Volunteer tourism catching on

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Travel has many purposes — to de-stress, re-bond or simply explore and experience something new. The quest for a fulfilling experience, however, has pushed some to make their holidays more meaningful by volunteering for social service at their destinations. Volunteer tourism, although still a new concept in India, is catching on among travellers here.

Kochi-based gynaecologist Ranjitha Menon and her husband, also a doctor, recently took a vacation to northeastern India where they decided to volunteer in a health camp organised by a doctors’ association in a village in Assam. “For us, visiting the northeast and volunteering in a health camp to help those who desperately needed assistance was a perfect amalgamation that can be termed a fulfilling experience. By being in such close proximity with the locals we didn’t just see the beauty of Assam but could also understand the culture and tradition of the place that no guide could have explained,” Ranjitha said. Being a niche field, it’s difficult to put an exact number on the people who opt for volunteer tourism. According to Saurabh Sabharwal, founder of Go Discover Abroad, a travel portal, it receives requests from 400 -500 people — both Indians and foreigners — for volunteer tourism in India every year.

“Delhi and Palampur are the most popular destinations with volunteer travellers, and they are mostly looking forward to doing work in childcare, community development, and health work, apart from exploring the place,” Sabharwal said. Sharat Dhall, president of travel portal, said that most foreigners opting for volunteer tourism have long-stay plans in India.Basic training needed

Bangalore-based psychiatrist Saranya Devanathan, who volunteers to help during her travels, says “…I would suggest some basic training in the kind of voluntary service (that the person wants to do), as well as awareness about the destination itself.” Indian travellers are now exploring options of working with wild animals in Africa, teaching children in Kenya, teaching English to fishermen in Thailand and the like, adding a new dimension to a “fulfilling holiday”.IANS



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