog and providing some awesome prizes!


Exploring foreign cities, meeting interesting people, tasting local cuisines – the reasons we love travel are endless. Recently volunteering has risen in the ranks of what motivates us to venture abroad. Every year more people jet across the world looking for ways to “give back” or “make a difference” to the communities who host us while traveling.


As with any growing trend, volunteer travel receives its fair share of criticism. Volunteers are often blamed for contributing to dependency, offering unsustainable solutions, and taking locals’ jobs. Spending some time uncovering the negative effects international volunteers can have on communities can become overwhelming and leave you wondering if volunteering is even worth it.


Continue reading on KEEN’s blog!

Orphanage Tourism: Tackling the Trend via Tourism Concern

If you bring up volunteering abroad in a conversation more often than not you’ll get a response like, “Volunteering is great! I’ve always wanted to work in an orphanage.” While traveling in developing countries it’s hard to ignore the countless signs held by impoverished-looking children begging you to visit or donate to their orphanage. Do a quick search for international volunteer placements and half of them will offer opportunities to “play with children”.


Orphanage tourism is a growing travel trend but gradually the truth is coming out: volunteering, visiting, and even donating to orphanages can actually cause more harm than good.


Continue reading on Tourism Concern!

New video PLUS new prizes!



Wanting to do good in the world and wondering whether volunteering is the best way? Struck by an urge to make the world a better place but not sure what to do next? This video – the fifth in our series – is designed for you!


After watching, don’t forget to answer the quiz question for your chance to win a pair of KEEN shoes and an Eagle Creek Pack-It Cube!


Want the chance to win more prizes? We thought so.


If you haven’t already, check out the other videos in our “Know Before You Go” series and answer the corresponding questions. At the end of the contest everyone who answered all six correctly will be entered in a drawing to win a 3-day stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia and two new prizes thanks to Eagle Creek:


The Dane Brief


The Emerson Carry-All

“I learned more from the people of Peru than they could ever learn from me.”

“A little girl grabbed my had, sat on my lap and started reading the story of “Tinkerbell” to me. Even though I spoke absolutely no Spanish she sat on my lap reading the entire story, complete with different voices for each character.” Meaghan, one of our Learning Service Ambassadors told us about her experience volunteering in Canto Grande, Peru. “Her enthusiasm and courage showed me that if you can’t communicate with someone due to language barriers, a smile can go a long way!”


Joining the ambassador team from Massachusetts, Meaghan has been volunteering in her local community since she was 12 years old. During an “Alternative Spring Break” trip to Peru Meaghan began to think critically about what it means to be a responsible volunteer.


“I realized it was important to be aware of the possibility you might not be helping as much as you think you are. It is important to know what you can actually do to help before you go on a volunteering trip. Also, make sure the organizations and trip organizers are legitimately helping communities in the ways they say they are.”


As a Learning Service Ambassador Meaghan hopes to help people learn the importance of conducting careful research before traveling or taking on a volunteer placement.


“There are organizations that can help you be a “voluntourist” ‘in a responsible way,” Meaghan said. “I also would like people to do research before they travel on volunteer trips, so they can learn more about the culture and people they will be working with.”


For all of you preparing for a trip abroad, Meaghan advises to go with an open mind.


“I realized I learned so much more from the people of Peru than they could possibly have learned from me.”

Meet Damien! And learn why he believes in volunteering responsibly

We are proud to introduce our first Learning Service Ambassador! Damien has always been interested in volunteering abroad and like us, felt there was something missing: a focus on learning about a community before serving them.


“I went to India when I was 16 with my Indian friend and his family and I realized how much I actually had to learn before I could really help,” Damien told us.


He has since been involved with EIL Ireland, a nonprofit organization providing intercultural learning opportunities through study and volunteer abroad activities.


“They have been a fantastic organization, opening my eyes to how we can really understand poverty and international development,” Damien explained.


Currently, Damien is the president of Trinity College Dublin’s Amnesty International society and is a part of EIL Ireland’s Development Education team, which educates the public about global and local issues and encourages global citizenship.


As a Learning Service Ambassador Damien hopes to promote the “learning” lifestyle.


“I think the whole system and way of thinking about volunteering abroad needs to change. At the moment it is not encouraging sustainable development. I would really like to get involved in putting it back on track – to empower communities, to get people learning and make sure there is sustainability and accountability.”


Want to learn more about Damien and the amazing work he is doing? Check out his blog post on Comhlámh, an organization dedicated to fostering good practice and critical engagement in volunteering and action for development.


If you are interested in joining Damien and the Learning Service Ambassador team, fill out this short application.